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The Art of Reframing

Introduction by Dave Veale…

Marilyn Orr, a fellow executive coach at Vision Coaching, is ‘wholehearted’ which means that you get the raw truth. It is a quality I really admire in her. She’s written extensively on resiliency and like all of us, she’s learning as she goes. She’s gone through some unbelievable ups and downs lately and has made it through stronger than ever. What would break some people hasn’t broken Marilyn. A wonderful result of her most recent journey is that we have Marilyn working on both sides of the Canada/US border now!

Here’s Marilyn’s story…

Marilyn OrrThe Art of Reframing

Reframing is the technique, skill really, of looking at a situation from a different perspective. A great “reframe” brings back hope, new perspective, possibility, vision.

This past year has been a very stressful transition year for me. In my years as a therapist and currently in my career as an executive coach I often use reframing with my clients. I had to aggressively use it to get through this past year. It was one of my most used resiliency tools.

It all started in August when my husband Bill and I sold and gave away almost all of our belongings. We left our the sweet little house we were living in Canada and prepared to move to western Massachusetts to live with and care for his now 90 and 92-year-old parents. The plan was for me to continue to work with Vision Coaching while Bill cared for his parents making it possible for them to stay home together a little longer.

Bill crossed the border ahead of me, on September 6, travelling by motorcycle with a friend. I arrived at the border later that day, traveling with my son who was following me in his car. I was refused entry to the US and for all intents and purposes, was banned until I had a permanent resident visa. This process took about 4 hours and created a 5-page affidavit.

I used my first reframe of this journey during that interview. After a couple hours of questioning the man interviewing me asked if I’d reframelike a few minutes to pull myself together in the washroom since this must be a very difficult situation.  I said “No, thanks though. Last year I published a book on resiliency.” Now, here is the reframe of my situation: “Right now sir, you are helping me write my sequel! Would you like your name changed in the book or would you like it to appear as it is?”

Yes, I know it was a bit bad but it was the only moment of power I had during that life altering experience. (It did get the reaction I wanted too and gave me a short moment of humour.)

So, in assessing my new reality I realized I was homeless, I had no possessions to speak of, my husband was in transit to western Massachusetts, I was unable to travel for business to my US clients and I discovered the next day that my clothes had already made it to our new US based home. All in all, not good.

Thus began a year filled with many other significant stressful situations including the terminal illness diagnosis of my Dad in November. Many dear friends stepped in immediately providing places to stay, clothes to borrow, shoulders to cry on, etc.

As I grieved and processed my situation emotionally I was eventually able to reframe some things. At first I was “homeless” but knowing that truly I was so far from what that usually implies, it wasn’t right to use that frame. So my reframe was “I’m couch surfing for an extended period” (I really didn’t know for how long). Then it became “I have a home, I’m just not allowed to go to it.”

Sometimes in difficult situations we aren’t ready to reframe until we acknowledge and feel the pain of the current reality.  I needed to feel the pain of the upcoming loss of my Dad before I was able to reframe and look at all the good that he has brought to my life.

I think that is one of the important principles in reframing. It is not very effective to tell someone else how to look at something differently. In fact, if the timing is off it can be painful or offensive. The coach approach of asking questions and helping someone see their current situation from another angle is so much more powerful and effective.

After many twists and turns I was granted access to the US on May 12, 2014. I now live in my home in Longmeadow, MA. Throughout the whole journey my clients, friends and family were incredibly understanding and supportive.  It was an amazingly rich experience of vulnerability and incredible connection.

I’m now beginning the journey of working with clients on both sides of the border including networking and building business in New England, with my green card safely in my wallet!

Marilyn Orr, Executive Coach, Vision Coaching
Follow me on twitter @MarilynOrr1

More about Marilyn’s book on Resiliency… How Absorbent are your Shocks.

5 Responses

  1. Sandra Compton

    So enjoyed reading this Marilyn! And being one of the friends who observed you walking through this, I can testify that you did an incredible job of reframing!! You are am amazing woman!

  2. Marilyn, what a fantastic story and boy talk about resiliency!! AND I’m so pleased all has been settled and you can move back and forth without problems. Looking forward to the book! Warmly, Alison

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