Reframe—verb—to frame or express (words or a concept or plan) differently.
You cannot choose what the world should be. But you can choose how you would see it.
—A COURSE IN MIRACLES
The first step in The Rewire Response was somewhat passive, asking only that you observe your thoughts or feelings with curiosity and without judgment. This second step, however, requires mental discipline. Once you recognize an unwanted or negative thought, you need to Reframe it. Reframing means deliberately choosing whether you will view an event or situation through the eyes of your eternally fearful Ego, desperate to protect you, or through the lens of your loving Soul who knows you’re safe and wants you to shine. This choice, albeit challenging, will be life changing.
“Your ability to redirect your thinking,” the Course exclaims, “is the most powerful device that was ever given you for change.”
Reframing—shifting your perception from fear to love, from negative judgment to compassionate acceptance—is how you literally create miracles. Simply put, every time you redirect your mind to regard something from a more tolerant or positive perspective your world will miraculously change.
The truth is, you or I never respond to what is actually going on in the moment, only to our interpretation of it. And your interpretation is inevitably based on your past experience, much like navigating life through the rearview mirror.
Neuroscience explains quite clearly that your interpretation of the world you see is but a reflection of how your brain’s been wired. And many physicists, like David Bohm, would agree: “The ability to perceive or think differently is more important than the knowledge gained.”1
In actuality, none of us sees the unvarnished truth about anything, only our own version of it. And our version’s been highly polluted by our previous experiences, flawed learning, imprecise memories, painful wounds, and mistaken beliefs. Our recollections of prior events have little to do with what really happened but only reflects our “story” about what happened. As we learned in Chapter 2, the law of cause and effect states that nothing out there has anything to do with how you feel. It’s only your thoughts about it.
In order to reframe, you first need to recognize your unhealthy thoughts (Step #1). I once read an interview with the actress and activist Jane Fonda, who described how she finally reframed an unrelenting belief. “I spent so much of my life feeling that if I’m not perfect, no one can love me,” she said. “Then I realized . . . sometimes good enough is good enough.”
Coming to that conclusion, she divulged, was not an easy journey. Indeed, reframing can be extremely challenging and takes concerted effort due to what scientists call inattentional blindness. Our long-held beliefs cast impenetrable shadows over our perceptions, blinding us to other interpretations that may be blatantly obvious to others.
The moment you change your perception is the moment you rewrite the chemistry of your body.
—DR. BRUCE H. LIPTON
Long ago, when hungry predators were a constant threat, we relied on fear for our survival. But times have changed, and so has fear’s function. Nowadays, fear is rarely a sign your life is at stake. But it still serves a vital role. Fear, explains the Course, “brings the need for correction forcibly into awareness.” That means whenever you feel even a shred of fear or any uncomfortable sensation, rather than instinctively recoiling, consider it a valuable warning that you’re following the wrong thought system—your Ego’s. It’s time to reframe and choose to follow the Soul’s loving wisdom by focusing on your dreams and desires instead of rehashing your tales of woe.
Just as in the first step, to reframe you must suspend judgment. Nothing that happens is good or bad, positive or negative, right or wrong. Everything, no matter how upsetting, is a gift for your growth, a lesson to learn, or a message from Spirit. Every unpleasant experience is, in reality, an opportunity to rewire.
Reframing is what psychologists call selective attention, which I define as consciously selecting to focus your attention on one thing while ignoring everything else.
“The seemingly simple function of paying attention produces real and powerful physical change in the brain,” explains Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz.2 “When your focus of attention shifts, so do patterns of brain activity.”
And when that happens, as they say in neuroscience circles, “neurons that are out of synch fail to link.”
You may remember the classic image of the lady in the first figure. What do you see—the old woman or the young one?
Or how about the picture in the second figure? Do you see the duck or the rabbit?
As you stare at each picture, notice you can choose to see one or the other, but not both at the same time. What you see is determined by what you pay attention to. And you have the power to direct your mind to choose which one you’ll concentrate on. That goes for the optical illusions in these two pictures, as well as invoking optimistic thoughts over depressing ones or contemplating the possibility of success over the prospect of failure. You have free will, or more specifically what Dr. Schwartz refers to as free won’t, the mind’s veto power over the brain’s commands.3
Corporate consultant and former client Michele Phillips described this quite poignantly: “I saw a bum on the street and said to myself, ‘that’s possible.’ Then I saw a beautiful mansion and said, ‘that’s possible too.’ Anything’s possible, right? It’s up to me to decide what I want to focus on.”
