What different ants need…

by leona on November 19, 2010

continuing on from Dr Daniel Amen’s post…

I have added my own take in connecting with our ANT’s based on NVC and acknowledging our underlying needs. I have italicised in blue a needs approach in the models.

Here are nine different ways that your thoughts lie to you to make situations out to be worse than they really are.

Think of these nine ways as different species or types of ANTs (automatic negative thoughts). When you can identify the type of ANT, you begin to take away the power it has over you. I have designated some of these ANTs as red, because these ANTs are particularly harmful to you. Notice and exterminate ANTs whenever possible.

ANT #1: "Always or Never Thinking"
This happens when you think something that happened will "always" repeat itself. For example, if your partner is irritable and she gets upset you might think to yourself, "She’s always yelling at me," even though she yells only once in a while. But just the thought "She’s always yelling at me" is so negative that it makes you feel sad and upset. It activates your limbic system. Whenever you think in words like always, never, no one, every one, every time, everything those are examples of "always" thinking and usually wrong. Here are some examples of "always" thinking:
"He’s always putting me down."
"No one will ever call me."
"I’ll never get a raise."
"Everyone takes advantage of me."
"You turn away every time I touch you."
"My children never listen to me."

"Always thinking" ANTs are very common. Watch out for them.

ANT #2 (red ANT): "Focusing On the Negative"
This occurs when your thoughts only see the bad in a situation and ignore any of the good parts that might happen. For example, I have treated several professional speakers for depression. After their presentations they had the audience fill out an evaluation form. If l00 of them were returned and 2 of them were terrible, but 90 of them were outstanding, which ones do you think they focused on? Only the negative ones! I taught them to focus on the ones they liked a lot more than the ones they didn’t like. It’s important to learn from others, but in a balanced, positive way.

Your deep limbic system can learn a powerful lesson from the Disney movie, "Pollyanna." In the movie, Pollyanna came to live with her aunt after her missionary parents died. Even though she had lost her parents she was able to help many "negative people" with her attitude. She introduced them to the "glad game," to look for things to be glad about in any situation. Her father had taught her this game after she experienced a disappointment. She had always wanted a doll, but her parents never had enough money to buy it for her. Her father sent a request for a second hand doll to his missionary sponsors. By mistake, they sent her a pair of crutches. "What is there to be glad about crutches?" they thought. Then they decided they could be glad because they didn’t have to use them. This very simple game changed the attitudes and lives of many people in the movie. Pollyanna especially affected the minister. Before she came to town he preached hellfire and damnation, and he did not seem to be very happy. Pollyanna told him that her father said that the Bible had 800 "Glad Passages," and that if God mentioned being glad that many times, it must be because He wants us to think that way. Focusing on the negative in situations will make you feel bad. Playing the glad game, or looking for the positive will help you feel better.

ANT #3 (red ANT): "Fortune Telling"
This is where you predict the worst possible outcome to a situation. For example, before you discuss an important issue with your partner you predict that he or she won’t be interested in what you have to say. Just having this thought will make you feel tense. I call "fortune telling" red ANTs because when you predict bad things you can make them happen. Say you are driving home from work and you predict that the house will be a wreck and no one will be interested in seeing you. By the time you get home you’re waiting for a fight. When you see one thing out of place or no one comes running to the door you explode and ruin the rest of the evening. Fortune telling ANTs really hurt your chances for feeling good.

ANT #4 (red ANT): "Mind Reading"
This happens when you believe that you know what another person is thinking even when they haven’t told you. Mind reading is a common cause of trouble between people. I tell my wife, "Please don’t read my mind, I have enough trouble reading it myself!" You know that you are mind reading when you have thoughts such as, "She’s mad at me. He doesn’t like me. They were talking about me." I tell people that a negative look from someone else may be nothing more than they are constipated! You don’t know. You can’t read anyone else’s mind. You never know what others are really thinking. Even in intimate relationships, you cannot read your partner’s mind. When there are things you don’t understand, clarify them and stay away from mind reading ANTs. They are very infectious.

ANT #5: "Thinking With Your Feelings"
This occurs when you believe your negative feelings without ever questioning them. Feelings are very complex, and, often based on powerful memories from the past. Feelings sometimes lie to you. Feelings are not about truth. They are about feelings. But many people believe their feelings even though they have no evidence for them. "Thinking with your feelings" thoughts usually start with the words "I feel." For example, "I feel like you don’t love me. I feel stupid. I feel like a failure. I feel nobody will ever trust me." Whenever you have a strong negative feeling, check it out. Look for the evidence behind the feeling. Do you have real reasons to feel that way? Or, are you feelings based on events or things from the past?

ANT #6: "Guilt Beatings"
Guilt is not a helpful emotion, especially for your deep limbic system. In fact, guilt often causes you to do those things that you don’t want to do. Guilt beatings happen when you think with words like "should, must, ought or have to." Here are some examples: "I ought to spend more time at home. I must spend more time with my kids. I should have sex more often. I have to organize my office." Because of human nature, whenever we think that we "must" do something, no matter what it is, we don’t want to do it. It is better to replace "guilt beatings" with phrases like "I want to do this…It fits with my goals to do that…It would be helpful to do this…." So in the examples above, it would be helpful to change those phrases to "I want to spend more time at home. It’s in our best interest for my kids and I to spend more time together. I want to please my spouse by making wonderful love with him (or her) because he (or she) is important to me. It’s in my best interest to organize my office." Get rid of this unnecessary emotional turbulence that holds you back from achieving the goals you want.

