Counseling Austin Blog

Negativity and Complaint Blindness

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Negativity blindness (also Complaint Blindness) is the inability for a person to see their own negativity or habit of complaining. People that are negativity blind will often blame others for their complaints. Toxic people are often blind to their own pessimism and complaining ways.

There is help for negativity blindness

If you recognize this in yourself, or more likely if you hear from other people that you tend to be angry, pessimistic or complaining a lot, please read on. There is help available for this. Counseling will help you understand where it came from and how to manage it. It can be difficult to see this in yourself, but most people know if they fall into this or not once they hear about it. Again, it is NOT permanent and the first step is reaching out for a little help.

Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs)

I have mentioned these little critters in some other posts but will review them here. ANTs are just what the acronym says: automatic negative thoughts. . . they just seem to pop up automatically without any real proof at all. People that struggle with negativity blindness often relate to the presence of ANTs. The metaphor of ants is perfect if you live in a place with fire ants. Where you see one, you know there are more, and you won’t have much luck just getting rid of each individual, you need to go after the queen. Once the queen is gone, the mound will die off.

The great debate questions

Dr. Daniel Amen coined this ANT term, and I like it a great deal. He says that we need to cultivate an inner ant-eater that is a healthy inner debate with the ANTs. For example, if your date is 5 minutes late and you immediately start thinking, “I’ve been stood up,” that’s an ANT. So, we use these 4 questions to debate the ANT:

  1. Is it true? Many will quickly pop out a “YES!”
  2. Am I 100% certain that it’s true? If you are actually 100% certain, then it’s probably not an ANT; it may be an accurate evaluation, but you’ll have overt proof of this)
  3. If I’m not 100% certain, how do I feel when I blindly believe this ANT? Most will respond with some version of “I feel bad.”
  4. How might I feel differently if I didn’t believe the ANT? Usually, this is met with some version of “better.”

The “turnaround statement”

Then we wrap up this little debate with a “Turnaround Statement” which is simply a statement that is more likely to be true. In our example of your date being a few minutes late, the turnaround statement could be:

  • They got stuck in a little traffic
  • It just took them a little longer to get ready than expected
  • They are looking for parking
  • Maybe they are already here and sitting waiting for me.

If you aren’t sure, ask people that you trust

If you are not sure if you are negativity blind, ask people you trust, or come on in for a session. If you’re not, it’ll only be a session or 2 that gets you more peace of mind!

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