Sunday, December 15, 2019

Framing Disjoints

The previous three postings, "Gutters", "Dear ReFraming Abby", and "Vertigo, Framing, Extermination, and Narcissism", discuss mysterious behaviors that instantly clarify simply by recognizing that the other person frames the world differently.
The entire world is nothing but framing disjoints. That's what Earth is: eight billion people starring in eight billion unrelated movie scenes oddly assuming it's all somehow part of one overarching film.
Once you recognize this, mysterious behavior loses its mystery. Sticky moral quandaries also clarify themselves:
I don't see a grand distinction between good and evil (for one thing, everyone who's ever tried to define a clean border has failed). I think we're all just following the dramatic storylines in our heads, setting ourselves on courses which gradually cycle us through all the various movie genres, where we do our best to aptly play out scenes that come up. The scene in one head seldom syncs with the scene in another’s. There's no superseding movie, no single calibrating point of moral truth, because we're all caught up, and spun out, in our myriad parallel individual experiences.
This higher perspective is elusive. The bedrock presumption is that everyone out there is a part of my movie, which I imagine to be The Movie.
(This delusion is, among other things, the very fundament of all narcissism. We’re all narcissistic, but the medical diagnosis is reserved for those who are most tenaciously stuck in it. Insanity is the inability to reframe despite clear environmental cues.)
Before you can understand another person's framing, you first must recognize that your framing is, in fact, just a framing. Your movie is one choice among an infinity.

It’s tricky for most people to find a neutral perspective where they’re able to consider the existence of other framings. Tap the shoulder of a stranger engrossed in a horror movie to remind him he’s safe, and he‘ll likely holler back “How can you say that when the monster’s right in the next room??”
(If I haven't lost you yet, congrats. 95% of humanity would declare most of the preceding inexplicable word salad. Human beings, for all their clever achievements, are like babies with this stuff.)
From such a vantage point, one can apply empathy - an unusual trait! - to shift into another person's perspective. To the multitudes who’ve forgotten that reframing is even possible, and that there may exist perspectives other than the one they’re frozen into, you've just pulled off a magic trick.

At this point, one can recognize - if not fully accept - the framing of another person. But even then, your previous perspective will be tightly coiled and ready to spring back. Consider my friend in the "Dear Reframing Abby". He was quickly able to shift himself into the other guy’s perspective (his "non-player character" observation was shrewd), but notice how his own movie wants to yank him back; to undo the shift. It‘s evident right here:
Weird because we gave him a great deal, gave him leads that led to big sales for his company, etc.
That's his usual framing reasserting itself. I countered with a bracing reinforcement of the judo flip:
He’s pinned against a rock by some assault force and you’re texting him to sternly demand a headcount for next week's barbecue. "You're the one who suggested the bbq, Ken!!!”
Humor helped me coax him into a few more moments of reframing...but the clock was ticking.

Helping people reframe is a nano-miracle anyone can learn to execute. As I wrote in "You Can Be The Messiah"
Framing comes from within, but it’s contagious. If you’re empathetic, and people are willing to have their lenses refocused [big “ifs”!], it’s not hard to induce a reframing.
One’s perspective is just an arbitrary choice. You can always easily reframe with infinite latitude. But this process, like many other human processes, is prone to habit. Your habitual perspective coils, ready to spring back, even though we require lithe, flexible perspectives to be creative, resilient, and happy. So it's (literally) a blessing to cultivate the ability to shift, to flip, and to leap, shaking free of habit (I'm working on a book of exercises).

I've spent the past months harping on the basic aspects of Reframing 101, having discovered that deeper dives send readers fleeing in droves. But I'll nudge forward again now on the chance that some have developed a feel for this, preparing them to digest larger chunks. I’ll just touch-and-go quickly so no one gets hurt!

Once again, every person has the strange conviction that everyone else is in their movie...even though no one really is. No one's ever been in your movie. You’re in their movie, and it’s assumed that you accept this. Imagine if I were to read these three recent postings to the people being explained. They'd see nothing clever! Just..."duh"! Of course that's how I see things, because that's how it is! Everyone assumes their perspective is The Real One.

It would take some doing - some creativity, some judo, some cleverly deployed humor - to make my gutter cleaners see the situation like I see it. Same for the irresponsible exterminator, and for my friend’s MIA subtenant. Consider the trouble I went through to piece together their framings. I'd need to work equally hard to help them grok mine. And it would strike them as counterintuitive. For example, here’s how I’d imagine the subtenant struggling to reframe:
Ok, Jim, I think I understand. I'm going through hell with my family, my daughter's in ICU with flesh-eating bacteria while her psycho ex-boyfriend continues to stalk her, and my wife is blackmailing me to fund a new life with her pilates instructor, but, ok, I suppose I can try to shift perspective and recognize that this dude I barely know who keeps bugging me about my stupid office lease or whatever doesn’t know all this background, so he feels like his part in this is important and it looks to him like I'm rudely blowing off his kind assistance..."
He arrives there with effort, but the tight coil is palpably poised to spring back to a reality that seems more real. We wave goodbye while he waves hello.

Your framing is literally the fabric of your existence. So if you're able to raise your head above the fray for a moment and recognize the alternative universe inhabited by another person, you will have visited another reality, another universe. Reframing is a portal between parallel realities in the multiverse. Portals don't remain persistently open (remember the snap-back!), so they afford mere glimpses. One's home universe feels ever so much more "real".

Wait...what? I didn't see that coming. It's like Leff's meds wore off right there, pulling him to some eccentric conclusion that seems ludicrously overblown, no?


[Chuckle] Ok, so you're just discussing regular old perspective, using colorful exaggerated metaphors. Hahahaha! But of course, perspective is a perfectly familiar concept; nothing really so weird and cosmic!

But is it perfectly familiar? Work through the issue of perspective (aka subjectivity), and you'll find that it’s like a movie set where city streets appear perfectly normal but dissolve after a few feet where things are less shiny and spotlit. We've come up with these names - perspective, subjectivity, framing - and, once labelled, we feel that we have a handle on the matter. Nothing vast or mind-bending here! I know my toaster is not a demigod because it's just my damned toaster for chrissakes. I may not have examined every inch of it, but it's obviously a toaster, and we know what toasters are, so don't be ridiculous!

Problem: unlike a toaster, subjectivity/perspective/framing is not a thing. Despite the names we've assigned, there's no there there. We've only pretended to name the unnameable and to comprehend the incomprehensible. It’s a sham. It doesn't hold up under sustained examination. That’s why we’re like babies with this stuff. Humanity, which has built grand palaces and symphonies and space ships, has let the question of perspective and framing lie fallow (aside from some dry, nerdy, largely useless philosophizing, which this isn’t, btw!). It’s far deeper than you've imagined.

I'm not leaping so very far to connect perspective to parallel universes, multiverses, portals, etc.. If you'd like to swing to the next branches, read through the (difficult) series beginning with "The Visualization Fallacy". It starts out by explaining the eponymous fallacy, then tumbles down a rabbit hole. And (don't imagine that saying this comes easily to me) it's correct. Also, for the extra juicy part, ask yourself “Who is The Framer?”

Some readers may get the mistaken impression that I’m saying it works like“one person/one framing,” so you must shift to some other person’s perspective to reframe. No, every possible perspective (including ones never previously adopted) is instantly and effortlessly available to you in the moment. It’s infinite. Reframing (just you sitting there all alone shifting perspective to literally anything else) traverses the multiverse. This posting discusses a vanishingly narrow slice of it: the perspective of another person at a given moment, in relation to your own.

1 comment:

Display Name said...

So nice to see an open sign on the Leff cafe this early sunday afternoon. Hope you get more business. I'm the loyal customer who keeps visiting and had no idea others were bailing. You may be harping but the music is compelling. I can see you are passionate today, this sounds so petty but you done forgot to leave a space between two words which is very unlike you. Would love a sample of the exercises but not sure your cafe gives samples.I hope the Leff meds aren't illegal cuz they are mighty fine. I see you have shifted from intuition to empathy in this wonderful essay. I remember the night I got my empathy. My parents woke me up with a drunken fight. My dad stormed out and my mom went upstairs. There was a knock on the door and my dad was looking at me through the small window in the door, gesturing for me to unlock it. I did and he happily suggested that I come with him on a car ride to see my much loved grandmother. his mom. He made it sound very tempting. You could say he used his empathy to get what he wanted. I wanted to go with him so badly. I was very small. I remember thinking if I go mommy will cry. I told him no. He looked like he was gonna just grab me but my mom heard us and came down. I didn't realize I was jumping to a different universe when I took my mom's feelings into account. Woot. I wonder, going back to the tender elf post, if most children have this ability to see the world through other's eyes and then misplace it somehow. Which reminds me I need to help cdc look for his cell phone and then get me some of dem pears. Thanks so much for the heads up. I need to see if anyone responded about that chocolate but your posts are often more yummy than even chocolate Jim.

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