Reframing is a powerful tool that can be used by anyone at anytime when they find themselves in one of life’s many cruxes. It is a coaching tool that I use all the time when I find myself, either in a negative place or dealing with someone who is in a negative place.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to use this tool with a young guy here in the prison. I want to give a little background on this guy to give you a clearer picture.
When I first met this kid he was new to the system and in a very depressed state. He was on psychotropic drugs, very heavy kind to be exact, that literally had him mummified. He would lay in bed all day, picked up a lot of weight and was just dead to the world going on around him.
This kid is not the “typical” criminal. Meaning it is clear that he did something stupid and was sent to prison for it. He is one of those “I learned my lesson the first time” guys.
I used to ask him, occasionally, why did he take medicine. His reply was that he was depressed. Fair enough. I understand that mental illness is real. I do believe that sometimes people are prescribed drugs for the sake of it and not because they necessarily need it. But, that is not the point here. He was someone who thought that he needed it and I respected that need.
Over a few months I start to notice a change in his behavior, an improvement. He started to hang out more with some of the guys his age. Started going to church and the fellowship group. Overall he seemed to be adjusting well.
There were some allegations made about him and his sexuality, along with some allegations that he cooperated with the law on his case. As this stuff was going on I noticed him fall back into the same slump that he was in months ago. These two allegations are serious and can cause one to be an outcast, open to be preyed upon. They are seen as weak and open for anyone to use and abuse.
When I heard of the stuff that was going on I pulled him to the side to talk to him. Now when I go out of my way to talk to someone about serious issues there cannot be any bs or lies. If I take interest in someone else’s life I need to know that I am not being fooled. Especially, with something of this nature. I express this to him and asked if what was being said was the truth. He confirmed that it was and that he confided in someone else, who maliciously passed on that information prior to going home. Now, the first thing that jumps up in my mind is, “you have to be one of the stupidest people in the world to confide in someone who you don’t know. Especially with information that can harm you.”
I pride myself on being a man of integrity and of my word. I told him that I would not speak of this again, but I just wanted to offer some advice. That was a moment where he needed advice and someone to trust. Not that any of the stuff that was being said matter, even though it did, I believe that everyone deserve a fair shake. After he explained to me the elements of his case I knew that it was a case of some childish stuff that went wrong. In fact all of the people involved were scared into cooperation against one another. His drug use and the community that he came from facilitated in his other behavior. As I said this guy is not “typical”.
Well working together we were able to help him move on from that incident. We were able deal with those issues with some of the other guys, so that he could at least live without fear. Fair enough.
Well, yesterday I am on my way to the cell. Now this above mentioned events occurred during the summer of this year. I moved on from it, as well as he. We live in the same unit but I am almost never here so when I see him it is in passing, and no more than a, “hey. what’s up? are you cool?” etc. real general stuff. Well yesterday he was sitting out in front of my cell on the stairs. I was on my way to my cell to make me a cup of my morning Joe. My cell is at the end of the range/tier so there is a set of stairs next to my cell. I see him there with his head down. I felt the vibe was way off. I stopped and asked him what was up? He looked up with tears in his eyes and said, ” I am at my breaking point.” I immediately stopped and inquired as to what was up.
Since my cell was right there I took him in the cell to talk to him. He begins to tell me of a situation that took place that involved, of all things, peanut butter. I am looking at this kid and say to myself, “You got to be kidding me. This is about some peanut butter?!” I knew that there was something else going on and that this was a good time to get into coaching mode, and use some good listening skill. It was obvious that this was something serious to him, serious enough to bring him to tears. Come to find out, without going into the story, it was not about peanut butter but about feeling “used”.
After listening to him tell his story I began to think that this is the cry and complaint of 99% of the world. We just don’t want to be used and felt that others are taking advantage of us, our kindness, money and time. So, after listening to him I asked if I could ask a couple of simple questions. He agreed. I asked him what it was that he “did not” want? He replied, “I don’t want to feel that I am being used.” I asked him, “what does feeling used feel like?” He replied that “it didn’t feel good.” So, I ask, “what would it take, or make you feel good in this situation?” He said,” to know that I am not being used and to have others in my life that I can trust.” So, I asked him to lets start there, from the place that you want to be at. To get out of this negative place filled with things, people and feelings that you don’t want.
I asked him if he was willing to reframe his thoughts and feelings. He agreed. I asked him to first try to tell me what he wanted from the people in his life. It boiled down to honest, trusting and genuine people. I asked if he could find that here. He said yes that he has that now with the members of his church group. I say to him that if that is the case he has right now what he needs to be happy. He began to light up as a light went off in his head. He said, “you know what you are right I do.” I replied, “No. I am not right you are right. You were the one that is able to realize that you had what you wanted to be cool in this situation.”
I challenged him with this. From now on when you find yourself thinking about what you don’t want, reframe that to what you “do” want. What you focus on will expand and grow. The good and the bad. If you don’t want to be “used” think I want supportive, loving and trustworthy people in my life, and go out and look for those people. It is better to spend your energy looking for what you want than to spend it running and ducking from what you don’t want.
Well it is safe to say that he gained something from that 15 minute conversation. That is the power of coaching in this place. If a man like this is left on the edge of his breaking point how many lives are at risk, including his own? You can never underestimate a person in their time of desperation. This is one example how coaching has bought good to this place. The more people that have this skill and are true to the art of coaching the healthier these places can become. More people can actually leave and never return. More people can actually leave here and be productive.