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The Power of Reframing in COVID Times
And how you can shift your response to any situation
A friend texted me while I had a light form of COVID-19 and created a decisive shift in how I felt sick.
I had been out of action for a week, and although I was getting better, I liked to wallow. Then I received my friend’s message:
Can you feel that it [the sickness] is getting slightly better?
Bam! Do you see what she did there? As soon as I got that message, I scanned my body and realized that, actually, yes, I AM feeling better!
She brought my attention to:
- my actual bodily experience,
- the gradual process of healing (implying that it was getting better).
My friend unknowingly applied the technique of “cognitive reframing,” which helped me look at my situation differently. Reframing is a communication technique used in mental health, psychotherapy, coaching, conflict resolution, advertising, activism. We are often not aware of the reframes in our discourse.
Reframing literally means to put a new or different frame around some image or experience. Psychologically, to “reframe” something means to transform its meaning by putting it into a different framework or context than it has previously been perceived. Robert B. Dilts and Judith A. DeLozier
Another example of a COVID-19 reframe is with the poem “If I were a virus.” Since poetry is my super-power, I wanted to write about the virus, not with gripping fear, but resourcefully.
The creative light bulb switched on when I read the reframing question: “What if you were a virus?”. I asked a couple of people what they would like to share in the world if they were a virus. And that’s how I wrote the poem.
Starting today, what can you do?
- Look for examples in the media. In this video, BBC Comedy switches gender roles and uses humor to make their point. This inspirational quote, attributed to Albert Einstein, revisits our idea of failure:
Failure is success in progress.
- Practice the one word reframe. Take an adjective and replace it with a more neutral, more optimistic, or more critical version. Can you find reframes for stubborn, impulsive, rebellious? See what philosopher Bertrand Russell’s did here:
I am firm; you are obstinate; he is a pig-headed fool.
- Focus on intention, on the positive meaning behind the message. When my volleyball coach told me he wanted me to become the best setter, I decided to trust his instructions.
- Focus on what gives positive energy. If you are a highly competitive winner, would it be more motivating for you to lose weight or gain muscles? To reduce inches or increase vitality?
- Ask yourself in what context the situation would be better or worse. It is raining hard, but I am well protected.
Reframing can shift perspective on any situation, influencing our response. Examples abound, and you can practice reframing every day.
Be careful, though, that you first empathize before offering a change of perspective. See Brene Brown’s video on the subject.