Picture Courtesy : https://braintracts.wordpress.com/tag/automatic-negative-thoughts/
Our brains are wired to focus on the negative, to avoid things that may hurt us, says Daniel Amen, American psychiatrist, a brain disorder specialist, director of the Amen Clinics, and a ten-times New York Times bestselling author.
Fear serves a purpose, but what happens when all we seem to focus on are negative thoughts?
Look at these compelling facts:
- Every thought you have releases chemicals in the brain.
- Hopeful thoughts release chemicals that help you feel happy and calm.
- Negative thoughts release chemicals that make you feel stressed and sad.
- If what you bring your attention to determines how you feel and act, focusing too much on negative thoughts can lead to destructive behaviors—behaviors that can ruin your important relationships and ruin your mind.
Tom Bileyu, Serial Entrepreneur, says “It isn’t about what happens to you, it’s about how you react to it. Your reactions define you, not your intentions.”
The other day I received a call from my colleague, “Mr X is in a bad mood. He won’t agree. Can you talk to him?” This is normal. Nobody wants to meet a person who radiates anger. It was my turn to jump in and understand the situation. So, I decided to meet him. He was of course in his hyper-cooled AC chamber. Isn’t it ironic how all hot-headed people sit in hyper cool chambers?
At that point I was experiencing what we call ANT’s (Automatic Negative Thoughts). This is explained as “Negative automatic Thoughts – the subconscious thoughts that occur in response to stimuli that are irrational, self-defeating and fuel social anxiety disorder (SAD). (https://www.verywell.com/what-are-negative-automatic-thoughts-3024608)
The automatic negative thoughts at that point were “What if we can’t convince him? What are the implications?
We sat in the room and we had a very good conversation. During those couple of hours, I understood the constraints the other person was going through and why he was externalising them in the form of anxiety, anguish and arrogance. We deliberated our options and we could find common ground. Finally, our goal was also achieved.
The lesson I learned from the episode was that as Steven Covey said, “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”
Separate the problem from the person. Do not get enamoured by his resistance. Persist your way against that resistance. We as humans need to get under the skin of the other person and that takes time. In our case, it was 3 plus hours. This can be achieved by Active Listening using choice words which can make the other person feel that there is a genuine interest to be heard. The words are the tools. Use of words like “My feeling “, “The way I understand” , “If you have an opportunity to raise this issue” , “ How do you like to change in the future”. These are good conversation pickup lines which can facilitate discussions.
So, “how do we deal with ANTS?”
A simple way to deal with this is as Daniel Amen says, “Write it down, Investigate, Talk back.” You can learn how to kill your automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) and focus on the positive. More on this http://stronginsideout.com/automatic-negative-thoughts/
If you act with your WITs (Writing, Investigating, Talking ) , you can crush those ANTs.