In the book Change Your Thinking, author Sarah Edelman talks about how helpful the practice of Socratic questioning is to challenge our unfounded fears or "negative cognitions".
"Socratic questioning can be a useful tool for addressing biased thoughts because it helps us objectively evaluate our cognitions and challenge catastrophic predictions."
Next time you're worried, here are some questions Edelman suggests asking yourself:
- Describe the situation you're worried about
- What specifically do you fear might happen?
- Rate the likelihood that this will happen (from 0 to 100%)
- What evidence supports your worrying thoughts?
- What evidence does not support them?
- If it did happen, what actions could you take?
- Realistically, what is the worst thing that could happen?
- What is the best thing that can happen?
- What is most likely to happen?
- Are there any useful actions you can take now?
- What would you tell a friend who was in your situation?
- Realistically, re-rate the likelihood that your fears will be realised (from 0 to 100%).
A variation on Socratic questioning
A few weeks ago my dear wife Marie was in a big tizz. (I know I shouldn't tell tales, but this is for the greater good... right?)
It was a familiar topic of worry - how to fit in the time needed studying with housework, family time and personal time. Because I have an aversion to repeating myself, I didn't really want to say much. But someone needed to help Marie get unfrazzled.
It just happened we'd spoken earlier that day about how puppet shows reach both children and adults on a level that ordinary conversation couldn't.
So... out came Ed the sock puppet - a complete stranger, who had a very caring manner about him.
Ed asked Marie what was wrong, why she was upset. Because Ed was new to the situation, Marie had to explain it from scratch - gaining some perspective in the process.
And besides, you can be mad at your spouse, but who can be mad at such a friendly sock puppet?
So next time you or your better half start to get crinkly around the edge, head to the sock drawer!
Ed says it works.