ANTS Are Not What You Think!, Part 7

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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

magnifying is when we emphasize things out of proportion to their actual importance. It’s when I’ve procrastinated making handouts for a workshop I’m presenting the following morning and it’s 10 p.m. and I say to myself, ‘This is going to take all night to get these handouts done’I’m overwhelmed!’ The reality is that it will take me 1-2 hours to complete. I’ve magnified the problem in my mind which makes me feel worse.

It’s when you’ve got a backache and you suspect a ruptured disc. Or when your child makes a low grade on one test and feels despair’instead of just disappointment in not studying hard enough. Magnifying creates a tone of doom and gloom. It’s overblown pessimism.

Some of the balancing statements suggested to tone down these thoughts is to stop using magnifying adjectives such as ‘terrible,’ ‘overwhelming,’ ‘disgusting’ and ‘huge.’ Get rid of phrases such as ‘It’s impossible’ or ‘I can’t stand it.’ Humans are strong and can survive all kinds of physical and emotional pain. Put things in proportion in your mind by thinking ‘I can get though this’ or ‘I can cope’ or ‘This will all work out in the end.’ If your children hear you making such affirming statements, you will soon notice they may be more optimistic when trauma or disappointment strikes!

More in the ANTS series:

Part 1 – ANTS: Automatic Negative Thoughts
Part 2: Polarized Thinking
Part 3: Filtering
Part 4 Catastropizing
Part 5: Overgeneralization
Part 6: “Mind Reading”
Part 7: Magnifying
Part 8: “Shoulds”

Copyright 2018, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.

Sharon Scott

Sharon is the author of eight award-winning books including four on the topic of peer to peer pressure.

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.
Sharon Scott ScottCounselor's CornerPeer PressureANTS Are Not What You Think!, Part 7 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...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids