Your Best Re-Frameby Ruth Gordon, LCSW
So…your life isn’t going the way you planned. You’ve held your chin up high for what feels like (& often is) ages. “Everything happens for a reason” and “When one door closes another one opens” just don’t work for you anymore. What can you do? Well, one answer is find a palatable re-frame.
A re-frame involves taking a look at something from a different angle. For example: An elephant steps on your toe. You can think, “That elephant was out to get me” or “That gunshot frightened the elephant & my toe just happened to be in the way when the elephant jumped” (I’m sure these examples are extremely useful in your everyday life).
Now, I know that when you try on a less toxic way of looking at things you will probably decide that your first thought, which probably was to blame yourself or someone else, is far more valid. We all do that. The truth is, however, that all experience is open to interpretation, and how we construe reality usually effects our mood, our solution and, ultimately, our outlook on life.
“How can I change the way I think?” you might ask. The first step is to understand that you, personally, do not hold all wisdom and, therefore, your internal camera may click a fuzzy, rather than sharp picture.
If this thought is unsettling, think about that. Do you really want to be commanding officer of all that is true & accurate? It sounds like a pretty exhausting job to me — not much time to play for whoever accepts that assignment.
You might feel that releasing yourself from blame is a way of giving yourself an unfair “out”. Perhaps you believe that you deserve your ill fortune or that if only that other person weren’t in the way it would have all gone smoothly. Maybe that’s true, but the only way out of the doldrums is to find an alternate plan.
I think you need to come up with more than one plan. Having choices will immediately allow you to experience a feeling of strength. Use your creativity, use your imagination and dig your own tunnel out of the confusion. This is not the time to reject every alternative because you want to hold on to what you have “lost“. As a friend of mine, whose son was turned down by the University of Boulder said (in his best New England accent), “Boldah is ovah”.
Are you being crippled by feelings of shame and guilt? I would rather you be angry, as anger is energizing and those other two simply keep you in the hole. You are not the center of the universe. If anyone who knows you is gleeful that you have hit a snag, you really don’t need that person in your life (I hope you already know that). Your problems will be the topic of conversation only until the next bit of gossip comes along. Then, when you survive, and even thrive, those same people will think you’re amazing. I know, it has happened to me.
I could tell you to not pay attention to your critics, but I know how hard that can be. When someone slaps you it’s still a slap and it hurts. It does not, however, require major surgery. Take the hit; admit the injury; then, go on with your life. It is YOUR life. Yours to mess up, make better, fill with gratitude or regret — you still have choice, and it’s important to remember that.
Several months ago, as my husband and I were struggling with difficult circumstances, I made a very deliberate decision. Nothing will stop me from having a happy life. That concept has proven to be invaluable to me. Whenever I face the prospect of this and that going wrong, I remind myself of my vow. It has been an enormously helpful tool for me. If you believe that you can choose happiness as well, develop your own mantra. It’s not “new age”, “old age”, or psychobabble to understand that happiness lies within. Yes, there will be losses and disappointments — no one escapes those. But, if you define your OWN values and live them, you will experience self-respect and the freedom of authenticity as you go along in life. Joseph Campbell advised us to follow our bliss. I believe that bliss is earned with self-knowledge, understanding and a willingness to be who we believe we are meant to be.
Should a belief in a Divine Spirit or fate accompany your self-characterization all the better. I believe that being true to oneself carries us to the divine. Those who do not believe in a spiritual force needn’t feel condemned to a life that is less worth living. In my opinion, you believe or you don’t believe — it cannot be forced. If each of us focuses on our own moral compass rather than another’s we will all be much happier.
I hope you will believe, if you don’t already, that you are perfect just as you are. You are perfectly you. Follow your heart, your mind, your soul. Be fearless in living the life you believe in and your bliss will follow — I promise.
Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.