Tag Archives: automatic negative thoughts

My ANT Resolution: No more Automatic Negative Thoughts!

AttackedbyAntsI kill my ANTS! What do I mean by this?

I’m working to SQUASH my negative thinking patterns. More than ever before– I am going to fight them off! OK, I concede there is no way I can exterminate them completely because they are AUTOMATIC. Renowned brain disorder psychiatrist, Dr Amen coined the word ANTS for them, Automatic Negative Thoughts in his book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. He describes them as “the little voices that pop into your head and tell you you’re not good enough, not thin enough, a rubbish daughter, mother, worker.”
 A few ANTS, he says, can be managed. But he warns to watch out for ANT-­infestations — when hundreds of negative thoughts start to take over. Has this ever happened to you?

It has happened to me. Like when I eat one of those incredible Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups and wow, it blows me away… so I eat one more… then just one more. Then I think, well I’ve blown my low sugar allotment for today so I may as well finish off the bag… I can never do this low sugar diet thing anyway…  I just don’t have the discipline or will power or whatever it takes… (more negative thoughts)… no wonder I’m a failure in certain areas of my life, like being blocked in my creative work right now… and on and on…

Here are some examples of typical ANTs (automatic negative thoughts):Ant Mission

“You never listen to me.”

“Just because we had a good year in business doesn’t mean anything.”

“You don’t like me.”

“This situation is not going to work out. I know something bad will happen.”

“You are an arrogant know-it-all.”

“I should have done much better. I’m a failure.”

“Its too late for me.”

“I wish I was creative.”

“It’s your fault.”

These thoughts severely limit our creative powers. The answer, Dr. Amen says, lies in simple ANT-eater techniques that stop the bugs in their tracks. “Your brain is a powerful organ,” he says. “If you see yourself as fat, old, wrinkled or forgetful, you boost production of the stress hormone which affects your health, your weight and your mind… Negative thoughts can make negative things happen.”

transformedWhy should I/we care about creating our own personal ANT eaters? Because we know our NEGATIVE THOUGHTS un-monitored lead to NEGATIVE CHOICES, which lead to NEGATIVE HABITS and our habits determine our CHARACTER, which becomes our DESTINY. Oh no(!), fat, old and uncreative we think… NOT! How do I/we stop this nonsense?! My ants invade my mind like ants at a picnic. They arrive suddenly, are unwanted, uninvited, stinging ugly sticklers that don’t leave unless I intentionally force them out!

It helps to understand there are at least nine categories of negative thoughts. There are nine different ways our thoughts lie to us and make situations seem worse than they are, listed below. Our first step is to identify—NAME– the type of ANT, and by doing this we begin to take away its power.

Which of these nine show up most in your thinking?

  1. “Always/never” thinking: thinking in words like always, never, no one, everyone, every time, everything.
  2. Focusing on the negative: seeing only the bad in a situation
  3. Fortune-telling: predicting the worst possible outcome to a situation
  4. Mind reading: believing that you know what others are thinking, even though they haven’t told you
  5. Thinking with your feelings: believing negative feelings without ever questioning them
  6. Guilt beating: thinking in words like should, must, ought, or have to
  7. Labeling: attaching a negative label to yourself or to someone else
  8. Personalizing: investing innocuous events with personal meaning
  9. Blaming: blaming someone else for your own problems — a red ant, it is very poisonous!

I’ll be honest and share that patterns 7 and 8 are ‘stinkin’ thinking’ ANTs for me. I use the 5 A’s of awareness, acceptance, appreciation, action, and adherence (discussed in my newly published book) to squash these suckers. My stinkin’ thoughts must be noticed, captured and accepted as real before I can take action and replace them with more realistic positive thoughts and choices.

infestationIf I don’t deal with my ANTS in real time the result is the 5 D’s—depressed, despair, dissed, de-energized and deflated. I need SOS in real time– stop, observe and shift techniques. If I’ve allowed a genuine infestation to occur, then worse, I become devastated and immobile.

Its no wonder these mind attackers don’t go away– but must be managed. Some truly frightening scientific facts about ants include: they are as old as dinosaurs, have already survived a mass extinction event, have conquered almost the entire globe, their total population make our 7 billion look weak, they can exceed two inches in length (!), they have a hive mind (a killer!) and they actually practice slavery. It is true—they commonly raid neighboring colonies and steal eggs or larvae in a practice known as “dulosis.” Their forcibly acquired young are then either eaten or put to work.

In our never-ending ANT ­battles, our redemption lies in building our own arsenal of ANT-eater solutions. I will not be captured automatically as a slave to my own ANT’s! I will fight them and kill them—this is my choice!metamorphosis_by_weroni-d7exzb5

I invite you to share how you feed your anteaters? Onward and upward brave soldiers—together lets KILL our ANTS, lets revolt together!

