I’ve been (re)framed!

7 May

Okay, calm down, I haven’t been wrongly accused of any crime.

Reframing is a psychological technique. Put simply, it’s a way of shaking up a client’s worldview so that they can no longer think about their problem state (addiction, panic attack, etc.) in the same way; and thus, it begins to lose its grip on them.

For example, one therapist I know talks about panic attacks being a misplaced exercise response: the increased breathing and pulse rates characteristic of panic attacks aren’t unusual – if you were running! (You’ve heard of “fight or flight”, right?) It’s that you’re standing/sitting still when they happen that makes them feel weird. So those physiological responses are now reframed from something unusual and scary to something natural that’s just happening in the wrong situations; and from there, the client can begin to learn to have better control over when they happen.

Of course, reframing doesn’t only happen behind the closed door of a therapy room. Situations out in the wider world can reframe as surely as a therapist’s carefully chosen words – and not always positively. The wrong experience at the right time can reframe a spider from a harmless little pest to a phobic trigger that leaves one a quivering wreck.

And then, the right experience at the right time…

When I posted that video of Benedick’s speech from Much Ado About Nothing, it was quite nerve-racking. It’s funny; I memorized that speech around eight years ago, as an assignment for the university Shakespeare class I was taking. There is no doubt in my mind that I could stand up in front of a large group of people and deliver it without a qualm (after all, I already have, and was deemed “a hard act to follow” by another girl who did the same speech); but somehow, the idea of presenting it to the camera provoked a much worse reaction. One of the reasons I’ve been promoting it as hard as I have (posting to Twitter, Facebook) is because I was making myself do so, so I couldn’t “back out of it”…if that makes sense.

Then the comments started appearing. From Joe Kao, trainer on the Precision Hypnosis online course (and a Shakespearean actor himself), when I posted the link to the course forum as a response to an assignment to practice being expressive in our communication:

Well good for you with the video! Really great to see you’re engaging with the material and working so hard practising it. You are, I believe, the very first online student who has videoed themselves doing one of the exercises and shared it with us! Nice variation in rhythm with the speech, and very flowing delivery!

And he wasn’t the only one. Several friends on Facebook had insanely positive things to say. When I said on Twitter, “This is history in the making; never videoed myself before!”, @wombat37 kindly told me, “It doesn’t show.” And just today I received an email from Mark, the other PH trainer, who’s known me three years and yet “never knew you were such a fine thespian!” (Made my day, that comment; I’m still grinning as I type this.)

So with all this on-board Wednesday, I got to thinking about my high school Forensics (think “speech team”) coach, who told me my senior year, “When I met you, you were this shy little quiet sophomore…and now look at you!” I had a moment of real-time dissociation, where I “watched” myself as I spoke animatedly to a coworker, which got me thinking about how I talk to people in general. And I reviewed fond memories of HF and I “busking” for our friends on crowded London transport and so many other places, quoting films and Shakespeare and playing off each other, not caring who else might be watching us.


Suddenly, I realized that – on some level and despite all that evidence to the contrary – I have for the last 14 or so years persisted in the belief that I am a shy person. And that perception of shyness has informed such things as feeling so nervous about recording and posting a speech that I knew I knew well and could perform. But I’m not that shy, quiet kid anymore. I actually left that behind years ago. I certainly am more reserved in certain situations, much more relaxed and open in others, and may take a few moments to find my groove in new experiences/situations/places; but that’s not down to shyness.

Interesting feeling, that. I experienced a spontaneous reframe of a belief I didn’t even realize I still held. I’m curious to see what resources I’ll unlock in future as a result of this. I’m already feeling much more confident about an upcoming video I have in mind to do.

And I would challenge you, dear reader (writing this in faith that someone’s reading), to keep an eye on your beliefs – about yourself, about others, about external situations. Are any of them outdated? Inflexible? Nearly forgotten and yet still affecting you? Think about any experiences that show you it’s “safe” to discard those beliefs.

For more on reframing, you might like to check out Uncommon Knowledge’s CD set: Powerful Reframes, or sign up for their fortnightly newsletter.


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