“Everybody is a genius. but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” – – Albert Einstein

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Copyright © 2021 Santiago Barragan Noguera. All rights reserved.

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A Quick guide to managing Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs)

If you have a persecutor, saboteur, judge, dictator, or a pessimist out of control in your head, this concise guide will provide useful information. 

Start by writing down the negative thoughts as you perceive them. It might sound counterintuitive, but you have to engage with them voluntarily. Do not filter or reject them; just get them out of your head as they come.

In order to evaluate what you wrote down, ask yourself, “Is it true?” Investigate the validity of the statement. Is it absolutely true, or is the affirmation based on a supposition or opinion? Are you trusting how real it is based on feelings, or are there clear, rational arguments that justify them?

The second question is, “How does the thought make me feel?” Articulate the name of the feeling and describe how it manifests in your body. Regardless of the accuracy of the thought, ask yourself if they are helpful or not. I am not trying to argue to reject what is valid, but rather to acknowledge how going through that rabbit hole disempowers you from being proactive.

Third, “How would I be without the thought?” If the answer is unknown, put it to the test. Choose a space of your day where you will not allow to think about it. Every time it comes, remind yourself that you have the rest of the day to battle with it, but not momentarily. Make sure you notice how your experience is without those thoughts. At the very least, you might be surprised that reacting to them when they are not actionable will create a lot of unnecessary suffering. 

Finally, flip the statement and try to bring to mind some evidence. Especially when dealing with generalizations, any assertion that uses the words “never, always, should, must” can be easily debunked. Whenever the thought comes, break through it and rewire your brain by consciously verbalizing the opposite of it.

Some of your negative thinking might be legit, objective, and well-grounded. Nonetheless, it is not optimal to assume that every negative thought you have has such a nature. This set of questions help you discern what statements come from a cognitive distortion. Mark Twain once said, “Some of the worst things in my life never even happened”. Hopefully, you won’t feel like that when looking back at your life.

With all love,

Santiago Barragan Noguera

Coach & Educator — Artistic Polymath

Copyright © 2021 Santiago Barragan Noguera. All rights reserved.