Cognitive reframing, also known as NLP reframing, is one of my favorite psychological techniques for changing core beliefs and controlling foolish thoughts. You are practicing cognitive reframing when you take a situation or particular circumstance and change the meaning you’ve assigned to it.
Human beings are “meaning makers” and Buddhist philosophy tells us that this is the source of much of our suffering. The world doesn’t contain intrinsic meaning. We take the facts presented from our environments and infer meanings in our minds. But some of us get into the habit of assigning meanings that leave us feeling powerless, lonely and unmotivated.
For example, say you show up at work today and your boss seems to give you the cold shoulder. You then find yourself worried sick that you’re going to get fired. In your mind you’ve decided his/her snub relates to your under performance in a big client meeting last week. Before you know it, you’re stressed to the max and wondering how you can show your boss you are worth keeping. You binge on a chocolate bar or three at lunch and you don’t take any calls all day, you’re that stressed! At the end of the day, still stressed, you cancel your evening plans and decide to work late to win back the approval of your boss.
In this situation, the facts are: your boss didn’t have much interaction with you this morning. The story you’ve created is everything else! You decided his/her holding back was related to the meeting last week. This made you feel powerless and stressed and you compensated by working extra hard.
Changing Core Beliefs And Perceptions With Cognitive Reframing
Employing cognitive reframing here would have helped ease the stress you’ve created. By looking at just the facts, you can see that the meaning you’ve assigned is just your interpretation of the situation. If you think of all the possible reasons why your boss may have reacted to you in this way this morning, you’ll realize there’s an infinite number of possibilities that could have caused him to act this way. Perhaps he wasn’t feeling well. Perhaps he just got off the phone to a credit agency who want to repossess his home. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps!
Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in our stories that separating the story from the facts can be near impossible. But if you’re serious about practicing positive thinking, you need to take situations like these and reframe them into positive stories. This isn’t about lying to yourself. It’s about realizing that any story is just a point of view. Because there is no one truth many possible stories can have equal validity.
Try Cognitive Reframing For Yourself
Try thinking about a specific problem you have and see if you can instead view it as an opportunity. And think of a weakness you’ve always thought yourself as having and see if you can spin it into a strength. Watch how your motivation and behavior change as you shift your thinking.
Our beliefs and values shape the stories we add to situations. By changing core beliefs and altering the stories we make up, we can slowly impact the deeper beliefs and values we hold about ourselves and the world around us.