Looking Back and Letting Go - A Timeline Exercise

Updated: Feb 18

As we approach the end of a year that has been overshadowed by a global pandemic, multiple lockdowns, panic, fear, and scepticism, it can be helpful to step back and take a look at our personal experience of the past 12 months in order to regain a little perspective. It also allow us to identify what events and changes took place, to acknowledge the highs and lows, and how they impacted on us personally. Because if we want 2021 to be different…we're going to have to do things differently! And if we want to bring good health and prosperity into our reality in the new year, we need to be able to let go of the experiences that have overshadowed these things in the last year. A helpful tool which can help us look back and let go is a Timeline Exercise.

The brain has an innate capacity to make changes in positive, healing directions when we can channel our focus effectively. A Timeline is a powerful tool that can reset our brain to heal itself. Everyone has a unique timeline, which is made up of a series of events, trends and turns that produce cycles of highs and lows in the course of a lifetime, although for this exercise we will only be looking at the past12 months.

Benefits of Completing a Timeline Exercise?

  • It provides an opportunity to record important information about our life and the past and even to forecast which direction our life can move towards in future.

  • It helps us see the themes and patterns that connect and cut across different events.

  • It allows us to recognize key achievements, growth opportunities, lessons, wisdom attained, etc.

  • It can help us find new meaning between our life now in relation to the past and future

  • It can help us understand how our experiences better prepared us in facing future challenges and helped positively shape our life and character.

  • It can help us understand - even appreciate - the value of past events and experiences, even negative ones, in strengthening who we are today.

Timeline Exercise for 2020

Draw a line on a sheet of paper to represent the past 12 months and mark out equal increments starting from January to December, writing down what significant events/experiences took place for you? Write all the positives on one side of the line (this can include things you are grateful for, support received, fun and stress-free times, achievements etc) and the negatives on the other side of the line (this can include any difficulties, setbacks, things that you didn't want to experience, disappointments, stressful and anxious times, losses etc). What do you notice? Now here's the magic...

In order to turn the negatives into positives there are 4 steps that need to be taken in order to transform them into positives and let them go; the steps are as follows:

1. Feel it to Heal it

Remember each negative event/experience in detail as if it were happening now. Notice what emotions come up and what physical sensations arise (e.g. quickening of the heart-beat, tensing of the muscles); this is the emotional charge of that memory which can be triggered over and over again in future if it hasn’t been released. Acknowledge the truth of what happened and the pain it caused you. Very often we can try and brush off these 'negative events' without fully acknowledging the impact they have had. Giving ourselves permission to fully feel what these events have caused us is emotionally cathartic in itself. Crying, shouting, screaming and punching a pillow are all perfectly acceptable ways of releasing the emotions which would otherwise stay stored in the body and create imbalance and dis-ease. It can help to write down what comes up for you or to talk about it with someone you trust.

2. Detach and Reframe

Take a step back and recall each of the negative events/experience again, but this time from the perspective of a 'curious observer'; in Mindfulness this is referred to as Beginners Mind. By detaching emotionally we can access higher functioning parts of the brain which are great at analysing, finding solutions and accessing creativity. Because even the most uncomfortable and painful experiences, losses and setbacks can all contribute to our personal growth and expansion; as long as we can find the learning in life's lessons it can prevent us from repeating the same mistakes and to move in the direction of the kind of life we want to be experiencing.

What did each of the negative events/experiences teach you? Were there any valuable lessons learnt. Did it show you how resilient you are, did it make you wiser or stronger, did it make you appreciate other things in your life or teach you the value of something you had otherwise taken for granted? Was there anything you could have done differently or will do differently in future? Can you see how the negative event actually worked out in your favour further down the line, or has it steered your life in a new direction where you could end up better off in some way. Brainstorm all the possibilities that your mind can come up with to help you see this 'negative event' as something more positive. Do this for all the negative events you identified on your timeline and notice how your emotions for each event change…the emotional charge should start to reduce.

3. Burn Baby Burn

Now that the negative events/experiences have been reframed and given new meaning, it’s time to allow any final pain still associated with them to be released. Write down each negative event on a piece of paper, thank it for what it has taught you, and safely set the paper on fire (e.g. in a large pan, or ashtray or fireplace or outside pit). The past has been and gone and it cannot be changed, but it’s nice to have a visual that something is no more, as it helps the brain to catch up rather than stay living in the past and playing out old scenarios as if they were happening in the here and now. Also fire is very therapeutic to watch, just please remember to handle responsibly.

4. Love and Gratitude

Being able to replace negative events/ experiences with love and gratitude is the final key to letting them go and setting yourself free. Focusing on the positive features that emerged from an apparently negative situation is essential to transforming it to serve your highest good, and the good of people around you. How can you use the negative experiences of 2020 to guide you to do things differently in 2021, to inspire more love and joy, giving and gratitude into your life?

And what about all the positive events/experiences you identified in your Timeline Exercise...spend some time focusing on how thankful you are for those things. Can you imagine what your experience of 2020 would have been like had those positive events/experiences not happened? Where our attention goes energy flows; the better we become at finding things to be grateful about, no matter how big or small, the more life will inevitably give us to be grateful for.

Remembering to show ourselves unconditional love is just as important as letting go of the external events or experiences that may have caused us pain or discomfort this year, especially if we have cause to feel guilty or ashamed or to think negatively about ourselves. Showing ourselves full acceptance, forgiveness and unconditional love is required to heal and be free. What acts of kindness and compassion will you be showing yourself as you move forward into the new year?

The events of the past 12 months have the potential to transform your current reality and to shape your future. Will you take the 4 steps needed to look back and let go?

If you have enjoyed my final blog of the year be sure to click on the little heart and share on your socials. And if you feel you would benefit from a one-off coaching session to complete this exercise with myself, please get in touch via the contact form to request a consultation.

Sending love and light to you all this new year xXx

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