A Lesson From Socrates

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10 min

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Socrates' style of questioning made him one of the greats of Western philosophy.

In this activity, learn how adopting his method of radical questioning can alter the way you function and override negative thought patterns.

With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), scientists have demonstrated that we can train ourselves for positive change. By exercising a form of Socratic questioning, we can guide ourselves toward finding a more rational view of difficult emotional situations.

Developing the habit of self-questioning can help break you out of negative thought cycles and save you from doom and gloom assumptions. Remember, though, to be kind when you question yourself. Challenging your rationality does not mean humiliating yourself for being irrational. Socrates was beloved by his students. Be your own wise sage, not your own prosecutor.

Instructions

Step 1

Pick a past (or present) situation that you struggled with and recall as much as you can about it. What thoughts and feelings did this situation leave you with? For example, perhaps you were recently overlooked for a promotion, and now you believe you’ll never achieve a higher position.


Step 2

Ask yourself a few questions regarding the rationality of your assumptions. Is it actually true that just because you didn’t get this promotion, you’ll never get one in the future? Identify a few of these questions that break the myth you’ve built into your head.


Step 3

Revisit your questions in a few weeks and reflect back on your initial thoughts and reactions. What additional wisdom can you bring to the situation now that you have some more distance?

Developing the habit of self-questioning can help break you out of negative thought cycles and save you from doom and gloom assumptions. Remember, though, to be kind when you question yourself. Challenging your rationality does not mean humiliating yourself for being irrational. Socrates was beloved by his students. Be your own wise sage, not your own prosecutor.

Feel free to share the process you went through with your coach, if you have access to one.

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