Eliminate Automatic Negative Thoughts – Killing the ANTs

By Sherry Myers

We’ve been looking at Steps in the series on step-by-step thinking principles used by Daniel G. Amen, MD in his article on ANT THERAPY (eradicating Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS))*. We will identify 9 specific species of ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) in order to take their power away from our lives. This month we will look at the ANTS 4, 5 and 6.

Ant 4 – “Mind Reading.” This happens when you believe that you know what another person is thinking even when they haven’t told you. You know when you are mind reading when you have thoughts such as, “She’s mad at me. He doesn’t like me. They were talking about me.” We should not assume that we know what someone else is thinking. The best policy if you are unsure of a person’s thoughts is to confront them and ask them. Then you will know for certain. Mind reading ANTS are infectious and should be avoided.

Ant 5 – “Thinking with your feelings.” This occurs when you believe your negative feelings without ever questioning them. Feelings are very complex and often based on powerful memories from the past. Feelings sometimes lie to you. They are not about truth. They are about feelings. Ex: “I feel you don’t love me. I feel stupid. I feel like a failure.” Always evaluate your feelings. Are they based on the truth? Are they legitimate or are they based on assumptions or past experiences?

Ant 6 – “Guilt Beatings.” Guilt is not a helpful emotion. If often causes you to do things you don’t want to. Guilt beatings happen when you think words like “should, must, ought or have to.” Ex: “I ought to spend more time at home. I have to organize my office.” Because of human nature when we “have” to do something, we don’t want to. Change guilt beating phrases to “I want to spend more time at home. It would be helpful to organize my office.” Guilt should never be the driving force in our lives.

Let’s look at some ways to kill these ants

Ant 4 – Mind Reading
Thought – The boss doesn’t like me.
To kill the ant – Maybe the boss is just having a bad day.

Ant 5– Thinking with your Feelings
Thought – I feel he doesn’t love me
To kill the ant – He may just be busy and hasn’t had the time to spend with me.

Ant 6 – Guilt Beatings
Thought – I need to work overtime.
To kill the ant – If I choose to work overtime, I can get the extra money I want to go on a trip.