How to use Socratic Questioning to Challenge your Own Thinking.
A lot of negative emotions result from people asking themselves the wrong questions and then answering them in a way that does not result in useful answers.
Both in therapy and on your own as you go about your daily life, you can use Socratic questioning to examine your own assumptions and analyses.
Socratic questioning is named after the famous Greek philosopher Socrates, who used a special method to help his students to examine ideas and concepts more closely and ascertain whether or not their assertions were true. It is often used by therapists who apply cognitive behavioural techniques, but the basic concept is simple and easy to apply at home.
For example, let’s say that you suffer from feelings of anxiety in social situations. The questions that you might ask yourself around this issue now may include, “What’s wrong with me, that I feel this way so often?” or “Is there something about me that people just don’t like?”
In Socratic questioning, there are six distinct types of question that you need to ask yourself:
Firstly, you need to ask questions to clarify the issue. If the issue is anxiety in social situations, ask yourself why you describe yourself as anxious and explore exactly what happens whenever you get into a situation that makes you anxious.
Next, ask yourself what assumptions are associated with the issue at hand. Can you assume that there is something going on that makes you anxious every time you are in a social situation? What does it mean? Is the assumption reasonable—can you actually back it up with objective evidence?
Then look for evidence behind your assumptions. Do you become anxious because you think people don’t like you? Is there any actual evidence for this? What made you start to think the way you do, and why do you think it happened?
See if you can find new perspectives on the matter. Is it possible that you could actually see things a different way? Have you tried to see things from the point of view of someone else? Perhaps things look completely different from another angle.
Explore the consequences of feeling the way you do. What are the implications of your anxiety? What would the implications be if you did not feel anxious?
Finally, examine the very process of questioning. If you find that you are coming up with new ideas and potential answers to the questions that feed your anxiety, what does that mean, and what is the relevance to your daily life?
As you get progressively more used to engaging in this process, you will learn how to reach different conclusions to the questions you ask yourself, and you will start to better understand the origin and cause of any problems you have, and will find it easier to see your way to a solution. Thus, you can use Socratic questioning both for analysing yourself and for learning how to solve the problems that hold you back in your daily life. Over time, you will become increasingly adept at the technique, and it will become second nature to you. As a result, you will become more efficient at understanding problems when they arise and at finding viable solutions to them.
WHO CAN I SPEAK TO FURTHER ABOUT THE ISSUES IN THIS ARTICLE?
For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.