There are many ways to look at a single experience/event. It’s important to remember that our perceptions create our reality. If we see something as negative, our brains will use this message and create a state that makes it our reality. We see things through a ‘mental filter’ coloured by our past experiences. If we change our frame of reference by looking for an alternative story, we automatically change the way we respond to life.
Thoughts – Feelings – Behaviour
Thoughts create feelings and feeling then influence our behaviour. Take a neutral situation. You come into work in the morning, say “hello” to a colleague who ignores you. We could have various thoughts from this encounter:
- We have upset this person and they are ignoring us deliberately
- They are tired and didn’t register that we said “hello”
There are many possible thoughts we could have about this situation and the one we settle on will create a feeling (either anger or sadness or frustration etc) and then this will influence what we do. If we feel angry we may confront the colleague or ignore them in the future. If we consider they may just not have heard us, we may carry on being friendly as before.
Our past experiences regularly influence what we think in the present – be aware of this as past experience create trigger points for us where we are more likely to be hyper vigilant and react.
Reframing in its simplest form is changing a negative statement (thought) into a more neutral or positive one by changing our frame of reference. Reframing is all about changing the meaning you have assigned to something in order to lessen it’s negative emotional impact and it’s a great skill to learn.
The first basic principle is that events or situations do not have inherent meaning; rather, you assign them a meaning based on how you interpret the event.
The second principle is that every thought has a hidden “frame” behind it. The frame is your underlying beliefs and assumptions that are implied by your thought.
The final principle is that there is a positive intention behind every negative thought.
That inner voice of yours that expresses negativity is only doing so because it wants to help you in some way. That doesn’t make the thoughts right or acceptable of course, but it does mean that your inner voice is not an enemy to be resisted.
Tips for reframing
Keep a thought journal and learn to look for evidence of your thinking. If you have a thought, “No one will ever love me”, ask yourself where is the evidence? You can’t predict the future and the past doesn’t always equal the future. It’s an irrational thought.
Use a pie chart – draw a pie chart and include as many alternatives to explain a possible issue. For example – as above, the colleague that ‘ignored’ you. What other reasons could there be for them not responding apart from the possibility that they don’t like you? Are you mind reading?
Be aware of unhelpful thinking errors – these always need reframing. Overgeneralising, personalising, all or nothing thinking, catastrophising, mind reading etc – these are all irrational, there is no evidence and they will create unhappy feelings.
Reframing is a great mental skill, you create your quality of life through your thoughts and perceptions – get into the habit of reframing and challenging your thinking regularly. Improve your ‘mental diet’ and you will lead a more contented life.