Cognitive reframing is a psychological technique and process of identifying how we view experiences, situations, events, emotions and ideas, challenging them and altering them. There is positive and negative cognitive reframing, positive cognitive reframing helps us to detach negative feelings from an event or situation and rather introduce a positive one.
Cognitive reframing in concise terms relates to our perspective in different situations. Over time we can testify that the way we perceive things often affects how we react to them.
Cognitive reframing is a process we go through to create a cognitive shift. When we are presented with a situation, our first reaction might be negative and illogical but when we apply cognitive shift we can begin to examine our reasoning and thereafter arrive at a more positive conclusion.
Positive and Negative Cognitive Reframing
Cognitive reframing is something that we do naturally and every day without even realizing it. It can be negative or positive. Below is an example of positive cognitive reframing:
Let’s say your friend who has been globe-trotting for a few months returned recently and you decided to visit her. While you’re catching up and trading stories she starts unpacking her bags and trying on all the beautiful outfits she got while on vacation. She discovers that most of them aren’t her size anymore as she has lost a bit of weight and she decides to gift them to you since you’re bigger than she is and she’s certain they’d fit you better. You might immediately feel grateful to her and happy because you now have new, beautiful and expensive dresses that you never planned for.
After some time, you start thinking about the fact that she gave you clothes that didn’t fit her because you’re fatter, you start feeling insulted like the gesture was some sort of jab or “shade”. You become bitter that you weren’t the one globe-trotting even though you desire to because you can’t afford it. You remember how you are underemployed and unhappy at your job. You can’t even remember the last time you went shopping for yourself. Suddenly this thoughtful gesture from your friend is stained and becomes a painful reminder of your financial situation and a symbol of body shaming. At this point, you have successfully reframed that event into a negative one.
An example of a positive cognitive reframing is:
Your friend returns from a trip and gifts you this beautiful dress that is a size 8 and you are clearly a size 14 but instead of feeling insulted or throwing a pity party you tell her how your goal dress size is a size 8 and you have been inspired to take your exercise seriously so by Christmas you’d wear the dress to a function. In this case, instead of becoming bitter, angry and sad, you have gotten motivation and energy from the challenge posed to you and you have decided to at least work towards the weight loss goal using the dress as a yardstick for measurement.
4 STEPS TO BASIC COGNITIVELY REFRAMING
1. Identify your Cognitive Distortions
Often the way we process things isn’t exactly logical or reasonable. So many things go into our information processing, our perception and the conclusions we reach. When we understand the various cognitive distortions will be able to detect the ones that apply to us individually and become better equipped to challenge them logically thereby altering our perception and conclusions.
2. Build Mental Awareness
When we understand the distortions that we are dealing with it’s easier for our minds to detect and eliminate them. Over time we can successfully fortify our minds and nothing we don’t let in will find its way in.
3. Challenge Your Perception and Conclusions
This is an important step of cognitive reframing. Once you understand cognitive distortion and build awareness of them, you can start challenging your immediate perception and conclusion of different events and situations.
You can choose to evaluate alternative conclusions and it’ll help you make better and logical conclusions
4. Replace Faulty Beliefs
Faulty beliefs are present and often come up in everyone’s life. The trick is to address them as quickly as they occur. Dismantle them instead of shoving them down and leaving them to brood, grow and eventually dominate your thinking process. When they appear, take a minute to try to get to the root and once you realize they are founded on nothing solid then it’s easier for you to throw them out and give them no hold whatsoever. Replace them with positive beliefs and it will improve your quality of life.
Micro Practical Techniques and Tips
To achieve any kinds of results it’s is pertinent that you practice the things we’ve discussed so far in your everyday life. Here are some special techniques you can practice that will remind you to not only practice the steps we’ve discussed but will over time make it a more natural reaction for you to practice them automatically without any prompts whatsoever.
