No. 5 – Reframing Life

Posted on: Friday 21st August 2015

Hanging on the wall of my study is a landscape by the now well-known Dorset-based landscape artist David Atkins. When I bought it fifteen years ago in Battersea Art Centre, the artist was less well-established and, like many younger artists, prioritised painting over the cost of framing. The picture is very fine and pleasing, and contemplation of it often helps me to ‘escape’ from the pressures of life. The frame it is in, though, is not. It’s a cheap, soft-wood, light-coloured frame – and I know that the painting (and my enjoyment of it) would be greatly enhanced by taking it to a framer and spending a bit of money on it.  One day!

The frames we put things in are important: literally and figuratively. Re-framing something can help us to see it in an entirely new way; indeed, re-framing something can help us to see it with new clarity and power, as if for the first time. I have come to realise that the art of a frame-maker is just as great as that of an artist, requiring a keen eye, skill and experience.

Reframing – in the figurative sense – is a subtle skill sometimes used in conversation with another person to help them, often without their realising it, to see their life in a different way and from a ‘different perspective’.  We are all used to the views we have of things; we are used to how it looks ‘from here’ – and often we’ve grown so used to that particular view, that any possibility of seeing things differently, or seeing new potential in a situation, or that you have choices, has long-since departed. It can be really helpful (without actually moving, of course!) to say to someone, ‘and if you and I were to look back at it two years from now, what would we see then?’ Or, ‘what would a friend say, if they looked at it from their position?’ The insight that can flow from ‘reframing the view’ can be dramatic, even shocking!

How over-familiar are you with the view of your life. That apparently intractable situation? That well-established pattern? The locked set of relationships that seem impervious to change or transformation? The first step in doing things differently may well be to look at it differently – which is to say, from a different place, or from a new perspective. Reframe it!

While the clergy of the parish (skilled reframers of life!) are always available, this activity is one you can do on your own too. And perhaps these summer months, with more leisure time, give opportunity. Take a look. Note what you see.

Fr Alan Gyle