The Power of Reframing – As Demonstrated by Bon Jovi

According to Google’s dictionary, to reframe means “frame or express (words or a concept or plan) differently.”  In the field of psychology and in my coaching practice, I use this technique to have clients reframe negative thoughts in a more positive, productive, or growth-oriented way.   Doing so can often also change a person’s emotional state from negative to positive, productive, or growth-oriented.  

I could give you a standard example to illustrate the power of reframing, but me being me, I’m going to give the example by analyzing the lyrics of a song written by Bon Jovi.  Yes, Jon and the boys from Jersey can teach us about reframing.

The song “Wanted Dead or Alive”, is an excellent example of reframing and how powerful it can be.  Let’s look at the first verse and then the refrain:

It’s all the same, only the names will change

Everyday, it seems we’re wastin’ away

Another place where the faces are so cold

I drive all night just to get back home

I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride

I’m wanted dead or alive

Wanted dead or alive

In the first verse, Jon laments life out on the road in very bleak terms.  Everything seems so transitional (“only the names will change”), pointless (“..we’re wastin’ away”), rejecting (“the faces are so cold”).  Then he sings the refrain. Given the prior context, being a wanted man sounds like being a prisoner.

Same with the second verse.  He describes his surroundings in very bleak terms and repeats the refrain, which seems like a lament given the previous context.

Break for the righteous guitar solo by Richie Sambora….something happens to Jon during that solo though. A new perspective about his situation dawns on him, and he tells us so in the third verse:

I walk these streets

A loaded six-string on my back

I play for keeps ’cause I might not make it back

I been everywhere, still standing tall

I’ve seen a million faces

And I’ve rocked them all

Then when he sings the refrain, being a wanted man looks and feels very different.  He is wanted because he is proud of what he does (“I play for keeps ‘cause I might not make it back”), he has traveled the world (“I’ve been everywhere”) and has overcome whatever life has thrown his way “(still standing tall”), and he is loved by his admiring fans (“I’ve seen a million faces and I’ve rocked them all!”).

What changed?  Certainly not his circumstances.  What changed was what Jon chose to notice and honor those aspects of the collective facts that give him positive energy.  Rather than focus on how all the names and faces change so quickly, he chooses to focus on the fact that he loves playing for his fans, and he has millions!  Rather than focus on the way the people, days and cities seem so similar and bleed into each other (“Sometimes you tell the day by the bottle that you drink”), he chooses to take pride in having overcome the obstacles being a nomadic musician has thrown at him.  He walks proudly along the streets with his loaded six-string (I love that line!).

You say “But Jon Bon Jovi is a multi-mega-millionaire celebrity musician.  How is his experience relatable to me?” According to songfacts.com, Jon and Richie wrote the song in the early days of the band, before they were rich and famous.  It is the reframing technique that cuts across lived experiences and can help us reframe our mindset, whether we are jet-setting musicians or office-bound working parents.

You can use this in your everyday life to gain new and more positive and productive perspectives. As your coach, I would use this concept to ask questions to think about the same situation from a more positive and growth-oriented space.  

I’ll leave you with the link to the music video.  Because now I just want to hear Richie shred.

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