Shani Tsadik, in his book “A Quick Guide To Happiness” says that all the people in this world, including us, deal with unhelpful thoughts every day, whether they are aware or not.
These thoughts hold us back from developing and fulfilling our full potential. Some of them can even bring down our self-esteem and affect our identity and the way we perceive ourselves.
“Every time we allow these kinds of thoughts to be our truths, we put ourselves in situations where we attract negative situations, other than the ones that life throws at us. It creates a domino effect and makes us cope through unhealthy ways”, writes Tsadik.
We definitely need to know more about our negative thoughts and how they affect us.
In this article, we will get acquainted with these thoughts that Dr. Daniel Aman, a psychiatrist and brain health expert, calls ANTS – Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS) . Here are the nine most common ANTS and some examples of our unhelpful self-talks:
Black or White
Thinking in terms of a dichotomy: things are good or bad, right or wrong. All the thoughts that view things at the extremes and with no middle ground or nuance.
Example: “I made so many mistakes! If I can’t do it perfectly, I might as well not bother fixing it at all.”
These are the thoughts that make us concentrate on the negative side while ignoring the positive events or any other information that contradicts our negative view of the situation.
Example: “My boss said most of my submissions were great, but he also said several mistakes had to be corrected. He must think I’m hopeless.”
Negative fortune teller
Anticipating an outcome and assuming that our prediction is a fact. These expectations can be self-fulfilling. Predicting our actions based on past behaviors may prevent us from seeing the opportunity to change our situation.
Examples: “I’ve always been like this. I’ll never be able to change. I know it’s not going to work out, so there’s no point in trying.”; This relationship is going to fail again, for sure.”
A tendency to exaggerate jokes and empty words. Even though it was a joke, we accept it as if the person really meant it. We just spiral down and make a big deal out of it.”
Example: “You look so wimpy today!”
Feelings are mistaken for facts. It refers to every lie about ourselves that we believed to be true because they feel real.
Example: “I feel like a failure, therefore, I am a failure. I feel ugly, so I must be ugly. I feel hopeless, so does my situation.”
Blaming ourselves, knocking down the motivation, and creating false beliefs about ourselves.
Examples: “It was all my fault”; “I shouldn’t have said that”; “I always ruin the beautiful things”;. “Why do I always bring bad luck?”
Taking offense or feeling upset with what people say or do, thinking that their remarks are directed at us.
Example: John was in a terrible mood and didn’t notice you in the hallway. You took it the wrong way and thought, “It must be something I did. It’s obvious he doesn’t like me, otherwise, he would’ve said ‘hello.’”
Making assumptions about other people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors without checking the evidence, i.e., “John is talking to Molly, so he must like her more than me. Maybe he thinks I was stupid.”
Generalizations and labels we give to ourselves as if it’s an innate characteristic or a burden we carry in our pocket.
Example: “I’m the black sheep wherever I go.”
As Plutarch said, “What we change inwardly will change outer reality.” Acknowledge these negative thoughts and getting rid of them is the first step to happiness.
Adapted from Tsadik, Shani D. “A Quick Guide To Happiness: Life Changing Tools and Techniques to Transform Your Life Immediately”, Ses Ventures