You may have a picture on a wall somewhere in your home that just doesn’t look right to you anymore. Before you get rid of it, try putting it in a different frame. Sometimes just changing the frame of an old picture can make the colours & patterns stand out in a way they never did before, & you may find that you love the picture again.
This action of ‘Reframing’ can be used with our thoughts as well.
Reframing involves changing the way you view something and placing the events in a different frame that fits the ‘facts’ of the situation equally well, thereby changing its entire meaning.
After I found out that I was Highly Sensitive & really understood what that means, I started to see events in my past in a completely different way. My struggles in a conventional job in the City of London now made perfect sense – the way I never seemed to fit in & felt completely overwhelmed & crushed by the politics around me were only to be expected. I was empathic & would absorb the energy of my work colleagues without realising it. No wonder I felt so exhausted at the end of each work day!
I ended up selling my flat in London & setting off to travel around the world for a year with a friend. In hindsight, I can now see that it may have been more relaxing & fairer on my friend (& myself!) if I’d spent the first few weeks in a spa somewhere & then met up with her! The stress of leaving my job, selling my flat, organising the trip & saying goodbye to my family for a year definitely left me in such a state of overwhelm that it took quite a few months of sitting on a beach, cocktail in hand, to relax. Needless to say, my friend & I parted company a few months down the line & went our separate ways.
Looking back at these years, I’m grateful that I managed to get out of my job & my life in London when I did. Nothing about it was healthy or good for me. The long hours working in an environment that was verging on toxic for my highly sensitive soul, combined with the after work alcohol-fuelled nights would have broken me, slowly but surely, & I wouldn’t even have noticed it happening.
For Highly Sensitive People, this exercise in Reframing is so important. Many of us have gone through our lives not realising that we have the trait of High Sensitivity. This can lead to feelings of being ‘different’ from everyone else, not fitting in, & not understanding why we easily become overwhelmed in situations that others seem to take in their stride. It’s no wonder so many Highly Sensitive People become depressed later on in life, or choose to ‘opt out’ through drugs or alcohol.
4 Steps to Reframing Your Highly Sensitive Life:
- The first step in Reframing is to accept your sensitivity & see if for the naturally-occurring, normal trait that it is.
- The second step is to truly understand what being Highly Sensitive means, the positive benefits & the downsides & what you can do to mitigate these.
- Reflect back on events in your past life that hold any negative emotional charge for you. These can be major life events or even small things like a comment somebody made that has stayed with you. Look at each of these in turn & ask yourself: How does knowing I’m Highly Sensitive change the way I now view the event? Does the way I reacted now make sense? Do I need to forgive myself/the other person for what happened? It may help to keep a journal & write down your responses to these questions, or to talk through them with someone qualified.
- You can also use Reframing in your current life. If you have a challenging situation coming up, look at it from the perspective of your Highly Sensitive nature & ask yourself what you need to do to minimise any overwhelm. Do you need to set any boundaries to make the event more comfortable for you? What would you need to do or take with you to make things easier? Is the situation so stressful that you’d rather not subject yourself to it? Remember, you can always say ‘No’!
Reframing is a powerful technique, one that can help you start seeing your life in a different, more positive light. At the heart of the way you see things are your values & beliefs. Once you start to value your Highly Sensitive trait for all the positive aspects it brings, you’ll see events in your past that may previously have left you confused or ashamed, in a completely new way.
Now that’s liberating!