Another kind of reframes

A second kind of reframe involves working with a behavior you don’t like it because you don’t like what it says about you as a person or you don’t like what it gets for you. The way to reframe it is to imagine situation or context in which that behavior would be useful in getting you something you do want.

Suppose you are a salesman. You take great pains to know your product in every detail. But on the sales floor you tend to inundate your customers with so much information that they become overwhelmed, sometimes delaying their decision to buy. The question is, where else would that behavior actually quite effective? What about writing ad copy or technical writing on the product itself? Knowing a lot of information and being able to have ready access to it could even be useful in studying for a test or helping your kids with their homework. So, you see, it’s not the behavior itself that’s the problem, but where it’s being employed. Can you think of examples in your own life? All human behaviors are useful in some context. Procrastination may seem useless, yet wouldn’t it be nice to put off being angry or sad to another day and then never get to it?

You can learn to do reframing exercises for images and experiences that bother you. For example, think of a person or experience that is preying on your mind. You come home after a lousy day at work, and all you can think of is the ridiculous project your supervisor gave you at the last minute. Instead of getting away from it, you take the frustration home with you. You are watching television with your kids, and all you are thinking about in this angry state is your dumb supervisor and his idiotic project.

Instead of letting your brain make you miserable for the weekend you can learn to reframe the experience in a way that makes you feel better. Start by disassociating yourself from it. Take the image of your supervisor and put in your hand. Put a pair of funny glasses with a big nose and mustache on him. Hear him talking in a funny, screechy cartoon voice. Feel him as being warm and cuddly, and hear him saying he needs your help on this project, could you please help? After you’ve concocted this, maybe you can appreciate that he’s under stress and maybe he forgot to tell you what he needed until the last minute. May be you can remember a time when you did the same thing with someone else. Ask yourself if this situation is such big deal that you should allow it to ruin your week end, if there’s any reason to let it bother you when you are at home.

The problem signifies that you may need a new job, or maybe you need to communicate better in the job you are in. But if that is the case, you need to deal with the problem instead of being haunted by some lingering, negative specter in your mind that keeps you reacting and causes you to treat those closest to you in an unattractive way. Do this effectively a few times, and the next time you see your supervisor you may see him with glasses and a big nose and feel differently as he talks to you thus creating new feedback to him and a new way for the two of you to interact, outside of the past stimulus/responses dynamic you had set up with each other.

In its broadest sense, reframing can be used to eliminate negative feelings about nearly anything. One of the most effective techniques is to picture your self in a theater. See an experience that’s troubling you as a movie up on the screen. First you might want to play it in fast forward, like a cartoon. You might want to put circus music on it, the sound of a calliope. Then you might want to play it backward, watching the image become more and more absurd. Try this technique with something that’s bothering you. You’ll find it soon loses its negative power.