What Thoughts Are Holding You Back? Learn How To Minimize Their Effect

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When you step into the world are you on auto-pilot, do you have purpose or are you intentional? Do you think I Should do this or that? People Should listen to me? Always right? Jump to Conclusions? Mind reader? Take things personal? Only look what’s wrong with things? Think black or white? All or nothing? Are you perfect? Do you draw a conclusion from one single piece of evidence? Do you magnify or minimize other people statements or events? Are you a victim of fate? Are judging things to see if they’re fair? Is it other people’s fault when things happen to you? Do you feel stupid? Do you work hard on trying to change people? Do you tell yourself I’m a loser? Do you keep score?
Wow! Why so many questions all at once? Because thoughts like these are getting in the way of you living your best life! There is not a single positive question listed above that serves you. The scary part is most people don’t even know these thoughts exist and operate in their minds. These thoughts are not rational in any way, but the crazy thing is people rationalize with them everyday!
What are they and what are their names? In the cognitive behavioral world psychologists call them Common Cognitive Distortions. In layman’s term they are called, “Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs)”. So these ANTs are crawling in your mind causing havoc on your positive thoughts and are in constant battle for control. They control over your thinking, feelings and actions. If you happen to activate all fifteen at once you just kicked over the ANT hill! Chaos will soon appear in your physical world and you will be wondering what the heck is going on! Nothing is going right for me right now. Let’s take a look at the history and who discovered them.
ANT History
In the 1960’s Dr Aaron Beck, MD noticed them when he was working with his patients that these thoughts would pop-in out of nowhere. After years of research of this phenomenon he named them automatic thoughts. Fast forward 20 years in 1980’s Dr David Burns, MD was Dr Beck’s medical student who followed in his footsteps to further the automatic thoughts research.
In 1980 Dr Burns published a book on the subject called, “Feeling Good, The New Mood Therapy.” Dr Burns actually gave the automatic thoughts their names ten in all. Doctor Burns noticed that these thoughts were negative because they caused more harm than good. This is a great book and one everyone could benefit from reading, studying and applying the concepts.
Jump forward to today’s concepts about Automatic Negative Thoughts. From a psychologists point of view the ANT total is fifteen. Some of the ANTs have been split up due to very similar characteristics, effect and purpose. According to an article on PsyCentral website, doctor John M. Grohol, Psy. D., identifies fifteen common distortions with brief simple definitions. I take it one step further by identifying ANTs in the four categories I work with in life as a Life Coach. They are Health, Wealth, Love and Fulfillment.
Let’s take a look and ask a ANT question in each category. Health- “I failed at diets before what’s the point of eating right?” ; Wealth- “I was born poor so I will never have any money” ; Love- “I just got divorced and will never find anyone who will love me again.” ; Fulfillment- “I would like to volunteer but I’m afraid to.” There you have it, not only do we have common distortions but they are very specific as well. By learning about the fifteen common ANTs first will help identify the specific ANTs in the four categories of life too.
What are the fifteen ANTs?
  1. Filtering- Magnify the negative details filtering all positive aspects
  2. Black & White- Have to be perfect or we are a failure; either or categories
  3. Overgeneralizing- General conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence.
  4. Jumping To Conclusions- Know what a person is feeling and why they act the way they do. Know without a doubt what is going to happen in the future
  5. Catastrophizing- Magnifying or minimizing events, situations or people
  6. Personalization- Believes that everything other’s do or say is some kind of direct, personal reaction to the person; comparing ourselves to others
  7. Control Fallacy- Feel externally controlled and see ourselves  of victims of fate; Feel internally controlled has us assuming responsibility for the pain and happiness of everyone around us.
  8. Fallacy of Fairness- Applying a measuring ruler against every situation judging  it’s fairness.
  9. Blaming- Hold other people responsible for our pain or take the other track and blame ourselves for every problem.
  10. Shoulds- Have a list of ironclad rules about how others and we Should behave.
  11. Emotional Reasoning- We believe what we feel must be true automatically; I feel it, therefore it must be true.
  12. Fallacy of Change- Expect other people will change to suit us if we just pressure or cajole them enough.
  13. Global Labeling- Generalizing one or two qualities into a negative global judgment; labeling and mislabeling
  14. Always being right- Continually on trial to prove that our opinions and actions are correct; being wrong is unthinkable
  15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy- Expect our sacrifice and self-denial to payoff as if someone is keeping score.
What is your top ANT?
Your top ANT is the problem child and directs the other ANTs like a conductor who directs an orchestra. How do you discover your top ANT? Take out a piece of paper or use your computer and list all 15 Ants in order from one to fifteen. Score each ANT from 1-5; 1 having no, to little agreement and 5 with complete agreement. Scale is from 1-5 intensity measuring how much control the ANT has over you. It’s best to put down your first reaction without to much thought. We want a gut reaction that is quick and swift!
Look at your scores start with the highest numbers first 5,4,3,2,1. How many fives do you have; fours and so on. Have more than one five go through and pick the highest five this will be your top ANT. No five’s then next highest number. Word of caution if you have no fives, four’s or even three’s then your a God, a saint or in denial! Gut reactions are the most accurate and reliable. Be careful not to answer what you want to have, rather what you are feeling right now in the moment. Here’s why gut over mind: ANTs are subconscious and are irrational. If you rationalize with an irrational you still end up with an irrational!
Look for ANT part two article to see how to properly handle them.
You are on the path of feeling better and making improved choices!
May you never look at things the same again!

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