The Power of Reframing

Reframing is about deciding to look at our thoughts from a different perspective. When it comes to infertility, the act of reframing is a skill worth cultivating. Keep reading to find out why.

As a rule, thinking negatively is part of the human condition. Because caveman presumed that the twig that snapped was a saber tooth tiger and not a squirrel, we are here today. Cultural consciousness reinforces negative thinking as do underlying belief systems that we absorb from our early role models.

cat in mirrorEven those who tend to have a positive outlook fall prey to negative thinking when on the infertility journey. Yesterday’s disappointments have a way of becoming tomorrow’s negative thoughts.

It is common to believe what we think. Yet we have the capacity to think about what we think about and decide if we want to latch on to negative thoughts as if they were gospel truth, as opposed to just noticing and acknowledging these thoughts—and even better, reframing them. If you can catch yourself in the act of having a negative thought, you can learn to flip it into a positive one.

Infertility is totally debilitating, leaving you feeling out of control of your life. And, negative thinking has a gravitational pull to it which can make reframing seem difficult. But reframing returns the locus of control to you. You have a right to feel how you feel but you have a choice not to! Your power lies in exercising that choice. Even though you need mental muscle to fight the inclination to get trapped in the negative, in the end, it’s easier to live in a positive place than a negative one. And while the lure of negative thoughts feels real, the bottom line is that feelings are not facts. To cultivate the ability to reframe a negative thought can change everything.

reframeThe rationale for releasing yourself from the prison of negative thinking is huge and is rooted in current scientific research: We can use our mind to rewire our brain. The capacity to rewire is called neuroplasticity. As they say, neurons that fire together, wire together.

Reframed thoughts gives your “bodymind” a chance to rebalance. To be free of negativity, if only for a brief while, creates receptivity and openness. Positive thoughts let go of the stress that accompanies negativity and have a correlation to rates of pregnancy. Herein lays the motivation to develop this skill.

Here are some examples of negative thoughts that go with the infertility territory and their reframes:

* I’ll never get pregnant………………………..* I’m not pregnant yet

* I was downsized on my job…………………* Lucky me, I only have 1 job now – getting pregnant

*I waited too long to have a baby……………* All things are in place now

……………………………………………………* We’ve had time to save money

……………………………………………………* We have a much better relationship now than we did


1. What negative thought is swamping you? Write it down (or use one of the negative thoughts from the list above.)
2. Ask yourself where you feel the thought in your body. Write that down.
3. What mental feeling does the negative thought evoke? Write that down, too.
4. Close your eyes and convert the negative thought into an image—any image.
5. Visualize the image floating away as if it were a kite.
6. Say goodbye to the negative thought.
7. Take a deep breath and let your conscious mind come up with a reframe for the negative thought by flipping it to its opposite.  Write the reframe down.
8. Now holding the reframe in your mind, ask yourself where you feel the positive outlook in your body. Write that down.
9. What mental feeling is evoked by the reframe? Write that down.
10. Compare the mind/body experience of the negative thought and the reframed thought.

Get the point?
Now, if you can develop the discipline to transform negative thoughts one at a time, here’s some more good news. Hard as it may be to imagine, the entire infertility experience has the potential to be reframed! This is one of the premises of my book, On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility. Former patients whom I interviewed looked back on the battle to get their family and were able to see ways in which their experience of dealing with infertility had not only traumatized them, but given them the opportunity to learn to heal the trauma. There are ways to become a new, improved version of yourself because you are faced with adversity.

The March 25th magazine section of the Sunday New York Times contained an article which reported the research findings of Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun.

They studied in depth seriously injured war veterans and other trauma victims who had been labeled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some were found to have chosen to change by “looking for the bless in the mess,” as comedienne Loretta La Roche would say. This definition of reframe—choosing to change for the better despite their experience—prompted the researchers to coin the phrase “post-traumatic growth.”

Even though infertility is a nightmare, you can ask yourself the following questions as a way of determining if you can create post-traumatic growth:

Is there a way that you feel, or can imagine yourself coming to feel, a renewed

• appreciation for life?
• imagine yourself feeling stronger?
• imagine feeling more satisfied spiritually?
• imagine feeling more appreciation for others?
• imagine feeling wiser?
• imagine feeling closer in your important relationships?
• imagine feeling more discerning?
• imagine feeling less angry, impatient, insecure, afraid or even less negative?

While you might think that it is easier to make these attitude adjustments after you get your family, with proper guidance, you can ease your emotional burden right now. If you reframe what you are going through as an opportunity for growth, your life can take on new meaning.

About the Author:

Helen Adrienne, LCSW general psychotherapist, clinical hypnotherapist, and practitioner of mind/body therapy with a specialty in infertility. New York City