Monday, February 11, 2019

Framing as Hilarious or as Catastrophe

Regular readers know I'm extremely interested in perceptual framing. You can read all postings with that label here (I'd start from the bottom), or start with this short posting, which explains that we have no actual control of our thought stream (though we imagine we do), while we do completely control our framing (though we imagine it's imposed on us).

I've never provided a clear example of what framing is - though you can get a strong sense via the primordial Slog posting, "The Deeper Implications of Holiday Blues", recounting how my mind on one Christmas Eve kept flipping between the framing of my being sublimely comfortable and happy and the framing of my tragic failure to personify a prefab notion of Christmas Eve. I found it oddly difficult at the time to distinguish the truer framing, even though the latter one was so patently contrived, gratuitously dramatic, and not based in any actual reality.

Over the years since, I've explored this issue thoroughly, discovering that framing is positively everything. It determines who you are and what your world is. This free, instant choice - literally the blink of an eye - can imprison you or set you free.
Leave a person in a quiet room, and he might meditate and one day leave in a state of vast peace. Put some bars on the window and the same person might decay into a debilitated wreck.
Depression happens when you get stuck in a framing. Likewise nearly all human suffering (you can't frame away from pain, but you definitely can from suffering). If you can re-frame at will (and you can; it's like a cell phone feature you didn't realize you had) you'll never get stuck again.

So here's that strong, clear example:

Have you ever read news about the Trump administration and erupted into giggles over their sheer stupidity and incompetence? And then suddenly stopped yourself by remembering that this isn't funny?

A new framing transforms everything, externally as well as internally. It's suddenly not the same Trump, and it's suddenly not the same you.

In the slapstick comedy framing, it's all a riot, and it's impossible to be stressed. In the grim framing, it's impossible not to be stressed. Like an optical illusion, one can flip from one perspective to the other, but never inhabit both at the same time.


In daily life, we habitually favor one sort of framing (it's the primary way we ballast our happiness). Why is "laughter the best medicine"? Because it's the most easily available means of instantly reframing a fraught, stressful perspective (forgiveness is an even better one, but it’s inhibited by most people). But it's not all binary - fraught-or-funny. Potential framings are infinite. The only limit is your own creativity and litheness - and, most of all, your ability to remember that you own this faculty (fwiw I'm working on a book of exercises to help people rediscover their latitude).


To offer a rather surprising and expansive reframing (my favorite kind!): this is how one traverses the multiverse. Each reframing (we do it all the time, though usually subconsciously; just as fish swim without realizing they do it, frequent reframing's our characteristic trait) shifts us into a parallel universe.

3 comments:

Display Name said...

Wonderful post. Thank you. This was mildly jarring to moi but then apparently I am the last hold out: (and you can; it's like a cell phone feature you didn't realize you had) Stop me if I've mentioned this before but once at the old whole paycheck my friend and I were doing some shopping. It was a gloomy late autumn day cold dreary and damp. Wf did not have the fresh fruit tart we had come for and it was the hellish rush hour time with lots of riled up shoppers driving carts like maniacs. We soldiered on picking out supplies and I was miserable, literally thinking This Sucks. People were whizzing past me aggravated. My friend left my side for a moment and I thought it's his birthday and we are buying food to celebrate. The noise stopped, the other shoppers blurred out and the store got brighter. My booted feet could not feel the floor. My friend came back to my side and I smiled feeling warm and blissed out.We were the only ones in the store. We still got the hell out of there fast but my gloom had turned to joy.

Jim Leff said...

You can do the same the other 364 days. Even if you just make up a thingee. See 2nd to last paragraph here: http://jimleff.blogspot.com/2012/11/postcards-from-my-childhood-part-3-iron.html

Anonymous coward said...

I frame Trump as interesting. I am curious about how he got elected and became a billionaire, why, and what will be the ramifications.

You can cherry pick a few bad things about Trump for sure, encouraging climate change denial. Btw, climate change will claim 250,000 lives per year between 2030-2050.

"Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
The direct damage costs to health (i.e. excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation), is estimated to be between USD 2-4 billion/year by 2030."


Yet, there are probably some good things that are happening because of Trump, though I have not put much effort into finding them. According to procon.org some of his cabinet picks are good.

"General Pruitt will be a strong advocate for sensible policies that are good for our environment, as well as mindful of the need for affordable and reliable electricity."
"

Sources.
https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/climate-change-and-health
https://www.procon.org/headline.php?headlineID=005334

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