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Dr. Daniel Amen’s Story About Fortune-Telling ANTS

No one is safe from fortune-telling ants, not even Dr. Amen. Several years ago he wrote an article for Parade Magazine called, “How to Get Out of Your Own Way.”  When the article was published, his office received more than 10,000 letters asking for more information about self-defeating behavior. The media got wind of the response, and he was invited to appear on CNN.  It was a great opportunity for him to get the word out about what he was doing at the Amen Clinic, but he had never been on TV before, and he was nervous, really nervous. Here is his description:

 "I was sitting in the green room right before I went on, and all of a sudden, I had a panic attack. I couldn't breathe, my heart was racing, and I wanted to get the heck out of there. Thankfully, I treat people with this problem. I told myself the same things that I tell my patients: ‘If you were having a panic attack in a safe situation, don’t leave, or panic will rule your life.  Slow down your breathing. Write down your thoughts and what kind of ANTS are there.’ So I stayed put, took a deep breath, and grabbed a pen to write down my thoughts: ‘I’m going to forget my name’—fortune-telling ANT. ‘I’m going to stutter’—fortune-telling ANT. ‘Two million people are going to think I’m stupid’—fortune-telling ANT.

With just one look, I knew I had a fortune-telling ANT infestation. Then, just like I tell my patients, I told myself to talk back to my thoughts.

‘Okay, if I forget my name, I have a driver’s license in my pocket and I can look it up.’

‘I don’t usually stutter, but if I do, all the stutterers out there watching will have a doctor they can relate to.’

 ‘And as for people thinking I'm stupid, I'm reminded myself of the 18/40/60 rule which says that when you're 18, you worry about what everybody is thinking of you. At 40 you don't give a crap what anyone else thinks. And it 60, you realize no one has been thinking about you at all. Most people spend their days worrying and thinking about themselves.’

“This little exercise helped me calm down so I was able to go on TV, and I did fine. I did not forget my name. I didn't stutter. And I didn't get any phone calls, letters, or emails from two million people telling me I was stupid. The next time I was asked to appear on TV, I was not quite as nervous. And with each subsequent appearance, I became more relaxed. Since that first time, I have appeared on TV more than 100 times, and it no longer makes me nervous at all.  Just think if I had listened to my lying, fortune-telling ANTS and had run out of the studio. I probably never would have accepted another invitation to be on TV, and it would have dramatically changed my life and career in a negative way.”

For more information about how to combat Automatic Negative Thoughts , ANTs, check our Mom and Dad FBook page:






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