The language we use defines our experience. Even in difficult times, we have a choice of responding from love or fear. A narrative that is based on fear or focuses on limits will constrict our life, make it smaller. If we decide instead to reframe the story in love, with possibility, and toward an ever-expanding horizon for ourselves, we are adopting an attitude that’s basic to living in discovery.
After her mother’s death, a friend of mine, who was approaching her 60th birthday, took some time to examine her beliefs about what it means to grow old. Bright and talented, she had likely inherited her 92-year- old mother’s genes for longevity, had accumulated a great deal of wisdom, and possessed a sense of equanimity. She was actually in a power position to decide what she wanted next in her life. Beyond her part-time work, she was ready to see if there were other things she might want to do.
In the aftermath of pain-full, life-altering events, it is normal for any of us to focus on what we have lost. In the case of my friend, we reframed her time of loss as a time that also held within it many opportunities. Her view of aging, which she had accepted without question, stood in contrast to the facts in front of her. Its message was slowly reframed from “I need to get ready to close my life down” to “There are many possibilities for my life, and I look forward to what is ahead.” She began to get excited about her future and agreed it was time to explore and play.
When we reframe, we look for potential and possibility in any situation. We also stand in our power. Without ignoring the pain of the past, we look at the facts coupled with our power to create. This again is a place where our language matters. If we say to ourselves “My life is hell, ”then what becomes possible is more hell. Life collapses in around that thought, cutting us off from other possibilities. If we can reframe the situation as “I have an opportunity here to be creative,” the outlook brightens. Choosing this perspective opens us to larger possibilities.
After a major loss, we can deliberately choose to spend time in solitude with the goal of gaining self-awareness, but withdrawing into fear will have the opposite effect. Whereas a three-hour nap can be restorative, three days or more in bed could be cause for concern. Clearly some experiences call for more than changing the language we use or taking a different perspective. In the case of severe trauma, the gift of time, outside counseling, and a willingness to consider forgiveness may be required.
Your own story, or the stories of others, may involve deep hurts or unwanted changes. Reframing can transform a glass half empty to a glass half full, a feeling of loss to an openness to new opportunity, or one view of a piece of the story to a sense of seeing the whole picture.
Can you see ways to reframe your perspective from one of fear to one of possibility?