Don’t you hate dealing with ants. They’re annoying, they get everywhere, and they show up when you least expect it. While this is true of the insect variety of ants, it’s also true of the psychological phenomenon ANTs. That’s Automatic Negative Thoughts to you and I.
While the name may not be familiar, the reality probably is. Clinical psychologist Janice Domisse from Masters Psychology joined Mel and Jeziel to chat about ANTs. An ANT is when you can’t help but view problems in your life in the most negative way possible. On the extreme end of the scale, there’s expressions like “I’m useless” or “I can’t do that”. But you may not realise even some of the more casual expressions you use are ANTs.
The way an expression is worded can mean you look at it negatively without even realising. For example, saying “I should go to the gym every day” implies that you’re not disciplined enough. However, if you switch it to “I will try my best to go to the gym every day. Here’s how…” you not only set yourself up for success, but you also give yourself a plan for it.
A few more examples are I should eat healthier.” A better way to put that is “I can eat healthier today by doing…” and “I should stop thinking this way” becomes “I see I’m having anxious thoughts right now. What’s a more credible thought?”
Alright, but what if your problem isn’t about going to the gym, eating healthy or being anxious?
Well it’s easy to get your brain to look at problems in a more logical way. In fact it’s as easy as ABC… D. Yes, the ABCD method is useful for looking at a problem and determining the appropriate response.
A – Activating event. This is what causes the dilemma, for example; “my boss gave me a funny look”
B – Belief. this is what it is that’s stirred up within you by the action
C – Consequences. What happened after the event? Your boss looked at you funny so your heart started racing and you thought “I’m about to be fired” We usually think that the Action causes the Consequence. Your boss looking at you funny causes the panic. In reality, The Belief causes the Consequence. So, the belief “I’m bad at my job” is what causes the panic. Changing the belief to “I’m not bad at my job” means the funny look could just mean the boss had some bad prawns for lunch.
D – Disputing. Obviously we can’t say things without backing them up. But providing evidence is another way of reassuring ourselves. So you need to look at your situation and think “what is the evidence for the statement ‘I am bad at my job’. Well, am I bad at my job? I just had a positive review, and I haven’t done anything wrong”
And finally, there is an extra step:
E – Evaluation. Look at how you’re felling now. No doubt the process has calmed you down somewhat. Plus the more you look at situations in this way, the better you’ll get at it.
For all of the good word on ANTs, check out the podcast below: