What is Reframing?

“My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes, most of which have never happened.”- Mark Twain

It is the act of taking a situation, event, interaction etc. you feel negatively about and changing how you view, and therefore, feel about it.

We make meaning from the world around us by taking a limited number of facts and inferring or assuming other detail to be able to make sense of things. Reframing leaves the facts alone but may well challenge the assumptions. With care, you can change the other person’s reality without causing conflict.

It is important to emphasize the need to understand that with reframing, that we’re never trying to change the content of the event, just the way we feel about it.

Reframing is seeing the current situation from a different perspective, which can be tremendously helpful in problem solving, decision making and learning. Reframing is helping you or another person to more constructively move on from a situation in which you or the other person feels stuck or confused. The aim of reframing is to shift one’s perspective to be more empowered to act – and hopefully to learn at the same time. Many times, merely reframing one’s perspective on a situation can also help people change how they feel about the situation, as well.

It’s about reprogramming your brain.

You can reframe:

  • A problem as an opportunity
  • A weakness as strength
  • An impossibility as a distant possibility
  • A distant possibility as a near possibility
  • Oppression (‘against me’) as neutral (‘doesn’t care about me’)
  • Unkindness as lack of understanding


There are three types of negative thoughts:

  1. Limiting beliefs. A limiting belief is a thought that prevents you from accepting your full potential. These are the “I’m not good enough” thoughts. The consequences of accepting your limiting beliefs rather than challenging them are severe; you end up not achieving what you want. When you counter a limiting belief by reframing thoughts based on them, you weaken the belief and reduce the chance of it getting in the way of your goals.
  2. When you wish that something acceptable were better. Have you ever had a really fun night staying in your apartment, but felt like you missed out the next day when you heard about something cool your friends had done? We tend to beat ourselves up in these kinds of situations, even though we had a good time! Rather than let your mind be filled with negative thoughts, take advantage of this easy reframing situation and enjoy the moment even more.
  3. Specific problem areas. This can often be related to limiting beliefs, but doesn’t have to be. Perhaps you are working on a specific area of your life, such as wanting to lose weight. You want to go to the gym, but it’s raining out and you don’t want to get wet. In this situation, you can use reframing as a way to motivate yourself to go.