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December 8, 2020

Is reframing just dressed-up suppression?

Before we tackle that question, let’s define reframing:  A technique used to identify and then change the way situations, experiences, events, ideas, and/or emotions are viewed, considered and then experienced.

For example, "my boss never even says good morning; he must hate me!"  could be reframed to, "my boss is really busy and has a lot of demands first thing in the morning, and his mood has nothing to do with me."  

No problems so far.  BUT, there’s a potential pitfall.  A big one.  We frequently see and hear people using this technique to stop themselves from feeling, which starts looking a lot more like suppression than positive growth. It often starts like, "I shouldn’t be angry..."  Does that shoe fit any of you?  

If you are looking to reframe something, you are probably feeling something that you don’t want to feel.  Talking yourself out of how you feel is a great way to keep that feeling coming back again and again.  How you feel is critical to understanding what is generating your behaviors.  Our emotions and reactions are products of the stories we tell, which are often based in our histories, which are connected to unresolved, unfelt, suppressed feelings.  Ignoring them or suppressing them only has them intensify and come out at less than ideal times.  

While it is great to exercise your ability to tell a different story, and create new contexts, be mindful that you are not avoiding the deeper work.  It’s this deep work that requires you to feel.  It is the work that is necessary to live free of unresolved feelings and experiences.  Through this work you will begin to see reality through a clearer lens.  One that isn't smudged by feelings left unresolved from the past.  The deep work is where you find out you can stop telling stories altogether.

So, yes, reframing CAN be just dressed-up suppression.  But it’s also a good tool when you use it to take responsibility for the effect YOUR stories have on your emotions and experience.  Just be aware of your intent when you are looking to reframe something for yourself or another.  Is it supression or taking responsibility for your story?

To the deep work!

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Since 1978 Workability has been helping individuals and organizations integrate who they are with what they do. Our greatest performances, relationships, and contributions are dependent on our authentic expression of who we are.

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