Monday, July 30, 2012

Free Yourself with Values-Focused Reframing

Transparent by Patty Maher, cc license 
Themes of honesty and dishonesty have been on my mind a lot over the past few years. I have spent a lot of time feeling angry about people who were not honest with me and people who asked/required me to be dishonest. I have spent way too much mental energy ruminating on things I should have done or said - way too much energy composing self-righteous speeches and retorts, well after the fact. I avoided, I withdrew, and I felt miserable. I tried to ignore the feelings and when that didn’t work I tried to interrupt my ruminating and practice gratitude instead. While that was a wonderful reminder of all the good things in my life, I still felt angry and the ruminating occurred just as often. I was sick of feeling this way and, one evening in the past year while preparing for an active listening training, I had a bit of a revelation: It was time to reframe.

Reframing is a wonderful tool in the active listener’s toolbox. I define it as a reflecting with a twist; shining a light on a small detail or something said ‘between the lines’ that may be useful. When teaching this technique, I often use the example of a caller to the hotline who was hurt by people who lied to her. After validating the hurt and hearing the grievances, a useful reframing was to respond with, “I can hear that honesty is important to you.” I have repeated this example many, many times and yet this was the first time I realized that it applied to me.

"Honesty is important to me." 

It’s a small shift in focus, but for me it has made all the difference. As I moved from focusing on my feelings of betrayal to my value of honesty, I remembered the mantra of “honest and gentle” from my early yoga days and the seed for this blog was planted. I began to look at the world through this lense of valuing honesty, and instead of seeing malicious liars and manipulators, I began to see people who were scared of what would happen if they were truly honest, of what control (perceived control) they would have to relinquish. My anger began to dissipate as I was able to develop more empathy and understanding. Uncovering this value has been empowering in the sense that I realized that I want to live in a more honest world and that there are things I can do to make that happen.

Of course, any change in our world must begin with ourselves. Reflecting on honesty turned me inward and I was able to appreciate how much I have struggled with honesty myself. There have been times in my life when lying was something I did as a matter of habit. It was a very difficult habit to break and I still often feel the reflex to lie (or omit, or hide, or exaggerate). However, I value honesty, so rather than beat myself up for struggling, I practice compassion towards myself and move forward. Due to this reframing of my experience, I am freed up to focus my energy on being a more honest authentic person.    

So, what is it for you? Is there something that has been bogging you down? Is there a constant source of frustration in your life or do you find yourself complaining about our ruminating on the same thing over and over? What is is that nags at and offends you at your core? What does that say about what you value?

As you uncover new truths and values - or if you have already gone through this kind of process - what are you discovering? Has reframing to focus on your values changed anything?

Like what you're reading? Sign up for my Good In, Good Out E-Newsletter: A steady diet of good stuff to fuel your soul, mind, and body! 

You can also sign up HERE if you are not able to see the form, below. 

Subscribe to the Good In, Good Out newsletter:

* indicates required


  1. Honesty is important to me.

    Honesty is often the most challenging, emotionally difficult, gut-wrenching thing on the planet.

    I often try to avoid that which is emotionally difficult, gut-wrenching, and challenging.

    And in those statements lies the Shakespearean rub. No?

    Honest is so important to me. Honesty is so difficult...especially when it matters most. Avoiding pain has become habitual for me, in certain matters.

    And then, it becomes challenging to not move in a direction of anger when approaching honesty...with family...regarding the most important and challenging contexts.


    1. Hey Greg,

      (Thanks for commenting!)

      I've been thinking about what you said here and my thoughts have traveled to these ponderings:

      - How does the pain of honesty compare to the pain of not being honest or authentic? (chronic vs. acute comes to mind, but not sure if that really fits)

      - Where does the anger fit in and does it contribute to the pain?

      - In what circumstances is is possible to be honest without anger or pain and how are they different - how much is that a function of how "important" the relationship is to you?

      Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts - thanks again for sharing this!