“Developing greater control over your attention is perhaps the single most powerful way to shape your brain,” psychologist Rick Hanson wrote in Buddha’s Brain.4 In fact, neuroplasticity, our ability to change our brain, is impossible without focused attention.
The act of reframing is nothing short of a superpower that everyone has, yet few actually recognize or put into practice. Wherever you direct your attention, consistently, over a period of time, will become your reality. The frontal, rational brain will automatically filter out anything you’re not paying attention to. Reframing is the taproot for transformation, the cornerstone for rewiring, and the foundation for creating miracles.
There are two ways to redirect your attention: overtly, by shifting what you focus your eyes on, or covertly, by internally replacing a thought or feeling with a different one.
We become what we behold.
My client Emma had built a wildly popular event business that never made a profit. She was so passionate about her work and eager to rapidly expand the business that she neglected to keep an eye on the bottom line. As expenses began exceeding revenues, instead of cutting costs, she maxed out her credit and brought on investors, accruing massive debt.
When she joined my Rewire Mentorship Program, she’d changed her business model to corporate consulting. It was far more lucrative, she explained, “but every last penny is going toward debt.” I could hear the anguish in her voice.
“I need to know how I can bring in more money,” she pleaded, eager to figure out how to ratchet up her income so she could pay down her debt. But I wanted to slow her down, help her rewire. I suspected that no matter how much she earned, she’d continue to create financial instability, just like her dad, who always made a lot of money but spent even more.
“I’ve done a lot of work on myself. I was in therapy for 11 years,” she said. “I know I’ve been reliving my dad’s relationship with money. I’m scared I can’t escape this pattern.”
“Let’s lift the hood and see what’s under that fear, shall we?” I suggested, then asked her a question she didn’t expect. “What if you were wealthy? How would that feel? What would it look like?” Her homework was to sit with those questions.
At our next appointment she said, “For the last two weeks, I kept repeating the mantra: I am a wealthy woman. It brought a lot of stuff up. I had a lot of feelings. I just sat with them, noticing.”
She was surprised, shocked really, at what emerged. “I saw a lonely old woman, dried up, worn out, wearing a mink coat, driving a Cadillac, all alone. It was nauseating.”
“Isn’t that interesting?” I said. “Can you see why you’re repeating your father’s pattern?”
“I always equated money with confinement and limitation. I made some bad decisions. Now I feel like a failure.”
“You’re not a failure,” I assured her. “You acted on an unconscious decision you made long ago that acting responsibly would set you up for limitation. And having more than you needed would leave you lonely and bitter. The brain will only do and see what confirms its beliefs. Let’s rewire that, shall we?”
“Yes!” she exclaimed. “I want to reenvision myself being wealthy as a grounding experience, allowing me to have full expression.”
Her homework was to find a way to reframe her belief. She did it by overtly reframing, or intentionally looking for more appealing examples.
“I started searching for wealthy women, and I found some who are super juicy, engaged in the community, and aren’t burned out or dried up. I’ve started saying, ‘That’s what a wealthy woman looks like.’ And you know, it’s working. I’ve consciously put a different face on her.”
As soon as she overtly reframed her image of a wealthy woman, by purposely seeking role models who were the opposite of her initial assumption, it was rather amazing what happened next. She began seeing things at work she hadn’t noticed before: The outrageous bill from her longtime bookkeeper, for the same amount she’d been paying for years, yet she never questioned the high fee before. The line of credit she could easily pay off, saving her hundreds of dollars in interest payment, but it never occurred to her until now. She knew what she needed to do. Her focus had automatically shifted from fear of limitation and loneliness to excitement about taking responsibility.
I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt.
—A COURSE IN MIRACLES
We met Patricia in the previous chapter when she was worried about not having enough. Even after we reviewed her finances and I pointed out she was in a great place financially (a financial professional had told her the same thing), she wasn’t able to own the truth nor calm her panic. Evidently overt reframing, looking at external facts, didn’t work for her.
“Patricia,” I said firmly, “We both know your brain’s been wired to see only scarcity. But I want you to look at these numbers. I want you to recognize the truth of what’s here. And it’s not lack, not even close.”
