- Cognitive restructuring, or reframing, is a valuable therapeutic tool.
- Using key word swaps, you can reframe your struggles as opportunities for growth.
- Your current stressors can be seen as an opportunity to do deep work and take action towards positive change.
When I asked a mentor about the current climate of stress and strife, her response was, “I see these struggles as an invitation to do deep work.”
I find myself sharing these wise words, often as part of my therapist's bag of tools. My revised prescriptive script, appropriate for all emotional ailments, is:
- "This (area of struggle) is an invitation to do deep work in (fill in the blank) and change (fill in the blank)."
- I call this: “The Great Reframe.”
Three Examples Calling for an Invitation to Do Deep Work
- Peter and his wife are arguing about finances, intimacy, and parenting. Instead of “our marriage is failing,” the disagreements can be reframed as an invitation to finally do deep work in marital therapy and make changes in communication, conflict resolution, value sharing, and connection.
- Susan is confronted, once again, with a situation causing her to question her worth. Instead of, “I’m not valued,” her feelings can be reframed as an invitation to do deep work on self-concept. The invitation is to understand and shift this recurring theme through a deeper exploration into why she questions her value when she feels excluded.
- Tom is facing new health challenges. Instead of “I’m sick and powerless,” this is an invitation to reevaluate and change stress management, eating, exercise, work, and lifestyle choices. This new medical diagnosis offers an opportunity to explore why he continues unhealthy, addictive patterns and how he can commit to healthier choices.
Cognitive behavioral theorists support cognitive restructuring, or reframing, as an evidence-based tool. According to cognitive behavioral theories, our perspectives and word choices influence our thoughts and our thoughts influence our feelings and behaviors.
“The Great Reframe” transforms any negative and vulnerable situation into an invitation for introspection and empowered action. The ultimate goal of this reframe is to elevate mood and overall mental and physical health through positive, transformative practices.
Therapists and writers often speak about finding the lessons and blessings in adversities. While this is a worthy exercise, it is too passive to elicit change. This hunt to find meaning is not a call for action.
Instead, I suggest we ask ourselves, “What is this current situation inviting me to finally examine, erase, and replace?”
Framed in this way, responsibility becomes a choice. You can, of course, decline, ignore, or balk at the offering. As with any invitation, some of us will enthusiastically accept it, while others might reject or deny it.
Similarly, some of us will turn our struggles into opportunities to do the inner work, and others will continue to vent, blame, complain, and repeat the same mistakes. I notice that when we decline any offering for change, the inbox seems to fill itself with even more invites for serious reflection and recalibration.
The question becomes, “How do we go about this deep work?”
How to do Deep Work
Deep work provides an opportunity to better know yourself, which can propel positive change. Psychological self-inquiry happens both in relationships and through relationships.
When a support person holds space for us with a mirror to our blind spots, we are more inclined to show up authentically. Transformation and follow-through are more likely when you have someone to witness, guide, challenge, and support you on your journey. If the stakes are high, (divorce, death, or loss), motivation and commitment rise in tandem.
Below are three ways to initiate this deep work:
- Seek counsel with a licensed therapist or certified coach who encourages emotional expression while investigating conscious and subconscious thought and behavior patterns.
- Join a group (self-help, support, or therapy) that introduces ways to address unknown aspects of ongoing struggles while offering peer support.
- Journal, free-flow write, and process on paper. Commit to daily journaling. Ask the difficult questions, as posed above, and allow yourself uninhibited writing in response to these questions. Have regular heart-to-heart conversations on paper with yourself. Share insights from this process with counselors and mentors.
Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap
For many of us, there is a gap between knowing and doing. Sometimes, we know what we want to change, and we may even know how to bring about change, but we are not fully committed to a new path. Yet, our health and wellness depend on how well we bridge the gap.
How can we do this?
Below is my G-A-P formula to help us all connect what we know we need to do with what we actually do. There is a greater probability of uniting knowledge and action with these three steps.
Look to the “you” that you want to see in the mirror in the future. Hold that image clearly and give thanks in advance. The script is, “I graciously accept the invitation to do deep work. I gratefully see myself as a person who (fill in the blank).”
Don’t let yourself wallow or slide backward. Constantly confront what needs to be confronted in yourself. Seek accountability partners. Ask them to question, push, check in, and motivate you when you need it most.
The script for an accountability partner is, “Will you hold me accountable for these changes in my life? Would you be willing to check in, challenge, and rally me when I feel unmotivated or fall off track?”
Commit to daily practice in the direction you seek. Small and consistent actions produce lasting change. One day of slipping is acceptable but don’t allow this more than once. Be the “catcher” and get right back in the game.
If you skip a day at the gym, that’s ok, but don’t skip twice. If you miss a therapy appointment, that’s ok. Don’t miss twice. If you forget journaling or anything else you commit to for your health, don’t forget twice. The script is, “Every day, I will (fill in the blank) for at least (fill in) minutes so that I can become the change I seek.”
The Great Reframe
So, I ask you, “What is your current situation inviting you to finally examine, erase, and replace through deep and committed work?”
Thank you to my mentor and teacher, Pilar Turrado, for always sharing your invitations and insight.