Updated: Nov 15, 2019
Automatic negative thoughts influence our emotions and in turn, our behavior. Are you suffering from an ANT infestation?
ANT infestation is challenging to overcome, and no I’m not talking about those pesky little creatures that invade your home during the warmer months. I’m referring to Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS). These types of ANTS are pesky yes however, they invade your mind! Cognitive behavioral theory is an evidence based intervention used to treat mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder among others. This approach is based on both behavioral and cognitive theories and is designed to help decrease or eliminate negative emotional and behavioral responses. CBT focuses on how our thoughts influence our feelings and our feelings cause us to behave the way we do. We call them “automatic” thoughts because we don’t create them or ask for them; they are based on core beliefs we have about ourselves and the world in which we live. When we begin to understand how our ANTS are influencing our emotions and in turn, our behaviors, we can work to change them and our core beliefs.
Let me give you an example of a situation in which ANTS may come into your mind. You are driving home and someone cuts you off on the road, you may have the thought: “What a jerk!” or “They are so rude!”. This ANT is likely to elicit the feeling of anger and because we are angry we may scream and yell at this person, begin tailgating or flash them a not-so-nice gesture. Can you see how the initial ANT began a chain reaction that then upsets you and possibly others in the vehicle? When we feel angry we are usually trying to punish the person who made us angry but instead we end of punishing ourselves with our own upset feelings and behaviors.
What if we changed our ANT and instead told ourselves: “Oh! They must have not been paying attention” or “They seem in a rush, maybe there is an emergency” and continue our drive down the road emotionally unaffected. The situation is the same and ultimately the ANT shaped how the situation felt and how we reacted. If you find yourself constantly walking around sad, angry or hurt ask yourself if you are suffering from ANT infestation. We often go through life feeling and behaving in ways that are based on these ANTS and instead of controlling what we think about, our thoughts are controlling us.