Socratic questioning

For a change of pace, I thought I’d share something I’ve had stuck next to my bed for at least the past 12 years. It’s a table of beliefs and socratic questions which challenge those beliefs. Naming and challenging unhelpful beliefs is a cornerstone of therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy).*

When you live with chronic illness, sometimes you find yourself facing dark thoughts – I know I relate to many of these beliefs (such as needing a correct solution to every problem)! You might relate to some, or not any of these, but I hope you find this table and line of thinking helpful.

BELIEF

SOCRATIC QUESTIONS

I must be loved and approved of by everyone.

Why must be loved and approved of by everyone? Just because I like having love and approval, why must it be so?

I must be competent, adequate and achieving in every respect.

Where is the evidence that I must always be competent? Why is it a disaster if I’m not competent in some areas?

The world should be a fair place and I should always be treated fairly.

Where is it written that the world must be fair? While I prefer to be treated fairly, where is the evidence that I should always be treated fairly, or that the world must be fair?

People should have the same values and beliefs as me, and they should do things the way I would do them.

Why should people have the same values and beliefs as I do? Just because I would like everyone to believe the same things as me, why do they have to?

Certain people are bad, and they should be blamed for their actions.

Just because some people behave in ways that I don’t like, why does that make them bad? Is it reasonable to label an entire person as bad on the basis of instances of bad behaviour?

When I do something badly, I am a bad person, a failure.

How does it follow that if I do something badly that I am a bad person? Who said that I must always do things well?

The world should provide me with what I need. Life should be comfortable. I shouldn’t have to suffer or be inconvenienced.

Why should the world provide me with what I need? Just because I would prefer my life to be easy and comfortable, why must it be that way?

It is awful when things don’t go the way that I would like.

While I would prefer things to go my way, why is it awful if they don’t? Where is the evidence that things must always go the way that I would like?

It’s easier to avoid problems than to confront and deal with them.

What is the evidence to support this? In situations where I avoided confronting and dealing with my problems, was my life made easier as a result? Didn’t the exact opposite actually happen?

Human unhappiness is caused by life circumstances, and it’s impossible to be happy when things are not going well for me.

Where is the evidence that unhappiness is caused by life circumstances ? Although I prefer things to be going well in my life, why is it impossible to be happy when some things aren’t going well?

If there is a chance that something bad might happen. I should dwell on it now.

Why should I dwell on it? How will it help me? WHY it make any difference to the situation? What would happen if I completely ignored it?

There is a correct solution to every problem, and it’s awful if I can’t find it.

Where is the evidence that there is a correct solution to every problem? While I prefer to come up with a good solution, why do I assume there is a correct solution? Even it a better one exists, how can I possibly know it in advance?

 

*I mean CBT in the context of treating mental illness, not “challenging illness beliefs” which is the erroneous underpinning of the GET/CBT treatment approach to ME/CFS.

Author: Siobhan S

20 something, living in country Australia. Spoonie profile: ME/CFS, dysautonomia, anxiety. All about sewing, knitting and food. Unapologetic disability advocate.

4 thoughts on “Socratic questioning”

  1. I just had a therapy session the other day and we talked about how x behavior really meant I felt out of control of Y situation. And wrt to worry and anxiety, take the time to think, what is the purpose of worrying.

    Reframing is often so helpful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! It can really help to have insight into what is driving our thoughts and behaviours. I’d be shocked to find anyone really coping well mentally with the current situation.

      Like

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