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Look Back, Don't Stare, Re-Frame

getting to know me lessons from coaching tangible techniques Jul 09, 2022

Look back but don’t stare…I learned that in the rooms of Al-Anon many years ago. I was lost and hurt and finally found a place I belonged. Fast forward about 15 years and I learned, “Look back if you like, and while you’re there, how about a re-frame?”


Whaaat?? I can’t change the past….what’s a re-frame??


No, of course not…you can’t change the FACTS. But how about your interpretation? Your perception? Your thoughts ABOUT the facts? Those you can change.


For years I thought of my divorce as a failure. I was raised catholic…no divorces.  I was raised by people who taught, “We don’t quit” – no quitting.   It took me five years to actually DECIDE to get divorced. I thought about it all the time. Why I should…..why I shouldn’t….what’s wrong with me that I can’t MAKE this work?


So, after, of course, I looked for all the things that were wrong with me. That’s what the mind does, looks for evidence that we are wrong or failures or just plain nuts. 


Then I met my coach. We did a re-framing exercise. She asked, “What if it’s not true, that the divorce is NOT a failure? Then what?”


(Insert emoji of head exploding here…) WHAAATT???? I always thought of the equation:  Divorce = Failure as a FACT, the same as 2+ 2 = 4. Guess what? I’m divorced: FACT. I’m a failure: I thought. I get to decide what to think about it. Not my upbringing or my mom or my ex-husband. Me. I decide. Here’s what I found out.


I left because I was thoroughly unhappy (and so was he). And we didn’t have the tools or the desire to find our way through.  We had two great kids and 16 years, and then it was time for something different. 


I left to show my girls that you don’t HAVE to STAY married…it’s OK if you leave. Be honest and fair and true to yourself. Don’t say bad things about the other person or blame him. Keep love in your heart for yourself, your soon-to-be ex, and especially your kids. And never put the kids in the middle. But leave if you want to - if you need to - if you decide it's what’s best. 


I left FOR ME. Nothing happened TO ME. It all unfolded FOR ME. 


As I look back, I realize it was all 50/50. Some parts were hard (anyone want to mow my lawn?). Some parts were easy (less laundry!!!). And in the end, it was all 50/50. I was neither a failure nor a hero. I was a human having all the experiences humans have. 


The best part is I can look back now and see it as a decision I made for my sanity and the love of my children. I like my reasons. I didn’t fail. I moved on because it was best for everyone, especially me.


Are you spending time looking back with regret? Anger? Sadness? Are you beating yourself up for failing? Or not succeeding? Is there shame hidden someplace that’s eating you up?


It’s normal to look back and find all the bad things, especially if we’ve been raised to think something is wrong (like divorce). But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it serves you.


Do you have a story you’d like to re-frame? If so, book a call with me. It’s one of my favorite parts of coaching, learning how to decide intentionally what to think. 


"Life is a 50/50 combination of what you make of it (your actions) and how you take it (your perceptions)." – Deodatta V. Shenai-Khatkhate

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