Magic Questions that Blast Negative Thoughts Away

One key thing we should know about how our mind works is ‘negativity bias’. The brain – either child brain or adult brain – is prone to overreact to negative rather than positive things. But what negative thoughts do we have?

In his children book “Captain Snout and the Super Power Questions: Don’t Let the ANTs Steal Your Happiness”, Dr. Daniel Amen, playfully introduces five Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) that often sneak into children’s – and adults’ – mind.

The All or Nothing ANT is decisive. It says things like “There is NOTHING we can do” and “NO ONE will help me”. The Just the Bad ANT can’t see anything good and always zooms in bad things in its life, saying like “Today is a bad day!” and “My work is just terrible”. The pessimistic Fortune Teller ANT predicts the fated future spelling something like “I’ll fail” and “I’ll never be able to achieve my goals”. The Mind Reader ANT believes that it can see through someone else’s mind. It says like “They are laughing at me” and “Everyone hates me and thinks I’m not good enough”. The blaming ANT doesn’t want to admit your own mistakes. It victimises you by saying like “It’s not my fault” and “He did it! She did it!”.

Once these ANTs get into your mind, they make you feel mad, sad, worried or upset. The ANTs steal happy feelings you deserve. And if the ANTs occupy your mind again and again, the specific part of the brain – called amygdala – that senses fear and anxiety gets stronger. Which means you are more prone to invite ANTs without noticing it. But don’t worry. These questions suggested by Dr. Amen can powerfully resolve the ANTs in your and your kids’ mind.

“Is that true? Are you 100% sure it’s true?”

Yes, interrogate the ANTs. Examine the ANTs if they are really true. This is a simple but surprisingly effective tool in psychotherapy that you can use for yourself and for your children. When you find your children anxious and worried about something, ask them to tell you about what ANTs are bugging them. Then ask the magic questions…

“Is that true? Are you 100% sure it’s true?”

Help your kids answer these questions. They will notice other possibilities that are different from what the ANTs claim. Once children realise different possibilities, the ANTs will disappear – or shrink at least. In this process, you literally better shape your children’s brain by keeping their amygdala – the reactor to the negative thoughts – small. These questions look too simple, but magical to nurture healthy and positive development of your beloved ones’ brain.