Black and White Thinking

Our world is one of duality. Right and wrong. Dark and light. Good and bad. Black and white. And the list goes on.

We also live in a world of color. The sky is blue, the grass is green. Cars are red.

The black and white thinkers of the world do not see the shades of gray. They are color blind in the sense that they don’t see the subtleties of life.

Black and white thinkers only see just that – two sides. They don’t see in between. Psychologists give it a fancy name: cognitive distortion. Which is code for skewed thinking. Something is off.

Everyone and everything are either right or wrong. There is no middle ground. That works if you’re in the military and ordered to do something. There is no questioning, just do what you are asked. It gets the job done.

Most of us, however, are not in the military. We don’t need to run our lives on binary thinking. Yet, many of us do.

Why is that?

Why is it Harmful?

The why you might be this way isn’t really important because if you are, you are. We all do it sometimes. It’s when it’s your standard M.O. that creates a problem. Psychologists will tell you it can be the result of growing up with trauma, or caused by anxiety, depression, narcissism etc. The important question is how to stop it.

If your next question is why should I stop it, it’s because that kind of thinking can wreak havoc on your life resulting in many inaccurate conclusions or uniformed decisions to say the least. Its stealthy sabotaging can leave you feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or unfulfilled.

Black and White Zone for Relationships

See if you’ve ever caught yourself with a thought like this: “My partner is the best ever!” when he or she gives you a compliment or does something nice. When your partner complains or does something not so nice your thinking has turned to, “He/she is the worst partner ever!”

How did your partner go from the best to the worst seemingly overnight?

Another way that this all-or-nothing type of thinking can harm our relationships is to see someone as all good because they want to be with you. Yet they manipulate and yell at you. This prevents us from not being able to see the entire picture; the fact that someone can be good – they want to be with you – yet also bad because they abuse you. The gray zone is they may want to be with you, but that doesn’t make them a good person for you. People who see the gray would not stay with this type of person no matter what type of relationship it is.

Avoid Extreme Words

A common distortion that has started many fights in relationships is attributed to using these extreme words: “You ALWAYS…” fill in the blank with your pet peeve. Or substitute always for never. “You NEVER…”

Does he or she ALWAYS leave the gas tank empty? As in he NEVER fills it up? Does he ALWAYS leave the last drop of milk and NEVER throws it out or replaces it? Even repeat offenders will do it right SOME of the time. That’s my point. SOMETIME is the gray area.

Always and never are absolute terms. There is no in-between. You don’t “always” do something and then “sometimes” do something different. Nope. If you always put your socks on both feet first [as opposed to putting one sock and one shoe on one foot, then the other], then you don’t sometimes do it that way and other times do it another way. Then it’s no longer always, is it?

That wasn’t a trick question.

Black and white thinkers are absolutists. That’s why it’s called black and white thinking. It’s either black or white. They don’t see the middle ground. Most people do not ALWAYS do something. We’re humans. We’re fallible. We make mistakes. Even routine oriented people change their routine on occasion, even if forced to for some reason.

It’s the “always” and “nevers” that get us into trouble. “Always and Never statements are always false and never true.”

Any pairing of extreme words is a red flag. Avoid using these words: Always/never, best/worst, everyone/no one, right/wrong. Even the seemingly harmless yet romantic word “forever” can get you into trouble. Most things are not forever. Life on earth isn’t forever.

Jumping to the Wrong Conclusions

Here’s another less obvious example of this absolutist thinking. Your boss reams you out because you made a mistake. You walk away dejected and immediately say to yourself, “I can’t do this job! I should just quit now!” Whoa, wait a minute.

Just because someone told you off does not mean you should quit your job. Maybe your boss is a jerk. Maybe he or she was having a bad day and said things they wouldn’t normally say. Even if there is some truth to it, does that mean you can’t do better? Does it mean you can’t learn? Improve?

Instantly jumping to the conclusion that because you got reprimanded means you can’t ever do better is absolute thinking. It may not include the words always or never but it has the same effect. There is no calming down, looking at the situation logically and finding the middle ground.

It’s also incorrectly filling in the blanks, drawing inaccurate conclusions. It’s misusing the if/then scenario. “If I get reamed out, then I should quit because I’m no good.” How about turning that into, “If I get reamed out, then I should figure out a way to prevent that from happening again by improving.” That’s a more appropriate solution. And one that feels better.

It doesn’t feel good to live in a world of absolutes. It may seem like it because things can be neatly put into one of two categories, but it’s not. It’s actually very limiting.

Bottom line is most of us do it sometimes. Did you see an absolute word in there? Nope, that was intended.

Stay tuned as next week I’ll offer solutions to curb this dichotomous thinking.

If you’re not sure if you engage in black and white thinking and you don’t want to ask anyone lest you “expose” yourself, then ask yourself. Ask your intuition.

If you don’t know what your intuition is saying to you, then it’s time to learn. It truly is your super power, your best gift. It won’t steer you wrong – when you listen and execute!

Do you want to learn to develop your super power? CLICK HERE to find out more.

Many of my clients have said that they want to learn how to develop their intuition. Because of that, I developed this easy-to-follow do it at your own pace, online course. It’s packed with tips, hacks and how-to exercises.

If you want to confirm that you have it, learn how to listen to it, how to talk to it and how to trust it start by CLICKING HERE.

Once you start listening to your intuition, you’ll be amazed how much your life clicks into place. Then you can truly start enjoying yourself and get what you want out of life!

CLICK HERE to find out more