A frame can be thought of as our perceptions about a context. Frames are driven by beliefs and drive what we think, how we feel and what actions we take. They are extremely powerful!
Here, we’ll talk about what to do when a mostly healthy, effective frame gets away from us. How do we get back to being resourceful? What do we do to prevent losing it again?
How Do We Lose Our Frame?
I had a session recently with a client who had lost her frame. It was a frame that helped her be a wonderfully competent therapist–and feel good about doing it. She knew she was a highly-skilled therapist and she had lots to back that up. But a couple of bad experiences had shaken her frame.
I decided to find out how that happened.
When we examined it, a few specific events had caused her to lose this frame. It turns out that in each case, she had been worn down by circumstances before she lost her frame.
It’s common. Special circumstances, a traumatic event, being physically, mentally or emotionally exhausted can make it more difficult to maintain our frames. That’s why, when an organization wants to break down your frames and install theirs, they might put you through grueling experiences. Think boot camp.
So, our next order of business was to help her build a strategy to first recognize when a client was wearing her down, interrupt the wearing down process and either help move the client to more resourceful behavior or terminate the session (Hey, we don’t have to take on every single person that comes through our door. Some we can choose to send elsewhere).
We were looking for that leverage point where the first signs that something was going wrong occurred. Once we found it (there are almost always signs), we rehearsed some thought patterns that would lead her (my client) to a different behavior.
A useful frame is that the unconscious mind will let go of pain and negative feelings when we get the learning we need to have in order to deal more effectively with that type of situation. So, once we’d taken care of how to deal with that type of situation, we started putting her old frame back into place–with a difference.
The frame now included ways to more effectively deal with certain types of client actions.
Another way of putting this is, the reason for my client’s negative thoughts about her competency as a therapist was to help her avoid that particular type of painful situation in the future. But the warning was not specific enough. Once we got down to the specific signs what she was afraid of happening was happening and helped her develop effective ways to deal with it, she could let go of all the other, unnecessary parts of the thoughts.
So, how do we do this for ourselves and/or our clients?
1) Recognize signs of a lost frame. Look for a context where a person felt good, but has lost it. Especially vital are those frame shifts that cause a shift in belief about how the world works as a whole. “I used to think the world was a friendly place, but now I see it as a disaster waiting to happen.”
2) Identify where they lost their frame. Were there special circumstances? Was there a trauma? If needed, deal with that situation as if that was the subject of a session. As an example, you might do regression work on the trauma.
3) With the client, evaluate what frame would work for them. How would they like to think/feel about that context? What beliefs would they have to have in order for those feelings and thoughts to happen naturally?
4) With the client, figure out what difference they would need to have in order to avoid what had happened before happening again. Often, it’s an awareness.
5) Have them imagine themselves out into the future with their new beliefs and awareness (or other resource) and find out what happens when they are faced with a similar situation (The Practical Guide to the New Behavior Generator & Future Pacing can help with this). Run several scenarios. Adjust, if needed.