What is black and white thinking?

There are many reasons, variations, states, nuances, shades, and contexts of almost any situation, but for people with black and white thinking, this means nothing. Good-bad, all-or-nothing thinking is prevalent. In the end, it's effortless to think in this way: you instantly stick a label and live peacefully on.

Black-and-white thinking (Splitting or black-and-white thinking) is a mistake in a person's thinking, in which he sees either positive or negative aspects of a situation. Psychologists say that this is a kind of defense mechanism for many people.

What is black and white thinking

This is not only a curious term and phenomenon but also a symptom (or cause) of serious mental disorders:

  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Narcissism
  • Depression

Typical examples of black and white thinking:

  • Good or bad
  • Right or wrong
  • Perfect or terrible
  • Smart or stupid
  • Always or never
  • Love or hate

What causes black and white thinking?

Mental illness is not always the cause of black and white thinking. Often a person resorts to it deliberately to prove his innocence or to amuse his vanity. Why speculate and seek facts when the world is either black or white?

It can also be the result of deliberate manipulation. To prove a point, it can be very beneficial not to pay attention to certain details. Cunning, profit, and laziness are some of the common causes of black and white thinking.

Writer Donald Miller said: "Black and white thinking is attractive because it is reductionist. It simplifies everything that we cannot understand and comprehend. It allows us to feel smart without much knowledge and effort. People who disagree with us are just stupid. We feel this superiority."

What are the consequences of this kind of thinking?

In addition to the three deviations that we mentioned, there are several more negative points.

Over-simplification can lead to a huge career and relationship problems. Also, you won't be successful in business if you don't understand what people really need.

When it comes to morality, people with black and white thinking demonize the opposite thinking. In contrast, a reasonable and rational person believes does not deny someone else's opinion just because it contradicts his beliefs.

It is more difficult for such people to change their point of view. You are either on one side or on the other. The nuances are confusing, especially if there are dozens of them and they are not obvious.

Black and white thinking can also lead to acquired helplessness. Any opportunity is interpreted as something impossible: "What a business, there are only swindlers in power. They just put sticks in the wheels, demand papers, take them away, and divide them! "

Why is black and white thinking dangerous?

There is a whole list of reasons why you need to stop using black and white thinking. Let's go through the most important ones. And then I'll show you how to color your thinking in all 50 shades of gray.

  • Black and white thinking negatively affects your relationship
Black and white thinking negatively affects your relationship

Your partner is the best person on earth until it becomes the worst. This love-hate-good-bad cycle is a major stressor in any relationship. Thinking in black and white can negatively affect your comfort with each other and prevent a deeper connection based on acceptance.

This applies to any relationship: family, friendship, business. As long as you see in a person only good or bad, you cannot accept him as he really is: a normal person who makes mistakes, with his strengths and weaknesses. If someone has committed a dubious act, this should not characterize the person as a whole and radically change your attitude towards him.

  • Black and white thinking hurts your self-esteem

We all ask ourselves questions about ourselves, trying to classify ourselves into one of the categories:

  • Am I a good person or a bad person?
  • Fat or slim?
  • Is it possible to succeed, or is it not even worth trying?

In fact, most of us are somewhere in between. We have both good and bad qualities; we have certain predispositions, skills, and pain points.

Evaluating yourself in terms of black and white thinking makes you hypersensitive to other people's opinions and kills acceptance of healthy criticism. Disapproval from the outside will only confirm your unnecessary fears about yourself. This will harm your self-esteem, hinder growth, and self-development.

  • Black and white thinking keeps you from being successful

In work, as in other aspects of life, there will always be good days and bad ones. And many, many ordinary, normal days. But if you use black and white thinking, you will either overestimate expectations from each day or think that nothing will work out.

In his article " How Black and White Thinking Can Kill Your Business " for Forbes, Tim Chavez described entrepreneurship as a roller coaster. When you encounter common obstacles along the way, it can seem like they are doomed to fail. That is why many people abandon their projects.

To be successful, you must admit that every day cannot be the most successful, and obstacles and difficulties are an integral part of the goal's movement

  • Black and white thinking affects how you feel
Black and white thinking affects how you feel

As research shows, the perception of emotions in black and white affects your condition.

If you think of your emotions in black and white, you are more prone to feel that they fit your chosen category. Thinking extreme about emotions leads to emotions that are more likely to be extreme. (Ajay Satpute, Pomona College assistant professor of psychology)

In other words, mild sadness that summer is over can turn into depression just because you perceive this emotion categorically.

This is familiar to me. Sometimes I wind myself up to such an extent that I cannot understand how I could spoil my mood so much because of another trifle. Now I know that black and white thinking is to blame for everything, and I should work on it.

  • Black and white thinking prevents you from thinking critically
What is critical thinking? It is the ability to analyze facts and draw legitimate conclusions. Thinking in black and white is one of the signs that you are not thinking critically. There is only one conclusion - if you want to think critically, you need to get rid of black and white thinking.

How to avoid this thinking

  • Separate your ego from your ideas

Here is another statement by Donald Miller: "Our ideas are not really ours. They may be true, which makes them important, but these are not our ideas. This means that people can have the freedom to accept or not accept them. It is challenging to calm down your ego and admit it, but this method allows you to become smarter. "

  • Reframe your thinking

Don't jump to conclusions immediately and categorically. Ask yourself clarifying questions. Is he really such a terrible cook? Are you really that stupid? Is your financial situation really hopeless?

Stop and see if you are exaggerating. Use logic, critical thinking, creative thinking. 

  • Say goodbye to never and always

Eliminate all words associated with extremes. Throw them out of your vocabulary. So you instantly get a chance to think wider, to find shades where you have never seen them. It can be an amazing experience that will stay with you for life.

  • Learn to feel comfortable in the unknown

It's okay not to know all the answers. You can also collect information and understand that it is not enough yet. You do not have to immediately express your opinion on any issue. Say you don't know the answer. Or start thinking about it and looking for facts.

Just take the terms of the absolute and find the shades in them. The term "bad" has a whole scattering of them: catastrophic, monstrous, tolerant, permissible.


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