Overcoming ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts)
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Below is a partial transcript from an interview between Jay Shetty and Dr. Daniel Amen, in which Daniel tells an anecdote about her 4-year-old daughter learning to not believe everything she thinks. The story begins at 28:35 and ends at 30:49 of the interview. The book mentioned, which he authored, is called Captain Snout and the Super Power Questions. You can read the book for free here.
For background, Captain Snout is an ANT eater, and the acronym ANT stands for Automatic Negative Thoughts.
Daniel: I have a children’s book, which is relatively new and I love. It’s called Captain Snout and the Super Power of Questions. It basically teaches kids to think about what they think about, and to not believe every stupid thing they think. And four-year-olds can do this. So one quick story.
Jay: Yeah I love your story!
My last one—I have four children—and Chole’s 15, and she’s got red hair like her mother, and when she was four, she announces to her mother that she’s going to get her ears pierced that day. And you don’t announce things to Tanna. And Tanna said no, that they didn’t have time, and that she had to wait until she was 5, and Chloe said I can’t wait until I’m 5, bursts into tears, drama, runs into my office, climbs on my lap. She’s crying. Crying her eyes out. Red little lips going. And I’m like, what’s the matter.
And she says, “Mommy says I can’t get my ears pierced till I’m 5.”
I’m like, “Okay. What’s the matter?”
“I can’t wait until I’m 5.”
I’m like, “Is that true?”
I said, “Absolutely true?”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you gonna die if you don’t?”
And no lie, she rolled her eyes at me! I didn’t think that was gonna happen until 12.
“Of course not.”
“How do you feel when you believe the thought you can’t wait?”
“I’m mad, and I’m sad, and my ears aren’t cute.”
“Okay. Who would you be if you didn’t have that thought?”
Four years old: “Free”.
“So what’s the opposite of I can’t wait?”
“What do you mean?”
I said, “You know, opposites. We just read a book on opposites. Tall and small and fat and skinny.”
“I can wait until I’m 5.”
And then she got off my lap and went and played with the dog. We could’ve had drama all day long over the years, or we could just teach ourselves we don’t have to believe every stupid thing we think.