A timeline or lifeline exercise is a grid that allows you to have a bird’s eye view of your life, and to see the positive and negative shifts along the way on a single trajectory.
Even more, it can be a tool to make conscious self-directed changes that, literally, rewire your brain to heal itself. Known as plasticity, your brain has an innate capacity to make changes in positive, healing directions. Like other tools, you need to know it’s there to access, and how to use it.
Everyone has a unique timeline. It consists of a series of events, trends and turns that culminate in producing cycles of positive and negative shifts, highs and lows in the course of a lifetime from birth.
What are the benefits?
Putting your timeline on paper is an opportunity to record vital information about your life and past. There are several benefits to completing this exercise.
If you’re in a relationship with a loved one that repeatedly acts in hurtful ways, you’re likely dealing with recurring rushes of anger or disappointment, regardless of whether you are consciously aware of or express these or similar emotions. It can feel as if this person keeps stealing the sense of emotional safety that you, your body and mind, are hardwired to seek.
It is only human, after all, to feel betrayed by the actions of a partner who is emotionally or physically abusive, addicted to a substance, compulsively spends money, or repeats acts of infidelity despite promises, as occurs with sex or love addiction.
While the emotional intensity is understandable, it is still a heavy weight to carry, much less balance. It’s not easy to deal with these emotions, and at the same time the repeated strikes, which challenge your efforts to restore the inner sense of emotional safety that, at any given time, you innately strive to realize in relation to life around you.
A look at the usual simplistic approach…
In response to hurtful actions of a loved one, forgiveness is largely regarded as the highest, most noble action, and a prerequisite for healing to take place. Depending on the circumstances, it often is. In fact, a stubborn refusal to forgive can both prolong and intensify suffering for the person that was wronged.
In response to being wronged or mistreated by a loved one, whether emotional or physical abuse, or betrayal and infidelity, forgiveness is often considered the most critical ingredient for healing to eventually take place.
Indeed, depending on the context, forgiveness is a powerfully healing agent. In fact, a refusal to forgive or let go often prolongs suffering for the person that was wronged.
But what happens when the hurtful actions are repetitive and ongoing? Or, when the person who has acted wrongly is not willing (or able) to make meaningful amends? Or when the wronged person is not ready to forgive?
In these circumstances, argues Dr. Janis Abrahms Spring, author of How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, The Freedom Not To, genuine forgiveness can only take place when the onus of responsibility rests on the person who acted wrongly to earn forgiveness, and that, in certain situations, the best option for the person who was mistreated or betrayed is to have the freedom to not forgive, and to instead turn to the healing power of acceptance, one of four approaches to forgiveness.