Throughout this 9-part series on my blog and podcast, you’ve been learning that any transitional period can create a sense of confusion, anxiety, and dissatisfaction. Sometimes a crisis or loss will trigger feelings of anxiety and even panic. Sometimes there is an underlying discontent that has gone unchecked for a long time, and you ask, “Is this all there is?”
But it is precisely at such times that you have the opportunity to gain a new perspective – develop a new focus.
Today I’ll share an example of two siblings who grew up in the same household, but whose lives took dramatically different directions based on how they framed their circumstances.
Our first response to any drastic life change is usually shock, then denial. When you lose your job, can’t make your house payment, or have been diagnosed with a life-altering or life-threatening disease, the crisis takes center stage and everything else is blocked from view.
Reframing takes what life has handed us and looks at it in an expanded way.
The following story illustrates this point. Years ago, I worked for a company that led two weeks of day-long classes for injured workers. In these classes we taught attendees how pain disrupts our lives, what we bring to the pain experience and ways to go beyond this pain.
As individuals began to apply the information we gave them to their personal situations, it was amazing and encouraging to see what a difference it made in their outlook for the future.
Years ago, I worked for a company contracted to help injured workers in chronic pain recover and re-enter the workplace. Most had been injured on the job, even with all the safety precautions.
As part of their rehabilitation and recovery program, they attended a two-week all-day class. Most were not happy to be there; in fact, some were downright hostile. Yet after one week, we began to see a transformation of attitudes, mindset, and way of thinking.
It was always amazing to watch this metamorphous from hopelessness, despondency, and despair to one of possibility, expectation, and motivation.
We are defined by many things in life: our relationships, our roles, our handicaps.
What defines you? My youngest son was an artist. He started drawing as soon as he could hold a pencil. Even the simplest stick figures he drew had character and substance. His creativity seemed to flow out of him like water from a pitcher. He would draw for hours.
He loved to draw faces – faces that so expressed the characteristics of the individual that it never required anything more – you saw the whole person in the face. Within the expressions, there was passion, confidence, longing, sadness, robust strength, humor, wisdom, and understanding. Even today as I look at his drawings, I marvel at the depth of disclosure in his drawings that revealed so much of the human spirit and soul.
How do you see yourself?
Are you despondent and dreading the future, unable to see anything positive to look forward to?
Losses can make everything seem gloomy and hopeless and we resign ourselves to this fate moving forward.
But we can change that picture.
We can reframe what is happening in order to see something positive. Let me share a true story with you.
Years ago, I worked for a company that provided training to injured workers in chronic pain to help in their recovery and their re-entry to the workplace. They had been injured on the job, resulting in their inability to continue working in that same capacity.
Life is full of challenges. Some challenges will be fairly straightforward while others will require major adjustment and reframing to meet the demands within them.
Years ago, when I was helping design and write a class on Chronic Illness, we reviewed a book by Arnold Beisser titled, Flying without Wings: Personal Reflections on Loss, Disability and Healing. Arnold was a young man ready to conquer the world. He was an athlete and tennis champion and had just completed medical school when polio struck. He found himself in an iron lung instead of in an office taking on new clients.
As he lay there unable to move, paralyzed from head to foot, he asked himself, Now what? His life seemed over. But he decided to take it back and gradually began to reframe his situation.