Cognitive reframe is not just a psychotherapy term. It is that. But it’s more. You can actually do it with your masterful mind and FEEL better. It’s sort of like magic. Or ninja neuroscience.
Here’s how to engage a cognitive reframe: you notice how you’re thinking about a thing: “oh my God, there’s no toilet paper! What will we do?!” For example.
You don’t label that thought. It’s not bad or good. You just notice that’s the way you’re thinking about it and then ask yourself, “Is there another way to think about this?”
The answer is, yes.
You frame it differently in order to have a different impact. For instance, “Wow, someone else has A LOT of toilet paper. I wonder what that stack looks like in their house?”
This is not a joke, although some of you might be smiling. I get that. Those of you who own the toilet paper right now, you’re probably definitely smiling.
This is also not a value judgement about whether you TP hoarders really need ALL.That.TP. This is for everyone else looking at that empty shelf who might actually be in danger of resorting to wash cloths and having a moment of sheer wonder, anxiety, and possible almost-panic. It’s okay. Don’t worry; that feeling can happen to ANY of us. There’s no judgement.
Another cognitive reframe:
There’s nothing wrong with wash cloths.
In fact, they don’t leave TP pilling. (Most of us think that’s a good thing.) And they are reusable. They worked for hundreds of years.
Does anyone remember cloth diapers? Hullo? They have always been a good thing for the environment and very effective in helping the littlest bums learn to hold the pee for the little potty.
When I think cognitive reframe, I think creativity
Know what? You don’t have to actually believe and invest in your reframe, you just have to consider it as a possibility. It loosens the death grip on your ONE WAY of seeing a thing and helps ease the associated suffering: anxiety, heartache, depression, grief. Whatever ails you.
Know who’s good at this?
They’re flexible and imaginative and don’t put ALL the stock in the first way of seeing things. Try it. Put on your best kid-mind and dive in. You can do this with anything.
A Cognitive Reframe Story
Some of you know I love a good story. Here’s one: Monday, working from home, I thought I’d do the responsible (and prudent) thing and I ordered some grocery supplies on line. Things like face wash and body wash, mouth wash and deodorant: things no one else will care about so much (except my honey) if I am endlessly working from home. But I care about these things!
(Apparently I have plenty of toilet paper, but not an abundance of run-of-the-mill cosmetic supplies.)
So, I ordered online for delivery. All the cosmetic supplies and frozen vegetables, which, if you know me at all, is almost blasphemy. Fresh is my mantra. But: wrong face scrub, no veggies, sample size pit-juice, and, to top it off, the shopper picked himself up a box of brownie mix which I never ordered, I did pay for, and I did not receive because he obviously took them home as a tip for his less-than-stellar job as my personal shopper. (I really did NOT order brownies! Honestly. I’d make those from scratch… most of the time.)
Of all the things to surreptitiously add to a grocery order!
At any rate, the order was such a fail, I braved the store myself the next day.
And purchased $276 worth of food, beverages, and supplies to get me through at least a month if I were to be quarantined all by myself in my house.
Which is not happening anyway, btw. I’m not quarantined nor will I shelter in place all by myself. There’s My Honey for company (which is not his real name.) And the cat (also not his real name.)
Fast forward to the grocery shelves.
Yes, there were vacuous, bare, clean racks with NOTHING on them where the meat and seafood usually are, where there used to be dairy and bread and paper products.
But do you know what my cognitive-reframing-trained brain did?
It got creative.
What other protein can I introduce? There WAS packaged meat, just not the freshly cut stuff.
I even remembered to buy sauerkraut, potatoes, and (chicken) sausage in order to celebrate St Patty’s Day with “bangers and mash.”
Personally, I shrug at bread since I consume so little of it, being gluten sensitive, but whole wheat crackers fit that bill nicely.
I bought not-my-brand decaf coffee and chose organic microwave popping corn since all the families with kids off school obviously absconded with the other stuff and the overwhelming sense I had was of…
I have enough, I am enough, I do enough.
Oh my word! There were some empty shelves, but there were aisles and aisles and aisles and plenty of lush, fresh produce, and multiple choices of real food just waiting to be loaded into my cart and organized in my pantry.
And guess what? There was still PLENTY when I left it behind, despite the fact there were so many shoppers in the store, dutifully staying 6-feet apart, allowing turns choosing similar items and lining up with some distance between carts to check out.
Makes me wish I owned stock in Kroger, Cub Foods, Byerly’s, Lund’s or Whole Foods!
Made me proud of us as humans!
We can feed the world, people. And make toilet paper galore. And replace the paper towels that sold out! I hear that PnG (right here in Cincinnati) is thinking flexibly about all kinds of anti-microbial products and sanitizing solutions they will sell to us this year!
For EVERY negative, there is a positive reframe
This is not just half-empty, half-full rigmarole. It actually matters. There is always a different way to look at the darkest thing you’re considering. And it does not need to be related to these unprecedented, strange times. It applies to your relationship. To your parenting. Your money. To your food, your sister, your workplace, your circumstances, your self-imposed, silly limits, and every single other thing that troubles you today.
And if you can’t see the alternative just by getting creative, or you’re having trouble thinking flexibly, call your therapist. Or me. We want to help you. We’ve got ninja magic neuroscience tricks up our sleeves that work. Cognitive reframing is just one of them.
Be well. Be safe. Get in touch. Follow on Inst or FB. Join the Insiders so I can send you Love Letters . Reach out for contact or an appointment. I’m here to help.CONNECT