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How Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) React In The Brain

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

 

Sometimes the worst treatment you can face is the treatment your give yourself. When automatic negative thoughts pop into your head, it’s all too easy to believe them, which can set off a chain reaction of negativity. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen teach you the common types of negative thoughts we have, and how we can keep them from ruining our day.

 

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warriors Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain, to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warriors Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen: The Brain Warriors Way Podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit brainmdhealth.com
Welcome to the Brain Warriors Way Podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We're gonna help you become a master ANTeater. You don't have to believe every stupid thing you think. So important. If you want to feel better fast, I want you to carry around these three little words: is it true? But first, you want to read a testimony.
Tana Amen: I do. So this is from Hot Stuff something ... something.
Dr. Daniel Amen: From Canada.
Tana Amen: From Canada.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Hot Stuff.
Tana Amen: Hot Stuff something: "Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen are my favorite people."
That's why I chose this one, just because they said this.
Dr. Daniel Amen: A little drip of dopamine.
Tana Amen: A little drip of dopamine.
"I love and admire them very deeply and was thrilled when I heard they were starting a podcast. They're a delight to listen to, and their message about brain health is something that's so important to spread. Our society doesn't yet look at brain health as much as we should and recognize that it's a large factor in explaining our behavior and our problems. We recognize the other three circles that Daniel explains which are the psychological, social, and spiritual components, and those are all very important, but we often miss the biological component when we are trying to understand behavior. As Daniel puts it, our brain is the hardware of the soul."
I love that.
"It's important to take care of our brain and body so that we can feel better so we can better serve God while we are here. I got the message loud and clear. I hear you. I get you. I love you guys so much. I recommend this podcast to anybody. It is great."
Thank you so much. I love that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That just gave me goosebumps.
Tana Amen: I know, it's awesome, right?
Dr. Daniel Amen: I wonder if goosebumps and dopamine go together.
Tana Amen: Probably.
Dr. Daniel Amen: They probably do.
Tana Amen: They probably do.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So we're in our Feel Better Fast series, and there's a whole section in the book on rational mind. And I find so many people I know in my family, for my patients, employees that no one has ever taught them how to discipline their mind. I mean, you can ... I can drug your brain into submission. I'm actually pretty good at it. But I don't want to just do that. I want you to learn-
Tana Amen: Skills.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... the tools, the techniques, the little tiny habits, the smallest thing you can do today that will make the biggest difference. So, in this podcast, we're actually gonna talk about the ANTs, the ANT species. So what are all the ways we mess ourselves up by the kinds of negative thoughts we have?
Tana Amen: So one of the things I wanna say about as we go into this, and some of you are going, "Well wait, you guys have done ANTs before." But you're gonna do it slightly different, so stick with us. Stay with us through the series.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Oh no, people need to hear it, over and over and over again.
Tana Amen: So, right, when I was doing ... When I listened to Love and Logic for Chloe, I was having trouble with parenting. And I ordered this parenting program, which literally changed my life with her and my relationship and just has been amazing. She's like-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Which is why we've had them on the podcast many times.
Tana Amen: ... Oh, my God, I love that program. But, I literally for a year drove around with that program in my DVD player. That tells you how long it's been. But in my DVD player, and I listened to it nonstop for a year and just kept replaying it because it takes time for it to become habit, right? So I would do really well with her, and then when it started to not work, when she started to act up again, I would realize, "Oh, it's because I'm not integrating it right now." So I would listen to it again. So you really do need to hear this.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, and I think the reason I like doing it a lot is it helps me. It helps me not have negative thoughts, 'cause when you're trying to change the world, like we are, you get attacked, and your thoughts can become distorted.
Tana Amen: And see one, do one, teach one.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So what we're gonna do now, and actually I wrote a kids' book about this called Captain Snout and the Superpower Questions, and I'm so thinking with the political turmoil-
Tana Amen: Oh my gosh, so dumb.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... that both sides are filled with ANTs, and these negative thoughts are driving ... They drive mobs.
Tana Amen: But it's very sad. We have more-
Dr. Daniel Amen: They drive negative behavior. And so-
Tana Amen: ... We have more in common than we don't.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... So let's talk about the seven different kinds of ANTs. And the first one's all or nothing ANTs. That's where things are all good or all bad, and it's where we're like-
Tana Amen: Black or white.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... historic political party or you demonize people, and what I've learned through the brain imaging work that we do, the world is totally gray. Plus, on a test, so you know you're doing all or nothing thinking whenever you think in words like always, never, every time, everyone, and if you remember in college whenever they asked you a test: "This is always this way"-
