Greater than 350,000 SparkPoints 552,273

A.N.T.s.... what I do with them

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

ANTs or Automatic Negative Thoughts... is a concept that I was introduced to quite a while ago in therapy... but the therapist I had retired, and nobody else framed it quite that way... but in the angsty cleaning and purging I have been doing I came across the big, black, plastic ant she gave me to help remind me to stop and question whether the self deprecating statements I make are true... or ANTs... or even when I think them in my own head and start getting discouraged and down on myself. What I say to myself often has more impact than what other people say to me... because they say it and leave (generally), whereas, when I start saying negative things to myself I am stuck with myself and my thoughts. And it can pop up anytime of the day or night, and in any situation. ANTs can be mildly negative or viciously undermining, but they all tend to be insidious. They are like the ants that infest your lawn (or your kitchen if you’re unlucky) in the Spring... you think you get rid of all of them, but they always seem to come back! So, what I was taught to do with ANTs ( not the little ants, those I really have no clue, besides live with them or bomb the heck out of them).., is to 1. pause... 2. Challenge... 3. Question... 4. Reframe... 5. Ask for outside input if the previous 4 steps don’t have the necessary effect. So, for me... I am at a healthy weight now, but I used to be morbidly obese (over 300 pounds and I am 5’10”... well, I used to be... now I am 5’8”)... Though I took a couple years to get to my target weight through diet and exercise, and making lifestyle changes ... so it wasn’t an abrupt change or anything and I had time to become accustomed to the changes... I still, at times, think of myself as a morbidly woman... even though I am not. (What my brain says is more along the lines of “ you can’t possibly do xyz you are stupid fat cow”). That’s The ANTs at work! So I go through the process and pause and say “hey! Wait a minute, where did that come from?” Why would I say that about anyone, much less myself? What is really going on here? Am I feeling anxious about doing this activity/social engagement? And then I reframe... (because for me it is usually actually about my anxiety rather than my weight) I would say something like... “okay, take a deep breath... and decide if completing the activity is necessary, if so just buckle down and finish... and it will be over... and if it’s not necessary decide if completing it is worth the anxiety level, or if completing it will give a sense of mastery and empowerment that will help combat the anxiety! It sounds long and drawn out, and like it would get in the way of actually making a decision or changing a thought process... and at first for me it wasn’t a natural thing. And lately I have gotten away from doing it (which is not a good thing given my recent medical and living situation issues exacerbating my anxiety issues), but I found after I did it once or twice it becomes a split second thing. The pause is what takes the longest for me, because I have to stop and realize I am actually saying that awful stuff to myself about myself and usually without good reason... and it’s things I would NEVER say to another person, ever, because it would be cruel! So, the pause to analyze takes the longest (and often hurts the most). The rest just happens naturally with practice! So, that’s what works for me when those nasty ANTs get to crawling through my head... what do you do? What works best for you? Or does it even happen in your head? If it doesn’t... can you tell me how you got those ANTs out for good?
Share This Post With Others
Member Comments About This Blog Post
    My brain likes to bring up some failures from the past sometimes, but I force myself to think on happier thoughts and talk to God. Turning it over to him helps me tremendously. I have panic attacks about my grown children sometimes, but again prayer is what turns it around for me.

    I hope you find answers and things smooth out for you. It has been a hard time for you lately. Time for a change for the better!
    159 days ago
    What excellent suggestions! Yes, it is the most difficult to dismiss your OWN negative thoughts . . . and I like what you've outlined to deal with them. Thanks.
    159 days ago
    Wow, I don’t get anxiety attacks, but sometimes my inner self is a real mama dog 🐶 she says some nasty stuff to me. I like the ANTs - would writing positive things & sticking them up around the mirror help?
    159 days ago
    So much empathy for this. That inner voice is SHOCKING and MEAN. May we make a practice of questioning everything everything everything we are used to.
    159 days ago
    I love the therapist providing you with an actual ANT, that is so cool. It's a shame on the retirement, as the therapist sounded like a very awesome person to work with. I have lived with automatic negative thoughts all my life, or at least that is how it seems. When I went through therapy, we realized the abuse from teachers really shaped how I viewed myself and later as an adult, continued abuse from partners, employers, "the system" especially the medical system, cemented in those thoughts. Like you, I've learned to question the thoughts, reframe and especially with negative relationship thoughts, have learned to ask people I trust, their opinion. I also learned to do quick check-in(s) with folks, when I am thinking I've done something negative and offended them. For me, one method I learned in therapy was to visualize the thoughts as a creek, which flows into a river, which flows into the ocean and evaporates into the universe. When I'm feeling at the anxiety break-point, I visualize blowing up the "dams" so the water "thoughts" can flow freely. I also like what you said about "would I say that about anyone else" and the answer, as you also stated was "no." Thank-you for sharing this important piece about anxiety and your insight.
    160 days ago
  • MBPP50
    I like your suggestions about what to do with those ANTs. I have been having a lot myself lately. I hope your anxiety settles down and you get rid of your nasty ANTs. emoticon
    160 days ago
  • Add Your Comment to the Blog Post

    Log in to post a comment

    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.