Glossary: Cognitive Reframing

The verb to “reframe” means exactly what it sounds like: “to put a picture in a new frame.”  When put in the context of consciousness and the self, that frame is the stories we tell ourselves.  The positive or negative stories about life.  The Wikipedia entry on Cognitive Reframing (which was obviously written by the CBT zealots), says it is a “psychological technique that consists of identifying and then disputing irrational or maladaptive thoughts.”  This is a fairly one sided view of reframing as it focuses exclusively on identifying the negative and re-writing it as positive.

Here at DGC we take it up a level by focusing on AUTHENTICITY of thoughts over binary good/bad paradigm.  Every story or thought is a Frame.  Your mind has framed your experience based on all your other experiences, thoughts, learnings, and actions.  The Frame is neither good nor bad on its face it just is what it is.  The question which is more interesting is does the Frame serve me now?  And if it doesn’t serve me, what can I do to change (reframe) it?  How do I build skills to change the underlying stories so that new experiences come with a new frame?  It is not just about reframing on experience, it is about changing the story overall so that future experiences build on the story that serves you and is authentic.  Reframing is a general change in a person’s story/mindset whether it is positive or negative.  I have found that some of the most destructive stories in my life have been positive ones driven by my ego.

So at DGC we encourage a cognitive reframing process (and design exercises to support) that goes something like this:

  1. Skillfully OBSERVE your thoughts and stories to identify the true major stories which are the underpinnings of your life.  The ones that keep causing certain actions to recur over time.
  2. CONTEMPLATE with compassion and kindness these stories by asking the question: Does this story still serve me now?  And will it serve me in the future as my journey continues?  Do not be critical of the past.  The past is gone.  Consider putting down the baggage.  Or not.  But at least consider it.  Pay special attention to see if there are any of the common COGNITIVE BIASes in your stories.  Become aware of your own biases.
  3. ACTIVELY DECIDE how the story will continue.  Will it continue with the same cognitive biases as before? With the same summary and conclusion of factual events?  Or do you want to change your story, reframe it, into one which does serve you going forward.

For those of you that love acronyms you can have a new one: DGC Reframing process: OCA; Observe, Contemplate, Action.  Reframe anything that no longer serves you.


Also published on Medium.

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