Updated: Sep 19, 2022
So far, in this series, I've told a story of integrating my past into my present by meeting Jesus as God With Me in my daily moments, integrating parts with Internal Family Systems (IFS), and integrating past and present through building secure attachment.
Today, I want to introduce you to a neurolinguistic programming technique (NLP) that can be very helpful. It's called reframing.
The Assumption of a Positive Intention
The idea is that all of the bad behaviors that you do spring out of a positive intention of some kind. There's a similarity here with the parts work in IFS in that you're unconsciously working at trying to find those core attachment beliefs we unpacked yesterday. Every time you engage in a behavior you don't like or don't want, chances are very good that you're working very hard to feel safe, to feel like you belong, or to feel like you have control or influence over your environment.
If you recognize the positive intention behind the behavior, then you can have some compassion for yourself and then find new ways to get to your positive intention that are more effective and less destructive. This requires a whole lot of self-awareness and conscious reflection and is best done in a safe and secure relationship where you're not concerned about being judged or criticized (like a coaching relationship).
The Process of Reframing
In order to reframe a problem behavior, there is a process that can be highly effective when you are well-supported. It looks like this:
Identify the problem behavior and the kinds of situations you see it in.
What is the positive intention? What are you trying to accomplish?
If there was another way to accomplish your positive intention, would you be open to discovering it?
Brainstorm all the ways you might accomplish what you intend to accomplish without damaging yourself, your relationships, or your place in the world.
What are the best two or three ideas?
Check in with yourself: Is there anything I resist about these ideas? Which of them feels like one that I am most likely to act on and commit to trying out?
Next time a situation comes up when you would normally enact your problem behavior, try out your new strategy.
Putting Off and Putting On
In Paul's letters to the Ephesians and to the Colossians, he invites God's people to be diligent in putting off their old ways of living before they knew Jesus, and to put on the new life in Christ. While this is something that most of us really want, it feels confusing and nearly impossible.
How do I put it off when it feels like a default that I can't control? How do I let this behavior go when it seems to get me what I want? I keep trying and I exhaust myself in the process, but I still find myself returning to the same behavior that I'm trying so hard to get rid of! Paul understands this struggle and articulates it clearly in Romans 7:21-25. He's no stranger to the struggle, and yet he's the one who invites us to put off the old and put on the new.
A Supported Process
But that's nearly impossible to do when we don't know how. We need to understand our nervous system and how our implicit memories, parts, and attachment wounds drive our behavior. From this place of understanding just how our "old self" is burdened and tied up in the past, we can, through a multi-strategy approach, learn to put away our old patterns and lean into new freedom in Christ.
This is why I do what I do. It's my honor and privilege to support people who are bravely exploring the places where they are stuck in old ways and want to find the new ways of freedom in following Jesus. It's such an honor for me to be a person who offers safety, acceptance, and empowerment in human flesh to help my clients reshape their nervous system, integrate their parts, build secure attachment, and reframe their behaviors. I absolutely love partnering with God in this holy work.
I take my shoes off in awe every day.