Protecting Yourself from ANT’s

We all have ‘em – Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANT’s) that pop into our minds whenever a particular subject arises. ANT’s develop for lots of reasons:

ANT’s have been applied to a variety of psychological issues, but for this discussion, let’s consider how ANT’s apply to hoarding and clutter. Below are the most common applicable ANT’s, what they mean, and how to protect yourself from them.

Black-and-white thinking classifies most issues as entirely one way or the other. Language indicators include: either – or sentences, such as something is ‘either this way or that way,’ or all or nothing or ‘one or the other’ statements. This often appears as someone thinking that they will either keep all of a type of item or none, or if one of an item such as an article or sentimental item is wanted, then all of them should be saved. Black-and-white thinking fools us into believing that there is no middle ground or nuance in a situation. Extremes are rarely correct.

Protect yourself from black-and-white thinking by:

Filtering is another common ANT for most people, not just those who hoard or clutter. This may appear as seeing your or someone else’s entire value as a person in terms of a narrow set of characteristics. Other common examples are when someone has two or three unfortunate events in a day, they conclude that the whole day is ruined. Hoarding examples are often more drastic: “I haven’t cleaned this mess so my life is ruined and I am worthless” or “I didn’t clear my house by the end of the month so I might as well give up on recovery.”  People who clutter may think, “I didn’t clear out this morning so I might as well give up for today.”

Protect yourself from filtering by:

Over-generalization, another common ANT, means concluding from one or few incident(s) that some broad conclusion applies. Examples include: “you always say that”(ignoring all the times when the person did not say that; such statements lock people into a behavioral box), “I have no willpower” (you have it but perhaps not as much as you want or need or have trained to support your goals), “I can’t get anything done because I’m just a procrastinator” (this ignores your prompt actions when you felt motivated or confident and puts yourself down). Language clues that a statement is an over-generalization may include words like always, never, none, forever, and other categorical extremes.

Protect yourself from over-generalization by:

Catastrophizing and horribilizing (aka “Ain’t It Awful?” syndrome)
Catastrophizing is imagining that every event is sure to turn out in the worst way possible. Horribilizing is describing every situation as terrible. These short-sighted views are harmful enough when applied to current events and situations but the harm increases when describing the future, ensuring that the future will be worse that it has to be.

Protect yourself from catastrophizing and horribilizing by:

It is a rare person who does not engage in blaming at times, but people who hoard often deny that they caused the mess, especially when pressured to clean up. Despite how satisfying blaming may be in the short run, long-term, it kills any possibility of recovery.  

Protect yourself from blaming by:

The idea of fairness causes some people who hoard or clutter to feel sorry for themselves for being deprived of something they feel they should have had and therefore they should get it and keep it now to make up for that deprivation.

Protect yourself from fairness fallacies by:

Emotional reasoning 
Emotional reasoning is the belief that if one feels something strongly it must be right or that ignoring such a feeling could lead to harm. These beliefs lead to many ANT’s and much harm. Emotions are irrational by their nature, especially negative emotions, and making decisions or choosing actions based on irrational beliefs will not lead to a happy life. This is especially true for hoarding or clutter – these conditions create much unhappiness and pain.

Protect yourself from emotional reasoning by:

  Many more ANT’s have been identified and studying them aids better managing life and overcoming whatever issues you struggle with.

You can learn more about ANT’s on these sites:
There are many more sites on this subject.

* see “The Willpower Instinct, How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It” by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. Also, my article, “Making Self-Discipline Possible”  and
“Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” by James Clear
…and many more titles on this subject

Previous | Next

© Gloria Valoris, 2015

Articles Index

Home | Newsletters and Articles | Services | Workshops | Resources | Contact

Office Organization | Time Management | File Systems | Hoarding