Reframing is when an undesirable behavior or trait is conferred a positive intention. Alternatives to satisfy the positive intent are found, followed by negotiations with (parts of) self to resolve conflict, check for ecology and to implement the new behavior. Reframing can also be used to describe changing the context or representation of a problem.
Reframing occurs in life regardless of NLP, and is a common means by which meanings get created and lost in various situations, either deliberately or by happenstance.
Frame provides a context or focus for your thoughts and actions. Just as a picture frame puts borders or boundaries on what you can see in a picture, the frames of reference that you choose as a result of your beliefs about yourself and others, your perceived role in life, your perceived limitations in skills/abilities, etc. can limit what you see as possible or can open up all sorts of possibilities. You (and if you allow them, others) are continually setting time frames, boundaries, limits, etc. on what you can and can’t do – often without any real thought about the consequences or if the limitations are true.
Changing the frame of an experience can have a major influence on how you perceive, interpret and react to that experience. Being told that you have one hour to complete a task will most likely result in a different emotional state, approach and quality of work than if you are told that you have one week to accomplish the same task. This illustrates how a change in frame can have a significant impact on the choices you make. The purpose of reframing is to help a person experience their actions, the impact of their beliefs, etc. from a different perspective (frame) and potentially be more resourceful or have more choice in how they react.
Questions that are useful to ask when reframing content are:
- “What else could this mean?”
- “In what way, could this be positive or a resource?”
In NLP, there are two basic forms of reframes – content (or meaning) and a context reframes. Content Reframe: The content or meaning of a situation is determined by what you choose to focus on. An electrical power failure can be viewed as disruptive, a major disaster given all you have to get done. Or it can be viewed as an opportunity to spend some intimate time with your spouse or to have fun with your children finding innovative ways to manage the situation.
A content reframe is useful for statements such as: ‘I get annoyed when my boss stands behind me while I am working.’ Notice how the person has taken the situation and given it a specific meaning — which may or may not be true – and in so doing limits her resourcefulness and possible courses of action. To reframe this situation, remember the NLP presupposition ‘Every behaviour has a positive intention’ and ask questions such as: What other meaning could the boss’ behaviour have? Or for what purpose does he do it? What is the positive value in this behaviour? The positive value could be related to the boss’ behaviour (as above) or it could be related to the speaker’s behaviour. A possible reframe might be: ‘Isn’t it great that you know your boundaries and are not prepared to allow someone to violate them?’
If you are experiencing a physical problem (including phobias and allergies), you may ask yourself, ‘Is this problem useful to me in some way?’ For example, it may give you permission to say ‘no’. If this is the case, you could ask yourself, ‘Is there some other way that I can get this same result without having to have the physical problem?’ And just maybe the physical problem will disappear. It is also about finding meaning in life and finding the lessons in experiences.