Reframing To See Opportunities Instead of Problems

Bridge over water

Earlier this week I talked about what reframing is and how you can do it. Using this tool we can remove a lot of junk from our bodies, our minds, and our overall energy. If we take the time to see the lesson in the “negative” things that happen in life, then we can allow ourselves to have a happier life in the long run. We don’t get stuck going over and over the same conversations in our head. We don’t get lost in the replay of not saying or doing the right thing. We keep ourselves from harboring anger and resentment, that in turn only hurts us.

The other great thing about learning how to reframe a situation is that it allows us to see the world more as a place of opportunity and freedom, rather than a place of problems and disappointment. We view the world and the people in it as helping us rather than out to get us.

The more we are able to see opportunity, the more the world opens up to us.

If we only see the world as being full of obstacles and problems, then it limits our view as to what is actually possible for us. Imagine if you were walking and you came upon a body of water. As you stand at the edge you see no possible way to cross the water and get to the other side. But then, when you start looking around, you see a bridge that crosses the water. You look in the other direction and there are 2 more bridges that you could use.

Bridges over water

This is how life works. If you try to hold onto your tunnel vision you may never see anything outside of what you think is possible. When you start to look around, look at other ways of doing things, then you start to see that the possibilities are truly endless.

When you are face with an obstacle in life, what do you do? How do you handle it? Do you stop in your tracks and refuse to move forward? Do you see it as a sign that you’re on the wrong path and divert? This can be true at times, if obstacle after obstacle keeps appearing, however most times it is the universe giving us the chance to change our way of thinking.

To change how you think about challenges, obstacles, and problems, use the same technique that you would use to reframe a situation, event, or conversation.

Take a step back and look at the perceived challenge as if you were a third party, or as if you were watching someone on a movie. Now move the camera around and see what other angles you can find.

Ask yourself the following questions: Why do I think that this is a problem? If I could see past this obstacle what would I find? How can I view this challenge as an opportunity to learn, grow, and improve myself? What skills might I need to move past this?

After answering these questions, and beginning to reframe things in your mind, say:

“I choose to see this as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. I choose to believe that the world is helping me. I choose to see the endless possibilities that are available to me on a daily basis.”

Once you do a little self-inquiry, you will start to see other ways to deal with the issue at hand, and you will begin to feel more like you can conquer this and any challenge that arises. The more you do this, the more confident you become in yourself and your abilities. The more confident you become, the more likely you are to search out and do the things that truly matter most to you. This is because you go from feeling like you’re fenced into one place, to being able to stand up and see that you can step over that fence and move out into the world.

It’s like the story of the man who thought he was drowning. He was flailing his arms and freaking out because he thought he was in water over his head. When all seemed completely lost he heard a voice say, “Stand Up”. It turns out, he was only in water up to his waist, but he wasn’t able to see it because he only saw his perceived challenge.

So I’m saying to you now, Stand Up. Take another look at those obstacles that you see in front of you. Watch the movie, question yourself, and find the bridge that crosses those waters. On the other side lies the life that you’ve always wanted.  

What is "Reframing" and How Does it Benefit Us?

Stacked window frames

Photo by Jimmy Chan

Have you ever heard of the word “Reframing”?

No, I’m not talking about taking a picture out of one frame and putting it into another one. Although, same concept.

First let’s talk about some things that reframing is not. Reframing is not glossing over a bad situation and pretending like it didn’t happen. It’s not an excuse to continuously beat ourselves up because we didn’t say or do the “right” thing. It’s not ignoring the fact that someone may have hurt us deeply and saying that we should be ok with that. Reframing is not me telling you to just smile, be positive, and everything will be great in life.

Reframing is when we think back to a situation or event that has happened in our lives, generally one that we consider negative, and we turn that situation around to see the positive. We acknowledge that the situation may have been terrible, but we find the lesson that we can learn from it. Reframing is a way to help us move on from situations, events, or conversations, where we may be going in circles.

