How to Reframe Your Negative Circumstances

Negative and adverse events happen every day. When you're faced with them, you have two options. You can either allow yourself to be trapped by helplessness or you can rethink the circumstances and start facing them.
How to Reframe Your Negative Circumstances
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Winston Churchill said that kites rise higher when the wind is against them. Perhaps this is the case and you should learn not to let yourself be knocked down when adversity unexpectedly creeps up behind you. However, how do you do it? How do you reframe those negative circumstances when they come knocking on the door?

Much of the current self-help literature on the market today claims that challenging or just plain negative events make you stronger. This approach is almost always based on spiritual or Buddhist ideas and on messages like ‘there can be no lotus flower without the mud’. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the truth is that, beyond acquiring more or less strength, the most important thing is to overcome everything negative that comes your way.

The key is not to stay trapped in the perpetual suffering that adversity brings. Bear in mind that you can develop adequate skills to deal with difficult and complex situations. Furthermore, remember that no one is oblivious to suffering. Everyone walks that fateful path at some point in their lives.

If you make use of a relaxed, balanced, and solution-oriented mental approach, you’ll have a better chance of overcoming the dark days and gray moments that life brings you.

girl in front of road thinking about how to reframe negative circumstances

How to reframe negative circumstances

Unfortunate events become problems when you approach them from two erroneous approaches. The first of these is to pretend that the adverse situation doesn’t exist or that it doesn’t affect you. The second is to become excessively obsessed with the issue and to be unable to appreciate or even consider other perspectives and approaches.

As Viktor Frankl pointed out, between the stimulus (problem) and your reaction there’s an intermediate space that should allow you to choose between one type of response and another. Another undeniable fact is that, when what surrounds you is particularly difficult and adverse, it’s common to feel impotence, anger, and sadness. Indeed, any emotion is permissible. What you need to do is reorient all that emotion toward a valid and adequate response.

In other words, you must learn to reframe negative circumstances. Let’s take a look at some of the strategies you can employ.

1. Reframing the negativity bias: everything isn’t always bad

Your brain tends to apply a negativity bias to almost any circumstance. This mental filter makes it difficult for you to make a good judgment of reality and you tend to see everything in a problematic way.

As the psychologist and Nobel Prize winner in economics, Daniel Kahneman confirmed, we have an innate tendency to prioritize negative events as a reaction mechanism to guarantee our survival. It’s an alert system that was useful to us in the past, but today is usually highly damaging.

The University of Glasgow (UK) conducted research that claims, for our brains, the negative will always have more relevance than the positive. This can make you develop ideas like “There’s no solution. Things are going to get worse. This is a disaster”.

It’s important to know how your brain reacts to negative events in order to take control of your thoughts. Ideally, you should tell yourself something concrete like, “I know what’s happened isn’t good, but this situation won’t last forever. I trust myself to get out of this situation. I have the tools to accept and face this experience” .

2. A flexible mind: change is part of life

When rethinking negative circumstances, you should remember that often, the adverse event doesn’t demand anything else from you other than to accept it. Nothing more. There are some things that happen and you simply can’t change them.

You must understand that changes are part of life and that you must accept them in order to shape a new existential stage. You can only do this if you employ a flexible approach, an open mindset that doesn’t stagnate or fight against what you can’t change.

3. The relaxed and centered understanding (control of negative valence emotions)

When fate brings you something that you didn’t expect that makes you confused, you might find yourself submerged in a labyrinth of negative valence emotions. As we mentioned earlier, it’s usual to experience them for a while. However, they shouldn’t become a constant in your daily life.

You must remove dimensions such as guilt, rage, or anger from your mind. Only a relaxed mind is capable of discerning solutions to the most innovative challenges and solutions to crises.

4. Seek support

When life turns gray, remember that you’re not alone. Avoid isolating yourself and not talking so as not to worry others. Stop hiding what hurts because you don’t want to draw attention to yourself. Neither of these is a good solution.

If you want to reframe negative circumstances effectively, you should seek support. Share time with the significant people in your life and express your thoughts, emotions, and needs.

Boy thinking how thinking how to reframe the negative circumstances

5. Decision and proactivity: passivity leaves you in a place where everything hurts

You don’t choose to go through negative circumstances but you do have the opportunity to choose how to act in the face of them. That said, you’re perfectly entitled to be immobilized by the impact for a certain time. After all, it hurts and it’s quite acceptable to want to curl up and process what’s happened and allow your mind to accept this new situation.

However, after hitting rock bottom, the only way is up. To move forward, you have to be proactive. You mustn’t stay in the same place where everything hurts you. You must move forward, seek solutions, and shape a new self, one who’s more innovative, self-confident, solution-oriented, and not stagnant.

As the Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke said, turn your wall into a step. That’s the way forward.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Beard, C., & Amir, N. (2010). Negative Interpretation Bias Mediates the Effect of Social Anxiety on State Anxiety. Cognitive therapy and research34(3), 292–296.
  • Corns, J. Rethinking the Negativity Bias. Rev.Phil.Psych. 9,607–625 (2018).
  • Kushner, H. (1981). When Bad Things Happen to Good People. New York: Anchor Books.
  • Richardson, G. E. (2002). “The metatheory of resilience and resiliency.” Journal of Clinical Psychology. 58, 307–21.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.