Reframe stigmatizing situations to generate grace

by Jane Mahoney, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC on September 30, 2010 · 2 comments

in stigma

I was having a conversation with some colleagues the other day when someone asked a very intriguing question:

If we considered ourselves as protagonists in a book – our own life story – what would be the title?

This got me to thinking … at first I thought I would title the book “Trying to Make Lemonade.” Then I decided on “Loving Lemonade.” I think it’s a catchy title. I have to admit, I may have been inspired by the nearly 100 degree daily temperatures we have had in Houston this summer. What is better than a tall, very cold glass of lemonade on a blistering hot summer day?!

Simply perfect

I found the recipe for perfect lemonade online at Simply Recipes. Sure enough, it’s real simple – just lemons, sugar and water. Of course the trick is to get the ratios of the ingredients just right. But isn’t that always the case? Nothing is really that simple.

Lemons ~ sugar

Over at The Squiggle Sense, Scott Kelso and David Engstrom use the squiggle (~) to indicate complementary pairs, opposites that occur naturally and are connected intrinsically. Sweet (sugar) and sour (lemons) are complementary pairs. In the case of lemonade, you need the complementary pairs, sweet (sugar) and sour (lemons), plus water to blend the two.

I think “lemonade makers” are possibility thinkers – “what if” kind of folks. I like to think I am “making lemonade” when I try to change something negative into something positive. For example, what would happen if I give that grumpy guy a bright smile? Would his mirror neurons kick in and cause him to send a smile back my way? I certainly would rather that happen than find myself sending back a frown.

Now, I don’t want to sound Pollyanna-ish about this because I have really grumpy days, too. It’s just that there are so many possibilities for things to be better. I became curious about the opposite of stigma. I confess I had to look up the antonyms. I found several, but the two I like the best are honor and grace. Why these? Because, in addition to other definitions, to stigmatize is to dishonor or to disgrace. So the question is this: How do we “reframe” a situation in which a person is disgraced and turn it into a situation of grace?

Something to contemplate over a cold glass of lemonade!

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