Saturday, 25 May 2013

You've Been Framed - Reframing your Thinking

Quality Questions

     Everything in life is about how we see it. The most impacting thing I was ever told was to consider the quality of the questions you're using to establish the state you're creating. Questions like "Why does this always happen to me?" or "Why am I so unlucky?" don't really serve any purpose.

     We can frame any situation any way we like. Instead of feeling victimized by a partner who returns late from a night out or who inconsiderately doesn't phone to say they'll be late home from work why not ask yourself the question "What else could this mean?"

Life's Dead Ends

     One of the problems with the human condition is we ask ourself questions like "What if..." and "What will happen when..." They're questions that play on the unpredictability of life. Just like a cat interested in a certain smell, we'll irrationally follow that line of thought to its conclusion. Quite often that conclusion will be a dead end. The imagined scene conjured up by the random lottery of thoughts and possible outcomes usually never materializes. We just spend a lot of time worrying about things that never happen.

     To change the question to "What else could this mean?" involves a change of focus. We remove ourselves from the role of victim. Suddenly we're experiencing empathy. If a loved one is late home we can certainly choose to spend a lot of energy thinking about the revenge we'll carry out. Alternatively, we can care about whether they are safe in that moment. The response when your partner gets home will be quite different.

     The question may seem just like another open ended disaster scenario. Its quality lies in its current nature. It doesn't concern itself with imagined future horrors. It sends out an energy in the moment to the one we're thinking about. It reframes our current state.

Jumping to Conclusions

    The idea doesn't only apply to our relationships with people. It also applies to our life situations. Anything can be interpreted as good or bad. It may impact our lives but it's not inherently good or bad in nature. We take the information we're given and make what we want of it.

     I remember at school we had a game of tag which is called "It" in the UK. We modified it for our own fun and played it while hopping. One hell of a fight broke out once when one kid walked up to another who was playing on the swing and invited him to join in the game by asking "Hop It?" Unfortunately, the kid on the swing was having a bad day and misinterpreted the phrase as an order to get off the swing!

     If we're in a nervous or defensive state then we'll interpret the events around us in the same way. I once drove to Devon with my girlfriend to see my brother. After two breakdowns in my little Fiat 126 and a number of hours driving I called my brother to let him know I was running late. Speeding through the back lanes in the dusk I saw a van screaming towards me, hogging the road. I swerved, swore and kept going, in that order.

     A few minutes later I was aware of some headlamps close to my rear bumper. They flashed. I put my foot down and the headlamps raced to keep up with me. They flashed again. "Holy crap!" I said to my girlfriend. "It's that van!" I'd watched the Spielberg film Duel shortly before and imagined myself being hunted down by a madman in a Mitsubishi van with a tinted windscreen.

     Eventually the van overtook me on a straight and I had to accept that the duel was over. This was it. Curtains. The end of the road. Literally! Ignoring the van speeding next to me I put my foot down. My girlfriend touched my arm as she looked out the window at the driver of the van. "It's Tim, your brother!" she said. He'd come out to meet us after hearing of our trouble. His most evil plan was to have a break somewhere together before completing our journey. 

Reframing Events and Situations

     As I've already said, what we do with the information we receive is entirely up to us. If we hear "acute bend ahead" it can mean that we have to be careful because of a dangerous bend coming up in the road. It can also mean that there's an attractive bit of scenery coming up that happens to be on a bend! It's an extreme example but it illustrates how we can change the meaning. That meaning will prompt our state, our attitude to the bend and our response to what we find. If we believe that there's something attractive about the bend then the chances are that we'll find something attractive when we arrive.

     That applies to any situation in our lives. If you approach a horse or a dog with a sense of fear then it'll react with fear towards you and the likelihood is that you'll end up bitten or kicked. Approach it with confidence and in a relaxed state and you'll find that the animal or situation will respond in kind. An interview panel for a job is just another kind of horse or dog.

     Life is full of acute bends and cute bends. As it twists and turns we can either greet them as obstacles to be overcome or adventures we can learn from. Our inner state needs to be cultivated to create the latter as our natural state. This is why we meditate and use pleasing sounds to create that platform. If we're calm within then we'll create that state without.

     Wouldn't it be wonderful to greet every moment in your life as if it was the greatest? To treat every obstacle in your path as a cute bend in the route you have to take through life? I believe that's possible. All we really need to know is that these are the greatest moments of our lifetimes. And we can cultivate the expectation that life will be full of moments like these.