I’ve written often about black and white thinking.
I feel it’s best to seek out the grey, in most cases. Not all cases but most.
I decided to take my own damn advice and minimize extreme black and white thinking in my life. I’m working on that now. I think by living in the ‘grey area’ we are less stressed, more balanced and fulfilled!
Today, for instance, I was working on rehearsing a song that was starting to bore me, so I immediately pulled up another one from my list that I just felt more like singing. I’m learning so much about myself through my rehearsal process. At my age, I just wanna have FUN or I’m DONE? (Yea that rhymed). It is so important with creativity that we enjoy what we do!
But the ‘black and white thinker’ in me said, ‘You shouldn’t stop singing this one until you get it RIGHT! — until it’s perfected…”
The ‘grey thinker ‘in me said, ‘No! I’ll go back to that song later. I’ve learned enough on it right now.”
So, I’m noticing how its almost a daily challenge to deal with the ‘black and white thinker’ inside me.
I think we all have a version of that black and white voice inside us. The official psychological term for black and white thinking is “splitting.”
From Wikipedia: Splitting (also called black-and-white thinking or all-or-nothing thinking) is the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defense mechanism. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).
Finding the Grey Area in Watching News.
Many say that watching or consuming a lot of news is unhealthy and depressing. (Uhh…YES it can be!)
A friend of mine who is a spiritual teacher/practitioner said this yesterday:
“Every single one of my spiritual teachers says this one thing about watching news: Don't do it!”
I responded: “But on the other hand, don’t we need to stay informed about what’s going on in the world?”
The ‘black and white thinker ‘says ‘NO NEWS’. The grey area thinker says to watch ‘SOME NEWS’ but not let it consume your life. (My mom seems glued to CNN daily. It hasn’t helped her mental state. Just sayin…)
Regarding writing on Medium I could’ve been very dramatic and black and white. I could’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater and totally stopped writing here but instead, I decided against that thinking. I wanna live in the grey area, dammit!
There are too many good reasons to stay on this platform like:
1. I like writing stuff out. We write to find out what we think. Isn’t that enough of a reason? I think it is!
2. It’s an easy to use platform.
3. There are many good people here on Medium — like-minded creators. I’ve made some wonderful ‘real and genuine’ friends here.
I silence my ‘black and white thinker’ a lot lately with my current music commitment too. I have no idea where my new music recording project is going or where it will end up.
It could take many routes.
- I could do more albums.
- I could take my one-woman show on the road eventually? (Broadway, or Off-Broadway) or, maybe do the whole thing from my own house!
- I could invite others to come over to record at my place or maybe film a variety show from my nifty home stage. (It does look like Vegas in my home studio area — and I always wanted to be Ed Sullivan!)
- I could write all new music and combine it all into benefit concerts of some kind for charities.
- I could keep on enjoying the rehearsing and recording stage.
- All or some of the above.
So my ‘black and white thinking’ is replaced with grey as far as my music goals now, which is good.
Also, other outcomes could happen that I haven’t even thought of! I do like staying open to all possibilities and not holding things tightly in my life. Loose is best.
I believe in this quote by Steven Pressfield author of The War of Art:
“Show up do the work and know the right outcomes will happen.”
That’s a nice grey area.
From the Article: 5 Ways Black and White Thinking Poisons Your Perspective
“Everyone thinks of the world in black and white terms at times. From refusing to see the flaws in our loved ones, to being overly hard on ourselves, the human brain’s tendency to understand the world in either/or terms has a profound effect on our relationships.
Of course, the world is not an either/or place: Our lives are full of shades of gray. By seeing the world in black and white — rather than the complex rainbow it actually is — we may initially make it easier for ourselves to separate out good from bad, right from wrong, and beautiful from ugly. But this kind of thinking can be exhausting, sending us through constant ups and downs. And on a deep level, simplifying things into easy, binary terms robs us of much of the complexity that makes life and relationships so rich.”
Black and White Thinking Can Hold You Back From Success
So in everything we do, we will have good days and bad days, and days that are somewhere in between or downright shitty. But if you think in black and white terms, it’s easy to internalize every failure and have an unrealistic expectation of every success.
Tim Chaves of Forbes magazine wrote: “…black and white thinking in our professional lives can make us abandon projects as mere bumps in the road, due to a feeling that they are inevitably doomed to fail.”
Black and White Thinking Can Literally Change How You Feel
Many studies have shown that thinking in black and white can actually change the way we perceive the world, effectively conditioning us to miss nuance.
In a 2016 study, Pomona college researchers found that participants’ perceptions of how someone was feeling changed depending on whether they were given black and white, or more fluid categories, to understand emotion. By conditioning you to see things in more binary terms, black and white thinking can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, making it even harder to perceive nuance.
Black and White Thinking Can Signal a Deeper Problem
Extreme black and white thinking can also be a symptom of mental illness. People with Borderline Personality Disorder, for example, experience intense black and white thinking, which can, in turn, affect their perceptions of their relationships with others and with themselves.
While black and white thinking itself doesn’t mean you have Borderline Personality Disorder or any other mental illness, it’s definitely worth seeking out a therapist if you’re having a difficult time or feel distressed in any way because of it.
How Can I Stop My Black and White Thinking?
The first step to combat black and white thinking they say is simply to: acknowledge that you’re doing it. This can be hard — after all, brain distortions can make our thought processes, well, distorted — but taking time to consciously examine your thoughts and question extremes can help.
I do this often in my therapy.
A simple way to do this is to think of some extreme words you might use to describe a person, relationship, or situation (bad/good; ugly/beautiful) and then imagine more nuanced ways to describe situations.
It can also help to actively cultivate empathy.
‘Grey Area Thinking’ Means a Richer Life
“Black and white thinking’ can give us a measure of security. After all, who doesn’t want to think they have all the answers? But it can also cut us off from the complexity and richness of life.
Allowing ourselves to venture into uncertainty is, paradoxically, a way to see more clearly: not in black and white or even gray, but in complex, dazzling rainbow. “— Reina Gattuso
Thanks for reading.