Reframing is a tool used in therapy and coaching, to help us see things in a different light. It can loosen the grip a difficult situation has on us, allowing us more scope to see in different lights.
In this article, I am going to talk about reframing specifically as a way of helping us with our own resistance.
This could be resistance to change, effort, moving forward – anything we know is good for us and genuine, but something is holding us back. It can also be important to look more deeply at why we are scared to move forwards, but right now we will only be looking at managing our own resistance.
Let’s start with an example. I want to start working out at the gym. I put it on my schedule, pick out my clothes, even the music perhaps. Yet there always seems to be a plausible reason not to go.
I used my willpower to get everything ready to go, so why wasn’t that enough to get me through those gym doors?
Well, there may be self-worth or other issues from the past going on, but right now, I just want to start working out. So how can I push through? Do I just try to force myself?
No. Instead, I’ll use reframing to help with my resistance.
I can think one or two of these things:
- Thank goodness I have the resources, free time and support I need to be able to work out
- I don’t have to enjoy the first 20 minutes, that’s OK, I know I’ll start to feel good at some point
- My goal right now is not to work out, it is just to walk through the gym doors. Whatever I do after that is fine.
- I deserve to be healthy and strong and to enjoy the relaxation that goes with that.
When I think of a phrase that works for me, I feel a shift. I put my shoes on and even though I still feel a nervousness and a hesitation, I put my hand on the gym door and push.
And just like that, I have defused my resistance and got one step closer to being as good as I want and deserve to be.
Reframing for Your Resistance
The phrases you use will look different depending on who you are and how you feel about your goal. Mostly because the reason you feel resistance will be specific to you.
But although it is helpful to understand why you are resisting something, so you can come up with a specific new viewpoint, it’s not vital. As in the example above, you can choose the phrase that sparks something within you, that makes you feel freer to act.
And this is not just about working out, of course. It could be starting a new class, learning a new skill, meeting new people, going to a party, applying for a job, going to a fancy bar, asking someone out, basically any situation where you’d have to push yourself, grow, see yourself in a new light or leave your comfort zone in any way.
Can you think of something you want to do, but you’re resistant to taking that first step or committing?
- OK. Call to mind that thing you’re resistant to.
- Now imagine yourself taking the first step. Notice the details: your clothes, your posture, how you feel, the weather, how the thing, place or people look.
- Now wonder with an open mind, what attitude/ thought would make me feel OK doing this?
- Notice what comes up, jot it down if you like. It may be something unexpected, that’s OK. As long as it feels positive for you.
- If it is not already a phrase, make it into one. For example, if the attitude is feeling confident, the phrase may be: “I am a strong, confident person who belongs here.”
- Now hold that phrase or thought in your mind, embodying it as fully as possible.
- OK, imagine taking that first step again. How does it look and feel?
That visualization can not only help get you your reframing phrase, it can give you a little insight into the reason you feel resistant. Maybe the first time you imagined the situation you felt a little insecure, underqualified, out-of-place or unworthy? That is part of your resistance.
You could definitely explore that in therapy or your own self-reflection. But learning through doing is also an important part of self-development work, because we learn more about who we are when we try new things and enter new situations, pushing through personal frontiers.
The Mechanics of Resistance and Reframing
When we have resistance inside us, it can be hard to push directly back against it and win, because it is coming from us. It has the same strength we have, so it can be as effective as arm-wrestling ourselves.
But if we approach it from a different direction, mindset, instead of fighting against it – we recruit some of the resources creating it, to use for our own goal.
There is energy in resistance and there is energy in emotion. And there is emotion in resistance too. Basically, there is a lot of energy.
And when there is energy in a place, it is much more efficient to recruit it and/ or redirect it, than to try and make it disappear or fight against it. This applies to the energy of resistance too.
It’s not only made of energy, it’s made of us. When we want to do something hard or new, the more of us we can get on our side the better.
Our resistance is usually created by underlying limiting beliefs. “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not good-looking enough,” “I don’t know enough,” I’m not popular enough.” The things we all think sometimes, but so strong it ties our shoe laces together.
By using reframing we can shift the centre of our viewpoint, from within that limiting belief to outside it. We don’t completely blast it to smithereens, but just step outside it and make it not the focus.
Fighting against a limiting belief can do the opposite of what you want. It’s like fighting with a narcissist – you make it about them and they use that energy. So fighting against a negative belief can give it more power. Instead, shift your attention away from it, towards a more useful and positive thought. Then you will use the energy in your attention to help that positive thought to grow.
Final thoughts about reframing
For such a simple tool, this is also extremely powerful. I want to leave you with a few final points to make sure you get the most out of it:
The best reframing statements feel right, but there may be some resistance (more resistance??) to believing them completely. That resistance doesn’t mean the statement is not true, just that you’re not completely there yet in terms of being able to accept it fully.
Excessively positive or grandiose statements are not helpful. For example, not “I will be the best and beat everybody,” but “I have a right to be there and take part.” If your statements are really over-the-top positive, you may be trying to counter very low self-worth or very negative beliefs about yourself. The best way to work with that is kindness, patience, being gentle and changing incrementally instead of leaping ahead.
If you have a limiting belief that continues to undermine you, you might be better off addressing it in therapy. If you feel like therapy is right for you, but you have resistance to going – try reframing that. “Thank goodness I have the resources to go for therapy,” “it is great I can find affordable resources to support me,” “I deserve to feel good inside,” “I am a brave person,” for example.
When you know your limiting belief, do not allow it to dictate your reframing statement by making something that is the direct opposite. In a way, that keeps it about the limiting belief. Instead, let a genuine, positive phrase come to mind, or try a few out. i.e. the opposite of “I am not worthy,” is “I am worthy,” but a more genuine thought for you may be, “I love all the messy parts of myself that make me bold and beautiful.” In this way you don’t allow the limited parts of yourself to set the parameters for your perspective, you allow your inner potential and light to do that instead.
And you have a lot of it!
I hope you enjoyed this look at reframing and get to use it soon, today even!
And as always, take care!!