The World's Not Black and White

Stop treating it like it is. Yes, I'm talking about "black or white" thinking. You know, everything's either black or white, good or bad, all or nothing, right or wrong, this or that. If you think like this, there's no balance, and chances are you're not too open-minded.

So, why do people think like this? Well, it goes back to our natural instinct to categorize. (Remember  "Labels and Stereotypes"?) Some people just have very broad categories. They can become so extreme that everything is either one thing or the complete opposite. (Read this.)

Thinking in extremes can have some pretty bad affects on you too. You'd think something you did was completely right or totally wrong, for example. Sure, if you think it was completely right you might feel pretty good. But what if you thought it was completely wrong? Then you'd just feel awful, beating yourself up over it for no reason. It might have not even been that bad. Black or white thinking would most likely mean living an unhappy life (or a perfectly happy one, but which is more likely?).

Not only is this kind of thinking problematic for you; it also affects people around you. Think about it: you either love someone or hate him/her. Every person is either your best friend or your worst enemy. That would mean that the majority of people can't be your friend. That doesn't sound very appealing, does it? Even worse, treating others like this is just going to hurt them. Also, if you think in terms of extremes you'll probably be less likely to compromise.

I've never really been the type to think of things as one way or the complete other. It just doesn't make sense to me-- there's always a balance, right? Also, I don't exactly agree with thinking of things as a "spectrum of gray."  I know it's supposed to go along with the black and white thing, but it still sounds pretty limiting. Maybe it's a dumb idea, but I think it sounds better to think of things as a spectrum of colors. Surely most things are more complex than some shades of gray; especially people.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out this common problem. Thinking like this is never going to make anyone, including you, happy. As I've said before, try to be a little more open-minded, and consider that everything has more than two possibilities.

Do you agree that black and white thinking is a problem? Are you guilty of thinking like this? Feel free to share your thoughts, as always.

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