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It’s About Time

Seven steps to releasing anxiety.


“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.”

—Albert Einstein

Today, I’d like to introduce you to your very own time machine. Using it, you can recreate the past and project more positive outcomes in your future. Before we get into how you do that, let’s talk about time:

Time is just a concept. Though in some ways our concepts about time based on nature, we made up things like hours and minutes and months. We arbitrarily decided that breakfast would be at 7:30 a.m. and lunch at noon. Somebody thought it was a great idea to make the work week Monday through Friday and leave Saturday and Sunday for the weekend.

That said, time is an extremely useful concept! Time gives us a reference point so we know when to show up at the dentist and when to change the oil in our cars. Can you imagine trying to manage a workforce or arrange a big family birthday party without time? How could you find your favorite TV show or know when to celebrate your anniversary?

Time is relative: Einstein often used the analogy of “having a pretty girl on your lap” to talk about the relativity of time. He talked about how quickly time flies when you’re having a good time versus how it can drag if you’re doing something difficult or painful. We’ve all had the experience of being so absorbed in something that we totally “lost track of time,” right?

The sense of time also varies from culture to culture and person to person. Think about how we treat time in the U.S.: We never have enough time. We squeeze something “productive” into every minute. We’re impatient when something takes “too much” time, like that extra 15 seconds for a program to load or the agonizing extra three minutes for our Venté Macchiato to be made.

In contrast, other cultures find value in “taking their time.” They tend to savor moments more than we do. They don’t worry about showing up to an appointment “on the dot.” If a project is completed a few months after it was due, no big deal. We tend to let time run our lives while other cultures pace their lives differently. We say that “time is precious and shouldn’t be wasted.” Other cultures say that each moment is precious and not to be rushed.

Time organizes your past and future. Your unconscious mind uses the concept of time to organize your memories and your ideas about the future. It creates a timeline of events so it knows where to look when you wish to recall something or think about upcoming events. Everyone has their own personal timeline.

Think about a specific incident in your past. As you think about it, where does that thought seem to be in relation to your body? For many people, it’s behind. For others, it’s to the left or right. Just notice where it is for you. Now think about something specific that will happen in the future. Where is that in relation to your body? It might be in front or to the side. Can you notice how you can draw a line between where your past resides and your future lives? This is the timeline your unconscious created to keep various events organized.

Using your time machine. Based on Neuro Linguistic Programming, my father created a process called Timeline Therapy. As I’ve used it through the years with my students and clients, I’ve tweaked the process and it has evolved into Mental Emotional Release® therapy (MER®). We use it to work with everything from PTSD to phobia to releasing limiting beliefs. Though much of MER® work should be done with a qualified practitioner, there’s one process to release anxiety that you can easily experience for yourself.

  1. Establish your timeline. Do the exercise I suggested above to establish your own time line. Think of an event in the past then an event coming up in the future. Notice where they are in relationship to your body and draw a line. This is your timeline.
  2. Now imagine a specific event in the future that makes you feel anxious. Maybe you need to confront a co-worker about something or confess that you haven’t met a deadline. Maybe you’re going to a high school reunion or an ex’s wedding. Pick out a specific event and pay attention to how you feel about it. Maybe your stomach feels queasy or your mind starts spinning. Keep thinking about that event until you can fully feel your anxiety about it.
  3. Step three is to think about the best possible outcome for that event. If this event ended wonderfully, what would that look like? How would you feel? What would indicate to you that you were successful? For example, maybe you say your piece to your co-worker and they take it well. Maybe you find it surprisingly easy to re-connect with old friends from high school. Get a clear image of that successful conclusion, even if you don’t think it could possibly happen.
  4. Close your eyes and simply float above your timeline and out into the future until you are 15 minutes after the successful conclusion of the event. Float for a moment above your best possible outcome. Trust that your unconscious mind knows exactly how to do this.
  5. Float down into that moment 15 minutes after the successful completion of your event. Make sure that the conclusion is truly successful, similar to the positive image you had earlier. Notice what you see, hear and feel as if you are present in that scene. Stay for a few moments to enjoy the good feelings of your success.
  6. After a few moments, float back up above your timeline and back into the present moment. Open your eyes, stretch your body, and take a few deep breaths. Get yourself centered back into the present.
  7. Now, think about that event in the future that previously made you feel anxious. As you think about it now, how you feel? Do you have a more positive attitude about it? Rather than dreading it, are you looking forward to that event or at least feeling neutral about it? Do you think this new sense of anticipation versus the old anxiety might set you up better for the results you’d love to have?

This simple time machine practice removes or substantially releases anxiety about an event for most people. The shift in attitude might feel so natural you can’t even remember being anxious about it in the first place. By traveling your timeline to insert a more positive outcome, you’ve alerted your unconscious to help you produce positive results. And no matter what ends up happening in that future event, you’ll feel much more confident and positive in all the moments leading up to it.

“Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don't wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it's at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.”

—Earl Nightingale

To your TOTAL empowerment


Dr. Matt


Byline: Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership. Author of several books, Dr. Matt has trained thousands of students to be totally empowered using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna, Mental Emotional Release® (MER®) therapy, and Empowerment Fit, a program that incorporates targeted mind/body/spirit practices to create optimal physical fitness and health. Download his free special report, Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know to Achieve Your Goals, LINK. To reach Dr. James, please e-mail him at or visit his blog at

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