Thank you for reading my post. I am an organizational and business consultant living in the mountains of Santa Fe, New Mexico with my husband and dogs. I enjoy hiking and high desert gardening. My core message of everyone is creative resonates with people of all ages and walks of life. I invite all to become the best version of themselves and find true meaning by pursing long term creative quests.

Velcro and Teflon Creativity

Which of your three creative centers–head, heart or gut–are you being negative to? bionic-brain

The secret to creativity might be summed up in a cheesy neuroscience joke: “The neurons that fire together, wire together.” When we disrespect what one of our intelligence centers is saying to us by automatically responding negatively to it, we are shutting that source of creativity down:

“My gut is always wrong, I never listen to it.”

“Listening to my heart will only cause severe pain and bleeding.”

“I think too much, I shouldn’t listen to my head but only act.”

“It’s a classic saying, and it’s widely accepted because it’s very true,” says neuropsychologist Rick Hanson. “We’ve got this negativity bias that’s a kind of bug in the stone-age brain in the 21st century,” he says. “It makes it hard for us to learn from our positive experiences, even though learning from your positive experiences is the primary way to grow inner strength.”

There are consequences of our highly interconnected head/heart and gut intelligence centers. Scientists believe our brains have a built-in “negativity bias.” The reason is pretty simple. Since we evolved over millions of years, dodging sticks and chasing carrots (rewards), it was more important to notice, react to, and remember sticks than it was for carrots. It was a tough environment for our ancestors. If they missed out on a carrot, it likely would not kill them; but if they failed to avoid a stick, such as a predator, a poisonous plant, a natural hazard, or overly aggressive fellow caveman, then BAM!, fat chance to pass on their genes.

Our negativity bias shows up in lots of ways. For example, studies have found in a relationship, it typically takes five good interactions to make up for a single bad one. People will work much harder to avoid losing 100 dollars than they will work to gain the same amount of money. Painful experiences are much more memorable than pleasurable ones.

The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. It is said approximately 80 percent of our (up to) 70,000 thoughts per day are negative. This is good and bad news for creativity. Our brains are tilted against lasting contentment and fulfillment. This means our memory banks are full of underlying expectations, assumptions, beliefs, and especially our moods—which automatically move in a negative direction. Mother Nature only cares about passing on genes; she doesn’t care if this means painful suffering in the process. Suffering includes subtle worries to intense feelings of sorrow, worthlessness, or anger and creating suffering for others. Naturally being wired to acquire negative experiences over positive ones, can make us more anxious, irritable, and blue. But these “sticky” emotions also create a deep well for us to draw upon and funnel into creative outlets. Such lack of contentment can result in a felt need and a motivation to create.

“I have the memory of an elephant. I can forgive, but I cannot forget. It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Perhaps the Velcro theory is why Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous elephant quote about her philandering husband makes sense. We are wired to hold onto the negative experience, even if we willfully (from our gut center) try not to. Mrs. Roosevelt exemplifies our need to take the negative and create something new. This is exactly what she did after discovering FDR’s first affair with her own private secretary. Her personal journals expose from this point forward, any remaining intimacy left their relationship. Up to this point she was willing to be a traditional wife, mother of their five children, and homemaker. After this very painful breach of trust, Eleanor established a separate house, and increasingly devoted herself to becoming a human rights and social justice entrepreneur. This included being a pioneer in the womens’ suffrage and African American Civil Rights movements. She was no ordinary first lady–I believe the most entrepreneurial one of all!

Eleanor knew how to make lemonade from potent lemons in her life

Perhaps an even more severe example of “making lemonade” is shown in the video below. This one will blow your mind for sure!

However, on a day to day basis, many of us don’t stay with our positive experiences long enough for them to be encoded into neural structure (meaning there’s not enough wiring and firing going on). On the other hand, we naturally tend to fixate on negative experiences. Positive and negative emotions use different memory systems in the brain, according to Hanson, and positive emotions don’t transfer as easily to long-term memory.

So we easily filter to see the tough parts of life. We can learn to bear negativity by intentionally tilting towards healthy creative outlets. This will lift our energy and spirits and use our resources. But we have to intentionally fill up our cups because positive experiences will wash through us like sieves. Please see a previous post on how to fight ANTS (automatic negative thoughts).

The more we get our neurons firing on positive facts, the more we’ll be wiring up positive neural structures. Intentionally focusing on “taking in the good” is a brain-science savvy and psychologically skillful way to improve how we feel, get things done creatively, and treat others consistently. By taking the positive in–from our head, heart and gut centers–and filling ourselves up with them, we will increasingly feel less fragile or needy inside, and less dependent on external supplies.

How good are you at creatively making lemonade from all the negative lemons in your life? Please share your insights on this, we all have “ANTS,” (mine can build huge mounds in my mind if left untended!)

Thank you for reading my post (excerpts from my recent book). My core message of everyone is creative resonates with people of all ages and walks of life. I invite all to become the best version of themselves in my book and at my website and find true meaning by pursing long term creative quests.