Listen to this episode of the Focus With Marlene Podcast
From childhood on, we are creating beliefs about ourselves and our world based on the interpretations we make. We make assumptions and expectations that form a framework from which to appropriately respond to life. These frames of reference motivate and guide our thinking, our emotional responses, and our behavior.
How we frame our world creates meaning and helps us navigate the ups and downs of living.
Enlarging our frame of reference
If our frames of reference are small and limiting, our lives will be restrictive, negative and inflexible.
If we enlarge our frames of reference, we see a bigger picture and have a better understanding of occurrences that are causing pain and anxiety.
Reframing takes what life has handed us and gives us the opportunity to respond differently. It allows us not only to transcend difficult or traumatic life situations, but to find humor, purpose and joy within them.
Reframing and acceptance go hand-in-hand
Reframing requires acceptance; accepting what has happened in order to find new ways to see the world and respond to it.
Reframing and acceptance go hand in hand. With acceptance, we choose to look at our problems differently. It is a way of thinking that can be applied to any circumstance and can become a pivotal point that takes us from what we can’t do to possibilities, options and choices.
Reframing sheds more light on the problems we are facing and outlines what possible outcomes there might be.
What does that look like in real time?
Years ago, I helped a health organization write a nine-week class on chronic illness and pain. The program helped people accept their debilitating and chronic illness so they could work with it. Along with strategies that could be applied, our research for this project included true stories of people who had overcome enormous obstacles to carve out a new life.
One of those resources was a book written by Arnold Beisser, Flying Without Wings: Personal Reflections on Loss, Disability and Healing.
Arnold was an athlete and tennis champion who contracted polio after completing medical school to become a surgeon. Life was just unfolding when this tragedy struck. As he lay in his iron lung, unable to move, he struggled to find purpose for his life.
Gradually he began to reframe his circumstances. “Even though I could not move, I could actively engage with whatever was around me through the play of senses.”
He began to use his imagination to creatively look at his world in a new way. He defines the baby steps involved in changing how he looked at his new reality.
“I had moments of great pleasure and satisfaction when I became absorbed in observing minor details and becoming an active observer, rather than a passive one . . . Eventually, I could pass a very interesting time looking at the ceiling, noticing small details and changes.”
As time went on, he began to see his situation differently. “I could be more than a helpless victim, and I could have a part in determining my life and what shape it took.”
He lived in an iron lung for three years before emerging as a quadriplegic in a wheelchair.
He did not allow his tragedy to disable him. He went on to become a psychiatrist, an administrator, an author, and fell in love and married a woman he met while still in the hospital.
He lived – he did not remain a helpless victim. He took the pieces of his life, reframed them and learned to live again in a new world.
No matter what the setback or situation, there are many things we can do to reframe our circumstances turning it into something positive.
We need validation for the turmoil of thoughts and emotions we experience. But we also need the tools necessary to create a new beginning that is both satisfying and meaningful. My new book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, offers those tools to help work through the problems you might be facing.