Your infestation of ANTs

In the previous post I mentioned a spiral of Doom and a meltdown with lots of tears. This was all caused by an off hand comment the Boyfriend made when we were out with friends on Sunday. I also mentioned the great advice my Best Friend gave me and that I would share it. Funny that the same day I saw something on PBS that linked directly to this and even was so generous as to give me a coping strategy for what the primary problem was.

Best Friend was present at the get-together and heard the comment. Through my tears and stifled sobs that came the next day he pointed out to me that Boyfriend’s comment meant absolutely no harm and was meant in jest. That I make similar comments all the time and have had to clean up the repercussions of supposedly “harmless” comments. Then I started in on how even if that is the case, he shouldn’t have said it and I don’t think Boyfriend is right for me anyway and he’s a big, fat, meany head who only wants to bring destruction to my world and death to my cat.

Ok, not those sentiments exactly, but everyone knows the thoughts you have in those moments. Is this person worth the trouble? I think we’re not really compatible. He’s holding me back. They don’t really care about me. Best Friend pointed out that this spiral happens for me usually just after some blissful event with Boyfriend wherein I’m left feeling happy and loved and perfectly at peace. Wow, Best Friend, you sure are right. Wonder what that’s about and how I can keep these thoughts from taking over? Hm, will have to ponder that and get back to you.

Amidst my pondering that afternoon I came across a program on PBS called “The Brain in Love” where Dr. Daniel Amen talks about his book of the same title and reveals his “Secrets” about how to stay in love. Sounds intriguing, I was distraught about my love, so I flip to it and what should he be talking about but ANTs or Automatic Negative Thoughts. He starts to describe what they sound like in our heads “They never listen. They don’t really care about me. They always leave dishes in the sink for me to clean up.”

Sound familiar? It sure did to me.

So here is Dr. Amen’s strategy that I have already employed once and promptly benefited from:
Once the thought comes to your head, write it down. This is a way of taking the thought out of your head and making it physical so you can’t turn it over anymore. Now look at the words in front of you and employ the same brutal honesty you use when you’re with your best friend who is about to buy purple taffeta. Is this statement really accurate? If all of the statement is accurate, then you can go ahead and start to work out a strategy to address it with your partner. If it isn’t, which applies 99% of time, then recognize that you were starting to employ a spiral of Doom and think about a positive thought to replace the negative. (The last bit about the positive thought is my addition, not Dr. Amen’s. He may have a different strategy in the book, but this is what I prefer to do.)

I usually have a string of ANTs that trigger other off shoots and may circle back around to others. By having it all on paper in front of me, my brain can go back to one I’ve already addressed and say “Oh, I already covered that. And, look! It’s all fine.” I would even right down the positive thought to replace the negative to make it more concrete.

In any case, write it down. Get it out of your head. Fill that space with positive thoughts and pull out of the spiral of Doom. Because if you stay in the spiral, all you’re going to do is move in circles and eventually drown. Think of this writing strategy as Raid for your brain.

If you have any instances of this, I would love to hear about it!

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