Identify your Automatic Negative
Thoughts (ANTs) and triggers.
ANTs, such as "I'm a loser", "I'm unworthy" or "I fail at
everything", are generally triggered by specific situations, so
identify situations that upset you, and try to pinpoint your
immediate reaction. After identifying your habitual
thoughts, and the situations that trigger them, then recognize
the negative effects your ANTs have. Your negative thoughts may
trigger broader patterns of negative emotions,
counter-productive behaviors, and additional negative thoughts...
Develop a 'Can-Do' Attitude
Focus on managing your ANTs, not
ANTs are automatic largely because they have recurred many times
over many years. So don’t expect them to disappear overnight.
However, it is certainly possible to manage your ANTs, and
although they might still occur from time to time, you can learn
to prevent ANTs from spinning into downward spirals of negative
thoughts and emotions.
Observe your ANTs objectively.
This step begins with an
insight from Buddhism: the inner
monologue that has been cycling through your head since you
learned to talk is not “you.” In a sense, “you” are the listener
rather than the voice itself. As the listener, you can shape the
nature of that internal monologue, and choose to listen to a
more positive voice. Most importantly, you can learn to prevent
that little voice – those isolated thoughts – from spinning into
full-blown cycles of negative emotion and counter-productive
actions. When an ANT occurs, try to observe it objectively. Just
because you have "heard it," doesn't mean that you have to
believe it, or give into it. Recognize that this thought
occurred to you, and let it go. If this technique appeals to
you, you may want to
in more detail, as many meditative techniques are
focused on this type of "impartial observation" of thoughts.
Just stop it.
carrying a 3x5 card with the word "STOP" written on it. When
your ANT pops into your head, pull the card out and spend some
time looking at it. Another alternative – wear a rubber band
around your wrist, and snap it when your ANT occurs. This
technique may seem simplistic and “self-helpy.” Certainly it is
no magic bullet to eliminating your ANTs forever. But it will
help you become more aware of your ANTs, the situations that
trigger them, and most importantly, your ability to consciously
prevent your ANTs from spinning out of control.
The Tao of Happiness
The Wheel of Personal Success
Learn to argue with yourself.
Go on the counter-attack. Fight back against the negative
thoughts by asking yourself a series of questions that will
reveal the ANTs as false and counter-productive. Try asking
yourself these seven kinds of questions:
Evidence: What is
the objective evidence for this ANT?
this ANT an exaggeration? Am I over-reacting? Am I
What are some other possible explanations?
I evaluate this situation in more flexible terms? Am I
thinking in overly rigid, black-or-white, all-or-none terms?
Utility: Is this
belief empowering or counter-productive?
have others fared in similar situations?
How would I evaluate other people who performed as I did?