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What just happened? (Just quickly relay the facts).

Was I already in a difficult space before this even happened? How come? (What was the context?)

What went through my mind immediately after I got triggered? If I was looking at a cartoon of myself in this particular scenario, what would be written in the “bubble” over my head? (This will be the foundation of the automatic thought).

Now, try to elaborate a little further to expand the automatic thought:

  • What does this say about me if it is true?
  • What does this mean in a larger sense – about me, my life, or my future?
  • What am I afraid might happen?
  • What is the worst thing about this, if it were true?
  • What does this mean about how others might perceive me?
  • What does this mean about my relationship to others in general?
  • What images or memories do I have in connection to his situation?

So, your automatic thought will be a few phrases pieced together, such as:

I / others / and / so / I’ll always / it will never / it means / therefore / etc.

(See if you can put together a long sentence to expand on your automatic thought, using your own words).

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Heather Stone PhD

Heather Stone, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, is located in Sacramento County, California. As an anxiety disorders specialist and subject matter expert, Dr. Stone provides Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, counseling, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for the treatment of anxiety, worry, stress, panic, agoraphobia, postpartum depression and anxiety, phobias, social anxiety, insomnia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

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