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Black and White Thinking

A very wise lady recently challenged me to consider whether or not I was a black and white thinker with regards to how I view myself and the choices, actions or decisions that I make. By that, she meant, am I guided by a rigid personal moral compass that is either/or...for example: Blown it or not?

Wise or stupid?

Good or bad?

Reliable or unreliable? Kind or unkind?

Right or wrong?

"I've eaten one biscuit, I may as well eat the whole packet" "I dropped and broke the mug, I'm such an idiot" "I forgot to call my friend back, I'm such a terrible person." "I was 10 minutes late, I should always be on time, I'm so unreliable" "I just snapped at my child and made them cry, how unbelievably unkind" As you read these, I'm wondering what comes up for you? Does the harsh judgement jump out at you? Are you thinking, well, fair enough?! Anything else? Now you may have strong thoughts about this yourself but hear me out... What if, with self compassion, we were to consider the possibility of those opposites on a continuum along which we fluctuate back and forth, depending on internal or external pressures? So you are neither all good nor all bad.

What if we were to consider what is going on around us and in us with kindness? What if I asked you what you might need in that moment where it all seems to be going wrong? What if I said that the black and white thinking dichotomy can lead to appalling self-talk that will inevitably negatively impact your wellbeing? I'll be honest, initially, I responded with yes, of course I'm a black and white thinker, and isn't that the way the world should be? And then I paused. Imagine if we were to blame a situation rather than ourselves? (and please do not misunderstand me, there are indeed things for which we need to take responsibility but I am referring to those times of excessive self-blame, guilt, and negative "I am" statements such as "I am bad") Imagine if we replaced negative self talk with compassion in a moment of struggle. Perhaps we could reframe those examples... "I've eaten one biscuit, and I really wanted it. I feel a bit low in blood sugar after a really hectic day. Do I feel like another one? Am I hungry? Perhaps I deserve a treat in this moment. Maybe I will, maybe I won't but I'm OK either way." ( I have not blown it) "Oh no, I dropped my mug and I've broken it! What a nuisance. Never mind, accidents happen to everyone, it's just one of those things. I'm very tired, so after I've cleared up the mess I'll grab another mug...maybe I need a 20 minute chill out time." (I am not stupid, I was just careless for a moment) "I forgot to call my friend... that's so frustrating but I've got a lot on my mind right now so it's not surprising. I will message now to say I'm sorry I forgot, say a little of what's going on, and arrange another time to chat. I think I need to carve out some "brain space time" to process my day." (I am not a bad friend) "The traffic was awful which is why I'm 10 minutes late. Although I've been brought up to believe lateness is an appalling sin, sometimes life gets in the way and I'm not to blame for that. I'm still a decent and reliable person. " (I was late today but I am not unreliable) "I barely slept last night. I have had no energy today so I couldn't cope with my child's temper tantrum and snapped. Most people would do that too. I recognise that I'm exhausted and need a break and I'm human. I feel upset that my child is upset but I can use this as an opportunity to model saying sorry, that I was too harsh. We can have a cuddle, and then later I will make sure I treat myself to what I need...a soak in the bath! "

(I am not an unkind parent)


I wonder what your thoughts are on this. If you are reading this with a dose of skepticism, as I did, I challenge you to try it for a week and see how you feel at the end of it.

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