Have you ever:
• Looked at your disabled child and thought: he/she will never be able to do the things I dreamed my child would do. And then felt sad or discouraged?
• Said to yourself: the challenges are too much; I have no time for myself?
• Thought: why me? This isn’t what I wanted.
These are reactions that most of us fathers have. Such thoughts usually leave us blocked from accepting our situation and making the best of it.
We don’t have to continue feeling discouraged about our child’s opportunities. Nor do we have to feel blocked from experiencing life in a positive way.
It all depends on how we FRAME our perceptions and whether we choose to REFRAME the perceptions that keep us from moving forward.
What is FRAMING?
Framing is the mental structure you use to give meaning to people and situations that you experience. Frames are built on the preconceptions you have about yourself, others, and the circumstances you are in. Frames shape how you see yourself, the world, and how you interpret your life.
Frames are either positive or negative. They either limit or enable your opportunities in a given situation. Sometimes you control your frames, but sometimes they control you.
Your frames fit with your beliefs. So, you will frame things to fit with what you believe to be true or what you value. While you may frame things in ways that are not helpful to you, your frames will always be true to your beliefs.
Here is a situation that I helped a father of a 19-year old boy with Down syndrome to REFRAME:
Bob (the father): Every year our family has an occasion to dress up in costume. When I asked Eric what costume he wanted to wear this year he said: “a policeman.” I went ballistic: he’s been a policeman every year since he was two; he’s nineteen; people change; he never changes. It’s not normal. Even a kid with Down syndrome can change costumes from year to year.”
Bob FRAMED his son’s choice of costume as “not normal.”. And because Eric is “not normal” Bob does not believe that his son having Down syndrome is a factor in why Eric chooses to be a policeman year after year.. Bob is disappointed.
What is REFRAMING?
It is a method for changing your frames so that you perceive external and internal events positively.
What is meant by “external” and “internal” events?
External events are everything a person interacts with in his environment: the people, the surroundings, the rules and regulations governing the situation; everything that is external to an individual.
Bob is reacting to the following external events:
• His son, Eric
• Eric’s choice of costume
• Eric’s history of selecting the same costume every year
Internal events are the thoughts, feelings, biases, preconceptions, etc. that a person carries within him.
Bob is reacting to three internal events:
1. viewing Eric’s repeated choice of costume as “not normal”
2. believing that one cannot explain Eric’s choosing a costume as having anything to do with his having Down syndrome
3. feeling disappointed
What is the goal of REFRAMING?
To remove whatever blocks one from interacting positively with a situation.
To quote Tony Robbins: If we change our frame of reference by looking at the same situation from a different point of view, we can change the way we respond in life. We can change our representation or perception about anything and in a moment change our states and behaviors. This is what reframing is all about.
Anthony Robbins, Unlimited Power (New York: Ballantine, 1987) 291.
Bob did not want to feel disappointed in his son.
How does REFRAMING work?
It doesn’t require a degree in physics or psychological therapy to REFRAME. While there are different approaches, basically you follow these steps:
1. Identify the problem. Ask yourself:
• What is the problem I am having?
• What unhelpful behavior am I doing?
• What negative thoughts am I having?
• What is my state of mind in this situation?
When I posed these questions to Bob he answered:
• I guess I am the problem; Eric is perfectly happy wearing the same costume every year, but I can’t seem to accept that
• I have reacted in a negative way to my son
2. Look at the assumptions you are making about the situation.
These assumptions are the basis of how you FRAME the situation.
Understand: your assumptions are your personal opinions and beliefs.
You can change your assumptions.
Challenge your assumptions. Ask yourself:
• Do my assumptions help me or hinder me from finding a solution to the problem?
• Is there any possibility that my assumptions are not correct?
• How else could I interpret this experience?
Bob thought deeply and replied:
• I am assuming that my son’s behavior is abnormal; but maybe for him and who he is, Eric’s behavior is completely normal
• My assumptions are not helping me to connect with my son
• This experience could be an opportunity for me to discover what attracts Eric to always choose to be a policeman
3. Focus on different ways of thinking about your problem.
• Is this truly a problem, or is it a problem only because of how I am looking at it?
• What is the opposite of this problem? Is there value in the opposite?
• If someone else had the problem, what advice would I give them?
• If I knew I would be successful what would I do right now about this problem?
Think about how your answers and consider whether you might have another way of approaching your problem.
Bob reevaluated the situation and concluded:
• The problem is how I view situation; Eric has no problem being a policeman every year
• Choosing to be a policeman every year must fill a need or fulfill a wish that Eric continues to have; as long as he has that wish or need his choice is not just normal, but highly appropriate
• If another father had this problem I would advise him to ask his
son how he feels when he is dressed up as a policeman
4. Take what you came up with as another way of approaching your problem (Step 3) and complete the following sentences:
• (my new approach: asking my son how feels when he dresses as a policeman) allows me to…discover that Eric feels powerful, in control, useful, and very grown up
• (my new approach: seeing my son as behaving normally provides me with…the opportunity to realize that most of the time he does not feel in control, useful, and grown up; I can see how having Down syndrome would contribute to Eric’s low image of himself; it shows me where I can help to build up my son
• (my new approach: REFRAMING) helps me to…rid myself of negativity, connect deeply with my son, and feel joy being his father.
5. Act on your REFRAME to solve your problem.
Practice the 5 Steps. In time REFRAMING will become an automatic response to a troubling situation.
Remember: REFRAMING doesn’t mean that you automatically find a solution to your problem. It does mean that you remove the blocks that limit your success in finding a solution.
If you would like help in making a reframe click here and I will get back in touch with you to discuss how. Contact me here.