One of the important thinking styles to recognize we may have is black and white thinking. Black and white thinking is where you see a situation as solely one or the other. A person is a friend or an enemy. Things are right or wrong. If you do not love someone then you hate them. There is no grey area.
There are many ways black and white thinking can harm your perspective on life, your inner voice.
There are so often we have a marriage, friendship, family loved one and they are absolutely amazing, then one thing may happen and they’re absolutely the worst. Having a love/hate dichotomy is harmful to build those relationships. If we constantly think that one moment we are wronged and because we are wronged once that person is dead to us there’s a problem. We will no longer have bridges to burn because they’ll already be gone.
This can also be harmful in how we see everyone in society. Black and white thinking is seeing everyone as either bad or good, there is no in between. In reality, most all of us are somewhere in between. There’s no perfectly good or perfectly bad. When you cannot fit any one person in either side, completely good or completely bad, it can mean internalizing failures, fears, and negative feelings.
Interpreting the World
Our brains are predisposed to choose a negative options first.Our brains are programmed to emphasize our negative interpretations in life. “This was a helpful, protective mechanism throughout history when we had to view the world in terms of survival or death. Without the constant threats of predators and the wilderness around us, our brains are left scanning and emphasizing the negative thoughts and situations that remain.” (betterhelp.com)
This can mean however when something goes wrong we can jump to “the world is going to hell,” “Why should I vote, I’m just one person that cannot change anything,” “I’m always wrong,” “no one will ever like me,” etc.
Social, Political, Religious Views
Black and white thinking can shut minds down to learning something new. It stops us from taking in research arguments and changing our predisposed ideas. When it comes to social, political and religious topics in particular this can cause major disagreements between people. We can also be so closed minded to others “being wrong” that we cannot learn to agree to disagree. This creates strife and hatred in people simply for a difference in opinion or beliefs.
How do we change black and white thinking?
Many of us have very emotional, knee jerk reactions, to things that happen around us, or things said to us. Step back and reflect before reacting. Think about what made us emotional. Is it important? Is it justified? Does it really mean this person or statement is bad? Are we negatively effected? Each of these questions can help us make an more informed decision about our emotions and how we feel. Often times we can choose that negativity is not helpful.
We must accept that there will always be some negative in our life and many many grey areas. We must accept that there is grey area in all situations, it is not just black and white. When we accept the grey area we are able to sit back and reflect on the positive. How that positive helps us and if there is negative how we are in power to change our reaction or change our situation.
Do you know anyone who does a lot of black and white thinking?
Do you notice yourself doing it?
Do you think it’s a problem for you?
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