When we have learned to catch and stop our automatic negative thinking (ANTs) then we must gently, without pressure, learn to replace our old thoughts and beliefs with new rational beliefs. We call this process "Turning the Tables on the ANTs."
Replacing our old irrational thoughts and beliefs can be done because the brain is malleable or changeable. Neuroscientists refer to this as the brain's "plasticity," The big question is how do we change our old irrational thoughts and beliefs? Is there a right way and a wrong way to do this?
Turning the Tables on the ANTs is more fully explained in the audioseries "Overcoming Social Anxiety: Step by Step" but here is a simplified explanation of how to begin this process:
Turning the Tables on the ANTs must be done gradually, and this takes time and patience on your part. The brain cannot be forced or pressured into changing overnight. In fact, trying to cram new thoughts into the brain backfires and guarantees it won't work.
Gently, with patience, we need to catch all the big, bold, absolute words we say, such as
"I can NEVER do that because of my anxiety"
"I've tried everything. I'll NEVER get over social anxiety."
"Giving a presentation is IMPOSSIBLE. It causes me too much stress and grief."
"I WON'T ever be able to do that."
"That ALWAYS scares me."
"I HATE making introductions. They ALWAYS cause me terrible amounts of anxiety."
Keep in mind that your brain believes everything it hears repeatedly, especially if you are saying it. If you say, "I CAN'T do that" your brain believes you, and makes it come to pass. At the present time, you are not able to do that.
But that doesn't mean we are stuck in our anxiety forever. You can begin to change your old irrational thoughts and beliefs by eliminating the big, bold, absolute words from your self-talk. What you say to yourself repeatedly is believed by the brain. If the brain believes it, it will be true for you. Whatever you strongly believe about yourself comes true.
I had a horrific time as a senior in college and being forced to take a speech class. The thought of walking up to the podium and giving a speech in front of 60 other students my own age filled my brain with terror. "I CAN'T do that!" I said to myself, as a panicked fear swept over my body. "I'll NEVER be able to get up in front of an audience and give a presentation." Even more impossible to believe for me was giving a speech in front of hundreds of people -- and doing it without having any anxiety. This is what happened in my life, and there is a reason that it happened. Eventually, I learned to turn the tables on the ANTs and my life changed dramatically.
The first thing we must do in replacing our old irrational thoughts with new rational thoughts and beliefs is to turn the tables on the pesky ANTs by avoiding those big, bold, absolute words like
If we use this self-talk, our brain hears and believes every word we say, and then makes it happen. If we believe we can't make a presentation, we can't make a presentation. If we believe we'll never get any better, we'll never get any better, unless we learn to turn the tables on the ANTs and replace our old irrational thoughts and beliefs into new rational thoughts and beliefs.
The first step in turning the tables on the ANTs is to catch the big, bold irrational absolute words and eliminate them from your speech (your self-talk). This will begin to make a difference if you keep your brain open to new explanations and new alternatives for why you might be anxious. Eliminate absolute words and keep your mind open.
Step two in turning the tables on the ANTs will be posted shortly.
The Audio Series has a full-blown explanation, with written handouts, of how to properly turn the tables on the ANTs so that you can think, believe, and feel differently. We learn to think rational thoughts instead of having automatic negative thoughts and beliefs. When we've turned the tables on the ANTs, our lives are heading in a much better direction.