Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ask a Creativity Coach: Negative Thinking

Plan to attend the May 18, 2013 Artist Survival Kit workshop "Artistic Practice: Motivation, Discipline and Busting Creative Blocks," at the Multi Arts Center in Stillwater, OK. Romney Nesbitt will be one of the presenters. More information and registration available at www.ArtistSurvivalKit.org.

Dear Romney,

I have creative projects that aren’t getting done and I know why-- I ruminate.  I work in a high-stress office. When something negative happens at work I replay the scene in my mind all evening.  I even try to figure out what I will do and say when the next drama arises. My brain won’t let things go!  Any tips to help me clear my mind?

Dear Ruminate,

In psychological circles this type of mental activity is called Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs).  ANTs are depressing, negative thoughts that seem to generate and replicate at will. The solution is called “thought stopping.” The first step to solve your “pest” problem is to recognize the ANT.  Step two is to kill the ANT and regain control of your thoughts.  I see two ANTs ruining your creative picnic.  

Historical Re-enactor ANTs:  Thoughts stuck on negative events from the past. The past could be what happened today at work or what happened decades ago. Imagine an ant dressed in a Civil War era uniform in a re-enactment of a battle. This ant revels in reliving past events.

How to kill this ANT:  Yell “STOP!  This present moment is mine not yours!”  The truth is no amount of rethinking can undo what’s done so don’t hand over another minute to the ANT. Do what you intended to do before the ANT marched in.    

Fortune Teller ANTs: These thoughts center on trying to predict what will happen next at work, in relationships, world events etc. See an ant wearing a fortune teller’s turban peering into a crystal ball.

How to kill this ANT: Remind yourself that you cannot know what the future will bring. If you could predict the future you would have already won the lottery! Show the fortune teller ANT the door by telling yourself, “Yeah, life is unpredictable, but I have the skills and confidence to handle whatever comes my way tomorrow.”

The basic strategy to kill ANTs is to notice that your thoughts have shifted from positive productive thinking to rumination or fear-based thinking. Stop that thought by telling yourself the truth.

There are several other types of ANTs outlined in Dr. Daniel G. Amen’s book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.

Romney Nesbitt is a Creativity Coach and author of Secrets From a Creativity Coach.  She welcomes your comments and questions. Book her to speak to your group through OVAC’s ARTiculate Speakers Bureau. You can contact her at Romneynesbitt@gmail.com

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2011 issue of Art Focus Oklahoma.

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