Tana Amen: 99% of the time.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... just mark it false. Right? Because there are just so very few absolutes in the world, except I absolutely love you, and if I mess up, you'll absolutely kill me.
Tana Amen: Right, yes.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So those are absolutes. If that was on the test, I would go, "Correct!"
Tana Amen: You could mark that one true. World's smallest handcuffs.
Dr. Daniel Amen: She's pointing to my wedding ring. But whenever you have those thoughts ... For example, "Tana never listens to me."
Tana Amen: Complete nonsense.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Is that true?
Tana Amen: Total and complete nonsense always.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right. But when you have a thought, even if it's not true, like that one's not true, when you have a thought, if you don't question it, you believe it 100% and then you act as if it's true. So those are all or nothing ANTs.
And then we have the bad ANT, where ... You see this totally in this political climate. They focus on one thing that may have happened 20 years ago, and they escalate the negative thing and exclude all the positive things.
Tana Amen: Right, and both sides do it. And they forget the fact that we have more in common together than we don't, so it's just very annoying. But I work on this one a lot with people that I've coached, and it's like something really bad, truly horrible, could happen to someone, but that person has played it over thousands of time in their mind, right? And so this is hard to say to someone who's been traumatized, but the one who helped me with this was Byron Katie, when she said, "Okay, I understand. This thing happened to you. It was terrible. This person did a terrible thing to you. But you've done it to you thousands of times by allowing yourself to replay it."
Dr. Daniel Amen: And people who've replayed the trauma over and over and over again.
Tana Amen: And she looked at me and she said, "Who's worse to you? Who's meaner to you?" And at first I was angry, and then I went, "Oh, wow. That's like powerful." I was being worse to myself. So it's a powerful thing, 'cause it puts you in control. It puts you in control.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Another example of just the bad: if I gave a talk, so I was in Vancouver, Canada recently and talked to hundreds of people, and say for example someone up front fell asleep during my talk.
Tana Amen: Oh this is powerful for me, too. It's happened to me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And so, I get a standing ovation at the end, but-
Tana Amen: This person's not-
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... but my mind focuses on the one who fell asleep. I must be boring. And so where do you bring your attention? Do you bring your attention to the standing ovation, or do you bring your attention to the person that fell asleep, even though they may have been up the night before.
Tana Amen: Right to get there to see you!
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because they had a sick husband, or they had a sick child, and they couldn't sleep.
Tana Amen: And that might be why they were up all night to get to see you, but I have one that's great with this. So I'm speaking one time, and this woman is in the front row, and I'm making eye contact with people, and she was making me so nervous. She was disrupting me because she's giving me dirty looks, I mean seriously dirty looks.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You were allowing her to make dirty looks.
Tana Amen: Absolutely, so I was feeling really disturbed by it, and then finally I was getting irritated. So now I'm just like, "Okay, forget you." So I'm like giving it back to her a little bit so that I didn't get sort of like flustered, and so I'm like, "Whatever!" And so I'm looking at everybody else, and I'm sort of annoyed with her, this whole thing. She's just like really glaring at me. And so I don't understand. I'm like, "What did I say that was so offensive to her?" But the whole time it's playing in my head.
So I just completely ignore her. She doesn't talk to me at the end. She contacts me after the event, and was like I completely loved everything you said. I need you to speak at my event. I was totally absorbed.
I was floored. That was just her way of paying attention. That taught me never, ever try to read people like that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, we're gonna talk about mind reading, and sometimes these ANTs get mixed up. Right? They mate with other ANTs, and you end up-
Tana Amen: But you can't always read people.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... mixed nationality ANTs. Guilt beatings: that is where you think in words like should, must, ought.
Tana Amen: I am so good at should-ing all over myself. You can't ... No, I'm really good at it. You can't take that one away from me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But guilt is not-
Tana Amen: I'm very clear about what people should do.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... a helpful motivator. So I mean, your mother went to Catholic school. I went to Catholic school.
Tana Amen: Yeah, and she passed it onto me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And so I often tease people I had to pass Guilt 101, Guilt 102, Advanced Guilt, and then I realized it's not helpful. And then I realized, what was it, in the Book of Genesis, God said, "You should not go to the tree of knowledge." The next scene-
Tana Amen: And the first thing they did-
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... is that they were at the tree of knowledge. And I'm like, "No. What God should have said is if you go to the tree of knowledge, we're kicking you out of the Garden of Eden-
Tana Amen: And you're gonna die a painful death.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... And she is going to have to wear clothes.
Tana Amen: Seriously? Seriously? What is the matter with you?
Dr. Daniel Amen: 'Cause if he would have said that, when she tried to get him to do it, 'cause she's the one that tempted him, he'd like, "No, I'm not going to the tree."
Tana Amen: You're just ... See, there is something seriously wrong with you.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So many things. Why do you think I'm a psychiatrist, right? 'Cause I'm fixing stuff constantly. Should isn't helpful because when you think you should do something it makes you feel bad, so you don't do it. So I want you to get rid of the word "should" and go, "I want to."
