Most negative thinking is automatic (Automatic Negative Thoughts—ANTS) and goes unnoticed. You’re not really choosing how to respond to a situation, its being chosen for you by your bad brain habits. To find out what is really true you need to question your thinking patterns.
Below are 9 of the the most common ANTS people have. Even though we slip into each one of these at some time or another, we usually gravitate towards one or two main ANTS in our lives. By catching what the negativing thinking pattern is, we start to have the ability to chose our responses in life and live a little more productively.
1. “Always/Never” Thinking
This happens when you think something that happened will “always” repeat itself, or that you’ll “never” get what you want. All-or-never words like always, never, no one, every one, every time, everything are usually wrong.
2. Focusing On The Negative
This occurs when your thoughts reflect only the bad in a situation and ignore any of the good things. Its getting 100 reviews back and all you can focus on are the 4 bad ones, forgetting about the 96 positive ones.
This is where you predict the worst possible outcome to any situation. When you go into a conversation assuming that the other person won’t like what you have to say, you change the way you communicate to usually make it come true.
4. Mind Reading
This happens when you believe that you know what other people are thinking, even though they haven’t told you directly. Taking someone’s silence as “They’re mad at me” is a perfect example of mind reading. They may just be thinking.
5. Thinking With Your Feelings
This occurs when you believe your negative feelings without ever questioning them. Feelings are very complex and often based upon our past stories. Feelings are not always about truth. Feelings are your perception of certain situations.
6. Guilt Beating
Also called shoulding on yourself, guilt beating is when you think words like should, must, ought, or have to to most situations. It’s healthier to say, “I’d like to be able to help them out” instead of “I should help them out”.
Whenever you attach a negative label like jerk, arrogant, irresponsible, or stupid to yourself or to someone else, you stop your ability to take a clear look at the situation.
This happens when you invest innocuous events with personal meaning. “My boss didn’t talk to me, so I must have done something wrong.” There are lots of reasons people do things. You never fully know why people do what they do.
When you blame something or someone else for the problems in your life, you become a passive victim of circumstances and you make it very difficult to do anything to change your situation.
If you want to read more on ANTS, this information was taken from Daniel Amen’s book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. (I know. Its a cheezy title but its got some good stuff in it. I’d recommend it.)