Saturday, July 27, 2019

Another Example of Inducing Perceptual Reframing

Earlier this month I published an unconventional eulogy, which I offered as an example of successfully inducing perceptual reframing. The following is another example of induced reframing (also successful, at least for now). Both of these can be read at three levels: 1. uplifting reading, 2. inspiration to unfreeze/shift your own perspective, or 3. a quick-start guide for potential messiahs.

Ten years ago, a musician friend in another country suffered an aneurysm that nearly killed him. He was saved by an improbably coincidental spinal blockage which protected his heart while leaving him without the use of his legs. He'd been permanently paralyzed, poetically, by the process that saved his live.

Having stared down near-certain death, he experienced a profound shift of perception - what I call a "reframing" - leaving him exuberantly grateful to be alive. A shockingly short while later, a friend and I sat misty eyed in a jazz club, watching our friend play his guts out in a wheelchair. He was smiling so hard we thought his face might break.

The exuberance gradually eroded over the years. Then medical errors left him in hospital for the entire past year, fighting horrendous bone infections. Worst of all, sloppy doctoring led to the lost of his use of his hand. No more music.

"Depression" would be an inadequate word to describe his condition. Our mutual friend says "He is tired. Even his body language is different, his head often bent down." He no longer discusses solutions. He just stares at the TV.

Necessity once again mothered invention. I sent him the following. Like my eulogy, it reads like gentle persuasion and reminding, but that's only the surface. Really, it's designed to directly coax a shift of perceptive - a reframing - on its own. It appears to make a proposal, but the proposed outcome is actually executed (it's like launching a computer background process, aka daemon).

This may sound manipulative, but it wouldn't work if the person wasn't fundamentally in agreement (this, interestingly, is also how hypnotists defend their practice from fears of sinister controlling: you can't hypnotize someone to do something they don't already want to do. And, as I noted in the eulogy posting, hypnosis, along with creativity/art and spirituality, are the main repositories of humanity's sparse know-how re: perceptual framing).

I've been informed about your situation. Your friends and I are looking into alternative treatment. Please give us some time, and know that wheels are turning.

I'd like to remind you about something important. When you were first paralyzed, you were not depressed. You were euphoric. This was because you experienced a change of perspective. You saw the truth of the world, and it shifted you into a clarity where you understood that simply being here is a profound gift. Your heart (metaphorically) expanded, and everything was perfect, even though you had just gotten some extremely bad news.

When I saw you for the first time after you left the hospital, I asked you several times to try not to forget. Perspectives are habitual. It is very easy to fall back into an old perspective. And in the time since, I have watched you slowly forget, and return to your former perspective, where your life is a challenging drama and not a euphoric gift.

People don't get sad and negative because of what happens to them in their world. We are sad and negative because of our perspective on what happens in our world. We don't suffer because of what happens to us. We suffer because of our REACTION to what happens to us. The world is fine. It's all fine. The only problem is in our interpretation (and we have infinite options of interpretation).

This is demonstrably true. You know people with terrible narratives who are happy, and  MANY people with fantastic narratives who are miserable. What matters is viewpoint. You shifted to the optimal viewpoint for a year or two. You can recover it! 

The world - even your world - is delightful. You just forgot. There is no level of bad dramatic narrative that makes the world not delightful. It's 100% perspective. You yourself learned this once when you discovered you’d never walk again yet your spirit was completely dancing. You will dance again; I won't let you pretend you can't.


Display Name said...

Please keep posting about your friend. My grandfather was fond of the saying that people are about as happy as they make their mind up to be.

Jim Leff said...

Display Name said...

Jim did you just hear that pop? Corn has peaked in my neck of the woods. Frankenfield has a new dog a little guy called little man. They let it stray unleashed in the gravel lot a little Sure hope they keep him under wraps for the after church crowd tomorrow.The next time I go there I can't allow myself to get too blissed out. Prolly not a good idea while driving anyway but omg that corn

Anonymous coward said...

I like your stories Leff, I think reframing helps a lot. I also think that reframing is one of many ways to improve happiness. For example according to this Time article pets improve mental health. Again take what I say with a bunch of salt because I do not have the best critical thinking skills. Sciencebased medicine says to beware the media and health claims. Be skeptical of this claim.

"Science Says Your Pet Is Good for Your Mental Health
Mandy Oaklander"

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