Reframing Emotions


Some people dance in the rain, others just get wet. Our emotions are determined by our perception. Learn emotional reframing and make lemonade every time life gives you lemons.

Thoughts become perception, perception becomes reality. Alter your thoughts, alter your reality.

William James

Reframing Techniques

Would you like to make lemonade every time life gives you lemons?

In this lesson, you will learn two techniques for bringing about emotional change: directly by reframing your feelings and indirectly by reframing your thoughts. Let's start with the first.

1. Reframing feelings

To reframe your feelings, bring the following question to your awareness:

Can I change my feelings from X to Y?

Surprisingly, this question does not need to be answered. Your subconscious mind, without thinking, knows precisely what to do.

You can apply this technique to difficult people and challenging situations.

Difficult people

Reframing feelings about people can be a powerful technique for forgiveness. Learning to forgive contributes positively to our physical and mental health. Please remember that forgiveness has nothing to do with approving of other peoples' behavior when it is unacceptable.

When you need to forgive, ask yourself:

Can I change my feelings from X to LOVE?

If it does not seem to work, repeat the exercise a few times. Good things take time.

There's no doubt that some people can be difficult to love. The feeling of love might be far-fetched in your situation. Try to reframe your feelings to compassion instead in such a case:

Can I change my feelings from X to compassion?

Alternatively, you can use so-called emotional pasting, which is similar to copying and pasting on a computer. Start with a person who is easier to love and redirect this feeling toward the difficult person by swapping your mental image.

Challenging situations

You can reframe feelings in almost any situation.

But there's an important rule to follow when choosing the desired feeling. Feelings can only be reframed with those with a similar emotional charge. Let's call them emotional cousins.

Have you ever tried to calm down when you were feeling anxious? Has someone ever suggested that you "simply relax" before taking a difficult exam? The chances are that it did not work, or it even backfired, increasing your anxiety.

Now you know it was because anxiety and calmness are not emotional cousins. They carry opposite emotional charges.

An emotional cousin of anxiety is excitement, for example. Excitement carries a similar charge as anxiety. Hence, reframing from anxiety to excitement is much easier than reframing from anxiety to calmness.

Here is a list of some emotional cousins:

  • Anger - Euphoria
  • Hate - Love
  • Anxiety - Excitement
  • Fear - Thrill
  • Sadness - Acceptance
  • Boredom - Serenity

Have you noticed that hate and love are emotional cousins? Surprisingly, these feelings carry a similar emotional charge.

2. Reframing thoughts

You can bring a similar question to your awareness to reframe your thoughts.

For example, to support the process of forgiveness, you should ask:

Can I learn to forgive by seeing the hurt underneath people's behavior?

Similarly, to reframe your thoughts about a challenging situation, ask:

Can I learn to see this event from threatening to challenging?

A supportive skill in reframing is learning to recognize irrational thoughts. Irrational thoughts are distorted thoughts that we believe, although they do not resemble the objective reality.

Three irrational thought patterns are common:

  • Magnifying is when we exaggerate our evaluation of an event, such as, "I ruined the whole party!" just because we forgot to bake a cake.
  • Minimizing is when we have tunnel vision and focus only on a tiny bit not going well, such as "My appetizer must have been disgusting!" just because one of our friends did not like it.
  • Making up is when we fabricate an absolute reality, such as proclaiming "I am a terrible cook!" just because someone brought pizzas the next time.

Try to recognize these patterns whenever they happen and do a quick reality check:

Would a friend of mine agree with what I believe?

Whether you reframe feelings or thoughts depends on the situation. You may also combine them to increase their effect.

Experiment with them to find out what works best for you!

Do you feel resentment against someone in your life? Can you change your feelings to love, or at least to compassion?

The point is not whether that person deserves your love. The point is, you deserve to let go.

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