THE movie, The Game, Michael Douglas plays Nick Van
Orton, the wealthy son of a wealthy man. The story begins when
Nicks brother (Sean Penn) gives Nick a birthday present:
A life-changing experience, sort of like a personal-growth workshop,
except it doesnt take place in a classroom it takes
place in your life, and you never know who is an actor and what
is real. The game is especially tailored to you and you never
know what is staged and what isnt.
The creators of the game make Nicks
well-ordered life completely fall apart. All the things he identifies
with his money, his calmness, his place in society
are taken away from him. His life is destroyed one piece at a
When Nick tries to find out if this is
all part of the game, it appears the company was a big scam,
stole all his money, and left town. They very realistically give
Nick the impression they took him for everything hes worth.
He lost his mansion, his credit cards, his Swiss bank accounts.
He was penniless.
While all this is going on, we (the people
watching the movie) really dont know what the truth is,
and we see Nick going through all these miserable experiences
and on the one hand were seeing it as anybody would
just miserable experiences and nothing more and at the
same time we are half-viewing it with the question, I wonder
if this is the perfect experience to teach him to be happier?
Because we realize these experiences are teaching him against
his will to care more about people, to appreciate what he had,
and for the first time in the movie, we feel he is actually engaged
in his life. He looked deeply bored with his predictable life
before the game started.
He was a snob who lived in a bubble and
didnt really experience real life or real connections with
regular people. He needed nobody. But now he has no money, and
he has to rely on the kindness of a waitress in order to get
something to eat.
Is this a humbling experience, a potentially
life-changing experience for Nick? Or is it merely misfortune?
We, the viewers, really dont know until the end of the
Watching the movie was a great demonstration
of a profound fact: That the same experience can be seen in at
least two different ways, both of them equally valid. One way
of looking at it only makes you miserable without any benefit.
The other one helps you learn to be a better person, to have
better values, and to be happier.
And of course, the thinking viewer will
also eventually realize while watching the movie, that all
of life is like this.
Someone might get an ulcer, and that is
clearly just a hassle and he has to take medication that gives
him dry mouth or whatever...or... this is an indicator-beacon
that says change your life the way you live your life
produces too much stress.
With the first viewpoint, he just feels
frustrated and that probably just makes his ulcer worse. The
ulcer itself becomes another stressful thing to add to all the
other stressful stuff in his life.
With the second viewpoint, he may feel
motivated to change his life in ways thatll make him feel
better. The second viewpoint, the better one, the one that doesnt
come naturally to anybody but the most buoyant optimists, is
The point of view you have about something
is like a frame around a painting. You can take a painting and
put it in an old beat-up frame and it looks like trash. Or you
could put it in a fancy, museum-style frame, and it would have
an entirely different feel.
Reframing means seeing the same situation
in a different way. It means to see the same picture through
a different lens. It means to see the same event in a different
context. It means interpreting a situation a different way
in a way that makes things better. It means reinterpreting
an event in a way that helps you feel better and get more done.
We automatically see (interpret, understand)
the events in our lives in a certain way. You found out in Antivirus
For Your Mind that it really helps to scrutinize the way
you naturally explain setbacks and find mistakes in your explanations.
You look at your explanations and ask, Is it true?
But sometimes you cant answer that
question. Either you dont know or the answer cannot be
known at all. Thats a good place to use reframing.
You must explain events. If you dont
do it deliberately, your brain will do it automatically. What
explanation should you use? When you dont know whether
an explanation is true or false, what criteria should you use?
The only intelligent criteria to use in
that case is, How helpful is it? Does your explanation
help you feel better and get more done, or does it hinder you?
If you find your interpretation isnt
either true or false (either you cant find out or there
is no objective way to decide), and you find out it is definitely
not helpful, unfortunately, you cant just leave it at that.
You have to come up with another interpretation. Your mind will
not allow no explanation.
Your explanation can certainly be provisional
good until something better comes along, like a scientific
theory but youd better choose your best explanation
or your brain will do it for you.
In the next article we'll explore how this
can best be done: Grow
Stronger With a Good Reframe.