No time? Listen to it instead
Often, the way we first describe something that happens in our lives carries a negative connotation. For example, we have problems first and opportunities later. We have an unexpected change first and transformation second. You get the idea. There’s a method to change that and something I rely heavily on: cognitive reframing.
I first came across cognitive reframing a couple of years ago while studying psychology online. Later, I learned about it and practised it first-hand while I went to therapy myself. Overall, I feel that even without the context of psychology, it is a simple enough technique to practice in life.
While you can read a lot about it online, I wanted to share sentence structures that you can use to change the context of your thoughts. Before that, let’s take a moment to define it anyway.
Cognitive Reframing is the practice of reframing or transforming how you describe something, and in effect, change how it affects you.
A simple example is for a rainy day. It can be overwhelming especially in the urban context when the rains thwart all your plans, the sky looks gloomy, and it’s a pain even to go out. “Rains suck!” We exclaim often, but what if you went beyond that phrase.
“Rains suck for me sometimes but, there’d be no vegetables or grain if it didn’t rain regularly enough.”
The example seems too preachy, but you get the idea. This is an example of the “Yes, but” technique. There are more in-store, and so, let’s take them one-by-one.
In this structure, you reframe something by first acknowledging that you’re right. You don’t try to disagree with the notion. However, then, you add another reasoning with a “but” to tell yourself that even though you’re correct, there’s an additional benefit to the thing.
“Yes, the days are difficult during work from home, but I still get to keep a job which is a good thing amidst a pandemic.”
“Yes, finding a new flat is exhausting, but I’m sure I’ll land one soon and that when I do, it’ll be a great house to start a new life in.”
In the Yes, But structure, you’re getting off the all-or-nothing of the negative experience. You’re dumbing it down from 100% terrible to 50% bad. It shifts your perspective to one of acceptance with gratefulness.
Of course, it’s easier said than done, and there’s a line where you have to stop.
The “And Then” is the exact opposite of the “Yes, But” where instead of taking an adverse event, you take an instantly gratifying action, and stop to think the long-term consequences.
“It’s late, and I can get a cup of coffee and then I’ll stay up for more than I want to, which means I’ll wake up later in the morning.”
“I guess another episode won’t hurt and then I’ll have only an hour to complete the important assignment I’ve not picked yet.”
While this changes the perspective to a slightly negative connotation, it only does it to assert priorities. When you reframe something with “And Then”, you’re reminding yourself of what is truly important to you.
The And Then is a crucial idea to play the long-game when you’re trying to build healthier habits.
Even Though, Because, Yet
This is something my therapist taught me, and I am grateful to them for this one. The “Even Though, Because, Yet” starts with acceptance but then, it transforms the second phrase to accept the things you aren’t inclined to accept.
“Even though, I am often distrustful of others because I’ve had bad experiences when I counted on them before, yet it does not make me a bad person and yet, I can still try trusting other people for things I cannot do.”
“Even though, I quit my job impulsively because I was exhausted and I wanted to focus on projects of my own, yet it being impulsive does not mean it has to be a bad decision automatically.”
When you use this one, you are accepting the decision and your reasoning for it but also, pointing at a more rational outcome rather than the irrational fear.
The way we describe something to ourselves puts us in a spot. Sometimes, we fail to consider the negative consequences of our actions. Or, we look at something as an all-or-nothing: if it’s not a wee bit good, it has to be bad. That’s where cognitive reframing comes into play. It’s a technique that deals with rephrasing events to a favourable narrative, and in effect, transforming how they make you feel. The way you experience the world is all in the words that you use.
- This article on Very Well Mind which talks about cognitive reframing in family therapy.
- This piece from Psychology Today offers a great look into reframing and also, shares an interesting anecdote from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.
- This automatically generated collection of extracts from Science Direct.
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