Tana Amen: Well, your whole life you were programmed to rebel against your parents, against whatever teachers, and so you instantly ...
Dr. Daniel Amen: And so many of my patients, their four-year-old selves, live. They're in control. Or the two-year-old self, which is: "No. No way. Never. You can't make me do it." They're still running your life. So I just want you to replace "should" with, "Well it's my goal. It fits-
Tana Amen: I want to.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... what I want." So, for example, if I think to myself I should go see my mom and dad. They're 86 and 89, and well I won't see them 'cause it makes me feel bad. But if I replace "I should go see them" with "I want to go see them" with "It fits my goal to have a close relationship with them; I don't know how much longer I'm gonna have them. I really want to spend time." Then, in a heartbeat, I'm there.
Tana Amen: Well that's the same thing-
Dr. Daniel Amen: So it's just changing how you think.
Tana Amen: And that's the same thing, you know, like with Chloe when, you know, she's 15. She is better than ... Her attitude is better than 99% of 15 year olds I know, but she's 15, so every now and then she gets this little snippiness or whatever, and I start to go back to my old ways of, like, "Yeah, no. Cut it." And I get like really frustrated, and I ... But now I stop myself.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because you have the should stuff.
Tana Amen: Well, and I just ... It irritates me, so I get that really quick-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because of the should-ing all over yourself.
Tana Amen: ... Right, and so, but now because of a lot of work I've done, like a tremendous amount of work and listening to it over and over and over, I stop myself for a second, and I'm like, "Okay, if I say that, how is it gonna help me?"
Dr. Daniel Amen: Does it fit your goal you have-
Tana Amen: What is my goal?
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... in your relationship with her?
Tana Amen: Right. We're like this, and she listens to what I say, and she respects what I say. She's not in trouble because we are close. Like how is that gonna help?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because I think your natural tendency without this training-
Tana Amen: Oh, stop it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... is-
Tana Amen: Cut it off at the knees.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... you can be harsh.
Tana Amen: Oh yeah, cut it off at the knees.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And that's not who you really are.
Tana Amen: No. I don't want it with you. I don't want it with her.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So this training has been so important. It has so decreased my stress. The next one is labeling. That is where you label yourself or someone else with a negative term. "He's a nerd. She's a brat. He's a jerk. I'm an idiot. Clown."
Tana Amen: And I grew up with this in my house.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And now it's, "You're a Democrat." Or, "You're a Republican."
Tana Amen: I grew up with this in my house like 24/7 going on. My stepfather was a redneck career military, and I would walk in ... See, I just labeled him. But I would walk in the house, and this was going on from morning till night with the news with his-
Dr. Daniel Amen: We all label people. Psychiatrists do.
Tana Amen: ... and so you grow up with it, and you [crosstalk 00:15:14] carry it on, and you have to learn.
Dr. Daniel Amen: As a nurse in the ICU, what labels did you have for patients?
Tana Amen: Oh, well, we weren't allowed to label them as far as ... We would get in trouble if we said anything about their backgrounds, but we did say things like, "They're [gorked 00:15:28]," or, "They're vegetables." Like, that was really bad, but we couldn't say anything about them as far as ... I was in a Christian college, so ... But as nurses, behind the scenes-
Dr. Daniel Amen: I went to Christian medical school, but when I got to Walter Reed, I mean the labels they'd have for patients ... One was GOMER: get out of my emergency room.
Tana Amen: Yeah, those types of things.
Dr. Daniel Amen: 'Cause whenever you label-
Tana Amen: But no, no. We had worse ones for psychiatrists. So just FYI.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... Like what?
Tana Amen: We didn't like the psychiatrists, other than to get our Vitamin H which was Haldol when someone was climbing out of bed.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So what labels did you have for-
Tana Amen: We just thought you guys were insane. All of you. So ...
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... Well, there is some truth to that. Whenever you label someone, you lump them with all of the people you've ever known who have that label, and you can't deal with them individually.
Tana Amen: No, you demonize.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And that almost cost me my marriage because when Tana first found out I was a psychiatrist she almost canceled her first date with me because-
Tana Amen: Because of that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... she didn't wanna be analyzed, even though she desperately needed to be analyzed.
Tana Amen: And the truth is we're all analyzing. We're all constantly analyzing. Right? We're all constantly judging, whether it's for discernment, or whether it's because you're harshly-
Dr. Daniel Amen: We're constantly labeling.
Tana Amen: ... Right, but you have to catch yourself.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Whether that homeless person is an alcoholic. I'm not gonna give him money to support their habit.
Tana Amen: And I like Pastor [McPherson 00:17:02] when he was on the show. He's like, "Look, it's not about ... " He's like, "You're lying to yourself if you say that you're not racist or you're not judgmental. The goal is to recognize it and sort of transform it. It's not to say you're not, 'cause we all do it. It's more to know you're doing it and turn it into something more positive and recognize it and do something with it that isn't harmful," right? I forget how he said it. You should listen to the podcast. It was beautiful. It was absolutely amazing how he said it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So when we come back, we're gonna talk about a couple of other different kinds of ANTs and how to get rid of them. Stay with us.
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