Reframe negative events

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How to feel better about unpleasant  events

Life was, at times, quite tough when I was very young. This was fortunate because it taught me a lesson that changed my life and which has been valuable ever since.

I learned that you can decide how you will be affected by events.

I learned that you do not have to be a victim of circumstances! That you can choose to give more attention to one aspect of a situation than others.  I accidentally learned the art of Reframing!

‘When life deals you a lemon – make lemonade’

Because of my father’s work we’d have to move from one town to another every 2 or 3 years. So I spent a lot of time being the new boy in class with no friends and a funny accent. Then, just when I’d begun to make friends we’d have to move to another town.

Somewhere between 7 and 10 I learned that I could focus on the things I liked about being ‘different’ from the other kids at school. And that I could focus on what was good about moving to a new town. And that I could look forward to the new and unfamiliar rather than regret the loss of the familiar.

And that is Reframing! It’s the art of choosing what to give greatest significance to in any situation.

How to reframe

In reframing you choose what an event means to you. When things go wrong you search for what is good about the situation and give that most attention. You look for how you can use the situation rather than be a victim of it! It’s as simple as that.

Some examples:

  1. You’re stuck in a traffic jam and are going to be late for an appointment. How can you use the situation instead of fuming and fretting? Relax and listen to the radio. Plan how you will catch up on things over the course of the day. Mentally rehearse for a forthcoming event. Enjoy the enforced idleness by studying the mannerisms of other drivers, really looking at your surroundings, or watching the clouds in the sky.
  2. Your best friend was going to go on holiday with you and has decided not to go after all. How about surprising another friend by asking them to go with you. Or deciding that this is an opportunity to make the holiday into an adventure by going alone. And to use it as an opportunity to develop the most important relationship of all – your relationship with yourself.
  3. You’d planned a day out in the countryside and it’s raining. How can you use the situation instead of lamenting that nature or God won’t ever give you a break? Look for things to do at home that you’d not normally have time for. Like relaxing, doing some repairs, making phone calls to friends you’ve not recently been in touch with – or catch up on some sleep.
  4. A close personal relationship ends. You could feel sorry for yourself or angry with the other person. Or you could decide to use the time until the next relationship begins as an opportunity for a whole new start – using the freedom it gives you for a personal makeover. Get healthy. Lose weight. Take up a sport and/or a hobby. Give your career some extra attention.

Isn’t this denial?

Not at all. You don’t deny anything. Instead you fully acknowledge that “Yes, I’d prefer if things hadn’t changed. Or had fitted in with my plans.” But you ALSO acknowledge that this is not the reality you are now faced with. And that you have a choice in how you respond to this reality. “Yes, I can choose to feel angry or sorry for myself. Or I can focus on the advantages of the situation and actively search for how to make this situation benefit me.”

A liberating way of thinking

At all stages in life we have choice in how we are affected by events. It’s not the event itself that affects us emotionally. What affect us is how we respond  to the event.

Reframing is the art actively choosing our response. It means we do not engage in regretting or resenting.

It takes a bit of practise to get into the reframing habit. But just look at the alternatives! And then decide it’s time to liberate yourself from the all-too-common tendency to be a victim of circumstances…


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