By: Rabbi Amichai Cohen
Do you have negative thoughts? If you didn't you would not be normal.
Dr. Daniel Amen, a clinical neuroscientist, child and adolescent psychiatrist, and medical director of the Amen Clinic for Behavioral Medicine.
Dr. Amen and his colleagues have now conducted over 100,000 (!!!) brain scans which has helped him develop a powerful methodology to help us tap into the biggest lesson he’s learned in all his years of research and clinical work.
In his research, Dr. Amen found that we have approximately 60,000 thoughts a day. Out of those 40,000 are negative...roughly 80%!!
To make this drearier, 90% of our thoughts are those we had yesterday. That means we rethink and ruminate on the same negative thoughts over and over again!
Dr Amen calls these thoughts ANTS: “One of the limbic techniques that is a mainstay of helping our patients at the Amen Clinics is what I call ANT therapy, or learning how to kill the ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts). I coined this term in the early 1990s after a hard day at the office, during which I had several very difficult sessions with suicidal patients, teenagers in turmoil, and a married couple who hated each other. When I got home that evening I found thousands of ants in my kitchen. It was gross. As I started to clean them up, the acronym came to me. I thought of my patients from that day— like my infested kitchen, my patients’ brains were also infected by the negative thoughts that were robbing them of their joy and stealing their happiness. The next day, I brought a can of any spray as a visual aid and have been working diligently ever since to help my patients eradicate their ANTs.”
Here are some tips of getting out of the cycle of negative thoughts:
You Are Not Your Thoughts
Yup, just because you think it does not mean that it is you. According to Kabbalah and Chassidut, thoughts are merely recycled misplaced emotions.
The Alter Rebbe in Tanya explains that healthy emotions are directed by the mind. Next emotions become constructive thoughts which become speech which becomes action.
When we loose touch with our mindfulness we loose touch with our emotions, thus becoming a streaming thinking wreck.
The Alter Rebbe advices not to initially wrestle with the thought and not to identify with it. Only after one recognizes the thought as a distinct foreign entity is when he needs to push away the thought "with 2 hands".
Do things with Consistency
The Torah teaches us that Aharon the High Priest lit the candelabra in the Tabernacle with great unchanged zeal. How was he able to accomplish this? The Torah says ״שלא שינה״- "he did not change". Meaning he came in each day with the consistency and focus.
Random thoughts seep into our minds when we are out of focus. When pin point what we need to do, develop focus and consistency, random negative thoughts simply don't have relevance. The external discipline brings out the best in us and helps bring out more positive thoughts.
18-40-60 rule. It says that when you are eighteen, you worry about what everyone thinks of you; when you are forty, you don’t give a damn what anyone thinks about you; and when you’re sixty, you realize no one has been thinking about you at all. People spend their days worrying and thinking about themselves, not you.
Self image and mirroring is such a factor of either positive or negative thoughts. We can perseverate for hours, days and years over a conversation, interaction or relationship that has gone wrong. People have become enemies even because of misjudging a text message.
By taking the highway and realizing that people are not really thinking about us in the way we think, we save so much aggravation, time and well being.
The Zohar says "Torah comes from Chochma- wisdom". The Torah is Divine intelgence and when we make time to study every day we align our mind with higher consciousness. There is a special Mitzvah to study Torah each day. The Mishna says that "the study of Torah is compared to the rest of the Mitzvot".
The Talmud says that the 2nd question asked of a person by the heavenly court after one's passing is "did you set times to study Torah".
The obligation of study of Torah is different for each individual based on the time and ability they have.
One thing is for sure is that when we set time for learning each day we receive a chiropractic spiritual adjustment and become much more positive people who are in control of their thoughts.
I wonder what brain imaging on people who learn Torah would look like. Maybe that would be an interesting project for Dr. Amen. I am sure that he will surprised by the Torah's ANT spray power.
Amen to that!
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