Falling flat on your face into a puddle is usually interpreted as a threat. We’ll assume that our clumsiness is a sign to others that we’re incompetent, and that our social status will drop, which is a painful thing.
But this thing is that this is just an interpretation, not a reality. It’s possible to change our interpretations — the filters that lead to the arising of pleasant and unpleasant feelings — either so that different feelings arise, or so we’re able to bear our suffering more easily.
- We can reframe by considering unpleasant experiences as being a test, or an opportunity to cultivate patience.
- We can reframe by considering that unpleasant experiences are impermanent.
- We can reframe by considering that unpleasant experiences are not us, but are simply passing though us, like clouds through the sky.
- We can reframe by reminding ourselves that there are others who are suffering as badly, or worse, so that we feel a sense of gratitude.
- We can reframe by seeing our misfortunes as being a way to develop empathy with others who are suffering, so that we can increase our compassion.
What’s we’re doing in all of these reframes is changing the mental filters that interpret our experience and that normally lead to the mind flagging up potential threats by creating unpleasant sensation. Now the mind registers our experiences as opportunities. We’ve turned a threat into an opportunity, and although we may not find that our unpleasant feelings vanish (though that happens sometimes) we’ll find them easier to be with, and so we won’t cause ourselves unnecessary suffering by engaging in self pity, and won’t cause others unnecessary suffering by acting out in anger.