Reframe a New Problem in an “Old” Way
“This makes sense. I am my own safe place. My only way out is through.” Tamsen relied on this mantra to help her overcome a panic disorder she had lived with for 17 years. She didn’t know it at the time, but it was her version of a powerful Red Thread that can help you get through a difficult time.
When we’re trying to find our way through a difficult time, even when we’re getting help from others, we’re always trying to find new answers to help us change what’s happening. A lot of times, however, the search for the new leads us to miss something that’s been there all along. The muscles that we use the most are the strongest, so if we can find ways to reframe a situation to use the mental muscles we’ve already developed, we can find something that will work for us. We can find a new way of using our “old” ways of thinking.
“This makes sense” worked for Tamsen because it addressed the types of problems that she is drawn to solve. She gets frustrated when she sees people put more credence into what isn’t yet there than in what is actually there right now. Tamsen’s panic attacks were about getting overwhelmed by all the things that could be happening, rather than focusing on what was actually happening in the moment, so saying to herself, “this makes sense,” helped her reframe the problem.
“I am my own safe place” is a restatement of a core idea of Tamsen’s: “I have all the resources that I need.” In the context of her panic disorder, this addressed the feelings she had that she needed to get somewhere else in order to feel more comfortable. Realizing that she was the one in charge of deciding what felt safe reconnected her with that core value that you already have everything you need.
“The only way out is through” was Tamsen’s panic disorder version of a Change Statement. It connected with the core value she holds of always trying to find a sustainable way of thinking about things so that she can keep doing them long-term. It gave her a way of knowing what to do instead of feeling frozen.
Hopefully, looking at this illustrates how connecting concepts to what we already believe, know, and experience can help us make strong, sustainable change. That’s how you use the “old” things you know to help you find your way through new problems.
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– “This makes sense, I am my own safe place, the only way out is through.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was my Red Thread for overcoming a panic disorder that I had lived with for seventeen years, and that’s what I want to talk about this week on Find the Red Thread. I’m Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com.
The first thing I need to say here is I am not promising any kind of magic bullet for overcoming panic disorder. I think that overcoming anything is a very personal process for each of us. But I thought this week that it would help to see how a Red Thread can show up in any number of different ways, even as the tool that can help you through a very difficult time.
Now, the thing we have to understand when we’re trying to find our own way through a difficult time, even if we’re getting help from other people, is that we’re always on the search for new answers, we’re trying to find something new, some new way of thinking, some new way of feeling, some new way of doing something so that we can change what’s happening and get a different result. That makes sense. A lot of times, though, that search for new means that we end up missing something that’s right there all along and that is a really, well-grounded way of thinking that we already have.
Now, here’s what I mean, the first statement that I gave you was, “It all makes sense.” Now, without going into too much detail, that’s what I told myself, in the early moments of a panic attack, when I first started to feel one, I would say, looking at the situation, “Does it make sense that I am reacting this way? Is it a stressful situation, is it a situation where I typically feel nervous or uncomfortable?” And if it was, then I would say to myself, “this makes sense.”
Now, once I found that as a mantra to say to myself, it really worked for me because of the problems I’m generally drawn to solve. Now I’ve talked about this before, but one way that I frame one of the problems that I am drawn to solve is the difference between the aspirational and the actual. I’m really frustrated when I see people, brands, anybody putting more credence in what isn’t yet there then what actually is. And if we map that back to thinking in often irrational ways about what’s going on in the midst of a panic disorder, at least for me, what was happening was that I was giving more credence to all the things that could be happening than what was actually happening in the moment.
I was thinking through, why is it crazy that I have this panic disorder rather than, does it make sense that, given how I’m wired and what my coping skills and mechanisms are right now, does it make sense that I’m operating this way? And so once I found that mantra, that way of framing the problem, and a way that was already strong for me, it started to really help me defuse that situation. But it came because it was a strong way of thinking already, but here’s why that’s so important because it’s the muscles that we use the most that are the strongest, which means if we can find ways to reframe things, to use those muscles, even if they’re mental, then we’ve got a great way, ideally, or maybe just optimistically, of finding something that works for us, of finding a new way of seeing something that uses old strengths.
Now that middle one I gave you, “I am my own safe place,” turns out it was a restatement of one of my core ideas, of one of my core beliefs, “I am my safe place” turns out to be a restatement of, “I have all the resources I need.” In the context of a panic disorder, “I am my own safe place” was the thing that I would tell myself when I would get that feeling that if i could just be somewhere else, I would feel more comfortable. But realizing that I was the guidance of that, I was the determining factor of what felt safe meant that I was reconnecting with a core value or belief of my own that I already had the resources that I need, so again, it was a way to reframe a new way of approaching a situation into an old and super strong belief or way of thinking.
And that third one I gave you, that “the only way out is through,” was my version of the Change, it was my panic disorder of a Change Statement. “The only way out is through,” to me, meant the only way out of this is to experience and learn from it and do it. If I’m in the middle of a panic attack, I would tell myself that the only way out is through it, is to experience it as it’s happening. Let it be that thing so that I can find a sustainable way to deal with this. And that’s also consistent with my Change Statement part of my Red Thread is that I’m really interested always in finding a sustainable way of thinking about things so that I can keep doing them long term, so “the only way out is through” gave me a way to reconnect with that part of who I am so that I could have something that said, here’s what to do in this particular situation.
Now as I said before, this is not about saying, “Hey, these three statements are going solve something for you,” they’re meant to be an illustration of how when we can connect concepts to what we already believe, already know, already experience, the things that are already strong, we can make strong, sustainable change, in both big ways and small, so I hope that was helpful this week in one way or another. I’m Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com and this was Find the Red Thread. I’d love to help you find yours.