What if frame
The what if frame, also know as the as if frame is used to negotiate resistance and limiting beliefs by assisting a person in considering more fully those possibilities, options and ideas which they may previously have considered beyond the scope of their abilities or the realms of possibility.
The what if frame allows a person to suspend those limiting beliefs which have negative impacts on their lives and try on more useful beliefs, safe in the knowledge that they are only 'pretending' to believe something different and that they can easily return to their original belief if they wish.
The intention is that by facilitating that person in trying on those different beliefs their rigid model of the world is given a good hard shake (or a gentle shake if that's more appropriate) and they push past their limiting beliefs in the direction of more useful beliefs.
For the purposes of illustration let's imagine that you are coaching a friend or work colleague:-
- Friend says - I could never get that promotion, I just don't have what it takes
- You respond - Well, what would happen if you did get that promotion? If you had that promotion now what would you look like? What skills and abilities would you have?
- Friend says - I could never tell her how I feel
- You respond - What would happen if you did tell her how you feel? What specifically would you say to her? What would her reaction most likely be?
- Friend says - Nothing good ever happens to me - if it wasn't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all
- You respond -What if something good did happen to you - how would you recognise it? Would you even notice if something good happened to you, or would you be too busy searching for bad luck?
- Friend says - I can't think of one person who truly likes me for who I am
- You respond - What if there are lots of people who do truly like you for who you are and you're too wrapped up in your thoughts to see those people in the first place - how are they ever going to show you that they like you?
The what if frame is not a complete intervention in and of itself. Rather it is a catalyst intended to trigger a chain reaction of processes in the subject to go around, over or through a limiting belief and begin to generate more useful beliefs and generalisations.
If we think of the limiting beliefs and generalisations as a dam across the river of creativity and infinite possibility, the what if frame is the key process that triggers the collapse of that dam and releases the flow of generative change which acts to enrich a person's model of the world.