Control the frame and you control the discussion
Sun Tzu in the Art of War talks extensively about terrain, and how the General maneuvers his troops so the enemy is forced to fight on terrain where he no longer has the advantage. Mao Zedong was a master at this, he took Sun Tzu’s work and applied it to guerrilla warfare. His Little Red Book deals extensively on how a guerrilla force should maneuver itself so the stronger conventional army no longer has the advantage.
Frame is equivalent to the terrain which you are fighting on right now, re-framing is maneuvering your forces to terrain where your forces have the advantage. To force your enemy to get to the frame where you have the advantage, you might have to go through a series of intermediate frames. The greatest military upsets occurred when the General was able to force his opponent to fight on his frame, examples of this are Mao Zedong and Stalingrad. The book “War of the Rats” which the movie “Enemy at the Gates” is based on, shows how the Soviets forced the Germans to fight a war amongst the rubble of Stalingrad, once the did this the Germans lost their advantage and the outcome was a foregone conclusion.
Right now I am framing the discussion as a military battle. Frames can be seen as a colored lens or filter. This is why an understanding of analogy and metaphor is extremely important for frame and re-framing, I covered this in one of my previous posts. He views the world through rose tinted glasses is a metaphor which is stating the person has a filter where he can only see things which are rose colored. Rose colored is an analogy to pleasant and nice things. He has a rose tinted rear-view mirror, is an analogy that the person is traveling down a road in a car. We often see the passing of time to traveling, to see what is behind us we look into the rear-view mirror.
Everything we perceive is a representation or map of reality, it is not real per say. The first person to formally present it in words was Alfred Korzybski when he stated:
A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness.
The key here to understanding is the are two maps, one that you are using at this present time and the map which the other person is using. Our behavior is ultimately decided by these maps. And the maps might not represent reality, a person who is color blind will see a much different view of things.
The key to re-framing, is understanding the other person’s map. If it helps, think of their map as their belief system or values. I just used an example of an internal re-frame. Once you are aware of what frames and re-framing are, you can start to pick up on them. Lets look at an example.
You run into one of those evangelist guys who like to preach about Jesus. You can then ask him does he believe the Bible is the word of God ? He of-course will answer yes, you have established what his map is. You then ask him, is God a fair and loving God ? He will then say yes, he gave his only begotten son. You then ask, would a fair and loving God send a good man to hell? No. In the parable of the good Samaritan, who is the good man ? The Samaritan, he retorts. You then ask him, what was a Samaritan? You then explain that a Samaritan was a pagan who worshiped rocks and plants, he will then deny this, you get a dictionary or encyclopedia and show him that a Samaritan had similar beliefs to a modern Wiccan for example. He will not be in a state of confusion.
Think about a time when you where confused, you are staying overnight in a hotel. You wake up, it is dark, you glance over to where your alarm clock normally is. Its not there. You then reach for the switch where your bedside lamp normally is, it isn’t there. You are confused because your map is still oriented to your bedroom at home, it doesn’t match the map of the hotel room. You then realize where you are, and then you update your map to match the hotel room.
The evangelical Christian example is a particularly interesting one, in the example I established what his map was. Then I started to re frame things using just his map. Religions always have maps which protect themselves, the religious leader will preach make sure you do not leave yourself open to evil influences. Evil influences of course being anything that disagrees with the pastor’s map of reality. That meant I was limited to using his map.
I then maneuvered him, using a series of re-frames to a point of confusion. That meant his map does not match reality, when the person is confused that means it is possible to update their map for them. Given enough time, it is possible through a series of re frames to update the person’s map to all sorts of outcomes. Religious terrorists like suicide bombers for example, have undergone a series of re frames. The western media would like you to think that these suicide bombers are handed a vest full of explosives, told to strap it on, and then told if they go and blow themselves up they will end up in paradise. This is the frame the western media likes to put on things, it provides a simple map, even if the map is incorrect, most people like simple maps.
This method requires getting the other person to zoom in or out on the time frame of how they are viewing future events. The best example is a graph of the price of coffee for the last week, last year,last 10 years and the last 100 years. Depending on which frame you use, you will get a vastly different picture.
You meet a woman, it really doesn’t matter if it is on-line or in person, the same principles apply. She then states something like she wants a serious relationship. Serious is an interesting word, because it essentially doesn’t mean anything. Usually it is used as a criticism when the person does not have any valid points. So a person could perform his job exactly per specifications, but while he is doing his job he is wearing a clown outfit and laughing constantly. You then could say he is not serious about it job. So according to conventional wisdom a person who wears a suit and has a frown on his face is presumably doing a better job.
First you can re-frame the word serious. You want a relationship where both people have a frown on their face and they are not allowed to have fun ? This temporarily causes confusion, no that isn’t what I mean. You then reply, well serious means always working, never having fun. That does not sound like the type of relationship that I want to get into.
The woman then clarifies she does want to enjoy and have fun but she wants to have a long term relationship. You then confirm that it is a lack of a long term relationship which is causing her unhappiness. If she agrees, then what we need to do is change her time frame. So you then find out how long of a relationship she would want, usually she wants the relationship to last forever. You then could ask, what would happen if we started a relationship today, and tomorrow I got hit by a bus and died. Does this mean the relationship is a failure ? By shifting the time frame, you are pointing out that she is denying herself happiness today. And you then point out the length of the relationship does not indicate how serious it is.
You have probably encountered the time re-framing method countless times before. The simplest example is a person who is attempting to sell you an entertainment system for $1000. By re-framing the price to cost per a day, he then shows you how for only $2 a day you can be entertained. $2 a day is far cheaper then a movie ticket for example.
It has been said that one can not negotiate desire. Negotiation usually means using the same frame repeatedly, and then begging or pleading that the other person accepts that frame. If the other person is forced into accepting that frame, it will result in unhappiness and dissatisfaction because their map or belief system has been violated.
Re-framing by contrast means that you are playing a tetris game. To make the piece fit, you have to keep turning the piece around. The re-framing is not always successful since there is the element of time and then it isn’t always possible to see how the piece should fit into the other pieces.
Once you become aware of frames and re-framing, you then can then start to see things in terms of frames, this is both your perspective and other people’s perspectives. The book Antifragile by Taleb attempts to change your frame when it comes to handling shock or disaster. By contrast the society wants you to look at things from their perspective or frame and to ignore all possible other frames. The reason being, who ever controls the frame, controls the discussion.
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