Can you recall the last time you felt bad about something in your life? Do you remember how you felt - and why you felt that way?
What would you say if I told you that you could have used a simple technique to instantly transform your emotions and feel better?
And that it’s something you can easily learn to do.
One of the greatest shifts I made on my own personal development journey was to realise that everything I experienced in life was actually happening entirely in my own mind and body.
More often than not, my experience of life actually had little to do with anything that was happening outside of myself.
Instead, it all boiled down to how I was personally interpreting what was going on.
It took me a while, but I got to a place where I realised that if I wanted to change my feelings about a situation all I had to do was rearrange my thoughts about it.
I found this insight deeply liberating.
It stopped me playing victim and blaming others for making me feel bad.
It made me take greater control of my inner world.
And it significantly improved the quality of my life.
It was all down to this powerful technique called reframing.
The principle behind reframing is that events and situations do not in themselves have any inherent meaning at all. It is we who assign a meaning, based on our own unique perception of the world.
I like to think of perceptions as distinctive sunglasses that we all wear, which colour our view of the world. We acquire these glasses in childhood, and they’re constructed from our memories, thoughts and feelings.
Because everyone’s personal journey is unique to them, we’re all wearing sunglasses that are a slightly different shade to each other. That’s why we all see the world differently.
When we interpret our circumstances as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it’s not because of the situations we find ourselves in, but rather how we’re viewing them through our glasses.
Someone else might see the same situation in a completely different way because they’re wearing a different pair of glasses.
So, if we want to feel differently about any situation all we have to do is change the glasses we’re wearing, and tell ourselves a different story.
Most of what goes on our heads is, at best, a guess at the truth, and at worst, complete rubbish.
So if what we’re thinking isn’t real, why not choose an interpretation that feels better?
You can choose to reframe anything.
Perhaps the neighbour who upset you this morning by rudely blanking you simply didn’t see you because her eyesight has considerably deteriorated? Or because she was in a rush and preoccupied with her own worries.
Perhaps the stroppy woman who road-raged you on your way to work was upset because she’d received some distressing news about her child?
Perhaps the reckless young man who dangerously overtook your car, and sped away at an alarming rate, had just found out that his mother was on the verge of death and that he needed to get to the hospital urgently?
Perhaps the painful divorce you’re going through is ultimately going to give you back your freedom, and allow you to find a more loving and supportive partner?
Perhaps the serious illness you’re battling is allowing you to pause, slow down, step back from life, and reflect on your priorities and relationship with yourself?
Perhaps the breakdown you’re going through is in fact a deep emotional and spiritual clearing, a major internal readjustment, and therefore not a breakdown at all, but a breakthrough into a higher place of awareness and wellbeing?
Perhaps your hypersensitivity is not a curse but a blessing, because it allows you to connect with and relate to others in a deeper and more meaningful way?
- Perhaps your recent redundancy is not the end of the road, but a redirection into a more creative and meaningful life?
With a little bit of reflection, detachment and creativity, you can reframe even the most difficult and distressing of situations and, in an instant, transform your entire perspective on any issue.
Reframing is one of the most powerful strategies I use in my therapeutic work. It’s like a bolt of lightning, a shift of tectonic plates, that instantly changes a person’s mental and emotional landscape, opening up a previously unseen narrative.
Reframes can create instantaneous change.
Let me give you an example of how powerful this can be. A client I was working with was struggling to let go of deep guilt and shame around some experiences he’d endured earlier in life … that is, until I was able to reframe the situation for him.
I asked him if, viewed another way, it was possible that his experiences had simply been training him for a role he had to play later on in his life.
Perhaps he was meant to be supporting other young men who found themselves in similar situations?
How could he understand, relate to, and empathise with others unless he’d experienced the exact same thing?
What’s more, some good, in terms of personal growth, had come out of this experience.
For example, it had forced him to learn about self-care, personal boundaries, the use and abuse of power, and the importance of self-respect.
All this was wisdom that he could now take and impart to someone else.
Where then was there any place for guilt and shame in this story?
There simply wasn’t.
It was wonderful to witness the positive shift in this man’s face and body language when we looked at his experiences from this perspective.
So the next time something or someone upsets you, notice the story that you’re telling yourself and then simply choose to tell a different one - one that makes you feel better.
Here are a few phrases to jump-start your thinking:
- It could be worse.
- This is a challenge, not a problem.
- This is a growth experience.
- This is just a small part of something much bigger and more important.
- Some people would pay to experience this.
- I’ll be a lot more capable after I’ve resolved this.
- This is all learning for me.
- This is all useful in a different context.
- How would somebody else respond differently to this?
- The fact that this has come up is a sign of positive change.
- Everything happens for a good reason.
- Some deeper/higher part of me knows what’s really going on here, even if I don’t.
- There must be a really important lesson for me in all this.
- It sure isn’t boring!
I love this famous quote:
“Pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice.” (Anonymous)
Once you truly understand that you yourself are causing your own suffering with the thoughts and feelings that accompany the interpretation you put on things, you can just as easily and quickly choose a different, lighter, brighter, happier story.
If you would like some help in reframing your situation then check out the holistic life coaching services I provide by clicking here: Holistic Life Coaching.