Today’s Coping Skill: Reframing

Today let’s start with a true but embarrassing story.  (Come to think of it most of the stories I share with you are embarrassing, but I digress.)

A couple years ago, I was driving and a drunk ran a red light right in front of me.  I tried to brake and/or swerve to avoid a collision, but to no avail.  You know how time slows down at moments like these, right?  Well in that slow motion moment, when I realized I could not avoid hitting him, I thought, “Uh oh, I don’t have my seat belt on, I hope this doesn’t hurt too much.”

The accident totaled my van (mostly because it was old) and bruised me where I hit the windshield and the dash.  I was dazed and confused, but otherwise fine.  In fact, I went on to work and did my shift that night, although I can’t recall how I got there.

The drunk driver tried to flee the scene, but there was a police officer behind me who saw the whole accident (and told me he didn’t think he would have been able to avoid it either.)  He pulled the drunk over and arrested him.

After that I was a faithful seat belt wearer for–a couple months. Then about a year ago, I was pulled over by a police officer because I wasn’t wearing my seat belt.  I have been a faithful seat belt wearer ever since.

What made the difference?  Was it the fine? Nope, it’s my fear of being pulled over. I am terrified of being “punished” by “authority figures”.  (This has roots in my childhood as you might well imagine.)  So the point of this story is that I am more afraid of “authority figures” than car crashes.  Seriously.

My fear of authority figures is a big problem since I consider a lot of people authority figures.  Doctors, my therapist, leaders in my church, my children’s teachers and, it goes without saying, police officers.   I’m not just afraid of them “punishing me”, I can also become badly triggered when I feel that an authority figure has let me down in some way, or when I fear I have let them down.  Another problem with this: when you are an adult people expect you to act like an adult, having DID and issues with authority figures often made acting like an adult quite complicated.  I hoped in time and with therapy I could overcome these fears and triggers.  Then recently I got an idea for a new strategy. (Something that would help faster!)

Reframing the Holiday by Jessica/goaliej54    CC BY-SA 2.0 Flickr

Reframing the Holiday by Jessica/goaliej54 CC BY-SA 2.0 Flickr

Reframing.  I thought I invented this idea until my friend Laurel told me they use it in Weight Watchers too.  Exact same idea, exact same name,  there goes my brownie points for originality.  Anyway, in case you aren’t in Weight Watchers, reframing is basically changing the way you think about something or looking at it in a new way.

I decided from now on– no more authority figures.

I accept experts and servants,but no more authority figures, after all, I am an adult (at least physically.) No one is my “boss”.

Doctors are experts in medicine and I look to them for advice about my health, but it is my choice to follow their advice or not.  And if they disappoint me, I can change doctors.  Wow, that feels liberating.

My therapist–when I think about it, he has never pushed me to do anything I don’t want to do, or even seemed disappointed in me if I chose not to face something difficult.  I don’t have to please him, or try not to anger him.  Sigh of relief.

Leaders at church–well, they are really servants aren’t they?  I don’t mean servant in the way that a maid is a servant, but someone who is willing to give of their time and talents to help others.  But they also are not my boss.  If they give me counsel, I am free to accept it or reject it.  If I reject it, nothing terrible will happen. (I’m not talking about spiritual repercussions here people, but the fear of a traumatized child.)

Police Officers–well, that one will take some more work. I can tell myself that they are servants, servants of the law, but I don’t think that will calm the fears of my ‘inner children’.  One step at a time . . .

It’s too soon to say for sure, but this really seems to be helping.  I have used reframing for other issues and it is a great coping tool. What about you?  Is there an issue that you are dealing with that you could resolve with reframing?

Photo attribution link


  1. Like a juror in a courtroom we continually weigh evidence to obtain the most correct consequence for each action. As you say, Leslie, realizing that a subject of evidence gathering had a completely different role than we assumed that it did causes us to reevaluate all related evidence. This is broadly applicable.

    Recasting thousands of people from KGB to Mother Theresa would greatly affect my world view as it has yours. This is great information for each of us. Thank you.

