Reframing can be a useful skill to have, but is often something we don’t naturally use. Hopefully, this article will show you how useful this skill is so you can learn to use the skill yourself. Every skill we learn is another tool in our wellbeing toolbox, after all.
What Is Reframing?
Our brains like to keep things as simple as possible to make everything more energy efficient, which is great in a lot of ways and not so great in others. Because of this, how we interpret the world is based on certain patterns, known as mental frameworks, giving us our unique perspective of the world around us. However, if these frameworks are warped or based on false beliefs and conclusions, then it can lead to maladaptive thoughts, feelings, and behaviours (BetterHelp). Thinking errors are often the cause of the warping of our framework.
As a therapist, we combat these problematic mental frameworks by using reframing skills to help clients see things from different points of view (Clark, 2013). Often, this can bring people relief from their mental burdens. This shift in perspective can play a vital role in people’s recovery (Talkspace), which is what makes it an important skill to learn.
What Cognitive Reframing Can Help With
Reframing is about learning to think more flexibly, which will allow you to gain more control (NHS). The flexibility that comes with this skill means that reframing can be useful in a lot of different contexts. For example, according to Verywell Mind, it can help with:
- Chronic pain.
- Eating disorders.
- Pain disorders.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Social anxiety disorder.
- Grief and loss.
- Low self-esteem.
- Relationship issues.
When we keep playing the same negative thoughts in our minds, it’s easy for those thoughts to become incorporated into our mental framework (Psychology Today). If you keep saying, “Everything bad always happens to me”, then you’re going to develop thinking errors that will cause you to see the world that way.
One such thinking error that can develop is that you will filter out all the positives, thus causing you to believe your negative thoughts. Reframing can avoid that happening in the first place or undo it if these thinking errors have influenced your mental framework.
According to Clark (2013), a depressed client in the course of therapy can demonstrate the reversal of the thinking errors caused by having depression when their thoughts change. The example they gave was how they might go from thinking, “I am a complete loser who will never amount to anything” to “I have had some failures in my life but also many successes; this means I can learn from my failures and forge a brighter future for myself”. These changes are the result of helping the client reframe their depression-induced thoughts.
How To Use Cognitive Reframing
Reframing is a skill that therapists use, and it can be beneficial to see a therapist to help you learn to use reframing, especially when your negative thoughts are particularly strong and resistant. However, reframing can be used as a form of self-help (Verywell Mind).
One of the first things you could do is to consider what thinking errors could be influencing you. Every one of us is susceptible to thinking errors and there are quite a few to pick from. To find out more about thinking errors, check out my article ‘What We Know About Thinking Errors‘ by clicking here and ‘What You Need To Know About The Sunk Cost Fallacy‘ by clicking here.
Look for the evidence
One quick thing you can often do to reframe your thoughts, feelings, or situation is to look at the evidence for and against them. The more objective you can be, the better. Because we can develop thinking errors it’s easy to lose objectivity by taking a one-sided negative focus on everything. However, the evidence will probably show that the negative focus you’ve taken is wrong.
One skill that successful people are meant to have is their ability to take a problem and redefine it as a challenge. A challenge is something that can be overcome, whereas a problem has an image of having a cross to bear (Psychology Today).
To allow yourself to see from a different perspective, you may want to consider the following. You could try to see it from someone you know well’s perspective. A partner can often be good for this.
You could also imagine that instead of it being you with the thoughts or problems, it was your friend, and they came to talk to you about it. Then think about what you might say to them and how you might feel. For example, if you keep thinking that you’re useless, imagine your friend came to you and said that they feel useless. What would you say to them and what would you feel? More than likely, you’d say they’re not useless and tell them how they’re not. Then apply that to yourself.
Reframing is a really useful skill that is regularly used within therapy, but it can also be a skill you can develop on your own. Although it’s a simple skill to use once you’ve learnt it, it isn’t something that doesn’t comes naturally, so be patient with yourself as you develop the skill. Once mastered, it’ll be a valuable skill for your mental wellbeing.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, please share your experiences with reframing and thinking errors in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
Clark, D. A. (2013). Cognitive restructuring. The Wiley handbook of cognitive behavioral therapy, 1-22. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9781118528563.wbcbt0.