A tool used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that plays an essential role in promoting personal growth is “reframing”, which involves looking at a past or present experience in a new way. The experience is being viewed in a negative way and “reframing the experience” refers to placing your mental picture of the experience into a different frame, one that could be described as “look for anything that could be viewed as positive in the experience”. If you so choose, you can experience using this tool by answering the following questions about a negative experience you have had in the past or are having in the present:
- Briefly describe the experience, as objectively as you can, that is, describe what happened (or is happening) without judging it as positive or negative.
- What about the experience do you consider to be negative, that is, what negative outcomes resulted (or are resulting) from the experience?
- What negative beliefs about yourself or the world did you develop (or are developing) as a result of the experience?
- What about the experience could be viewed as positive, i.e., what positive outcomes resulted (or could result) from the experience?
- What positive beliefs about yourself or the world resulted (or could) result from viewing this experience as at least partially positive?
If you decide to do this exercise, feel free to share your experience in the comment section following this blog entry. This type of experience has been referred to as “seeing the silver lining in dark clouds” or “it is an ill wind that blows nobody good”, the latter expression appearing in John Heywood’s 1546 proverb collection. Both of these sayings are implying that even in the worst of circumstances, there will be something positive for at least some people. In my experience, even my most negative experiences have always had a positive aspect to them. For example, I was crippled as a child at the age of 8 when suddenly my left leg collapsed and I could not walk without a brace and crutches. The experience lasted several years and at the time, I would have sworn that it was a totally negative experience, but later came to the realization that there was much that was positive about the experience. Because of my first-hand experience with being sedentary and with suffering, I developed a strong intellectual interest in learning, as well as empathy for the suffering of others, both of which led me to become a psychologist.