Help for dealing with A.N.T.s – Automatic Negative Thoughts…

ANTS can be a nuisance. Automatic Negative Thoughts, that is.

They creep across our minds from time to time, and pester us. The thing is, for those over-thinkers like myself, ANTS can pester us with greater frequency and intensity than other people who find it easier to ‘switch off’ or not be so aware of or bothered by their thoughts. It’s not that we choose to be over-thinkers (why would anyone choose what can often be and feel like an affliction?), it’s just that’s how we are wired, and our brains are always ‘whirring’ with action, whether we like it or not. Many of us are also highly intelligent, creative, analytic and kind and sensitive souls. We know all too well the two-edged sword of positive and negative attributes to having a highly sensitive mind and disposition.

We may also have in common the condition of ‘Generalised Anxiety Disorder’ which until you get a handle on and figure out how to train yourself to get on top of, really sucks! So my sympathy for any other sufferers out there. However, we are not our thoughts and we don’t need to be defined by our ‘conditions’, it’s just a part of our life experience, but so too is overcoming it, learning and growing from it, helping ourselves, and quite incredibly growing to the point of inspiring and encouraging others.

So, back to the infestation of ANTS. What do you do? I think, although I can’t be sure, that probably almost everybody experiences the nuisance of ANTS from time to time. Unwanted thoughts, memories, etc. flash through our minds and make us feel uneasy.

Something I have learned not all that long ago (and Katie Morton’s videos on YouTube have helped me to see this), is that ANTS become a nuisance for people like me, and perhaps like you, when we are unable to ‘shrug them off’.

Some people notice a negative thought, and ‘shake it off’ in the words of Taylor Swift, or just ‘Let it go’ (if you prefer the ‘Frozen’ theme song). For those of us whose minds, brains, personalities, characteristics or whatever it is, are more sensitive to what’s going on inside of our heads, we tend to think about the thought.

For example, take the negative thought that might stem from seeing someone struggling to climb down some steep steps in real life. Maybe you’ve seen something on a TV programme where someone has fallen and had an accident, or maybe somewhere within yourself it’s just something you fear, I don’t know, the mind is a complex place. A thought flashes by that the person you’re seeing in real life falls down these steps.

Now, for people who aren’t particularly affected by ANTS (and as Katie Morton helpfully points out in some of her videos), they might just think ‘Oh, that’s not a nice thought, I hope that doesn’t happen’, and get on with their life.

For those of us more hypersensitive, over-thinking, anxious types, we would feel the distress of the thought. We’d then probably feel guilty for having that thought. One ANT becomes two, and then they seem to keep multiplying. We think about the thought about the thought. We wonder if we’re a horrible person, we question ourselves as to whether we are a danger to society (which in most cases of normal but anxious people we aren’t in the slightest but we’re just over reacting to hidden fears of ‘what if’ – what if we’re the type of person we don’t want to be?), we try to ‘fix’ the thought, ‘erase’ the thought, we ruminate on the thought, we apologise internally, we perhaps are ‘triggered’ into remembering or thinking of other things we have seen, we then imagine ourselves falling down the steps, we kind of internally ‘freak out’ and all of a sudden we are surrounded by ANTS! Sometimes we may even ask for reassurance from someone we know because the thought has become so BIG and so ‘REAL’ to us!

If you recognise yourself in any of this, then take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are not your thoughts. I can’t explain the human mind, and sometimes upsetting thoughts come into our minds, but the problem arises when we start dwelling on them, fixating on the possible ‘meanings’ behind them such as what it says about you as a person (there is a place and time for such self-reflection, but not in an anxious, fear-filled, reactionary way), or ruminating on them.

These things can lead to a cycle of anxiety and / or depression. I well know.

We need to be able to ‘talk ourselves’ into a calmer place. Some ‘mind doctors’ 🙂 have given various helpful analogies of how to deal with such ANTS.

For example, take time to be still each day and allow your thoughts and mind to do what it does without judgement, stress or fear. It’s not easy, it takes time, keep at it.

Think of unwanted thoughts as clouds and simply let them drift across your mind. Don’t follow or pursue or chase them down, just let them drift away and replace them with a positive thought.

Or think of unhelpful, distressing thoughts as fallen leaves upon a stream and let them drift and be carried away by the current of the waters. Don’t grab them, look at them, pick them up or analyse them, just let them go.

Once we are able to cognitively grasp that we are not the conditions we may suffer from, that is to say we are not all of our thoughts, as some thoughts are like ‘fiery darts’ to our minds, we are able to better ‘diffuse’ the emotional intensity of the experience.

Maybe you have your own way of ‘dealing with’ ANTS. Perhaps you could combine the analogies noted above into something more light hearted and imagine a tiny ant sitting on a leaf, floating down an imaginary stream in a clouded sky and let them all just move past.

Learning not to analyse or overanalyse all of our thoughts can for some of us take a lot of time and practice, but the first place to start is to rid yourself of the fear that these ANTS are in control of you – they’re not, take back control, and steer your mind to more helpful, positive, lovely, excellent, noble, pure and just places. It can be done. Let’s get to it! And if these negative things bother you again, remind yourself ‘Oh, they’re just ants!’ 🙂 x

 

Here’s a link to one of Kati Morton’s helpful videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mz7xVjo57ik