The Power of Reframing



Have you ever seen a framed picture and thought to yourself, "wow. If they had chosen a different frame, it would have made all the difference."

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the frame is the punctuation.

The same goes for life--we can always choose the frame through which we see, hear and experience everything. We find power in our lives when we choose the frames we use.

I recently sat with a good friend over coffee. She was sharing deeply personal truths about her relationship and I listened  intently for two reasons. One, because she rarely speaks so openly about her life, and I considered what she shared to be a gift. Two, because I'm really into how people experience their lives compared to how it occurs to outsiders. Have you noticed this? We get so into our version of the events or experience or story in our heads, how something occurs to us, and it occurs completely different to someone else. That's why talking to a trusted friend can be helpful.

As I work through my own version or stories of my life experiences, I listen to how others experience theirs. In this one example, I heard my friend really struggling with how she interpreted or experienced her partner--what he was doing and saying. From my side of the table, it was easy to hear what he was trying to say or get her to understand, despite his inefficient self-expression. Her experience or interpretation was completely different from mine.

It was clear to me that if she chose to reframe his words and behavior, a completely new opportunity would be available for both of them.

A recent client writes to me of her imaginings of her former partner and his new flame. She's overcome with grief when she considers him blissed out beyond belief. A new frame helps her consider he's suffering but not able to break free from self-destructive patterns in relationships and she's better off without him.

But we can only see what we can see when we can see it. And our ability to see things differently depends on many variables--including our own self-awareness of our habits, patterns and the frames we use. And also, time.

To remember this, I have this quote tattooed on the length of my right arm, in my own handwriting.

"The truth dazzles gradually..."

from a longer quote from poet, Emily Dickinson:

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant — Success in Circuit lies Too bright for our infirm Delight The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased With explanation kind The Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind —

As a Gemini or just because it is who I am, I have an innate skill of seeing things from about 1,000 different angles or viewpoints. I experience life as a kaleidoscope of options, perspectives, opinions and ideas. This is either a blessing or a curse, depending on which frame I'm using. It sometimes helps me to see everything from so many viewpoints but it can also confuse me profoundly. I think my Buddhist practice also contributes, because I have learned that nothing is fixed, consistent, certain or unchanging. Everything is impermanent and expanding before us, different from one second to the next.

Some people might find this incredibly liberating or terrifying, it all depends on the frame.

The next time you find yourself confused, frustrated, annoyed or whatever else you're feeling, consider the frame you're using to see, hear and experience things. Consider it is one and only one frame. Take down the frame and replace it with a different one and see what you see.

image courtesy of this site.