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)).  Now we will identify 9 specific species of ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) in order to take their power away over our lives. Particularly harmful ants will be highlighted red. This month we will look at the first three.

Ant 1 – “Always or never thinking.” This happens when you think something that happened will “always” repeat itself. Some examples are: No one will ever call me. I’ll never get a raise. Everyone takes advantage of me. These thoughts make you feel sad and upset and activate the limbic system.

Ant 2 – “Focusing on the Negative.” This occurs when your thoughts only see the bad in a situation and ignore any of the good parts. Daniel Amen speaks of treating professional speakers that would receive evaluations after speaking. If they read 98 positive and 2 negatives, they would focus in on the 2 negatives. To stay focused on the negative makes you feel bad but to redirect on the positives can help you feel better.

Ant 3 – “Fortune Telling.” This is where you predict the worst possible outcome. These thoughts make you feel tense and when you predict things you can make them actually happen. An example would be driving home, you predict the house will be a mess and no one will be interested to see you. By the time you get home, you are ready for a fight. When you see one thing out of place and no one running to greet you, you explode and ruin the night. These ants can ruin your chances for feeling good.

Let’s look at some ways to kill these ants:

Ant 1 – “Always” or “Never” thinking:
Thought – You never listen to me!

To kill the ant say – “I get frustrated when you don’t listen to me but I know you have listened to me before and will again.”


Ant 2 – Focusing on the Negative
Thought – Oh brother! It’s another rainy day.

To kill the ant say – “It’s rainy today. That’s a good chance to catch up on things inside.”


Ant 3 – Fortune Telling
Thought – The whole class will laugh at me.

To kill the ant say – “I don’t know that. Maybe they will really like my speech.”