If you’re struggling with a situation, you may benefit from reframing, that is, changing your attitude toward it.
This is especially helpful when you have a resentment.
Ever notice how you feed your resentments? Chew them over, and go through the details of exactly how you were wronged by the other person?
Reframing is the opposite. It’s thinking about the same situation from a different perspective, rather than feeding the perspective that makes you feel sad, angry, or wronged.
A great description of reframing is this quote of unknown origin:
The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.
Let’s take it from the abstract to the concrete, to more easily understand reframing.
If someone cuts you off in traffic, you may replay how close you were to an accident, and construct a revenge fantasy that has you flipping off the other driver, honking, flashing your lights, and running the person off the road.
If you want to reframe the situation, you may decide to focus instead on your quick reflexes that got you through the close call, how calm you stayed at the time, though you were scared, and consider that the other driver may have misjudged the distance.
The first option is going with your righteous indignation, which leaves you all revved up and right.
The second choice involves taking a positive view of yourself in the situation—so that instead of feeling wronged and resentful, you feel proud of how you handled yourself—and giving the other person the benefit of the doubt.
Let’s say you’re a freelancer who can’t afford to take time off work for vacation because business was slow earlier in the year. You can feel resentful about the situation, and even angry at the clients you’re working with during the summer.
Or by reframing, you can feel good about having the good health to work, about successfully networking and marketing your business in order to have these clients, about being expert in this field (or having the opportunity to be paid to further develop skills), and being able to work in your chosen field when so many people have to take jobs that are unrelated to their training and interests.
Or, if you’re someone who has to work outside your field of interest during these challenging economic times, you can feel victimized by your circumstances, or proud of yourself for doing what you need to do to support yourself and/or your family.
Reframing can be the difference between feeling horrible about your life, and enjoying it on a daily basis.
If you didn’t learn to reframe situations when you were growing up, this mindset can feel absolutely foreign and impossible now that you’re an adult. Therapy can be a great help in developing this important life skill, so that you can find the joy in everyday life!
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Diane Spear, LCSW-R, owns a private practice in the Union Square/East Village area of Manhattan (New York City). She specializes in anxiety, depression, couples, and parenting treatment, and has been helping people find the joy in everyday life since 1995. She is accepting new patients. To learn more about Diane’s approach to treatment, click here.