Sup, folks. Viv here. I'm worried about a lot of you, so I thought we could do a supportive thing as a community while learning (or strengthening) a useful skill at the same time.
We have all experienced this thing where we get very stuck into a particular view of something, such as ourselves, a memory, or even an object in front of us. The temptation, though, is for us as human beings to stick to negative interpretations more than positive ones. That's not to say none of us have things that make us happy or see things in a positive way, but when we're stressed, frustrated, or just want to justify feeling shitty, well... we tend to look at the world in a way that matches what we feel.
This isn't optimism or pessimism - it's acknowledging that how you see the world is directly informed by how you're feeling at a given time, or even by past experiences and current expectations.
So, I wanted to attempt an experiment with you fine people. It's called cognitive reframing
, where you adjust your interpretation or perspective and find different ways to view things like ideas, abstract concepts, thoughts, situations, etc. We all do it to some extent or another, but now I want to see if we can help each other do it consciously, and in a positive way.SIDEBAR - some of you may know this as cognitive restructuring, and you'd be right. Cognitive restructuring is basically the conscious and positive subset of reframing, and the negative side is called cognitive distortion.
Reframing doesn't negate your terrible experience or mean it didn't happen. But sometimes it can help you go from a hopeless situation to one with a way forward. It can help you shift a perspective on failure to something that you may have been succeeding at but didn't acknowledge because you were too wrapped up in your failure. In fact, with many mental health issues, they actively serve to hinder or block your ability to see the positives by making the negatives bigger, taking up your entire line of sight.
Can you think of something in recent days (or years!) that you feel kind of shitty about that you can reframe
into something a bit more positive, or at least a bit less bad? Or maybe something that we as a group can help you reframe?
As an example, say you are a person who gets panic attacks when the plan goes to shit, and then you go home feeling despondent and shitty because you feel like nothing you do is working. Say you're on your way home from an appointment with your therapist after trying this new medication for a few days. It takes so much out of you to feel optimistic about your therapy but you are finding a way to try anyway. On the way home, it starts raining. Worse, the bus breaks down and you have to get off the bus to wait for the next one. As the next one arrives, you realize you've left your medication on the bus. You start to feel panicky, but thanks to the guidance of someone on the bus who knows what to do and talks you through it, you actually beat back a possible panic attack and calm yourself down. You go home and you feel shitty because now you don't have any medication, you tried one last time to make things right for yourself and the universe is dead set on fucking you over, so what is the goddamn point of trying anymore.
Positive reframing (or a rough, layman's equivalent thereof if I'm to be accurate about it) is shifting your understanding of the day's events to something that makes you feel a bit better. It's easy to get sucked into the shittiness, but dude - you totally just beat back your very first panic attack! Yeah you had someone there to talk you through it, but that is a HUGE achievement in and of itself! And even though you felt hopeless, you rocked up to the therapist's office anyway, and shit, you still managed to get yourself home at the end of an awful day where it would have been completely understandable if you DID have a panic attack.
That's a pretty extreme example with a clear demonstration of where you can shift focus. But it works with little every day things and huge life-changing events, too. Did your colleague not say good morning to you because they dislike you, or because they've got their own shit going on and just didn't notice? Shit, you got fired, maybe it was just the push you needed to get out of a job you hated. Is it a scary fucking amount of debt, or the start of the next new exciting stage of your life?
None of that changes that your colleague still didn't say hi to you, that you lost your job, or that you now have a ton of debt. None of that makes that any less of a problem. But a reframe can help make the situation seem less hopeless, less negative, less shitty, and give you just what you need (be it motivation, perspective, or even an idea) to do what you gotta do.
Point is, there's no point worrying about a "right" or "wrong" way to see your world - it's your
perspective, after all. What's important is the way that will help you get through it.
Herein, share a story about something that makes or made you feel shitty. It can be as huge or as little a thing as you want. The more detailed you can be, the better, but don't stress if you're not comfortable sharing a lot of information.
Then let us know:
Have you reframed it since it happened?
If yes, how did you do that?
If no, how might you reframe it in a positive way?
What are some positives that are part of the story that you may not have noticed, or even forgotten?
If you're stuck, that's okay - that's why I wanted to try something like this thread in the first place. We can, as a group, either attempt to help you reframe the story, or we can ask for more information that may help you reframe it yourself.
I'm not totally confident this thread will be a rousing success by any means, but I've had the idea in my head for a couple of weeks now and wanted to give it a go. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!