Reframing the power of Perspective

Life is not static thing. The only people who do not change their minds are incompetents in asylums who can’t and those in cemeteries.

Consider the sound of a footstep. If asked you, what does a footstep mean? You would probably answer it doesn’t mean anything to me. Well let’s think about that. If you’re walking along a busy street, there are so many footsteps you don’t even hear them. In that situation, they don’t have any effective meaning. But what if you’re sitting home alone late at night and you hear footsteps down stairs? A moment alter, you hear the steps moving toward you. Do the foot steps have meaning then? They sure do. That same signal (the sound of footsteps) will have many different meanings depending upon what it has meant to you in similar situations in the past. Your experience may provide you with a context for that signal and thus determine whether it relaxes or frightens you. For example, you may classify the sound as that of your spouse coming home early. People who have experienced a burglary may think it means an intruder. Thus the meaning of any experience in life depends upon the frame we put around it. If you change the frame, the context, the meaning changes instantly. One of the most effective tools for personal change is learning how to put the best frames on any experience. This process is called reframing.

On a piece of paper, describe a figure, what do you see?

There are many things you could see. You might see what you consider to be a hat on its side, a monster, an arrow pointing down, and so on.

Describe to yourself what you see right now. Do you also see the word fly? You may have been it right away because this example has been used for bumper stickers and other promotional items. So your previous frame of reference helped you to see it as fly immediately. If you didn’t see it, why didn’t you? Do you even see it now? If you didn’t see the word, it’s probably because your habitual perceptual frame leads you to expect words on white paper to be written in black ink. So as long as you use this frame to interpret this situation, you will not see the word fly. In this case, fly is written in white. You must be able to reframe your perception in order to see it. The same is true in life. Many times there are opportunities all around for us to make our lives exactly as we wish them to be. There are ways to see our biggest problems as our greatest opportunities if only we can step out of our trained patterns of perception.

Again, as we’ve discussed over and over in this article, nothing in the world has any inherent meaning. How we feel about something and what we do in the world are dependent upon our perception of it. A signal has meaning only in the frame or context in which we perceive it. Misfortune is a point of view. Your headache may feel good to an aspirin salesman. Human beings tend to attach specific meanings to experience. We say this happened so this means that when in actuality there may be an infinite number of ways to interpret any experience. We tend to frame things based upon how we have perceived them in the past. Many times, by changing these habitual perception patterns, we can create greater choices for our lives. It’s important to remember that perceptions are creative. That is, if we perceive something as a liability that is the message we deliver to our brain. Then the brain produces states that make it the reality. If we change our frame of reference by looking at the same situation from a different point of view, we can change the way we respond in life. We can change our representation or perception about anything and in a moment change our state and behavior. This is what reframing is all about.

Remember, we do not see the world as it is because how things are can be interpreted from many points of view. How we are, our frames of reference, our maps define the territory.