One of the major techniques in psychoanalysis is free association. The person undergoing therapy is supposed to verbalize whatever comes to their mind. The therapist then tries to find connections between the thoughts expressed, so they can find out what unconscious beliefs are giving rise to the thoughts and emotions expressed in the hope of finding insight into the person's unconscious processes. Once the person achieves insight into their unconscious beliefs, they can act to change them into more desirable forms. The process of psychoanalysis takes about 3 - 7 years, and seems to be better than not receiving therapy at all.
This process strikes me as akin to exploring a forest without any direction. You may happen on something new, but you miss a lot of things. A more effective process would be using beliefwork.
Beliefwork is an exercise when we have a specific issue with which you wish to work, or a specific belief for which we want to find your associated beliefs.
- Choose your keyword or phrase. For example, if you are short tempered, chose something on the order of anger, temper, short fuse, Mary makes me mad.
- See what image or word arises in response to repeating your keyword or phrase.
- Acknowledge the response. Write it down if need be.
- Focus on the keyword again, and wait for a new response.
Repeat steps 2 - 4 for the time of this exercise. Use this process over a period of time. Rather than walking aimlessly through the woods, it is more akin to starting from a central point, walking in a direction for a time, returning to the point, then walking in a new direction. You get to know the landscape, in this instance the landscape of your mind, more fully and more quickly than random association allows. You begin to see what beliefs are related, and how. Over time, you find yourself approaching what Seth called core beliefs, beliefs that lay at the center of a constellation of secondary beliefs.
It is these core beliefs that you can change to most effectively benefit you. Chances are they will be some variation on the ten core beliefs that Albert and Ellis discovered as they were developing rational-emotive therapy. You can find out more in How to Get Rid of Excessive Negative Emotions, which also gives an exercise for changing beliefs.