Before we dive in, I want to remind you that there’s a complementary guide to today’s topic that’ll help you explore things personally. There are a few prompt questions that will guide you through framing, reframing, or deframing your own stories. You can get that at triciazody.com/guide.
Okay, friend, did you know that the way you’re experiencing your life right now, whether your life and all the circumstances and people in it feels stable and calm OR it feels more like a whirl wind of stress and chaos, the way you’re experiencing your life has more to do with the stories that you’ve told yourself about your life’s experiences than anything else?
That’s exactly what our brains do…create stories. And, sadly, many of those stories our brains have created are based on lies.
But I want to show you how you could change your entire life by learning to frame, reframe, and deframe your stories.
So, let’s get to it. Let’s learn how to frame our stories. This is something we do in our present moments based on our current experiences. It’s a conscious decision we make with intentionality. You have an experience and then purposefully frame it.
Now remember, your brain is doing this all the time in the subconscious. Your brain is always trying to make sense of your world and so it’s making up stories to make whatever happened in your life make sense. And if it creates a story based on a lie, well it’s not trying to hurt you by doing this. It’s just trying to put things in order. But unfortunately, it does hurt you in so many ways.
Here’s where intentionality to consciously frame your story takes over. Don’t just let your brain decided for you. Don’t wait until your brain creates perceptions out of emotions. Because if you allow your negative emotion to be linked to the event or circumstance or experience, then your brain will automatically assign the emotion to the event. Then you’ll feel resistance any time you want to or need to move into that same kind of experience again. Because a negative emotion is attached and your brain says, “No thank you” to anything hard or painful. There will be resistance in the way of distraction, procrastination, or outright avoidance.
Let me give you an example of what just happened to me today and how I, on purpose, chose to frame that story. I chose how to create the perception of the experience intentionally.
Today I went into the grocery store, grabbed a few things I needed, and then headed to the greeting card isle. I knew I was about to spend an excessive amount of time picking out a birthday card for my son. I even contemplated putting the pint of ice cream I had in my basket back in the freezer. I was prepared to move in. I put my handbasket down on the ground and found the birthday cards for “sons.” And I grabbed one. It looked quite masculine, and in fact had a silhouette of a man, a father, holding his young son’s hand. Why I grabbed that one, I have no idea. Until I knew. I started reading the sentiments printed inside and I burst into tears. One minute I’m fine and the next minute I’ve got tears streaming down my face and soaking my t-shirt. Those words printed inside sounded exactly like the words Brian would use when praying at night for our kids. Simple, thoughtful, and relevant. And always ended with a string of thankfulness for God allowing us to be their parents. It was a card he would’ve written himself to my son had he been here. And I lost it. So, I knew I had to get the card and send it in his honor.
As I was walking out of the grocery store, I started framing the process. I said, “That was a good experience. I got in touch with a part of my heart that hasn’t been nudged lately, and it feels good to have such strong emotions connected to a loved one. When I allow myself to feel that deeply and respond so openly, I am never more alive. I’m so thankful I got to remember some of the most precious moments with Brian as we prayed together for our children. He would be so happy I’m sending that particular card to our son as if it was his very own words. This was good.”
And that is how I framed that experience. It was good. Not, “It was overwhelming. It was sad and depressing. I can’t handle my emotions. Feeling so deeply is scary and I feel out of control.” Because, listen, I certainly could have decided on purpose to frame that experience and make THAT my story.
No, it was good. That’s what I chose. And it’s now been embedded into my subconscious.
So then, as I was writing in the card, explaining to my son the precious reasons why I had picked out one that clearly had a father and son on the front, because he definitely would have caught that and been a little perplexed by my choice, but as I’m writing, I cried some more, creating ink smears with my tears.
