Once upon a time, there was an old Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all his neighbours visited and commiserated with him. The farmer simply said, 'Maybe.' The next day, the farmer's horse came back, bringing seven wild horses with it. The neighbours rejoiced, saying how marvellous it was that the farmer now had not just one horse but 8. Again, the farmer simply said, 'Maybe'. The following day, the farmer's son tried to ride one of the wild horses but was thrown off and broke his leg. The neighbours offered their sympathy and again the farmer responded, 'Maybe'. The day after that, the conscription officers arrived at the farm to recruit young men for the army. They rejected the son because of his broken leg. The neighbours rejoiced and the farmer said, 'Maybe!'
In my last post, I mentioned the concept of 'reframing' a situation that could have a negative interpretation into something positive: this Taoist story shows that the meaning an event has depends SOLELY on the frame we choose to give it.
Once you understand this concept, you can practice changing the meaning of any event you face into something positive. Reframing is a way of expanding our own (and others') perceptions of life experiences. it's such a simple but brilliant technique that I mentioned it in my last post and wanted to spend some more time looking at it just now. Once you get the gist of it you can apply it to almost any situation.
There are two main types of reframing: context and content. Let's look at context reframing first. With this technique, you ask yourself where this situation or behaviour might be of use or benefit? So, my 17 year old son has always loved talking, is very strong willed, I could perhaps call him argumentative. This has proved a bit of a challenge to me, as his mother, over the years... however, now he is about to start Law School and I think his desire to argue over every point could actually be a strength for him!
With content reframing, the question to ask is what else could this mean? Viktor Frankl, in his book 'Man's Search for a Meaning', speaks about his experiences in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Looking at the reasons why some prisoners seemed to give up and die while others survived despite their sufferings, Viktor describes the moment when he visualised a lecture he would give in the future on the psychology of the concentration camps.... at that point, he writes, 'both I and my troubles became the object of an interesting psychoscientific study undertaken by myself.' In this way, Viktor managed to put a different frame around the horror and misery of his daily existence, to give his suffering a greater meaning. Thankfully, we are not asked to reframe any situation as horrific as this ourselves but we can certainly apply the technique to help increase our levels of positivity. For example, have you ever tried something new and failed? Were you miserable and did you berate yourself for doing a really poor job? Next time, reframe it - and congratulate yourself on being one step closer to getting it right!
So, give it a go - reframing is great way to help yourself - and others - give new meanings to challenging situations!