I have this powerful ability to automatically "re-frame" everything I run across to ensure the widest view possible. Every once in awhile I find myself slipping into conscious re-framing. Both are effective means of adaptive behavior. I am rarely angry, hurt, offended, or exasperated. Mostly, I'm amused. Human behavior amuses me. People amuse me. Close-mindedness, at times, amuses me. But is it possible to "re-frame" things negatively?
Recently, I had the theory that it would have to be statistically improbably to always react defensively to something not immediately understood. Odds are, people would only be fearful of what they don't instinctively comprehend about half the time, right? Nope! Those who fear what they do not understand will fear it 100% of the time. So I had to ask myself, "Why?"
As it turns out I was right. At least, half-right. Re-framing can go both ways. Re-framing is a conscious-level sub-set of something called "cognitive restructuring" which is almost always guided, and absolutely always positive. People can and do automatically and unconsciously re-frame negatively which is maladaptive behavior, also known as (wait for it)...cognitive distortion!
They believe that negative events are caused by them (internal). They believe that one mistake means more will come (stable), and mistakes in other areas of life are inevitable (global), because they are the cause. They see positive events as flukes (local) that are caused by things outside their control (external) and probably won’t happen again (unstable).*
And that right there was a definition of "pessimist" which we'd previously thought was a natural balance to optimists until we understood it to be harmful distorted thinking; maladaptive behavior, "avoiding situations because you have unrealistic fears may initially reduce your anxiety, but it is non-productive in alleviating the actual problem in the long term." People, I am all about alleviating the actual problem - not ceaselessly repeating it over and over over ad nauseum. I have a limited mean-time between failure and it is directly related to rotational spin.
As I was contemplating the idea that those who most suffer from maladaptive behavior probably either don't know that they do, or don't believe that they do I picked up a book by Zen author Thich Nhat Hanh, which talked about immigrating as boat people where, "We could have drowned at any moment. We could have been killed or injured by sharks or sea pirates. For those of us who took the trip we still have the images of all these dangers in our consciousness." Like you, I wondered what his point was to all this. When I found it, my mind was opened. For years I have been struggling with a way to articulate how unwarranted fears are dumb because they do not exist in reality. Thich Nhat Hanh quite plainly says,
Now we have reached the other shore. We have been accepted as refugees. We are on solid ground. But sometimes we forget. Sometimes we touch the images of those moments, and we still suffer, even thought we're safe. Each time we're in touch with the images, the suffering arises again. This is true even though the suffering may have happened a long time ago.
Many of us are still caught in the world of images; they are not reality anymore. Suppose we still keep a picture of the ocean where we could have drowned. When we look at the picture, we feel the suffering and the fear,. But mindfulness and concentration can bring the insight that this is only a picture, this is not the ocean. We can drown in the ocean, but we can't drown in a picture.
And this is what separates me from Zen Masters - because I understand this, I do not fear. But I'm not equipped to ceaselessly train others in this art outside of these writings. THIS RIGHT HERE is my instruction if you choose to view it as such, because when I'm done with this entry I'm going to go live my life as I see fit and not even expend the energy to shrug my shoulders if you choose to lag behind. I have things I want to accomplish. Rocket's red glare and all that.
Did you notice he said nothing about not being scared as shit while actually crossing said ocean? I extrapolate that the first step of ending suffering - not being subject to irrational fear - is to put the experience behind you. You cannot separate pictures from reality when you're living in the reality. Step One: Get the fuck out of that reality. Step Two: Separate the memory of it from your new reality.
"You can suffer for as long as you wish, and when you no longer want to suffer, you can stop."
Fuck suffering. I'm done with it.