Saturday, October 8, 2011

Framing and reframing

How we frame experiences largely influences how they affect us and how we respond to them. Psychologists, well aware of this principle, often encourage their patients to 'reframe' aspects of their life: 'problems' become 'challenges'; 'I'm hopeless' becomes 'I need practice at shooting hoops'; etc. However, reframing can also be highly effective for learning new skateboard tricks, as I discovered.

I'd been landing noseslides for a while but continued grappling with tailslides. I simply couldn't get my tail onto the ledge. However, when I reframed tailsides as 'noseslides using the back foot', I began to improve. The same thing occurred with switch 180's which, at first, were totally awkward. Once I re-framed the trick as '180 nollies skating fakie' they became simpler.

In the skateboarding examples above, the benefit of re-framing was largely a matter of making the unfamiliar more familiar by comparing new tricks to those already accustomed to. By no means is this the sole purpose of re-framing. Often re-framing is used to transform a negative slant on a situation into a positive and more constructive one. For example, a skater may attempt a trick for an entire session without success. Having labeled the session a failure, he feels frustrated and disappointed. If he was to re-frame the experience as 'incremental advancement' or as a 'preparation for the next session' he'd feel rewarded rather than defeated.                   

What must be remembered is that reality is largely how we construe it. We have significant elbow room to frame or re-frame our experiences in more positive ways. Of course this does not mean that one should delude oneself or live in denial by labeling illness as health and black as white. Rather, when one can truly identify a better angle from which to view something why not view it from there?        

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