Why do the handouts refer to A.N.T.s as actual ants?


I have trouble referring to my negative thoughts as insects that actually get mad when I ignore them. Thoughts don’t have feelings. It seems a bit childish. Can someone explain why the ANTS handout refers to our thoughts as actual beings?


Hello Jaysun,

The handouts are not intending for the ANTs to come across as the insect ants, but it is just a catchy and quick way to refer to your automatic negative thinking that is easy to remember. The ANTs convention handout refers to the ANTs as more like people, but this was designed this way, and it is more satirical and metaphorical in nature than the other handouts are.

I also used to think that the ANTs were referring to the insect, but Dr. Richards told me that this was not the case, so if you are having trouble with the whole ANTs metaphor, maybe it will help knowing that Dr. Richards did not intend for the ANTs to be identified as the insect ants.



I guess I just have a problem reading that “the ANTs thoughts hate it when…” or “the ANTs thoughts enjoy…” How do my thoughts hate or enjoy anything? Is Dr. Richards referring to my brain? I can enjoy things or hate things, buy my thoughts are not beings that have feelings. If there is a neurological explanation for believing that my negative thoughts hate or enjoy, I would love to hear it. It would help me understand how thoughts affect me and my brain. Is it because the brain becomes addicted to the negative thoughts and are reluctant to change? Does the brain actually get some sort of reward when I’m anxious or depressed, like a feel good chemical?


I try to think that the ants are things, and that they are not me. It’s something I unintentionally have learned. I have a book by a professor and he claims that ants and dwelling are safety behaviours. Safety behaviours make the brain feel calm for some time, but it just make the problem bigger.
That’s why we have these negative cycles of thinking, we try to comfort us. The ants want a fight, but when they are swinging hard, we should just go away. It’s a safety behaviour we must stop so we can feel more free.
Sorry if my english is bad.


Ah yes. I think I have heard something about this before. About how when we dwell on things or worry, it actually works as a comfort to ourselves. I wonder if our brains have actually become addicted to this temporary safety behavior or calming effect. This would make sense, since Dr. Richards tells us that the more we ignore the ANTs, the more pressure they put on us. Kind of like cravings or withdrawal.


Yes, I think it can be something like that. It’s harder to stop worrying and feel sorry about myself than it was to stop my nicotine addiction


One of the key tools in cognitive behavioral therapy is externalizing worry (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jryCoo0BrRk). Your ANTs are not you, any more than a virus is you. Apparently Dr. Richards has found that the personification of ANTs helps most people with that. Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz puts it somewhat more scientifically in his book “You Are Not Your Brain.” In his program designed to help people overcome OCD, he refers to this step as “Reattribute” and uses the sentence, “It’s not me–it’s my OCD.”

Lately I’ve come to view ANTs as memes (which should not be . They each represent “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture” like a virus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme). I don’t think the personification of ANTs ever helped me, and it turned me off a little, but I basically treated my negative view of the personification of ANTs as an ANT itself. I just ignored it and kept going on with the therapy. I also read a few things from other sources, including Dr. Schwartz, who put things in more scientific terms which I could better accept (whether or not his explanations are actually correct, I don’t really know). The therapy was working, and I wasn’t going to let my relatively minor nitpicking get in the way of letting the therapy continue to work.