  2. Nice article Leslie. Remember, a police officer is just another person at work, doing their shift.

    An interesting twist here, it was a police officer who helped me to begin turning things around and introduced me to the man who became my meditation teacher.

  3. I am constantly finding new ways (reframing) of looking at different things in my life, especially my instinctive (old baggage way) of looking at things. I’m glad I have found your wisdom. (I was going to say I wish I’d found it sooner, but reframing shows me it is as valuable now, perhaps more than it would have been then.)

  4. I would let it be as long as I knew someone was there to love him beascue I was very worried but there was no way. Once he was without her though he has really opened up. I do encourage hm if he wants to see a therapist. I remind him that I can not always be neutral as I love him. His career is doing well right now. I have a house of my own but across the country. Lately he asks me to come back and that he wishes I was there. I can not of course do that without speaking with him and visiting etc. first. It has been so wonderful to have him know my story. Healing. I feel it is good and healing for him to tell me his story. He was married for much of the time. I had no idea. His wife and I emailed at one point. She just does not understand his illness. She is an alcholic and she has now left him. He wrote that he was glad to end the relationship as it was very dyfunctional and not loving. He says he has always loved me. He says that he feels he just needs some time alone and believes we will be together. He is working very hard on sorting himself out. I am not sure how split his personalities are. He was aware when I met him and did try to tell me but would chicken out. I guessed about the abuse and of course when he became a child that pretty much did it. He is very attentive. He pays very close attention to my emails and vidoes. He is comforting, makes me laugh. and is honest in his music responses. One part I don’t like is that as a musician he can get girls easily. One night stands are part of his life right now. I hate this. He can be loyal in a relationship but we are so far apart. It is frustrating for both of us. He was loyal when he dated me and during his marriage. He feels it is just a phase and does not really like it but he has needs. I realize this is not normal in anyway. However, as damaged people we seem to be finding our way through in a caring, honest and respectful way. At first it was like deciphering code. Now, most of the communication is pretty clear.He has written some beautiful songs for me of his own and his careet is doing so well that a few of them were on the radio. Very romantic. This is not my imagination. It does challenge me though. I keep it to myself as many people would not understand.Sometimes I actually write to the child personality when he describes the abuse. He really responds to this. I write about how he is safe now and not to blame and that I love him. Things like that. When I wrote of my abuse he would put up music and videos that were so comforting.It has taken so long for him to tell me the truth about his past. I am very proud of him and tell him. He seems to feel it is better for him. I am not sure where this will end. I hope we find our way together. Clearly it takes a great deal of patience. On both our parts. Often I decide to end it and that hurts him. Lately I promised not to do this and would allow us to communicate for the next six months this way. I get so frustrated he won’t call me in person. I wish I had more patience. I suppose I just neet to accept we are working things out and appreciate what we do have. I have work to do as I have a food addiction to get sorted. He is working on his pot addiction. I am hoping if I would stop ending things, keep communicating and work on my stuff it would all sort itself out eventually.It took 40 years for him to finally tell someone the truth about his past. It took me 46 years to realize what had happend to me. Repressed memories. I am grateful to have someone that seems to love me unconditionally in their way. It is rewarding to have been able to help someone you love and figure out their code and help them find the truth about their life. I suppose it is meant to be.I have run the gammit of the mental health system and had a pastor reject me. He couldn’t deal with the truth of our lives. But he is only human. God on the other hand if you let whatever that energy is come into your life . it will never let you down. Thank you for reading this. It has been helpful. Your story is compelling and I liked the first post. It takes a very understanding and strong person to love someone with DID. Thank you for being brave and sharing your life. God Bless.

  5. Kanika Singh / Whenever in life, at any age or any stage, someone needs some push, some erengy, some vigor, they should meet you.You teach a person more than subjects you teach them to recognize themselves and to believe in themselves.I will always remember you not just for those Kindle and Google lectures, but much more for being a patient mentor who whenever I meet, I feel a sense of reinforcement in my ambitions.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s