Captain Snout and The Super Power Questions — Book Summary

Do you ever have uncontrollable negative thoughts? Do you wish you could control or overcome those negative thoughts, but just don’t know how? I’ve been there, and I’m so grateful to Dr. Daniel Amen for putting together a really powerful yet simple-to-understand children’s book on this matter. The book is called Captain Snout and the Super Power Questions.

Dr. Amen is a renowned brain doctor and psychiatrist. Through tens of thousands of brain scans, he’s found that our thoughts have a big impact on our brain health: positive thoughts make the brain healthy, while negative thoughts make the brain unhealthy! Most people have what he calls Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTs, so he wrote this book to teach us how to prevent those ANTs from ruining our lives!

I think Captain Snout is truly a superhero because he is saving us from the biggest source of unhappiness in our lives: negative and incorrect thoughts. Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Introduction

In the beginning of the book, some children want to buy a puppy. Their parents told them they need to first earn enough money to buy supplies for the puppy. The children decide to start a car wash to earn money. At the beginning, they had some customers, but soon, the customers stopped coming. Then the children started having Automatic Negative Thoughts such as

  • No one wants us to wash their car.
  • My sign looks terrible.
  • Everybody thinks we’ll do a bad job.
  • Nothing is going right.
  • It’s all your fault.
  • Now we’ll never get our puppy!
  • This is the worst car wash ever!

Everyone was feeling horrible. But just in the nick of time, Captain Snout arrived to save them from those horrible and unhappy thoughts!

He explains that thoughts have power, and they can make you feel good or rotten. He then explained that the children’s minds are full of ANTs:

“Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) are thoughts that pop into your mind uninvited. They make you feel mad, sad, worried, or upset. And most of the time, they’re not even true!”

He also explains that we can get rid ANTs with his amazing Super Power Questions:

Is that thought in your head true? Are you 100% sure it’s true?

Then they used those Super Power Questions on the negative thoughts they had. They started with the first one: “No one wants us to wash their car.”

Captain Snout asked the children if that thought is true. The children replied, “Actually, we already had some customers. And there could be more! “

When the children realized the negative thoughts were not necessarily true, and they could have newer truer thoughts, they felt much better! Then Captain Snout went over 5 common ANTs:

  1. The “All-Or-Nothing” ANT
  2. The “Just-The-Bad” ANT
  3. The Fortune Teller ANT
  4. The Mind Reader ANT
  5. The Blaming ANT

1: The “All-Or-Nothing” ANT

These ANTs make you feel sorry for yourself. They don’t use words like “sometimes” or “maybe”. Instead, they use words like “All, always, nothing, no one, never.”

These ANTs say things like

  • All of the cars just drive by.
  • We will never make any money!
  • There’s nothing we can do.

Captain Snout asked the children, “Do you really think there’s nothing you can do? Is that true? Are you 100% sure it’s true?”

The children said, “That’s not true! There are lost of things we can do to get more customers! Let’s make a list!”

2: The “Just The Bad” ANT

These ANTs can’t see anything good. They zoom in on mistakes and problems, filling your head with negative thoughts.

They say things like:

  • Today is a bad day.
  • My sign looks terrible.
  • This is the worst car wash ever.

Captain Snout asked, “Do you really think this is the worst car wash ever? Can you think of anything else that could be worse?”

The children said, “Maybe if no one showed up at all, or it was snowing, or a monster ate all the cars!”

3: The Fortune Teller ANT

This ANT is a liar. It thinks it can see the future, but all it really does is think of bad stuff.

It says things like

  • We’ll never make any money.
  • We’ll never get our puppy.

Captain Snout asked his Super Power Questions again: “Is that true? Are you 100% sure it’s true?”

The children replied, “It’s not true. We already made $10. We will get our puppy!”

Captain Snout affirmed them and said,

“Remember, happy thoughts not only help you feel good, they can actually help your mind make good things happen!”

4: The Mind Reader ANT

This ANT thinks it can see inside someone else’s mind. It thinks it knows how others think and feel without even being told!

It says thinks like

  • Everybody thinks we’ll do a bad job.
  • They are all laughing at us.

Captain Snout asked his Super Power Questions again: “Is that true? Are you 100% sure it’s true?”

The children replied, “Of course it’s not true! We don’t know what others are thinking!”

5: The Blaming ANT

This ANT always sings the same old sad song: “He did it. She did it. It’s not my fault. It’s your fault.”

This ANT doesn’t want you to admit your mistakes or learn how to fix things and make them right. It wants you to be a victim, not a superhero.

Captain Snout asked his Super Power Questions again: “Is that true? Are you 100% sure it’s true?”

The children replied, “It’s no one’s fault. We can do it. We can find more customers!”

Captain Snout affirmed them and said,

“When you see your part in a problem, you have the power to make things better.”

Ending

There are a lot of ANTs out there trying to steal our happiness. Fortunately, we have the Super Power Questions:

Is that true? Are you 100% sure it’s true?