She took a few moments to study the numbers, and you could’ve knocked me over with a feather by what she said next. “I just heard this small voice say to me, ‘Dang, girl, you got it together.’” She wasn’t able to reframe tangible evidence, but she did a great job covertly reframing her worrisome thoughts with thoughts of appreciation.
I grabbed onto her words and led her straight into Step #2. “Wonderful, Patricia. Now it’s your choice,” I said. “Which voice are you going to follow? The voice of the frightened little Ego insisting you don’t have enough. Or your quiet but adoring Soul giving you a big high five, saying, ‘Dang girl you got it together.’ Do you really want to continue to stress over a hardwired brain circuit or are you ready to rejoice in the fact you have more than enough?”
When she didn’t respond, I gently asked how she was feeling.
“I’m grinning inside,” she chirped. “I feel confident. I recognize I have a choice in how I think. I know I’m capable of change. I’m capable of rewiring. When old thoughts come up, I can redirect them. When I catch myself on a downward spiral, I can say, ‘Wait, I have a choice. I’m ok.’” Patricia gives us a stunning example of covertly reframing by tuning into her inherent wisdom even if she was unable to intellectually process the positive numbers.
When you rewire for wealth, it’s not just your finances that get stronger. You’ll notice how powerful you’ve become. I define a powerful woman as someone who knows who she is, knows what she wants, and expresses that in the world, unapologetically. And when you fully step into your power, you’ll discover your true self hidden under the lead blanket of misguided neuropathways.
We don’t see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.
As I’ve said, reframing isn’t easy. There will be times when, try as you might, you just can’t seem to shift your perspective. Jeffrey Schwartz coined the term “brain lock” to describe when “our impulse laden brain” prevents us from moving on to the next thought or feeling.5 It’s true, certain visceral cravings, sensations, compulsions, or impulses—like those irresistible urges to spend without restraint or the familiar ache of feeling inferior—can seem impossible to stop. We’ve literally become addicted to the neurotransmitters, or chemicals, that those thoughts release in our brain. Consequently, we’re compelled to repeat unwanted behaviors to reduce the tension of chemical withdrawal. But the relief is short lived. Sometimes, especially if this has become a chronic pattern, the only successful resolution is a therapeutic intervention like EMDR or a 12-step group like Debtors Anonymous.
However, here are seven techniques I’ve learned from clients and my own experience that may help you reframe when you’re struggling to do so.
Rewire in Action
Write down one negative thought, feeling, or behavior you recognized in the last chapter that you want to rewire.
As you read through the seven techniques, jot down some ideas for reframing your negative thought, feeling, or behavior.
Be thankful for what you have. You’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never have enough.
I will never forget, a few years ago, when I could not, for the life of me, reframe a sudden onslaught of shame. I’d just given what I thought was a very engaging talk to a large group of women. The person in charge of the event came rushing up to me but, to my surprise, criticized my response to an audience member’s question. I honestly felt she was overreacting and brushed off her words like an annoying piece of lint.
But as soon as I crawled into bed that night, her comments hit me like a gut punch, sending me spiraling down a black hole of shame. I felt sick to my stomach, certain everyone saw I was a fraud. My pain, like a blindfold, blocked my ability to see things differently. I couldn’t reframe these horrible feeling. This went on for hours. Then, out of the blue, an image of my three daughters popped in my head. Knowing it’s impossible to feel love and fear at the same time, I deliberately switched my attention to the enormous love and gratitude I have for my girls. I stayed with that gratitude until my heart swung wide open and a sense of calm washed over me, gently dissolving the shame. I fell into a deep sleep. The next morning the woman who criticized me greeted me with a big hug and thanked me for a wonderful event. Go figure!
Whatever brought you pain see how it’s been your teacher.
—A COURSE IN MIRACLES
I was quite moved during my first coaching session with Patti Fagan, a successful money coach, who had a horrific childhood. Her mother got pregnant, never knowing who the father was.
“The message I took from that was I shouldn’t be here. My mom was ashamed of me. So I had all of this shame, and it was showing up massively in credit card debt.”
By the time Patti joined Rewire, she was debt-free and financially secure, which she attributes to years in therapy. But she was eager to rewire her crushing fear of rejection. “I realized I had so much practice feeling rejected because it kept getting reaffirmed by my memories of my mom,” she recalled.