- The Double-Finger Tap Technique: Growing up, like every normal child I had bad habits or unhealthy habits like, picking up trash ad putting it in my mouth, chewing my clothes, biting my nails etc. my father disliked these things so what he did was to tap me with two fingers every time I did something like that and without saying any words I learned what the double finger tap meant and I’d immediately stop whatever it was I was doing that earned me the tap. You can do this too, tap yourself with two fingers whenever you catch yourself having a negative thought, a light tap will suffice. This will over time become an automatic tell
- Guard your tongue: The language you use on people, things around you and yourself is important. If you berate a confident person consistently over time they lose their confidence and start to believe all the negative things you’ve told them. The same thing applies to you and your situation, do not use negative, mean and derogatory words on yourself. creates your reality and say encouraging things
- Counter Your Negative Thoughts With Positive Ones
On a day to day basis, whether you feel positive or negative is mostly a matter of perception. For every negative thought, there’s a positive counter and vice versa. Once you’ve stopped one thought, you should replace it with something that can stop the cycle. Counter the initial negative thoughts with positive thoughts. Over time this will make all the difference.
Why should you Use Cognitive Reframing
- Encourages Positivity
- Helps You Create a Balance to avoid Over-optimism and Realistic
- Gives You A New Life Skill
What is the difference between Cognitive Reframing, Cognitive Restructuring and Cognitive Distortions
Cognitive reframing is something we do naturally and often unconsciously. Cognitive restructuring is the psychotherapeutic process or reframing it’s done systematically and deliberately by psychologists.
Cognitive distortions are exaggerated or irrational ways of thinking. The list of cognitive distortions that we practice is incredibly long. It sometimes seems that we would rather do anything but look at our world through a foggy lens. You can correct any of these distortions, however. Here are some of the most common cognitive distortions and how a counsellor might help you reframe them.
TYPES OF COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS
Blaming and Personalizing
In the blaming distortion, you place a disproportionate level of blame on other people and you refuse to take any responsibility for the events that happen in your life and you operate as the victim in all situations. Personalizing is an opposite distortion to blaming, in this situation you take on far too much blame than you deserve for things that happen in your life which you have no control over
This cognitive distortion makes you base your conclusions on your feelings and emotions feel rather than on applicable facts and valid evidence. For example, think about what it would be like to give birth for the first time.
All-or-nothing thinking distortion can also be referred to as black-and-white thinking. We do it when we think there is no between, it is either you are a success or a failure. This is usually found in perfectionists. An example is a person who has set a goal to lose 50 pounds in a month, at the end of the month she realizes that she has only lost 30 pounds and she automatically becomes sad and thinks of herself as a failure due to her inability to reach her goals. Instead of her acknowledging all the process she’s made by losing 30 pounds.
Magnifying things, events or situations means we make them out to be more severe or bigger than they actually are and minimizing involves watering down or reducing the weight of success, strength or opportunity. . When we magnify things, we make them bigger than they really are.
I have a friend who believes they can never have full happiness because something is bound to go wrong. My friend is making a negative event into a never-ending pattern of defeat. Here are some over-generalizations you might have thought or said or heard others say:
- I failed once I guess I’ll fail again.
- My ex cheated on me, all men cheat.
- I didn’t make it past the audition, I’ll never get a role
The main thing to remember about overgeneralization is that it’s rarely, if ever, accurate so you can combat this by ‘examining the evidence’ by analyzing the situations this will help you avoid exaggerations.
Always Being Right
This distortion eventually ends up isolating you because you believe you are always right and never wrong. A person that suffers from this distortion actively tries to prove that their ideas, thoughts or actions are always right.
Negative and positive predictions can trap us in our illusion and hinder us from doing what we need to do. You might be typically pessimistic and assume that things are going to go badly or you may be optimistic and believe everything will go well for you all the time. However, no one knows the future completely. Even what you can reasonably expect in the future may not turn out the way you envision so you should keep room for reality.
Negatively/Positively Biased Recall
Somehow, it seems easier for humans to remember past events in a positive light than to see them realistically. Sometimes, however, we take the opposite viewpoint and remember things in a negative light, especially if our experience is different in the present. It’s helpful to be able to look at the past in the most realistic way possible, especially if you are using past experiences as a basis for a current decision.
Cognitive reframing can be a powerful tool that can be sued to significantly alter and improve your life. It isn’t magic and it’ll definitely take some time for you to make it a constant and consistent part of your thought process.
If you have any questions you can always talk to me.