ANTs have a number of things in common that make then hard to stop. Dr. Stallard tells us that they are:
- Automatic – they just happen. They pop up without you having to think of them.
- Distorted – when you stop and check you will find that they don’t really fit all the facts.
- Continuous – you do not choose to have them and they can’t easily be turned off.
- Seem true – they seem to make sense so you accept them as true without stopping to challenge and question them.
- Because our automatic thoughts seem very reasonable, we listen to them.
- We become very familiar with them because we hear them so often.
- The more we hear them, the more we believe and accept that they are true.
ANTs are like a tape playing in our head that we don’t know how to stop until we are caught in a negative trap. Our negative thoughts create doubts and worries, which make us feel bad. As a result, we feel afraid, disinterested, and unmotivated and we do unhelpful things such as avoid friends or acting angry and hurt others. When they ignore or hurt us back, we feel even worse. Our negative thoughts must be true then, right? Wrong!
With a few simple exercises that we will show you in a moment, you can learn to recognize your negative feelings before they have an effect, test them, and replace them with other positive thoughts. Before we teach you how to develop better thoughts, we want to tell you about the most common types of negative thoughts so that you can recognize your own.