Hi welcome back.
This week I want to talk about reframing. No I’m not going to talk about my art (I will if you want to) or my photography. No, reframing is a technique used in therapy to help create a different way of looking at a situation, person, or relationship by changing its meaning. The essential idea behind reframing is that a person’s point-of-view depends on the frame it is viewed in. When the frame is shifted, the meaning changes and thinking and behavior often change along with it.
Another way to understand the concept of reframing is to imagine looking through the frame of a camera lens. The picture seen through the lens can be changed to a view that is closer or further away. By slightly changing what is seen in the camera, the picture is both viewed and experienced differently.
What is an example of reframing? Here’s an example of positive reframing that I really love. A woman was new to a large company and was trying very hard to make a good impression on her coworkers. One day, responding to a widely sent email, she accidentally attached a personal document about her financial difficulties instead of the intended form. Realising the mistake, she quickly sent out a new email with the message “…Well at least it wasn’t a love letter ;)” Her coworkers got a kick out of her response, and an event that could have caused her to look unprofessional actually improved her coworkers’ opinions of her. Positive reframing does not change the situation, but it can certainly reduce damage and put things into a healthier perspective.
I reframed something that helps me everyday. Due to my illnesses I have a stack of tablets to take each morning, Now when I first started taking the tablets it was a constant reminder as to how ill I really was. Then I had a eureka moment. Now each morning I take my tablets as I always do but now just as I’m about to take them I say to myself or sometimes out loud. “Today is going to be a good day.” By reframing I am reminding myself that I’m alive and well (As long as I continue to take the tablets).
reframing can be used in therapy or just in everyday life. Do you have a teenager at home? You know the ones who think they know everything.
Teenagers often think their outlook is the only way to see a problem. If a friend didn’t call back they must be mad. Or, if a teen fails a test it must mean their stupid.
Ask questions like, “Is there another way to look at this situation?” or, “What are three other possible reasons this could have happened?” Help your teen see that there are likely dozens of potential reasons a problem exists.
For example, the friend might not be returning her text messages because their busy or because they got their phone taken away. Pointing out alternatives to your teen’s insistence that their friend is angry can help them see things from another view.
You might also help them reframe the situation by saying, “Your friend may need to cool down before they talk to you because they like you a lot and doesn’t want to say something mean out of anger.”
Validate your teen’s feelings by saying, “I know you are nervous that they haven’t called you back. I know when I feel nervous I always imagine the worst case scenarios but often, those things I imagine aren’t even true.”
You also might help your teen stay mentally strong by asking, “What would you say to a friend who had this problem?” Your teen is likely to speak to others in a kinder and more compassionate way than they talk to themselves.
The goal should be to help your teen develop healthy self-talk. Eventually, they’ll learn how to coach themselves as they begin to recognise there are many ways to view the same situation.
The 3 things I always do when reframing
1) I don’t argue
Delivering reframes isn’t about ‘putting them right’. Direct advice giving seldom works because people need to feel: competent, persuaded not bamboozled – even with the best of intentions. It is much more effective to present reframes as innocent questions, observations, misunderstandings or even truisms.
Yes, I see a lot of clients for vomiting phobia, is an undeniable truism – but also subtly reframes the vomit phobic’s conviction that they are ‘the only one’ who feels like this.
2) I remember that reframes are more than just ‘cognitive’
You might be forgiven for thinking that a ‘cognitive reframe’ only works on the level of thinking. But it’s actually easier, by far, to change our feelings in order to change our thoughts than the other way round (as an aside, this is why I use hypnosis with my clients).
A reframe needs to be felt. It needs to have an emotional impact beyond its appeal to the ‘thinking mind’. This is because the new frame needs to be more emotionally compelling than the old one if it is to be accepted. We do need to calm our clients, of course, but we also need to know how to sometimes raise their emotional pitch in order to embed a new more productive way of seeing.
By discovering what’s important to my client, I find out what raises their ’emotional temperature’ and then utilise what motivates them to help them view things differently.
For example, a businessman and landlord who needed to stop cigarettes choking the life out of him was given the following analogy:
Imagine a tenant whom you had to pay to live in your house. Imagine that you paid them to be there while they soiled your furniture, wrecked your carpets, damaged the walls and roof… Would you call that a good deal for you?
After this reframe the man said he just couldn’t continue smoking. This reframe worked for him because of the nature of his own business, and as a businessman the importance to him of ‘good deals’. He could no longer think of smoking in any other terms than ‘a terrible deal’ for him.
3) I open the ‘attention gates’ before I deliver a reframe
I shouldn’t really be doing this, but I’m about to tell you something very few people have ever heard before…
Ok, that’s a bit over the top – but hopefully I’ve made my point and got your attention!
Because I need to ensure that my client is in the right state of mind to be receptive to a new, more therapeutic take on things.
I need to know not only how to construct a reframe but also how to open the client’s ‘attention gates’ so that they can become receptive enough to actually take in and absorb the reframes I offer them. No matter how elegant your reframe, if the client blocks it out, it will be useless.
I use various prepping techniques with my client so that reframes will take hold: surprise
practical demonstration and instruction.
All these different techniques would get people’s full attention, loosen them up and get them into the right frame of mind for his reframes to take root. I then deliver a carefully crafted and individually targeted ‘new perspective’ that would completely alter the troubling and limiting ideas that were causing them unnecessary difficulty in life.
Of course, there are many ways to deliver reframes but when you keep these three principles in mind clients tend to leave my practise with powerful new ways of seeing which transform how they live.
I will talk more about reframing next week. Give it a go, let me know how you get on.
Have a great week.