For instance, imagine that you were at a party and your friend said something to you that hurt your feelings. For the rest of the evening you avoid her. If you do have to talk to her you’re very short and rude. When you get ready to leave, she tries to talk to you, but you just leave without saying goodbye. Later that night, as you’re getting ready for bed, you think of her comment and it upsets you all over again.

At this point, you can do one of two things: 1) You could continue to replay that conversation over and over again in your head, getting more and more upset each time. OR 2) You can take the time to think back to that situation and reframe it in your mind.

How do you do this?

The process is fairly easy, but it’s not always easy to do.

Sit and imagine the conversation that you had with your friend, but step back and view that moment as if you were an outsider looking in, or as if you were watching a movie. What was going on around you both at the time? Who was your friend just talking to? What has your friend been dealing with up to that point?

Walk through the entire conversation that way and you may just see that it was a big misunderstanding. Maybe she didn’t mean what she said in the way that she said it. Perhaps you were already feeling self-conscious and you took her comment the wrong way. Maybe she didn’t realize that what she said would have the effect that it did on you.

Or maybe she really was being inconsiderate and didn’t take your feelings into account when she said what she did. Maybe she was feeling bad about herself and she took it out on you (intentional or not). In this case, you can take this moment to try to find the lesson in what happened. Yes, she wasn’t nice. Yes, your feelings got hurt. No, this doesn’t mean that what she did was ok. But, in an effort to keep your vibration high, to keep yourself from spiraling and letting the situation harm you any further, you can take a moment to see what you can learn from the conversation.

If you see these “negative” situations as an opportunity to learn, to better yourself, then it takes the negative effects away. This also helps us to keep from getting stuck in that moment.

When we get angry, our bodies respond. Our breathing gets shallower, our heart beats faster, we clench our jaw, and ultimately, this anger is stored up in our liver and can cause all kinds of problems. The same thing happens in varying degrees when we’re sad or worrying, etc. Each time that we think of this event, our body has the same reactions that it did when the event actually happened. So even though it may be days or weeks later, when we think about the anger we felt, our body tenses up as if it is going through that same anger all over again.

When we make the effort to reframe these situations and events in our minds, we save ourselves a lot of heartache, stomach ache, and headache in the future. Instead of being stuck in those same emotions over and over again, we allow ourselves to let go of the negative of the situation, and we take the positive, the lesson, and move forward.  

With reframing it is possible to go back to things that happened years ago, and to pull ourselves out of that loop that we’ve been stuck in. Sometimes this loop is so tight that we don’t even realize we’re still in it until something triggers a memory or a reaction in us.

It’s not always the easiest thing to do. Our ego wants to stay in that moment. It wants to prove that we were right. It wants to hold onto that hurt as justification for treating the other person badly, or for having a reaction. Our ego wants to hold onto control of the situation so that it can feel important.

When something like this happens to you, take the time to sit somewhere quiet, take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself these questions:

What actually happened? Could I have reacted in a different way to make the situation/event/conversation go in a more positive direction? Was my reaction based on something that I was already worrying about, or how I was feeling at the time (overly tired, self-conscious, upset about something that happened earlier, etc.) What was the other person dealing with that may have influenced what they said/did? What can I learn from this situation?  

Once you walk back through it, reframe it in your mind, and find the lesson, you can say:

“I choose to let this situation go. I choose to take the lesson that I have learned and apply it to my life. I choose to forgive X for what they did, and I choose to forgive myself for how I allowed it to make me feel. I did the best that I could at the time with what I knew, but now I know better so I can do better. I am moving forward and no longer allowing this situation/event/conversation to affect me in a negative way.

In saying this you release all of that negative energy from yourself so that it doesn’t continue to affect you. It’s no longer stored in your mind, your body, or your energy field.

If it does pop up again and start to bug you, then you can go through the process again. There may be more than one lesson that you need to learn. There are some things that I’ve gone through multiple times, because there were multiple lessons. That’s not to discourage you, or make you feel like you’ll never get anywhere, but to encourage you. We often have to go through things several times over before we learn the lesson. We’re often a stubborn bunch. But if we keep trying, keep learning, keep releasing, we move forward and we’re much happier.