July 23, 2017

Bad experience bugging you: reframe it to turn it upside down

Got a bad experience from the past that is still bugging you?  How about this scenario: you approach a woman and she responds to your witty line with a rude back turn where she just ignores you.  Depending on your frame of mind there are many different ways you could choose to respond to this.  Suppose the meaning you decide to attach to the interaction is something like, I got rejected or why doesn’t she like me?  Or maybe you go from there to make a sweeping generalization of something like women don’t like me or I’ll never find someone that likes me.

While some version of that may be a relatively common response to the situation, realize that there are other ways to view what happened.  As my mother used to say to me as a kid, you can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you choose to respond to what happens.  If you can recall any situation that has bothered you in the past or continues to bug you, here is a one  quick and neat way to resolve it know as the Katie Byron turnaround method.

Her process known as the turnaround works like this.  You ask yourself four questions:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

You can either do this exercise by yourself or with another person.

To “turnaround” a belief,

  • Identify a belief or thought related to a topic that causes anxiety or unhappiness.
  • For the first time around choose something which feels important, which annoys or troubles you, that someone else does or did: for example “My ex girlfriend never loved me,” or “Tom shouldn’t expect me to solve his problems.”
  • With each thing that bothers you one ask yourself or have someone else ask you each of the four questions listed above.  If you are by yourself, write down your responses, and with another person one speaks their answers aloud.

After the four questions, the thought is literally turned around to its opposite. For example: “My high school  girlfriend never loved me” turns around to “My high school girlfriend  always loved me,” Then one sees if they can find ways that this new thought is equally true, or more true, than the original thought.

The turnaround also takes the form of turning the statement around to oneself: “I never loved my high school girlfriend,” or “I never loved myself.”

So, give this a shot with any situations that are bothersome, it could be nervousness at introducing yourself to a new person.  It could be frustration with your job or your level of physical fitness.  Just remember it’s not what happens to you that creates trauma and pain, it’s your interpretation and the story you tell yourself that makes it painful or not painful.

Katie’s method has been compared to cognitive psychotherapeutic approaches. Her method has the result of ‘undoing’ thoughts rather than adding new ones.

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