Let's Talk

How To Reframe

How do we reframe?

Reframing takes what life has handed us and looks at it in a different way. Within any drastic life change, our first response is usually shock. When you lose your job, can’t make your house payment, or have been diagnosed with a life altering or threatening disease, the crisis takes center stage and everything else is blocked from view.

Why it is so important

Reframing begins with changing our perception. It is stepping back from the problem and taking in more information. When our nose is pressed against the tree trunk, we have to step back to see the rest of the tree and surroundings. Reframing allows us to step back from the impossibility of the situation and look for possibilities. It not only allows us to transcend difficult or traumatic life situations, but to find humor and purpose within them.

When faced with difficult or traumatic events, our perceptions of what we believe the world should or ought to be are challenged. Reframing allows us to review and evaluate our expectations and assumptions and accommodate for change.

For example, if you’ve been out of work for a while and can’t find work in your field, reframing allows you to look at alternatives; temporary jobs or ways to survive within this time period. When my husband and I were first married, major transitions and loss of income resulted in the need to live with parents until we could get back on our feet.

Reframing allows you to look at many different options, ones you wouldn’t have otherwise considered. It doesn’t remove your responsibility, but gives you options to find a way through the transition.

Reframing allows us to get out of a cycle of anger, stress, pain, helplessness and hopelessness. It means we choose not to be a victim. There is a payoff to remaining a victim, but it usually ends with resentment and becoming cynical. Reframing

  • Challenges a mindset that is rigid, inflexible and outdated
  • Let’s go of the pain so we can grieve our losses and recover
  • Focuses on what we can do, not what we can’t do – looks for creative ways to resolve problems
  • Creates new meaning and purpose
  • Allows us to become aware of our blessings and practice gratefulness
  • Enables us to become motivated and excited about life


How do we begin the reframing process?

We begin by acknowledging and accepting our situation and all the feelings associated with it. List all the emotions you are feeling. If you are angry, acknowledge it. If you are feeling resentful, anxious, fearful, etc. write it down. Don’t evaluate or put any value judgment on how you are feeling.

Next, write beside each emotional response whatever thoughts you have that are associated with it. What do those thoughts tell you about your beliefs about your abilities or your situation? What rules, assumptions and expectations about how life “should be” are attached to our responses? Write down whatever you are saying to yourself about this situation.

Now, challenge any negative thinking that is keeping you stuck in a cycle of hopelessness and helplessness. While acknowledging that what has happened is totally unfair, we don’t have to turn it into a grievance. What can I turn into humor and laugh at? Humor releases an enormous amount of stress and allows you to think of creative alternatives. What spiritual meaning can I take away from this? These are opportunities to become aware of how much we need God; a time to stretch faith and trust beyond ourselves. It is also an opportunity to realize how much we need one another.

And finally, ask yourself what benefits am I getting from remaining stuck in this negative spiral? What am I avoiding by remaining angry, bitter or resentful?

©2012 Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

Leave a Comment