The Power of Reframing

It really is all in how you look at it.

Most of us are past masters at a skill we don’t even know we have, namely, running the data from our life through our pre-existing “filters” to verify what we already expected.  It’s a constant process for each of us, and it’s so unconscious that we often miss anything which doesn’t fit our expectations.

For most of us, the biggest single influence in how we look at the world has been our parents.  There was a time when you were an innocent, shining little being fascinated and alive with every glittering movement before you.

If that’s not who you are today, it is probably because the folks who cared for you had their own wounds or filters and “reframed” your experience repeatedly and powerfully.  Unfortunately, their reframing was limiting, based on their own challenging childhoods.  And their reframed interpretations of your early experience gradually “stuck”.  You became convinced that their way of looking at things was the right way.  That took much of the magic out of life.  “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”  “You can’t always have what you want.”  “Don’t you dare be angry with me!”

It wasn’t your fault if you took these things on.  You were little.  They were big.  You depended totally on them.  You didn’t have a choice.

And it’s pointless to blame them.  They learned to think and feel that way out of their wounds from their childhood caregivers.

But it’s time to stop the cycle because these limiting filters prevent you from seeing much that is all around you…things that are wonderful and things that may be dangerous.

The great tracker and nature awareness teacher, Tom Brown, writes of kneeling in brush beside heavily hiked trails, not even obscured, in positions which would easily allow him to attack passersby were that his intent.  People passed him by all day, chatting busily with their companions without noticing him.

And we wonder why we don’t see much wildlife in the woods!

Some people write off “reframing” as a new-age, feel-good “Pollyannish” technique, the implication being that it doesn’t result in meaningful change.  I disagree.  This is giving way too much trust to our habitual mental patterning.

Looking at life through some filter or expectation is a natural process of the human mind.  Reframing is when we consciously turn that potentially limiting process into a life-giving perspective change.

So, let’s practice, because reframing is hard work.  Your mind really wants you to accept unquestioningly the first thoughts it throws out about a situation.  It will fight you if you try to see it from a different, more productive angle.  But it is probably less difficult than going to the gym several times a week to make your body healthier.  This time, you’re working on making your mental muscles healthier.

To successfully reframe, find a restatement that is more in alignment with what you truly desire.

Perhaps you say to yourself, “Look at the mistake I made with my finances.  I am such a loser.  I’ll never be able to make a success of myself at this rate.”  If this is your “thing”, you will notice all sorts of uncomfortable body sensations when you say this to yourself.  Continued for decades, you can actually create real body ailments with this kind of self-talk.  If this isn’t your particular way of talking to yourself, you won’t notice any physical reaction, but play along with us anyway for the learning.  You’ve probably got your own variation.

    1. Notice what you said to yourself and the feeling it created.  That’s already a huge step.
    2. See if this is in alignment with what you truly desire.  Chances are, it’s not.  You don’t want to feel like a loser.
    3. Find a restatement about the situation which is believable to you and in alignment with what you desire, even if a bit outside the box.  Here’s three possibilities.  See if you can come up with some more.
      “I learn from my mistakes.  My experience makes me better at handling my finances.”
      “What looks like a mistake sometimes turns out to be surprisingly wise later on.”
      “I made the best choice I could with the information I had.  I’ll do even better next time.”

A matter of shifting perspective

  1. Notice how you feel with each of these.  You may notice resistance and your mind saying something like “Don’t kid yourself.  You just flat out blew it.”  If there’s so much resistance you can’t believe the reframe at all, try backing off a step.  In other words, if “I always learn from my mistakes,” is hard to accept, try, “I am working to learn from my mistakes” or “I have often learned from past mistakes.”  Pick the reframing statement that feels most believable to you while aligning with what you truly desire about the situation.  Say or write it to yourself repeatedly until it becomes more natural and easier to accept.

For further help with healthy reframing, consider reading The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent by Esther and Jerry Hicks.  Good luck to you in re-viewing your life through a new frame.

Do you have questions about the body-mind connection or about healing from trauma, loss, or abuse?  Click here to leave me a private message.  I’ll either answer it in an upcoming blog or privately.  Either way, it’s anonymous.

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Paul Chubbuck is a practicing psychotherapist in Fort Collins, CO, using Somatic Experiencing® to help people release trauma, abuse, and loss. He may be reached at 970-493-2958 or through his website at

Your comments, questions, and stories are welcome below. I will respond.

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