Tuesday, February 7, 2017

   It’s all how you frame it, right? I sure hope so. “Framing” is synonymous with “focusing,” “determining an attitude toward.” When facing a negative, frightening or threatening situation, “framing” is a tool that can be very comforting, assuming we can master it. It’s taking the situation and putting it into the best possible framework in your mind so that you can look at it with clarity and react “appropriately.” What’s “appropriate” for facing an effen crisis? Dunno.

      The definition of someone’s “threatening” or “frightening” situation can vary greatly with the experience of the individual. For some, it may be giving a speech. For others, it might be applying for a job. For still others, it might be facing a doctor’s diagnosis. As I face two of the three this week, I will be polishing my frame big time.

     I can “frame” the situation as terrifying and get myself all worked up about the possible negative outcomes, or I can choose to “frame” it as a success story. I can visualize the most positive outcome. Again, this brings to mind an old flame who always said, “Expect the worst, and then you will be relieved when it doesn’t happen.” Hmm. I’m not sure that’s the answer, but it’s certainly an option. By “expecting the worst,” however, I will be all tense, nervous, worried and anxiety-ridden. By expecting the best, I can pretend. The brain doesn’t know the difference between pretend and real if you tell it to pretend, so, ostensibly, the stress is considerably less.

     I had a friend years ago who agreed with my old flame. She said, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Well, in the case of my speech, I could be publicly humiliated. At my age, who cares? I care. Imagining the humiliation does not offer me comfort. 

     Part of the framing process for me is to look back and ask myself, “When have I been in this situation before, and how did that go?” Most of the time, I endured whatever it was, and I’m still here to tell the story. Most of the time, those anxious moments of “what if” were unfounded. All it takes, however, is one incident that didn’t go so well to recreate the fear of failure. The negative sticks, unfortunately. Ask anyone who has endured criticism or embarrassment. They can tell you every detail of what happened and how it felt.

     This morning, after facing some challenging events yesterday, I am adjusting my frame. It keeps shifting and leans crooked, so I must keep it straight and polished. I must keep positive thoughts and courageous energy within its four corners and not let it hang in the dark. I’ve hung it in a spot where I see it daily to remind myself that it is filled with strength, energy, compassion and determination.