Speaking at the Emerging Women conference in San Francisco Friday, the research professor from the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work outlined a process for re-framing problems to put them in perspective so you can solve them faster.
The process falls roughly into two steps: “the reckoning” and “the rumble.”
Most people are not raised to analyze their emotions, says Brown, but often what we need to do to move on is just that. Analyzing how you feel and why involves asking what story you are telling yourself.
Brown used as an example a situation where she thought her husband’s comment about no lunch meat in the fridge was an indictment of her supposed failures as a wife. In reality, she was stressed out from feeling like she had taken on too much at both work and home. She told her husband, “The story I am telling myself right now is that I am falling apart.” He suggested they sit down and go through the list of things she needed to do and determine what could be delegated to other people, both at home and at work. The truth is, Brown said, sometimes the stories we tell ourselves mask the real situation and thus obscure the solution.
Why do we tell false stories to ourselves? Often it as to do with clinging to theories we are convinced are true but upon closer examination reflect a jump to false conclusions, Brown says. For example, you might suspect someone is mad at you when in fact that person is reacting to physical discomfort. He gives you a weird look at a particular moment and that’s where the confusion begins. Rather than tell yourself the person is angry, let him know you’re concerned you might have caused him or her frustration. You have to challenge the stories you tell yourself.
Another way to challenge those stories and put them in perspective is to write them down. Once you write something down, you externalize it, an then you can own it rather than be controlled by it, says Brown.