When we perceive something – like a noise outside the bedroom window at night – very short, quick thoughts or images enter our mind almost automatically. These thoughts and images happen so fast that they are called automatic thoughts. Automatic thoughts are part of our self-talk. Often we are not even aware that we have them.
For example, if you heard a noise outside your bedroom window at night, what might your automatic thoughts be? Maybe something like:
"Outside – attacker – dark – window locked? Break in – phone is where? Hide."
You might also have an automatic image flash in your head of a dark figure hiding in the shadows, peering around to see how to get in.
These automatic thoughts are what set off your anxiety alarm, BIG TIME.
So what if, instead of those alarming thoughts, your automatic thoughts were:
"Noise outside – what? Animal? Tree branch? Did Sam let dog in? Door is locked. Dad is here, safe. Listen more."
Noticing these automatic thoughts might alarm you a little at first, but you’ll also be more composed and able to make rational choices and calmly take action if needed (instead of freaking out!).