Reframing – Creating other Meanings

Reframing (converting) problems and meaning to open up other choices and interpretations

A frame determines what we focus on, and the frame around that image has a big influence on how we perceive it. A beautiful frame can transform a mediocre image or piece of art, so it seems far nicer. The frame can literally transform how we perceive what’s inside it. Building on this metaphor, a verbal reframe is something you can offer yourself (or someone else, if appropriate/asked and if you have rapport & permission) to put a new focus/meaning on something or change the way it is appreciated/received. Reframes can be a very powerful tool as a parent in helping our children navigate things they’re seeing as negative or challenging and it’s also particularly useful when we are reviewing or considering our mistakes or ‘failures’.

So from looking at the map of the world model and understanding that our map is NOT the territory we start to become aware that everything we experience in life is completely 100% made up. It’s like you’re the author of your own epic saga. You get to decide if its a tragedy, a drama, a comedy or an adventure (and any number of things). And the main way we do this is by unconsciously (or consciously now as we become more and more aware) telling ourselves a story about what is ‘really’ happening here. We’ll explore this in many different ways. In this session we are going to look at how we can re-frame a meaning or situation, so it feels different and allows us to be more resourceful (have more options).

There are 2 Types of Reframing – Context and Meaning

A context reframe is particularly useful if we have been stuck in comparative thinking/judgment mindset such as “It’s too hard” or “S/he is too x”. This type of limiting belief can be unbelievably destructive and keep you ‘stuck’ in that unwanted feeling/state of Victimhood, so having a way you can change that is very powerful for anyone willing to explore the thinking/beliefs underlying the ‘too muchness’ or ‘comparative deletions‘. Comparative deletions include things like “It would be better if I could do it this way”. Words ending in ‘er’, often indicate a comparative deletion that may be worth exploring. Notice that even unwanted behaviours or states may be valuable in a different context. For example, you might be telling yourself ‘I wish I wasn’t such a worrier’, and its worth reflecting that in some situations worrying (being alert to potential harm) is absolutely useful. You wouldn’t for example, want a surgeon who didn’t think about what could go wrong and had not plan B for if it did. Similarly, you wouldnt want to be on a plane with a pilot who believed ‘close enough was good enough and she’ll be right’, because who knows where you might end up landing, with such relaxed thinking!

A meaning reframe, on the other hand, does not offer a different context to change the perception/meaning the person is making, but rather this type of reframe is powerful in helping yourself (or your child perhaps) to find a more useful meaning for a problem they have shared. So, for example, perhaps you look in the mirror you see wrinkles around your eyes or stretch marks that you really wish weren’t there. Perhaps they make you feel old or inferior in some way. To reframe this, you might instead change the story by noticing that your wrinkles are laughter lines, they show years of use and enjoyment. To reframe stretch marks I prefer to think of them as badges of honour, reminding me this body has made room for, carried and delivered two babies to full term, and its my body’s way of reminding me of my incredible ability to adapt, endure and these days I think of them as my love lines.

The skill of reframing is so powerful in transforming the day-to-day limiting thoughts we operate under. Have a look at the word doc and the video that explains reframes, then have a go at the practice questions below. Its OK if you’re not sure of the answers. There are many different ways to reframe or challenge limiting thoughts. Jot down any of your own and fire them to me if you want, we can play with those too!

Download the 2 page worksheet and notes, and give some thought to how you can use reframes in your life at the moment, to change limited and negative thinking patterns.