Part 6: Mind Reading, ANTS Are Not What You Think! Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS) by Sharon Scott, LPC LMFT
ANTS Are Not What You Think!, Part 6
By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT
The last few months this column has been about ANTS as in Automatic Negative Thoughts. ANTS are our internal dialog in overdrive! It’s when we believe our self-talk in a situation that is actually benign, however, we make a negative interpretation from it. Thoughts cause feelings. An automatic negative thought would be if you think your friend is gossiping about you when you saw her whispering to someone sitting next to her, yet you are on wonderful terms with her. You are assuming the worst for no logical reason. So if you change the thought (‘I wonder what my friend is whispering about?) to no negative assumptions then you will feel better. ANTS can lead to worry, anxiety and depression and can be managed.
There are eight common ANTS. We will discuss the last one, the ‘shoulds’ this month. According to McKay, Davis and Fanning in Thoughts & Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods & Your Life
mind reading is when we know how people are feeling and why they act the way they do without them saying so. In particular, we are mind reading when we have certain knowledge of how people think and feel about us without first hand information.
We often make snap judgments about people when we mind read such as saying to your child, ‘He’s acting that way because he’s jealous,’ yet you have no facts to back that up. Or your daughter might think, ‘I just know that new guy doesn’t like me.’ She hasn’t met or even talked to him yet, however, she thinks she can read his mind. You assume what you think is true without any evidence to support it and could possibly even act on that thought which will invariably lead to trouble.
In Thoughts and Feelings, balancing statements to counteract mind reading is to check out our interpretation perhaps by asking some questions of the person. Also note if there is any evidence to our conclusion. Also ask ourself if there are any other interpretations. Let’s say someone is staring at you and you mind read this thought, ‘She thinks I’m unattractive.’ You could check it out by greeting her and saying something like, ‘You seem to be concentrating hard,’ to see how she replies. You might ask yourself if you have evidence for this stinkin’ thinkin.’ And also ask yourself if there are other interpretations—maybe she likes your necklace; maybe she’s in deep thought and unaware of where she’s looking; maybe she likes your haircut and trying to get up the nerve to ask who your stylist is or’. This will bring us back to more realistic, accurate thinking and avoid the negativity that comes with thinking we are magicians who can really know what others are thinking.
And remember that if you have this pattern and mind read out loud, your child will likely develop this negative habit as well.
More in the ANTS series:
Copyright 2018, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.
The guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed.
Her popular book for teens, How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed., empowers kids to stand out,not just fit in!
A follow-up book for teens, When to Say Yes! And Make More Friends, shows adolescents how to select and meet quality friends and, in general, feel good for doing and being good.
Sharon also has a charming series of five books for elementary-age children each teaching an important living skill and "co-authored" with her savvy cocker spaniel Nicholas who makes the learning fun.Their book on managing elementary-age peer pressure is titled Too Smart for Trouble.
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