ANTs thoughts are always wrong


#1

Just wanted to share something that happened at work today that reinforces a message from this week’s session and that I hope will be beneficial to someone. I attended a meeting where there are various presenters giving updates on various topics. I work in the technology industry and as you can imagine the topics can be very complex. I’ve worked in this industry for many years now and I feel very comfortable with most of the topics that are typically covered. This week, I found myself completely lost on several of the topics. After the meeting I noticed that I was feeling anxious and a bit depressed. I started to think about why I was feeling this way. Needless to say it was an ANT. It went something like this “You are not smart enough to understand. You’ve been in this field for so long and you still don’t understand this stuff? Everyone else understands it but you.“

I thought about this rationally and I asked myself “is it realistic to know everything there is to know about every topic? Do most of the people at these meetings really know everything about every topic? Do the people that I believe to be highly skilled and intelligent know everything about every topic discussed today? The answer to all of these questions was a big NO! There is no possible way to know and understand everything that was discussed today. The next question I asked myself was “ if I had the time and I picked a topic that I knew nothing about, could I learn everything there is to learn about it? My answer to that question was a big YES! It has nothing to do with not being smart enough. It has everything to do with not having the need or the time to know EVERYTHING. No one in the meeting knew or understood everything that was discussed. You see this ANT was wrong and is a liar. It wants to bring me down. There is absolutely no truth to what I was thinking. In fact I would not have thought negatively about anyone who walked away saying they didn’t “get” a particular topic and yet I was beating myself up over it.

After going through this mental exercise I felt much better. It reinforced the truth that ANTs are always wrong and are liars as Dr. Richards discusses. So stay vigilant, catch those ANTs and don’t let them lie to you anymore!


#2

Great example of how therapy works, IF you apply it. Well done and congratulations on your progress. Remember - you made this good outcome happen. Your daily habit of therapy enabled YOU to make this happen. So YOU did that.

If some friend of mine came to me feeling low because of a situation like you describe, I would see it from a different perspective. I would tell them the rational perspective. I would challenge their ANTs - a voice of rationality. But that would be my voice, not theirs. It might even help my friend to hear that voice, my voice, say these things and then they don’t feel that ANT anymore. But, later, they’d come to other ANTs because it’s not themselves automatically going to the rational solution as you did. And that is the key, the person him/herself needs or should of course want to be able to get their on their own, rather than being at the mercy of ANTs and only finding help from other people’s rational suggestions. Ultimately we need that rational thought to come from within ourselves, as you did here.

Therapy concepts aren’t exactly rocket science. And sometimes I think people question the usefulness of doing such simple things as suggested in the therapy, since they already “know” them. But, the point is that knowing isn’t the same as being able to use that thing or to feel that thing in a rational/positive way. And so, to be able to use the concept, to actually use our minds in the way that you show here, we practice every day. And as a result of that practice, today you were able to do it yourself, sort it out for yourself, and believe it for yourself. And you stopped that automatic anxiety spiral yourself. The more you do that, the stronger and better the outcomes of therapy become. The more you reinforce the rational therapy, and of course the more you apply it as you did today, the more you build the rational neural pathways in your brain so that the irrational ones don’t even tend to pop up as much. It takes time, it is gradual, but that, in short, is the path forward.

Thanks for sharing, and good job. People might read this and think, yeah - that’s simple. That makes sense. Of course it makes sense, but it’s not “simple”. You did the work to get here. It may be simple now, but this simplicity was reached by your commitment to the habit of therapy.

Persistence, repetition, patience, repetition. Through that we learn to go with what is rational.