Many people carry around with them malaptive beliefs and assumptions that render them vulnerable to emotional disturbances, especially during times of stress. The first step in challenging our dysfunctional beliefs is to identify them. One technique for doing so is to write down an upsetting thought as it comes to you. Then pretend that the thought is true and ask yourself: „What does this mean to me, and why is it upsetting?“ Likely another negative thought will follow, which you also write down. Repeat the procedure by asking youself again: „If that thought is true, what does it mean to me?“ Continue to identify and write down related negative thoughts until you can no longer fill in the blanks. Then, infer from the themes that unite these thoughts what your underlying assumptions might be.
Dr. Mervin Smucker is an international trauma consultant and author of numerous articles and books on trauma and cognitive-behavioural therapy interventions.