Reframing: Simple Strategies
Reframing is the heart of NLP. Hypnotic suggestion results in reframing. Anchoring can cause reframing. 6-step reframing is, uhm, reframing. In the end, people come out of a successful session with a different perspective, or, “frame” about whatever they wanted help for. That frame can be conscious, unconscious, or both.
Reframing can be particularly useful, when a client presents a limiting belief that is getting in the way of the goal of the session. In this article, we’ll go over a simple strategy for direct reframing, that you can use right away.
I’m Not Selfish Enough
I had a client who felt she was often taken advantage of. She framed it as a difficulty in being selfish enough. She was (as she put it), always putting other people first. According to her, she didn’t have the capacity to be selfish. In fact, she didn’t want to be selfish. And her belief was that putting other people first interfered with her goals in the session.
Let’s look at the belief equations that she’s expressed, or implied.
- If you put yourself first, that means you’re being selfish.
- If you don’t put yourself first, you can’t reach your goal.
- She didn’t have the capacity to be ‘selfish’.
- Being ‘selfish’ is bad.
Which Belief To Reframe?
Now, a lot of people would instinctively go for reframing the idea that putting yourself first is being selfish. And that’s a valid approach. But here’s my thought on that. I bet other people have already thought of that, and tried that approach with her. I figured a more unusual angle might be better.
I went for the angle that she didn’t have the capacity to be selfish. “I understand that you were extremely selfish as a baby.”, I said. “You would cry, and wake everybody up, when you were hungry, lonely, or just felt like it. You didn’t care if it was the middle of the night. I hear that you were so selfish that you would literally crap yourself, and instead of doing something about it, you’d just lie there and whine, until somebody came and wiped your butt for you!”
I went on for a couple of minutes about her lack of attention for the concerns of others when she was a baby. She was laughing, and I was exaggerating. Then I switched gears.
“Of course, there are times when putting yourself first is actually unselfish, and helps others. If the oxygen masks drop down in an airplane, you’re supposed to put yours on first, then your child’s. The idea is that, if you pass out trying to help your kid get his mask on, he won’t be able to help you. If you get yours on first, then you can help him.”
This time, I was going after the belief that putting yourself first was selfish. I was saying that putting yourself first can be helpful to others.
The goal was to soften up her beliefs about selfishness, to create an opening for an intervention to work.
So, how did I arrive at those reframes? Well, they both used the same strategy. It’s a simple question that you can ask yourself about any limiting belief you, or a client has.
When Is That Not True?
When a limiting belief is expressed, you simply ask yourself, “When is that not true?”. Other ways to word the question are, “When was that not true?”, “In what context, or situation is that not true?”, and “What would have to happen for that to be untrue?”.
So, a client may wish for help stopping smoking, and tell you they don’t have the willpower to do it. You can ask yourself the following.
When in their life, did they have willpower? Or, when did they accomplish something even though they didn’t have willpower?
Childhood can be a good source of resources. Unless a child is mentally or physically impaired in some way, they learn to walk and talk — both extremely complex tasks that require thousands of failures before you can do them properly. So, you can use those examples. Erickson used to use lots of things from childhood. It has the added benefit of a tendency to regress.
Or you could go for the ‘you don’t need willpower’ approach. When do you not need willpower in order to do something? One answer (among many), is when there’s an automatic behavior. “You know how, when a fly comes at your windshield, you automatically blink? That’s programmed in. You don’t need willpower to do it, it just happens. Hypnosis uses the same sort of programming. Your rejection of cigarettes will be just as automatic. You’ll rarely need to use willpower.”
So, that’s a simple approach to come up with reframes to challenge limiting beliefs. Let’s do one together. . .
Using the “When is that not true?” method, how would you reframe a belief that it takes 6 weeks to learn a new habit?