I told her to notice when she felt shame and rejection. As she observed her feelings, she recognized how much sorrow and anguish she carried. “I told you that I had a PhD in suffering, and you said, ‘No, you have a PhD in overcoming adversity.’ And I went, ‘Oh my God, that’s true. It’s what made me who I am and like something to be proud of.’”
In that moment, Patti recognized that if feeling unwanted was wired in, it could be wired out. “But I knew that it was such a strong message I couldn’t just be passive about it.” So, every time she thought about being rejected, she reframed by focusing on having compassion for her mom.
“I’ve come to see that my mother represents generations of dysfunction. Her mother gave her away when she was five years old. She never got the nurturing she needed. That gave me so much compassion for her, and I realized that she’s just a product of her own upbringing.”
Then Patti discovered compassion for herself.
“I’ve had several therapists say they’re surprised I’m not a heroin addict,” Patti recalled. “But I feel by the grace of God, I didn’t go that route. I didn’t seek to numb the pain and beat myself up. I just had a drive to heal. I feel like God chose me in the generational line to be the one that has this hunger, this desire to seek a better way.”
I loved how she reframed her past with an affirmation: God chose me. “Rejection is no longer my life story,” she explained. “Now it’s ‘I’m chosen.’”
When I interviewed her much later for this book, her reframe had been hardwired. “The difference between where I am now and where I started is that I feel like I can’t possibly believe I could be rejected now. Like there’s no way you can convince me today that I’ll be rejected.”
At least I can decide I do not like what I feel now. I want another way to look at this. Perhaps there’s another way to look at this?
—A COURSE IN MIRACLES
Asking yourself pointed questions can help redirect your attention. Try simple questions like these:
• How would I rather feel?
• What’s a kinder, gentler way to view this?
• Where can I focus my attention that would make me happier?
• What do I want to wire in my brain?
• Why don’t I replace this thought with a more loving one?
• Would I rather feel peace instead of this anger/upset?
Whenever I have trouble reframing, I repeat a lesson from the Course, saying it as a prayer: “Above all, how can I see this differently?” I always share this with clients.
Holly Gossett is an energy healer and spiritual seeker who also cleans houses, including mine. It broke my heart to see how financially illiterate she was, so I invited her to join my Rewire Mentorship program. She wholeheartedly accepted, hungry to learn.
Just as I was working on this chapter, Holly came rushing into my office.
“We found a new house. It’s so much bigger, so full of light. It’s perfect,” she enthused, then quickly grew quiet. “The problem is it’s twice what we pay in rent. Last night, I’m lying in bed, my body full of tension. I was frozen in the feeling of ‘We can’t afford it.’ I felt like I was having a panic attack. I knew the fear was clouding my ability to see clearly.”
She tried to calm down but to no avail, until she remembered to specifically ask: ‘How can I see this differently?’ The fear didn’t subside right away, but her mind apparently began searching for solutions. Suddenly she had a flash of clarity. “Oh my gosh,” she realized, “I have enough in savings to make up the difference in what we needed.”
Until she joined my program, Holly never had savings. “For the first time, I know what it’s like to have more than enough. I’ve never had that feeling before. Money always flowed in, but I never let it accumulate to use for a purpose.” She, her husband, and their daughter are now living happily, peacefully in their spacious new house.
Taking a break can lead to breakthroughs.
—RUSSELL ERIC DOBDA
Another client of mine, Michele Phillips, is a high-energy, upbeat executive coach, corporate trainer, and author who admitted, “Sometimes I have no trouble reframing my crappy feelings in the moment, but other times I just can’t.” When she has difficulty, she told me, “I have to disconnect from my thoughts, do something different, sooth myself until I feel better.” She’ll color in a coloring book, write in her journal, ride her bike, or go for a swim.
“When I come back it’s easier to choose a different thought pattern.”
Michele gave me an example. She’d recently gone on a fabulous European bike trip with her husband and friends. A few days after their arrival, her husband had an accident and needed to fly home. It was a long flight, and he upgraded to first class while she sat in the back.
“I was fine, I was sitting in the back all happy, not even worrying about anything, and then I went up to see him, and I got viscerally angry when I saw how classy his accommodations and meal service were.
