When things don’t work as expected, some people stress out, freak out, or lash out. At the time, the responses may seem like the right way to act, but the responses are likely to make the situation worse because they tend to alienate people who could correct the problem. No matter how much planning, scheduling, and testing goes into trying something, there is a possibility that things don’t work as expected. This problem is evident in sports upsets, political rivalry, and our personal lives. Problems happen! Do we try to prevent problems from occurring or do we change our reactions to problems before they occur?
As Elvis Presley famously stated, “when things go wrong don’t go with them.” I recognize that some people do not like Elvis or his music, but I must admit that the quote sounds like good advice to me. There are many things in this world that, at the moment, are outside our control such as acts of God, acts of war, acts of terror, and bad luck. If we cannot prevent bad things from happening, and we know that stressing out, freaking out, and lashing out do not help the situation, then what should we do? Daniel G. Amen, M.D., whom I mentioned in the post titled, “Anteater Saves Human,” has a recommendation.
In his article titled “How to Develop Your Own Internal Anteater to Eradicate Automatic Negative Thoughts,” Daniel G. Amen, M.D., identifies a strategy for eradicating each of the nine types of Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs). If you are not familiar with the nine types of ANTs, please review my prior post.
Destroying ANT #1 (“Always” Thinking)
When you find yourself using words such as always, never, and everyone, use your imaginary anteater to destroy the negative words and use words such as sometimes, occasionally, from time-to-time, and every so often. For example, you might say “I get frustrated when you don’t listen to me, but I know you have listened in the past” rather than “you never listen to me when I tell you to put away your toys.”
Squishing ANT #2 (Negative Thinking)
When you find yourself believing that all situations are worse than they really are, use your imaginary anteater to squish those negative beliefs and encourage more realistic beliefs. You may have received “bad” news, but there may be good things that happen as the result of the bad event. Focus on the opportunities rather than the difficulties, challenges, and fatalistic views.
Crushing ANT #3 (Fortune Telling)
When you find yourself predicting the worst possible outcome, scenario, or decision, use your imaginary anteater to crush the negative predictions. If fortune telling were an exact science, there would be no gambling, no lotteries, no need for decision making, and no uncertainty. Fortune cookies provide interesting, humorous, and vague predictions about your future, but they do not predict a specific occurrence. Some diners may infer that a fortune reveals the truth about a specific occurrence, but the fortune itself does not predict that a specific event or decision will result in a specific outcome. You might try “maybe the teacher will like my presentation” rather than “I’ll probably get an F.”
Defeating ANT #4 (Mind Reading)
When you find yourself believing that you know what someone else is thinking, use your imaginary anteater to defeat that negative belief. If it were possible to read someone’s mind with 100% certainty that you have read it correctly, statement such as “irreconcilable differences” and “the perfect crime” would not exist. You might try saying “Maybe she’s just having a bad day (bosses are people, too)” rather than “my boss hates me.”
Conquering ANT #5 (Gut Reactions)
When you find yourself believing that your gut reaction is right more often than it is wrong, use your imaginary anteater to conquer that negative belief. This ANT is closely related to the Fortune Telling and Mind Reading ANTs. All three types of ANTs cause you to form conclusions based on incomplete, inaccurate, missing, and wrong information.
Overpowering ANT #6 (Guilt Beatings)
When you think that you should have or would have acted differently, use your imaginary anteater to overpower the negative thought that second guessing the past can somehow change the present or future.
Consuming ANT #7 (Labeling)
When you categorize (label) a person or event, use your imaginary anteater to consume the negative categorization. Do not consider yourself stupid because you made a mistake – learn from the mistake. Do not consider another person lazy for taking a vacation – understand their needs, wants, and desires. An event is not a waste of time unless you choose to make it a waste of time – you can network, use the time to learn something new, and you can teach people something they didn’t know.
Demolishing ANT #8 (Personalization)
When you blame yourself for something you did not do, use your imaginary anteater to demolish the negative personalization. You may have real obstacles to overcome. You may not have the time, energy, or emotional strength to deal with easily avoidable ANTs. If you didn’t do it, don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault.
Terminating ANT #9 (Blame)
When you believe that someone else is at fault for a situation you created or you are responsible for something that you did not do, use your imaginary anteater to terminate the negative blame game. When you criticize people for something they did not do, they tend to get depressed, feel emotionally drained, become non-productive, and dislike being around you. Take the blame for everything you caused, but explain how you will prevent another similar situation for occurring.
What will you do to eradicate your ANTs? What will you do to help others eradicate their ANTs? What compensation tools exist for people who have trouble eliminating their ANTs? What software exists to help people recognize and eliminate ANTs? If there are more than nine types of ANTs, what would you call the ANTs? What are some examples of the “newly discovered” ANTs? How would you eradicate each of the newly discovered ANTs?