Don't Like Something? "Reframe" It

Don't Like Something? "Reframe" It

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Human beings have used a technique for thousands of years to turn misery into happiness and suffering into blessing. Psychologists and other therapists discovered it only in the last couple of decades and called it "reframing."

Reframing is an art. Imagine a decent painting that is framed in a gaudy, ugly frame. The gaudy, ugly frame glares right into the eye of the beholder. As a result, the beholder can't fully appreciate the beauty of the painting. So, you take a beautiful frame, just the right frame that jells with the painting. Now look at it. Viola! The frame enhances the beauty of the painting and brings out the aspects of it that one didn't notice before. This is what reframing can do for you.

When we label a "problem" as a "challenge," it changes the whole perspective, doesn't it? A problem is to be dreaded. A challenge is to be tackled. Here is your typical response to a problem: "Who wants a problem? Not me." Here is your typical response to a challenge: "All right. Bring it on."

If Mount Everest were it to be viewed as a problem, who would bother to climb it? But a lot of people can't stay away from Everest because it's a challenge, and it's there.

Robert Schultz demonstrated his mastery of the art of reframing when he said, "When God wants to give you a gift, He wraps it up in a problem." Such transformations can immediately change one's perspective of a problem, can they not?

Instead of focusing on the nuisance a problem creates for you, think about the positive outcomes that may follow from your efforts to find solutions.

The saying, "Necessity is the mother of invention," is a product of reframing, pushed by the experience of dire need and adversity and propelled by hope and inspiration.

So, next time when you are confronted with a situation that defies usual and conventional solutions, think out of the box. Think not of the limitations and restrictions the new changes impose on you, but, of the potentialities. Move with the "possibility thinking" rather than freezing with the "limitation thinking."

Chinese ancestors demonstrated their mastery of the art of reframing, when they started using the same character both for crisis and opportunity. I can imagine a wise Chinese with a long gray beard sitting at his table with a calligraphic pen and thinking to himself, "Crisis or opportunity. Uhm! What's the difference? One character should be enough for both."

Many army generals and commanders, when faced with the prospects of defeat and death, rescued the morale of their troops by using the art of reframing. They didn't tell their troops to run because the enemy was advancing with an overwhelming force. Instead, they shared their plan of making a "strategic retreat." The troops still ran for their lives, but they felt better about it. Why? Because it was all part of a strategy to eventually win. In some instances, they did win in the end.

Thomas Edison, the great inventor, once had a fire in his laboratory. Meticulous records Edison had kept of his experiments for decades were burned to ashes and so was his untiring labor for all those years. He could have accepted it as the end of his career as an inventor. But, he didn't.

Edison reframed the "disaster" into a helpful accident. As he looked at the charred boxes of the documents, he said something to the effect, "Good! All our mistakes are destroyed. Now, we can start afresh. "

P When you put a positive frame on a negative event, it can change your perception of the event. The change in the perception changes the emotion. Let's use an example. Say, someone does something that really hurts you. Someone you trusted and respected, you think "deliberately" tried to hurt you. You were nothing but fair to this person. But, he (or she) was "very unfair."

Here are some of the ways in which you can reframe this "deliberate and unfair" action of that person:
1. He (or she) hurt you "accidentally" and not deliberately.
2. It was an "honest misunderstanding."
3. It is a "test" given to you by Providence so you can rise beyond your normal reaction.
4. It is an "opportunity" for you to practice patience and forgiveness.

Suzie Ormond, an investment guru, advises people to never think of themselves as poor. Living in "poverty" can be demoralizing. Why not reframe poverty as a "temporary income-expense disparity?" Such a label may be lighter to bear than the crushing burden of poverty.

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Copyright 2001, Mind Publications 


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