My destination is no longer a place, rather a new way of seeing. – Marcel Proust
My feelings about that in my life requiring change were up there with avocados and celery, both of which, incidentally, I rate marginally higher than smallpox. So, when I discovered that one of the most beneficial facilitators of dealing with my (many) problems was to embrace and love all that festered in my sock drawer, I really did want to scream. I could barely mention any of them, yet alone bring them out into the open, cuddle them with my soul and give ‘em kissy kissy.
Maybe not quite so comedic but looking at our issues in a more benevolent light is basically what reframing is about. Taking a situation and viewing it more positively will not change it, but it will certainly empower you so that you are better placed to find a solution.
So what is reframing?
Have you heard the expression ‘As sure as eggs is eggs’ – meaning that something is bound to happen? Well, we tend to hold views like that. We ascribe to the principle that situations and events have an inherent meaning, when the reality is that the only meaning that comes into play is the one we attribute to it, based on how we interpret it.
I guess I could throw in here another saying – ‘Let the facts speak for themselves …’ – when we do anything but! It is so very easy to take a fact and tag on our own details and explanations to try and make sense of what we believe is about to, or in fact has just happened.
This way of thinking is a frame – it contains our thoughts, values, belief systems, expectations and so on, and is the frame of reference that we return to again and again – without question or challenge.
And the key word here is ‘challenge.’
We need to challenge our assumptions and beliefs – in other words we need to step out of our frame and into another one.
Let me give you a silly example.
I have a pathological hatred of those self-service checkouts. When they were first introduced I tried to avoid them like the plague, because whenever I used them I always seemed to be the one who had to stand there, in complete embarrassment, whilst the mechanical voice boomed to the entire queue that I had done something truly awful in the bagging area!
But you know what? In actuality, if I had jumped outside my frame and looked at the situation from another one, I would have seen that a) many others had incurred the same bagging area botherations, because such checkouts can malfunction with alarming regularity; and b) as I used them so rarely I just wasn’t au fait with the process, panicked like fury and pressed buttons that I should not have!
Now with renewed vigour I use them a lot of the time – I still hate them with every passion, but the bagging area holds no fear for me (most of the time …).
And that’s (very) basically what reframing is.
You step back from the situation and scrutinise exactly what is happening – and consider the frame of reference you are using. For example, ask yourself what assumptions you are making? Is it the way you always think about it? What belief systems are coming into play here? And so on …
Then you need to bring another frame into play – it will be the frame where you consider alternatives and challenge your original frame. This is where you can change certain attributes of what you see, ignore and downplay words, actions or other elements.
There are three steps that you can use when reframing –
- Relate what the situation or event is with as much objectivity and accuracy as you can manage.
- Acknowledge your ability to deal with the situation – avoid any knee-jerk reactions and understand what qualities you do have for promoting a more favourable outcome than that in your first frame.
- Re-write the story and give it a more positive outcome.
This may not appear to be easy – especially if you are coming from where you believe to be a bad place, but by understanding that –
- the frame you are facing has been constructed from your interpretation of the situation;
- that every thought you have has a frame made up of your belief structure and assumptions;
- it is your inner voice that is causing any negativity, which is based on your belief structure, and is trying to help you rather than hinder – thus you need to find the positive intention behind the thought.
Reframing can be a wonderful tool which can aid you in turning problems into opportunities, the seemingly impossible into the possible, weaknesses into strengths and dreams into reality.
There are a few other things that you can bring to the frame –
Don’t be a follower, be a leader – standing by and giving into your doubts is easy, and quite understandable, but how about turning it round and considering the first small step that you can take?
Interchange past and future – use it to your advantage – just because something you did in the past didn’t work out well doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be the same scenario now. Imagine what it would be like if you succeeded at it.
If you have concerns about achieving a goal in the future, look back to the past and consider your successes – what could you bring from that to today to realise your goal?
Turn weaknesses into strengths – for example, if you are a bit of a fussbudget – sit back and think about what skills you could take from your fussbudgetry and apply to what you want to realise.
Succeed not concede – don’t give into feelings that it always happens to you – understand that you may be doing it to yourself, and you can change that.
And finally – a few examples of reframing –
I bet you’ve got the picture – now go and choose the frame …