“Black” or “white”, “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad”, “smart” or “stupid”, “strong” or “weak”.
Do you live your life in black and white terms? Is your mood in constant fluctuation, going from great to depressed in under one minute?
Many people suffer from this black-and-white thinking pattern, which is greatly influenced by their childhood and earlier experiences. The all or nothing type of thinking can seriously damage your sense of self, well-being, happiness, and relationships.
How do I know? Because I am a recovering black-and-white thinker. I, too, used to see the world as a scary place, where you have to be prepared for the worst, where some people are good and others are bad (but most are bad and can’t be trusted), and some are strong, while others are weak.
The all or nothing thinking is actually a defense mechanism people use to cope with life’s challenges. Unfortunately, this type of thinking prohibits you from seeing things as they really are.
Things are never as bad as they seem. Or as good, for that matter. Which means that relationships can’t be either “perfect” or “ruined”, people aren’t either “smart” or “stupid”, “strong” or “weak”, “good” or “bad”. We are have a unique mixture of intelligence, weak spots, strengths, positive and negative traits.
Things are never either black or white, and when you realize this simple fact, you free yourself from the prison of your mind. You learn to let go and accept the grey areas, instead of placing everything under “black” or “white” and “good” or “bad” labels.
Why is letting go of black-and-white thinking so important for your self-growth and happiness?
Once you realize that you cannot place things into black and white categories, you are generally happier. Why? Because you are no longer a slave to the “must” and “shoulds”. You accept the “maybes” and “what ifs” as part of your life, and you realize that these “good” and “bad” perceptions are all in your mind. You also stop projecting your feelings and thoughts onto others.
Just because a situation isn’t favorable at the moment, it doesn’t mean that it is ruined or that things will never improve. Just because your partner doesn’t understand your point of view or doesn’t shower you with the affection you think you are entitled to, doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t love you at all. Just because you failed a test, doesn’t mean you are stupid or a failure. Just because you didn’t win first place, doesn’t mean all your work was in vain.
Once you realize that extreme black and white thinking damages all areas of your life, you are able to make a conscious change. This sort of change takes place gradually –don’t expect miracles. You won’t be able to go from being an extremist to being extremely open-minded. However, each small step counts.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable and allow yourself to make mistakes. Choose to see the good where other times you only saw the bad. Stop misjudging people and situations based on your previous experiences.
Let go of all your judgements and preconceptions and start thinking and living as if anything is possible. Accept all possibilities and know that you will be fine regardless of the outcome. Instead of trying to control outcomes, focus on having positive, empowering reactions to what happens to you.
Stop passing judgements, stop obsessing about the details, stop over-analyzing and trying to control outcomes. Stop finding faults.
When you start living this way, it will seem like a whole new world has opened its gates to you. You will become more trusting and more empathetic, you will understand why certain things happen, and that most things are out of your control.
This simple technique can be applied in all interactions and situations where you find yourself thinking in an all or nothing kind of way. I am sure you will find it extremely useful in romantic relationships and in personal interactions with friends and family.
It takes courage to stop the negative thinking patterns that are holding you back. It takes courage to be vulnerable, to accept that you cannot control most things in life, and to be let yourself just be. But it’s worth it. Don’t take my word for it – try it and see for yourself.
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Author: Adelina Moisan
Adelina Moisan is a self-improvement, health, and fitness enthusiast who loves helping others become their better selves.