“I went back to my seat fuming, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, Michele, the poor guy has a hurt leg. He tried so hard to get me up front, but there wasn’t space.’ I was like, look at me, I’m fit to be tied right now.”
She gave herself a little pep talk. “Okay, Michele, you can either be angry and stamp your feet, or you can decide to work this through.” She took out her journal and began writing.
Slowly, she said, her anger faded, allowing her to reframe. “I realized how ridiculous I sounded. I would’ve never seen this before. Now I realize these disturbances are opportunities for me to breath, look at it, and choose a different way to see it.”
You will learn what you are by what you’ve projected onto others and therefore believe that they are.
—A COURSE IN MIRACLES
You came into this world as a pure and innocent being. Go ahead and glance at one of your baby pictures if you find that hard to believe. Over time, however, you learn what is acceptable about you and what is not. You believed that the unacceptable part made you so unlovable and unworthy that if people knew the truth, they’d instantly hate or reject you. So you disowned those unacceptable parts by pushing them into your subconscious and pretended they’re not who you are.
What you don’t realize is that these aspects must somehow find expression, so you unconsciously project those repressed parts onto other people, organizations, or the world enabling you to get rid of them in you. As a result, you keep seeing “out there” whatever you’re afraid to face in yourself.
To reframe an upset, explore how that person or situation is mirroring a shadow aspect in you, a part that needs your love and acceptance, a part that is coming up to be healed.
I keep several framed photos of me as a baby and toddler displayed in my room. I call it my Altar of Truth. One I especially love is me at about age two, sitting in a tiny chair in front of a mirror. I’m leaning forward kissing my reflection. When I’m feeling down about myself, I look at that beautiful child, making it much easier to unconditionally love myself, just as I am.
Your projections, however, include not just what you dislike about yourself, but all your wonderful gifts that you believe are too powerful, too glorious, too lovable, and too magnificent, so you project them onto others and feel envy or jealousy, admiration or attraction. Everyone is your mirror. As I wrote in my first book, Prince Charming is simply a projection of the powerful, responsible part you refuse to acknowledge in yourself. When you take back your projections and shift to recognition, you’ll come to own the truth of who you really are.
“Our most hated, feared, or shamed qualities are the ones that hold the key to living the life of our dreams,” wrote Debbie Ford in her powerful book The Dark Side of the Light Chasers.6
When you accept and own of all parts of you that you once judged as unacceptable, you’ll discover tremendous gifts, strengths, and talents in your shadows. It’s not about being “perfect.” It’s about discovering how that aspect can serve you.
Choose your intention carefully and then practice holding your consciousness to it, so it becomes the guiding light in your life.
—ROGER DELANO HINKINS
You’re reading this book for a reason, right? There’s something you really want to accomplish—in fact, you wrote it down in the Introduction and again in Chapters 3 and 4. Right now, go back and read it again (page 77). Focusing on your intention stimulates the brain to seek opportunities to reach it. Particularly if your intention is important to you, if you believe achieving it will undeniably improve your life, you can use your intention as a framework and an inspiration for reframing.
Otherwise, as Dr. Michael Merzenich, an award-winning pioneer in brain plasticity research, wrote in his book Soft-Wired: “If it doesn’t matter to you, and if you don’t have to try to succeed, nothing much will change in your brain.”7
Even though my Ego’s quieted down significantly after a few sessions of EMDR, every so often, while working on this book, it stridently informs me that I write like sh*t. Instead of taking its words to heart, as I used to, I now reframe by responding, “Thank you for sharing, but I’m not going to listen. Just because I have a sh**ty draft doesn’t mean I’m a sh**ty writer. I believe my Soul inspired me to write this because there may be one woman out there who needs to read this.” When my nasty Ego continues its tirade, I shift my attention to that one person whose life may considerably improve because of my book.
The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.
Asking for help from your Higher Power is always a good idea. But let me share with you one particular prayer that I have hanging in my office. It’s called “The OTHER Serenity Prayer” I didn’t know the author until I quoted this prayer in a blog and Eleanor Brownn, an inspirational writer in Southern California, emailed to tell me she wrote it. I thanked her profusely. Repeating the words, sometimes aloud, always softens me up, opens my heart and allows me to reframe.
God, grant me the serenity to stop beating myself up for not doing things perfectly,
the courage to forgive myself because I am working on doing better,
and the wisdom to know You already love me just the way I am.8