The art of reframing

October 19, 2006


According to the tenets of DIY psychotherapy, the idea is to re-record the past by repeating “I am a beautiful, creative, successful person” 50 times a day. And no one, except the congenitally malign, would think it remotely appropriate to pipe up: “Actually, you’re rather plain and I can absolutely see why you would have been impossible as a child.”

Apparently people lie on their cvs because we live in a culture populated by diy psychotherapists and

psychoanalytically derived psychotherapy, when patients are coaxed to produce a more helpful account of how they got to be the person they are. Damaging beliefs that have become internalised (“I was a bad child who made my mother unhappy”) are reframed so they become less toxic (“My mother was often depressed, which meant she found it difficult to say she loved me”).

So goes the argument from Kathryn Hughes in last Saturday’s Guardian. The piece really irritated me because of the sloppy transitions and casual way in which the genuine art of reframing is now a co-conspiritor with reality tv, makeover programmes and virtually any other media fabrication that makes it possible to avoid work in the hope of an instant makeover.
Interestingly Ms Hughes seems to think that there is only one version of the truth and re-framing is a way of avoiding it. The whole point of reframing is to see a situation from disparate perspectives. When we’re locked into seeing the world in one way our choices disappear and we are immediately disempowered. Most good psychotherapists will encourage clients to not only see their own “stuckness” from a different perspective, but also their own less than useful behaviour. It’s not about avoiding “reality” it’s an acknowledgement that reality looks different depending on who’s shoes your standing in.
Re-framing is one of the most useful interventions I can make as a consultant and if a client is willing to look at their situation differently – well, that means change is already a reality and the work has already begun.