Monday, January 20, 2020

Imagination and Induced Perceptual Reframing

I've written a lot about perceptual framing, and a little bit about helping induce reframing in others, e.g. a funeral eulogy that transformed the room. It doesn't always need to be wordy. For example....

A musician friend whose late father was an acclaimed musician lamented:
Friend: My hope for heaven is to get the chance to see my father playing his ass off with his musician friends.

Me: If you ever saw that in the past, it didn't stop. Stuff doesn't become untrue just because we're not experiencing it right now. It will always be a fact. It's undeniable and forever. And in remembering that truth, you've been to heaven.

Friend: I never got to see him with the greats that he played with and the few times I did see him live I was very young and don’t really recall any specifics

Me: Still, you can see it. It's just what you think.

[No response...I think in a good way. He did "like" my final reply.]
My first response was a misfire. I jumped in too soon. As previously noted, I'm pretty good at this, but not great at it. If someone ever gets great at it, they can be The Messiah.

Also, I know what you're thinking. My final line was saccharine childish baloney, inviting him to use, like, his **IM-AG-INA-TION**, and take comfort in fantasy. But that's 1. not how I meant it and 2. not how I expected my friend to take it.

It's obvious that he's mulled this over thousands of times, and has sucked every useful byte of data from his spotty memory, plus the much richer general data set of having grown up with his dad plus the still greater load of remembered experiences from his own musical career.

Most of us can do a credible job of anticipating the responses and actions of people we're super close to. We might not always be perfectly predictive - the person may actually say or do something different - but that doesn't mean they wouldn't do/say the thing we've visualized. It doesn't make it false. Run the person through the same scenario a few dozen times, and something like the anticipated result would likely pop up. Our envisioning (when we know the person well) is not useless horse shit. It's not untrue.

I'm going to let you bridge the rest of the gap on your own. Enjoy the lozenge!

Also: as any police detective will tell you, seeing isn't believing. We project and filter and frame our "actual" experience (particularly experience with deep emotional resonance) so radically that it might as well be imagined. So a glimpse of dad in musician heaven would be just another snapshot. It's all imagination; all snapshots.

Also, I wasn't just trying to "help him remember/imagine/envision". He'd already done that work himself, over the years. I was aiming for something more ambitious: to transform the pain and loss that were obviously burdening him. I didn't "do" anything; I just pointed to a plausible framing. And reframing is always, always, always, always easy. The easiest thing a human can do, despite the titanic towers of grief and stress we build when perspective needlessly freezes.

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