Oh, you thought after I said that experience was good I wouldn’t cry about it anymore? Well, that’s silly. No, framing the story allows me to link the experience I had on the greeting card isle with the deep, strong emotions and get to believe it was good. That’s all. It doesn’t mean the emotions go away. It just means my emotions don’t control me, overwhelm me, or send me into fits of anxiety or panic the next time I have to go looking for a special birthday card for one of my kids. That’s how you intentionally frame your story.
Let’s look at reframing your story. You know that reframe, by its prefix “re,” indicates that a story has already been framed in your mind and you need to “re” - do it again. I’ve talked a lot about our ability to go back to old experiences and events in our past in order to change the way our brain thinks about the event throughout this podcast. In fact, just a few weeks ago I talked about how to do this in episode number 104, How To Detox Your Brain. Each of us takes the facts, experiences, and the events of our lives and we assign meaning to them with our thinking. And revisiting those experiences and what they mean to us can either reinforce it and make the thought stronger, or we can choose to change it - in part or all of it - to reframe it. I was going to try to give you specific episodes to listen to that might give you “How To” steps, but I don’t think there’s one episode that doesn’t cover that in some form. So, if you’ve been listening, you know. But, if you don’t know, you can use the logic and reasoning of your pre-frontal cortex, your adult brain, your executive brain, to take the memories of a past experience and create new perceptions. Bringing in new understanding or information to the brain creates an environment of malleability. You can literally use new information to reframe your story that might sound something like this: “What if when my dad didn’t show up at my game it wasn’t really because he thought work was more important than me? What if he was bullied by his boss to stay late by questioning his loyalty to the work project? And keeping food on the table was an act of great love.” Can you see how bringing in this kind of reasoning, even if you’re not sure if the logical explanation is actually true, but do you see how this shifts things in your brain?
Another way you can reframe your story, especially if it’s one that causes you a lot of pain, is to ask yourself something like, “How could that event actually have been helpful to me? What if just by experiencing that I’m stronger, more compassionate, more capable than I was before? What if this very thing is pointing me directly to my life’s purpose?” You are taking a negative experience and making it mean something positive.
Doing these things is like taking a hammer and knocking on the edges of that frame and reshaping it. Making it something new, making it look entirely different in your mind. In your remembering. Can you see how this could actually change your life? How you could let go of anger, or bitterness, or resentment? How the whole story of your life could be new? That sounds so good, doesn’t it?
Okay, so what about deframing your story? The English prefix “de”means “off.” So, here it means to take the frame off the story all together. Not just changing it, like we did in reframing, but destroying it altogether. And you can do this when you give enough attention to the story to know that the whole thing is a lie. You can see deframing works, right, when you realize you’ve been believing that you’re a weirdo and nobody likes you because that mean girl in 8th grade said so. Or that you’ll never amount to much because your disgruntled history teacher told you not to bother applying for college. Lies. All lies. Terrible lies.
What story are you believing that’s just a flat out lie? How about the lies your emotional brain came up with thinking it was offering help in order to keep you safe, but they’re lies, nonetheless? It’s the damage our emotional brain does when it’s not integrated with the logical brain. This time, take that hammer and just destroy that frame. So that there’s no frame to hold the story.
Friends, isn’t it amazing to know you can actually change your life by attending to the stories of your life? Yes, it might take a bit of time and effort, but man is it worth it. The freedom to direct how you experience your life is priceless. It’s worth everything. You are worth it. Praying for you, friend, as you allow yourself to take a peek into the stories of your life and the courage to frame, reframe, or deframe those stories and walk right into freedom.
Friend, I know this is not easy. Sometimes the stories we believe have been with us for a very long time. If you’d like some help to help you navigate through this process, I’d love to be your Life Coach.
I’ve put a link in the show notes for a free 30-minute call just so we can see if we’re a good fit to work together and show you how Life Coaching would work for you.
And, hey, don’t forget to get the guide that will help you in the process of framing, reframing and deframing. It’s like a little Life Coaching at home.
Have a wonderful week, friends. See you next Wednesday for the next episode of Another Beautiful Life.