Remember the saying “Ants in your pants”? (My mother used to tell me that all the time ;)
How about having “Ants in your brain”?
Dr. Daniel Amen says that many people walk around with automatic negative thoughts (ANT’s) all day and it’s making them mentally and physically sick.
According to research “we humans, it seems, have anywhere from 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. But according to some research, as many as 98 percent of them are exactly the same as we had the day before. Talk about creatures of habit! Even more significant, 80 percent of our thoughts are negative”.
Imagine walking around all day and banging yourself thousands of times on the head with a hammer. Ouch!
So the question is how do we know if we have Ant’s and what can we do to change it.
A simple test can be as follows-Let’s say you get a call from your child’s principal, or your boss asks you to met them in their office, or a client leaves you a terse message to call back asap.
What is the first thought that crosses your mind?
Is it negative or neutral?
When I ask this question in seminars, most people will agree that it’s negative.
The bigger problem is that we very quickly prophesize a negative outcome, such as my kid got into trouble and they’re throwing them out, or my boss isn’t happy with my work and I’m getting fired, etc. and we
feel anxious or even depressed.
Prof. Marty Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology talks about this in his book The Optimistic Child and uses Dr. Aaron Beck’s CBT (Cognitive behavior therapy) model to help children (and adults) recognize the negative thinking.
He also shares how to be able to “talk back” to those Ant’s and create a neutral or positive thought instead.
He uses the ABCDE acronym to explain the thought process that happens and how we can change it:
A=Activating event or Adversity, meaning anything that can be interpreted as negative (i.e. the call from a principal, boss, client etc.)
B=Beliefs about event or Adversity, meaning that after the Adverse event (i.e. a call from the principal) we go to our Beliefs that something negative happened (i.e. my kid is in trouble with the school).
C=Consequences (emotional), meaning that we see the negative outcome already (i.e. my kid is being expelled, or I’m getting fired, or I’m losing the client).
These thoughts happen in seconds and mostly we are unaware about these thoughts, but we feel sick or down. Remember our thoughts precede our emotions,
To conquer and push back we need to remember some facts-
85-90% of things we predict that will happen, never happens, so why worry?
Then use the D&E-
D=Dispute and challenge our negative and irrational beliefs, remembering the percentages above or just suggesting to ourselves to suspend all judgment and remain neutral until after you have all the facts.
E=Effecting new beliefs to replace irrational ones. Even just shining a light on the negative thoughts will help them fade away.
There is an old Jewish saying “Think good and it will be good”.