February 18, 2019

Here’s How I Use a Proven and Powerful Psychological Principle To Instantly Reframe My Thoughts

How To Use Contrast Principle To Reframe Thoughts

Here's an intriguing letter...

Dear Mother and Dad,

Since I left for college I have been remiss in writing and I am sorry for my thoughtlessness in not having written before.

I will bring you up to date now, but before you read on, please sit down.

You’re not to read any further unless you are sitting down, okay?

Well, then, I’m getting along pretty well now.

The skull fracture and the concussion I got when I jumped out the window of my dormitory when it caught on fire shortly after my arrival here is pretty well healed now.

I only spent two weeks in the hospital and now I can see almost normally and only get those sick headaches once a day. 

Fortunately, the fire in the dormitory, and my jump, was witnessed by an attendant at the gas station near the dorm and he was the one who called the fire department and the ambulance.

He also visited me in the hospital and since I had nowhere to live because of the burntout dormitory, he was kind enough to invite me to share this apartment with him. 

It’s really a basement room, but it’s kind of cute. He is a very fine boy and we have fallen deeply in love and are planning to get married. We haven’t got the exact date yet, but it will be before my pregnancy begins to show.

Yes, Mother and Dad, I am pregnant.

I know how much you are looking forward to being grandparents and I know you will welcome the baby and give it the same love and devotion and tender care you gave me when I was a child.

The reason for the delay in our marriage is that my boyfriend has a minor infection which prevents him from passing our pre-marital blood tests and I carelessly caught it from him.

Not that I have brought you up-to-date, I want to tell you that there was

No dormitory fire, I did not have a concussion or skull fracture, I was not in the hospital, I am not pregnant, I am not engaged, I am not infected, and there is no boyfriend.

However, I am getting a ‘D’ in American History, and an ‘F’ in Chemistry and I wanted you to see those marks in the proper perspective.

Your loving daughter,

This letter is from Robert Cialdini's book 'Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.' 

He goes on to write, "Sharon may be failing in Chemistry but she gets an "A" in psychology."

Professor Cialdini shares this letter to explain the 'Contrast Principle' which affects the way we see the difference between two things that are presented one after another.

So why am I sharing with you the 'Contrast Principle' - you may be wondering.

Here's why...

My wife and I have long struggled with infertility and our anxiety, worries and fears reached its peak when we decided to seek IVF - in vitro fertilization to overcome infertility.

To say the least, the entire process was intimidating and overwhelming - the information overload, the uncertainty of where this would end, the never-ending wait at the doctor's office, the financial anxiety of the exorbitant cost of IVF treatment, the hassle of dealing with insurance companies on claims, the growing pile of unpaid bills, the long commutes, the painful tests and complex procedures that had to be done...

As we were mentally preparing for the grinding exhaustion of the first IVF cycle after the initial consultations and tests, we got lucky.

My wife got pregnant.

Later in the pregnancy, when my wife was suffering from severe cramps, back pain, swollen feet and fatigue, I would often feel helpless that I couldn't do much to help ease her pain. 

She would tell me,

"Every time I am in pain, I remind myself how much worse it would have been for me mentally, physically and emotionally if I had undergone IVF. Thank God, I didn't have to go through any of that. This pain totally pales in comparison to the stress we endured during our IVF visits."

What a fantastic perspective. 

In essence, my wife was using the 'Contrast Principle' to reframe her pregnancy pain to make herself feel better.

And soon, I started doing the same.

  • When I was exhausted and stressed out due to lack of sleep from caring for my little baby boy, I took a moment to think about the long years of suffering from infertility and the stressful period of IVF consultations.  
  • When I was anxious or worried about something, I thought about my dark period of depression when I felt utterly hopeless and helpless.
  • When I was frustrated with the hour-long daily commute to work, I reminded myself that I now get to be with my wife, when in the past we had to travel hundreds of miles every weekend to see each other because we were working in different states.

Every time, I applied the 'Contrast Principle', I couldn't help but feel better. 

Now, it's your turn.

Have you ever used the 'Contrast Principle'? If so, share how you practiced it in your own life?

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