Thanks to Captain Snout and those Super Power Questions, the children had truer and happier thoughts. Then they spruced up their car wash. Before long, lots of customers came. They earned enough money for their new puppy, Zeus!

My Experience

I love how Dr. Amen uses the analogy of ANTs and created these visually memorable pictures of ANTs for us. It really helps us remember and use this idea in our own lives!

I also appreciate how simple the solution is. We just have to ask two questions:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Are you 100% sure it’s true?

I would also ask,

“Even if it’s slightly true, is it 100% true? Are you overreacting?”

Below are some of my own experiences using these Super Power Questions to fight those ANTs.

1: The “All-or-Nothing” ANT

Before, when I used to have a bad relationship with my mother, I would say, “Why does she ALWAYS criticize me?”

But after I asked myself, “Is that true? Is that 100% true?”, I realized that actually, she spends more time cooking for me, cleaning the house, caring for me, and relatively little time criticizing me. I just happened to remember the criticisms vividly because of my weak self-esteem, and I didn’t even see all the kind things she did for me every day.

Another All-or-Nothing thought I had was, “She either loves me or criticizes (and therefore dislikes) me.” But life is not black or white. She can love me AND criticize AND be having a bad day all at the same time! Similarly, I can be a good person AND have faults that need to be fixed at the same time! After I started thinking using AND instead of OR, I felt a lot better.

2: The “Just-the-Bad” ANT

Sometimes, I accidently say something wrong or do something wrong and get really embarrassed about it, and I might say to myself, “Oh my god, that was the most embarrassing thing ever.”

But then I asked myself, “Is that true? Is that 100% true?” Well, it was pretty embarrassing, but it certainly could have been worse. I was reminded of a quote by Peter Crone,

“It’s not life-threatening. It’s just ego threatening.”

That reminded me to base my self-worth on improvement and kindness rather than on perfectionism.

3: The Mind Reader ANT

Sometimes, my mother says things that I interpret as a criticism, but she actually didn’t have that intention. For example, after I cleaned some dishes, she pointed at one and asked, “Do you think that dish is clean?”. I thought she was criticizing me and saying it’s not clean. But later, she told me she had no intentions at all; The sunlight just happened to be very good, and she saw the dish very clearly, and it seemed not fully clean to her, so she wanted to make it more clean.

So when I think others have negative intentions, I need to ask myself, “Is that true? Can I be 100% sure that I can read their mind?” Of course not, so I need to ask them what their intention is!

If I make an embarrassing mistake, I also remind myself of this quote by Dr. Amen:

“When you’re 18, you care about what everyone thinks. When you’re 40, you don’t care about what anyone thinks. When you’re 60, you realize nobody had been thinking about you the whole time; they were all too busy thinking about themselves!”

4: The Fortune Teller ANT

There was a time when I had a very serious skin illness. I actually thought that I might have this illness for the rest of my life, and I felt very sad and helpless. If I were to ask myself, “Is this thought true? Is it 100% true?”, I would say, “It’s not 100% true that I might be sick forever, but I also can’t be 100% sure that I will get cured!”

That’s why Captain Snout said,

“Remember, happy thoughts not only help you feel good, they can actually help your mind make good things happen!”

Back then I started doing meditation and gratitude journaling to cultivate a peaceful and positive mind. Even if my skin was in pain, my mind didn’t have to be so agitated. Now, I’m healed, and cultivating positive emotions was a big part of the healing process!

5: The Blaming ANT

I’ve come to learn that a problem is never 100% one person’s fault. We always could have done better to prevent a problem from arising, and if we can focus our attention away from their fault and towards our contribution, then we will no longer be upset.

For example, I’ve come to learn that whenever my mother gets upset at me, it’s usually after a long period of her silently worrying about me being too busy. When she suddenly gets angry at me for some random thing, I would blame her and think, “Why are you suddenly getting angry at me? Why don’t you just communicate your worries with me earlier instead of accumulating them until you blow up? It’s not my fault, it’s your fault!”

But after reflecting on the Super Power Questions, “Is that true? Is that 100% true?”, I realized that it is not 100% her fault. She did try to hint her worries to me, but I was just too busy to notice. And she probably tried to find time to communicate with me, but I was just too busy so she never had a chance to sit down and have a patient talk about it. Therefore, I have a big contribution to this problem too.

As Captain Snout said,

“When you see your part in a problem, you have the power to make things better.”

Once I took responsibility for my own problems, I apologized and felt a lot better. I also knew how to change myself to prevent this problem in the future. I learned to be more sensitive to other people’s emotions and to have a daily scheduled time for family talk time.

Conclusion

Don’t let the ANTs steal your happiness and ruin your life! Which ANTs do you most frequently face? How can you overcome them?

Originally published at https://www.weeklywisdomblog.com on April 9, 2022.

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Passionate about self-cultivation, happiness, and sharing wisdom.

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Alex Chen

Alex Chen

Passionate about self-cultivation, happiness, and sharing wisdom.

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