Gretchen Rubin

The Power of Re-Framing, or, Would a Ranunculus By Another Name Be As Beautiful?

The other night, it was my turn to host my children's literature reading group -- I'm now in three of these groups! Partly because I am in three of the groups, I keep the bar low, so I served take-out Chinese food and store-bought cookies, as I always do -- but I did resolve to take the trouble to buy flowers for the table (though I must confess, I didn't even go to a proper florist's shop, but went to the deli around the corner from my house -- lower the bar).

When I want to get the flowers, I was thrilled to see that one of my very favorite flowers was available. I hadn't even known the name of this flower until a few years ago, and I've always been sorry that it has such an unlovely name: ranunculus.

I was moved to post this observation on Twitter (@gretchenrubin). I wrote: "My favorite flower is so beautiful, but cursed with a name that sounds more like a wart on the sole of your foot: Ranunculus."

To my satisfaction, one person answered me with a comment that showed recognition of my allusion to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, when Mr. Wonka says to the bratty little girl Veruca,"I always thought that a veruca was a sort of wart that you got on the sole of your foot."

Even better, another person observed that "ranunculus" sounds like a spell from the world of Harry Potter. And it's true, it sounds exactly like that. Instantly, my regret about the ugly name of ranunculus was transformed into delight. I imagined a bouquet of flowers springing into the air from a wand. Ranunculus!

Such is the power of re-framing. Now I love the name "ranunculus." As Shakespeare observed, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

Have you ever managed to re-frame something, to turn displeasure into pleasure?

* As I mentioned in the post about Cultivate good smells, I've become very interesting in the sense of smell. I came across a highly specialized, strangely fascinating blog, Now Smell This -- a blog all about perfume. I love the internet!

* The Happiness Project is keeping its place on the New York Times paperback bestseller list, yay!
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