by Jon Hawkins
This is what happens when you start to ask questions.
The Socratic method is predicated on asking questions.
It takes our assumptions and enters them into a dialogue. It involves critically asking about those presuppositions, to discover whether they are in fact true.
- How can you verify or disprove that?
- What are the alternatives?
- What is the point in thinking this?
According to Socrates, this method reveals one important fact —
We know nothing.
Because the truth is, most of our assumptions don’t hold up to scrutiny. If we test them, we discover that most are unfounded and clearly false.
As it turns out, most people don’t have the knowledge they claim to have. Socrates discovered this when he questioned his fellow citizens who claimed to be wise and knowledgable. And, more often than not, what they claimed to know was a lie.
This method is a powerful tool that can unlock your rationale to critical thinking.
And, if adapted and used correctly, it can be utilised to critically assess the life you are currently living. This could reveal information about yourself that could radically improve your happiness and mental health.
Here are three Socratic style questions that could change your state of mind for the better.
“I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing”
Question 1: Is the Belief That “I Am Happy” Justified?
We wake up, go to work, eat, sleep and then repeat — all without critically thinking.
This is something I do whenever I find myself in a regular routine. Entering a vicious cycle of day to day repetition; it often feels like the life I’m living isn’t mine. When I look back in retrospect, I realise that I haven’t actually paid attention to what I was doing. I sometimes feel like a passerby.
And, when in this state — it’s natural to tell ourselves that we’re happy. We try and convince ourselves that we’re content and at peace; all because we’ve committed to a daily routine and normality. At our core — we don’t like change — we tell ourselves our lifestyle is the right one for us as a means to resist it.
To debunk this false belief and state of mind, you should begin to critically assess your day to day life. Ask yourself:
Am I happy with my daily routine?
He asks us to imagine that, at the end of our day, a Devil comes to us and casts a spell. That spell causes us to live the day we have just lived over & over; from start to finish — for all eternity.
According to Nietzsche, if we are happy with our day to day lives — we would actually thank the devil for the opportunity to live life’s greatest joys for all eternity.
But, if you would curse at the devil, and hate the thought of living the day you’re living an infinite amount of times over — then chances are you aren’t happy with your daily life.
- Are you content with the day to day tasks you undergo?
- Do you often wish you were doing something else with your time?
- Are you prepared to live today an infinite amount of times over?
If, upon critical analysis, you discover that you aren’t happy with your daily life; it’s worth asking a follow up question.
“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”
Follow Up — What Are The Alternatives?
What alternative life could you lead?
- A new job?
- Ending and/or entering a new relationship?
- Changing your home location?
Once you’ve spelt out the choices available — it’s time to compare them.
Would an alternative bring you more happiness? Is the happiness of that alternative sustainable, or is it short-lived? On balance, is it better than the life you are currently living?
If an alternative could bring you more joy — then it might be worth pursuing it.
Question 2 — How Can I Improve My Mental Wellbeing?
When we’re in a state of autopilot; we tend to focus on efficiency and productivity — doing everything in our power to produce the best work as effectively as possible.
And that state of mind leaves little room for self-reflection.
I found myself in this state of mind a lot while studying at University. I became fixated more on working economically and producing my best work. And that left little room for me.
The Socratic method requires us to stop for a second, critically think & self-reflect before coming to any conclusions.
Rather than being in a state of autopilot and accepting things without any rational thought — it asks us to think deeply about any questions that are asked.
With that, you should ask yourself:
How can I improve my mental wellbeing?
Asking this question encourages you to take some time out, and determine how you are doing in yourself. Are you close to burnout? Is your thinking clouded and unclear?
The answer to this question will depend on our own personal circumstances — perhaps, on reflection, you discover that your mental well-being is the best it can be. Or maybe you need a time out and a hot bath.
Either way, once that information is revealed; you can use it to focus on yourself, self-reflect, and improve your mental health.
Question 3 — Why Am I Doing X, Y & Z?
Our capitalist culture feeds on addiction. It gets us hooked, and it wants us to buy and do things without thinking.
It wants us to get hooked on sugary drinks, to watch trash TV, and to go live in a low-paid job — all because it’s economically beneficial for those in power.
Because of that, a lot of us do tasks which, if we actually thought deeply about, we probably wouldn’t undergo.
For me, I fell victim to a Social Media addiction.
I used to sit for hours on end, browsing Instagram, Facebook — anything. Most of the time the things I was seeing weren’t even relevant to me. And yet, there I sat, captivated by click-bait titles and uninteresting videos.
My days of spending hours on Social Media soon came to an end when I asked myself one simple question —
I couldn’t think of a single reason to justify the hours spent. I didn’t enjoy it, it wasn’t educational — in fact, it offered little benefit to me.
The funny thing is, upon reflection, I didn’t even like using Social Media — it would almost always negatively impact my mood. And yet, I was totally addicted.
Of course, bringing my attention to that irrational addiction was the first step in me ending it.
Are there things that negatively impact you, that you still do without thinking?
Follow Up Questions
To illustrate just how detrimental and unuseful some of these tasks are, ask yourself:
- Is there something better I could be doing? (For me, the answer was reading, writing and spending time with friends).
- Do I want to undergo these tasks? (I didn’t!)
- What would happen if I stopped doing them? (My life and mental health would have improved).
Through a bit of critical analysis & internal reflection, you’ll be able to work out what activities you should replace these addictive tendencies with.
The Socratic Method has traditionally be used to find truth — it involves going through a discussion & questioning our assumptions to prove they are unfounded and false.
They reveal that, at our core — we know nothing.
But, applying the sorts of questions that Socrates would ask to our own lives, could radically improve your mental well-being. In short, to debunk any false beliefs you hold, you should adopt a critical mindset.
Ask yourself questions like:
- Am I genuinely and intrinsically happy?
- How can I improve my mental well being?
- Why am I doing X/Y/Z?
In doing so, you will discover truths about yourself that you hadn’t previously considered. You can then use that information to radically improve your life.
In the wise words of Socrates —
“To find yourself, think for yourself.”
#bpd, #anxiety, #holidays, #depression, #borderlinepersonalitydisorder, #mentalhealth, #mentalwellbeing, #BPDIsNoLongerMe, #Awareness