Maybe this situation is familiar to you: It’s the middle of the night, right in the middle of a cool dream about flying among the marshmallow clouds alongside Robert Downey Jr. – you woke up because you REALLY have to pee. Quite a bummer, huh? Now you have to choose:
- Go to the bathroom now and then go back to sleep or…
- Hold it, try to (and fail) to fool yourself you can wait until the morning, and then admit defeat by going to the bathroom anyway.
So you got up to the bathroom and on your way there you feel this sharp pain in your little pinky finger because of that door frame you forgot about. Yeah, I feel you. It happened to all of us and it’s super annoying. There are several forms to deal with this situation. Some hold their breath and hold their foot in frustration, some curse in anger until they can no longer breath, some hit the poor door frame that was just doing its job as revenge. All valid options and completely understandable. It’s human.
We have a choice, and every choice leads to a certain result, either beneficial or harmful to us. If I choose to sit on the floor and wait for the pain to go away, I suffer all this time and silence, no to mention I’m losing a valuable time of sweet sleep. If I choose to get up at that moment and deal with the situation, I save myself an unnecessary waste of time and suffering. Once I bang my finger on that frame – I can react violently against that doorframe, which will just annoy me more and wake me up because of the adrenaline, or I can take a few deep breaths and try to relax. That way I avoid wasting unnecessary time and suffering.
Here's where it gets interesting...
Nobody likes crises. Sometimes you appreciate it in retrospect but at that moment it’s irritating, and everyone deals with it differently. Most of us don’t realize the choice is ours and we’re not bound to our automatic responses. It has to do with something called Framing: a belief that gives context to any interaction.
A-Frame can be expressed in a single conversation or throughout a lifetime. If we talk about banging your finger against the doorframe, you can either get angry and call yourself an idiot – who gives a negative context – or you can take a deep breath and remember exactly where the doorframe is next time we have to get up in the middle of the night – which gives a positive and instructive context.
We all have the power to choose how we frame our crises and giving a situation the right frame will greatly affect our response to crises and our future mental resilience. In the years 2007-2013 I was dealing with crises I did not know how to deal with and framed it as “I am miserable”. Every decision I made, every path I chose, every response to an event – originated from a negative context. That led me to a number of unproductive choices. It peaked during one night where I drank until my body decided “Nope. Can’t do this anymore.” And very quickly I kissed the floor with my forehead and waited until the ambulance arrived. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move, I could barely breathe. I truly thought I was going to die. Needless to say, I learned my lesson that evening.
Wait, so does that mean we'll be victims of our frames for the rest of our lives?
Not at all 🙂 Framing is a matter of context and you can always change the context. It’s called “Re-framing”. Maybe you know it from that time you were really angry with someone but they really made it difficult to be angry with them by making you laugh. The reason staying angry at them was so hard is because they crushed your “I’m angry with you” frame and re-framed it as “You’re funny”. Also, did you noticed I introduced a frame in which you only have two choices of how to react to banging your finger against the doorframe? Well, you can always re-frame the situation and introduce a third choice.
After three agonizing days I realized two things:
- I’m not going to die (Shocker) and-
- Every choice has consequences.
I re-framed the context I had from “I’m unhappy” to “I’m in charge of my life”. This perceptual change has led to new thinking patterns and much more effective choices in my life. As someone “miserable” I would react negatively immediately to any event and give up new ideas because I anticipated disasters.
Within the frame of someone who is in charge of their life, I discovered a new world of possibilities and saw what I could create for myself. From this new context, a new choice was born: I chose to be the most successful human being I can be or, in Elliot Hules’ words, “to be the best version of myself.” To get it – you have to work. And work hard. I don’t know how to explain it, but somehow the whole universe re-organized itself around this choice.
What happened after I re-framed my paradigm?
After this fundamental shift in my mindset, amazing things started to happen in my life. I was transferred to another unit and began my journey as a commander and division commander. Upon my release, I moved to the big city and opened my business. I learned to take care of myself and the environment I live in. I participated in interesting projects that taught me a lot! Some failed, some succeeded, but with each step, I felt I was moving in the right direction.
I began to be thirsty for knowledge; I’ve attended courses and workshops that have expanded the way I think about life and myself. I developed and re-created relationships and built my life in a way that makes me go to bed with a smile. I fell many times along the way but with each fall I felt more comfortable with the rubs on my knees and realized it was all part of the process. This was critical in early 2017, when I started suffering from anxiety attacks.
At first, I didn’t give it much thought but an interesting experiment I did, designed to test productive hours during the day, presented me with statistics of my mental state. After 3 months of denial, I realized that these panic attacks were serious and encountered a crossroads again. I could ignore it and let things deteriorate or decide that I was in charge of my life. I re-framed the situation from a threatening event to a strengthening challenge, and built a work plan to get rid of my panic attacks. The next day I started implementing the plan I designed.
My panic attacks were gone within a WEEK.
Initially I gave all the credit to this plan I’ve built, but the truth is I was able to deal with the situation thanks to that night in 2013. This caused me to re-frame my thinking pattern, which led me to make more positive and effective choices in my life and acquire the tools and experience to deal with this situation. Out of a feeling of helplessness, I created a situation where I felt strong and even a little confused when the panic attacks didn’t even come.
After a while I realized that this program can help a lot of people. These days I am working on a workshop that I intend to conduct in youth homes in my country, and even presented the workshop in the form of a lecture for army soldiers. The goal of this workshop is to share the tools I acquired over time; tools that could have helped me in moments of crisis like that night in 2013.
So why am I telling you all this?
Bottom line – As Dean Mc’Coppin once said: “You are who you choose to be.” Life happens. Sometimes good things happen and other times bad things happens and eventually, we choose how we react and how we experience those events. No matter what we deal with, what matters is the way we choose to frame it. You have amazing strength within you. Don’t ever forget that.
PS – Smile. It’s an easy start 🙂