ANT #7: "Labeling"
Whenever you attach a negative label to yourself or to someone else, you stop your ability to take a clear look at the situation. Some examples of negative labels that people use are "jerk, frigid, arrogant and irresponsible." Negative labels are very harmful, because whenever you call yourself or someone else a jerk or arrogant you lump that person in your mind with all of the "jerks" or "arrogant people" that you’ve ever known and you become unable to deal with them in a reasonable way. Stay away from negative labels.

ANT #8: "Personalization"
Personalization occurs when innocuous events are taken to have personal meaning. "My boss didn’t talk to me this morning. She must be mad at me." Or, one feels he or she is the cause of all the bad things that happen, "My son got into an accident with the car. I should have spent more time teaching him to drive. It must be my fault." There are many other reasons for behavior besides the negative explanations an abnormal limbic system picks out. For example, your boss may not have talked to you because she was preoccupied, upset or in a hurry. You never fully know why people do what they do. Try not to personalize their behavior.

ANT #9 (the most poisonous red ANT): "Blame"
Blame is very harmful. When you blame something or someone else for the problems in your life, you become a victim of circumstances and you cannot do anything to change your situation. Many relationships are ruined by people who blame their partners when things go wrong. They take little responsibility for their problems. When something goes wrong at home or at work, they try to find someone to blame. They rarely admit their own problems. Typically, you’ll hear statements from them like:
"It wasn’t my fault that…."
"That wouldn’t have happened if you had…."
"How was I supposed to know…."
"It’s your fault that…."

The bottom line statement goes something like this: "If only you had done something differently, I wouldn’t be in the predicament I’m in. It’s your fault, and I’m not responsible."

Whenever you blame someone else for the problems in your life, you become powerless to change anything. The "Blame Game" hurts your personal sense of power. Stay away from blaming thoughts and take personal responsibility to change the problems you have.

Summary of A.N.T. Species:

  1. "Always" thinking: thinking in words like always, never, no one, every one, every time, everything.
  2. Focusing on the negative: only seeing the bad in a situation.
  3. Fortune telling: predicting the worst possible outcome to a situation.
  4. Mind reading: believing that you know what another person is thinking, even though they haven’t told you.
  5. Thinking with your feelings: believing negative feelings without ever questioning them.
  6. Guilt beatings: thinking in words like "should, must, ought or have to."
  7. Labeling: attaching a negative label to yourself or to someone else.
  8. Personalization: innocuous events are taken to have personal meaning.
  9. Blame: blaming someone else for your own problems.

Feed Your Anteater and Feel Better

Whenever you notice an ANT entering your mind, train yourself to recognize it and write it down. When you write down automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) and talk back to them, you begin to take away their power and gain control over your moods. Convert the ANTs by feeding your emotional anteater.

FEED YOUR ANTEATER AND FEEL BETTER EXERCISE is for whenever you need to be in control of your mind. It is for times when you feel anxious, nervous, depressed or frazzled. It is for times when you need to be your best.

Whenever you feel depressed or anxious follow these ANTEATER steps.

EVENT: Write out the event that is associated with your thoughts and feelings.

1. A.N.T.  (write out the automatic automatic negative thoughts)

2. SPECIES (identify the type of irrational thought)

3. Convert THE A.N.T. (talk back to the irrational thoughts by acknowledging your needs and values)

Here are some examples of ways to convert these ANTs into Acknowledging Needs in Thoughts :

  1. You never listen to me. Oh, I really value attention when I speak. I feel connected and more confident.
  2. Always Thinking
  3. I get frustrated when you don’t listen to me, but I know you have listened to me and will again. I


  1. The boss doesn’t like me. I notice she walked past me without saying hello. I feel anxious because I value connection and inclusion.
  2. Mind Reading
  3. I don’t know that. Maybe she’s just having a bad day. Bosses are people, too.


  1. The whole class will laugh at me. I feel scared and worried because I value support & understanding.
  2. Fortune Telling.
  3. I don’t know that. Maybe they’ll really like my speech.


  1. It’s your fault we have these marital problems. I feel helpless in this situation and need support, clarity and understanding.
  2. Blame
  3. I need to look at my part of the problems and look for ways I can make the situation better.

Your thoughts really matter. They can either help or hurt your deep limbic system. Left unchecked, ANTs will cause an infection in your whole body system. Whenever you notice ANTs, you need to crush them or they’ll affect your relationships, your work, and your entire life. First you need to notice them. If you can catch them at the moment they occur and correct them, you take away the power they have over you. When a negative thought goes unchallenged, your mind believes it and your body reacts to it.

ANTs have an illogical logic. By bringing them into the open and examining them on a conscious level, you can see for yourself how little sense it really makes to think these kinds of things to yourself. You take back control over your own life instead of leaving your fate to hyperactive limbic conditioned negative thought patterns.

Sometimes people have trouble talking back to these grossly unpleasant thoughts because they feel that such obvious age-old "truisms" simply must be real. They think that if they don’t continue to believe these thoughts that they are lying to themselves. Once again, remember that to know what is true and what is not, you have to be conscious of the thoughts and have an intelligent perspective on them. Most negative thinking is automatic and goes unnoticed. You’re not really choosing how to respond to your situation, it’s being chosen for you, by bad brain habits. To find out what is really true and what is not, you need to question it. Don’t believe everything you hear — even in your own mind!


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