Blog Entry 6
The Attack Of The Killer Ants
Over the course of my last five blog entries I have been sharing excerpts from my clinical practice manuscript. Through sharing my clinical treatment perspectives, I have attempted to address issues that directly affect how we make sense of our current experiences. They have ranged from the type of person we could strive to become, to letting go of the past and to adopting an Experience Road philosophy to life. In this sixth installment my focus will be on the use of humor as a coping skill.
I always strive to help my clients be able to help themselves by learning a more productive and healthier way of thinking. My goal is to give them an understanding that translates into self -help skills.
When addressing issues such as depression and anxiety it is essential to learn to gain control over our thinking. As a person sinks into depression or anxiety, their thoughts become darker and darker and more and more negative. Psychologists call them antagonistic negative thoughts (ANTS). I have used humor to stop these negative thoughts from taking control of our minds. When we start getting down on ourselves or getting emotionally riled up, we are thinking many horrible awful and terrible (HAT) thoughts. The longer we are focused on this way of thinking the worse our emotional/behavioral condition becomes. In a simpler way I refer to these ANTS, as mind insects.
I like to use imagery when teaching a coping skill. Picture if you may an ant colony. Looking back, some of us most likely had an Uncle Milton ant farm as a childhood hobby. You purchased a thin plastic chamber about 12 x10 x1 in. The chamber included sand and supplies for a successful ant colony. You then sent away for the ants which were delivered within a few weeks. They came in a small test tube with about a dozen ants. Opening the top, you placed the ants within the chamber and sat back to watch. Within hours they began to dig tunnels and a community developed. There were worker ants and leadership ants. They held community meetings, grew food and even buried their dead.
Now picture a negative thought beginning to invade your mind/brain. It begins simply but starts to grow into more thoughts branching out and tunneling into your consciousness totally invading and overwhelming your focus. If left unchecked they will consume your full attention leading to very unhappy emotions and poor reactions. Just like ants in a new colony taking over the chamber, these mind insect thoughts burrow through your brain while taking over your thinking.
Now picture you are at home and you are in your kitchen when you spy an ant walking across your countertop. Our most typical response is to smash it. We can’t let it get back to the colony and bring back more friends. Now picture your self-becoming aware of an antagonistic negative thought (ANT) crossing your awareness. Now as if in a silly cartoon, picture a giant rubber hammer popping out of your head to smash this thought. Can’t let it get loose to grow into a negative thought colony. Have a good laugh and enjoy the triumph of vanquishing that ANT.
Using techniques from hypnosis and visualization, I practice repeatedly many scenarios in which we see ourselves becoming aware of an ANT and humorously smashing it. Once it is smashed, we then shift our attention into more reasonable thinking consistent with the Experience Road of life.
Over the my many years of practice, I have been advocating humor for a variety of mental health issues. Humor helps to make it easier to confront the absurdity of some of our self destructive thoughts and behaviors. As we struggle to cope with covid-19 we need to find a a way to keep our perspectives clear. These are highly anxious and painful times that can easily induce many ANT mind insects colonies. Try to get a good dose of humor each day to relieve stress. Remember a silly story, movie or comic strip. When you feel overwhelmed get up and dance around and sing a silly song.
Humor helps to keep perspective!