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).