Black-and-White Thinking-Cognitive Distortion 4 Steps to Overcome it

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 I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning, I tripped on the skateboard, and by mistake, I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running. And I could tell It was going to be a terrible horrible no good very bad day. 

Have you ever seen this book? Alexander and the terrible horrible? No good. Very Dad Day. Well, it's a perfect example of black and white thinking.

 So what is black and white thinking? Black and white thinking is a pattern of thought, characterized by thinking in the extremes. Everything is always the worst day ever or the very best day ever. 

You know, we think of things in their absolutes. It's a polarized way of thinking. And it messes us up because it makes our emotions more extreme than they need to be. Black and white thinking is also known as all or nothing thinking. 

It interferes, with our ability to have healthy emotions and relationships. Signs that you might be using black and white thinking are; if you use words like “always”, “never” “terrible” “ruined” “furious”. 

Or you try to make things out to be worse than they were. Like I mean you might have actually had a bad day, but it was the worst day ever or some things might have gone wrong. And you might say nothing went right, right. 

So we're taking something and we're making it out to be more exaggerated than it already was. Now, why does black and white thinking mess us up? Well, the way we think affects our emotions.

And if we are thinking in an exaggerated manner then our emotions are gonna swing rapidly from one extreme to the other. People with anxiety or depression tend to think in extremes. And we can combat anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses by having more realistic, honest, or moderate thinking patterns.

 Black and white thinking makes the problem worse than it already was. Black and white thinking creates helplessness. If my husband is a complete jerk, the biggest jerk in the whole world!” Then it makes no sense for me to try and change myself or improve myself because nothing is ever gonna work. See that black and white thinking in there? And how that's gonna contribute to problems in my relationships.

Another reason, black and white thinking messes us up, is it invites defensiveness in others? So, if you say to someone, you never do the dishes. They're gonna feel attacked because that is not quite true. You're exaggerating how bad they are.

 Sure they might miss doing the dishes, and they might have forgotten to do the dishes, and they might have intentionally not done the dishes that day or multiple days, but to say, "never" exaggerates how bad they are, puts people on the defensive, and just invites arguing and debating and fighting. 

The more extreme, the statement, the more likely, the other person is to feel attacked. if black and white thinking is so awful, then why do we do it? Now, I work under the assumption that everything we do, serves some kind of function, right? 

Even if it's dysfunctional in the long run, we do it for some sort of reason and black and white thinking does serve a function. It just doesn't work very well. 

So black and white thinking helps us feel like we're the victim of our circumstances, which is kind of comforting, right? Isn't it nice to think? Well, poor me. 

You know, everything's out to get me. And black and white thinking excuse us from having to do difficult work of Taking Action and Changing Ourselves. So if my job is the worst job ever or my boss is the meanest guy ever!” It excuses us in our mind from having to take responsibility for our part of the problem and working hard to fix it. 

Black and white thinking helps protect us from feeling guilty or accountable for our own actions. And this might feel more comfortable but in the long run, creates more problems. 

Black and white thinking also protects feeling vulnerable. So if we're thinking in extremes like everything is awful, then we have more excuses to just kind of hide in bed. You know, pull the covers over our head and, you know, wallow instead of actually experiencing those tender feelings that we might be having like hurt or sadness.

Perhaps we're feeling guilty or, you know, uncertain about the future. Black and white thinking is also very simple. It gets rid of the complex nuanced reality that we have to face every day. And it gets rid of that complexity that we experience when we're interacting with another person. Because every human being is a combination of good and bad. 

But If we just, you know, label them as being completely bad, then we don't have to manage a lot of that complexity that's involved in relationships. Now while these are some of the functions of black and white thinking. And it does you know, work in the short term to relieve us of a little bit of that discomfort. in the long run. It's gonna make us pretty unhappy if we consistently use this pattern of thinking in our lives. 

The more extreme our thinking, the more likely we are to be depressed. So saying things like, I'm a terrible person or wow, she has it all together. She is such a saint, Or no one's gonna ever like me? No one wants to be my friend. 

These are simplistic statements that feed those negative emotions and create that feeling of helplessness that is associated with depression. The reality of life is there is no perfect job, no, perfect marriage, no, perfect person.

 And by telling ourselves that someone is either perfect or awful, we're creating more problems for ourselves than they need to be. If we want to improve our emotional control, we need to challenge our black and white thinking. 

 So, how do we fix it? If we catch ourself engaging in some of these thinking patterns?  What do we do about it? Well, number one, 

Start To Notice The Signs Of All Or Nothing Thinking. 

So look out for words, like we talked about always, never any type of exaggeration, what like to call horribleizations or trying to make someone else out to be perfect. Number two,

Challenge, Your Thoughts 

Just Because You're Thinking, it doesn't mean it's really true. So look for a more truthful and more moderate way of thinking about each situation. or So that takes us right to number three, which is, 

Replace those Thoughts with a More Moderate View of the Situation,

We need to replace those thoughts with a more moderate view of the situation. So, back to the dishes situation: Instead of saying you never do the dishes, you big jerk, Say something like “Okay it bothers me when you don't do the dishes and I know that I also miss my chores sometimes. How can we work together to solve this? Number four, 

Increase Our Capacity To Experience Ambiguity

An essential part of resolving black and white thinking means we have to increase our capacity to experience ambiguity. We need to increase our tolerance of Complex situations. 

Our ability to hold on to a little bit of discomfort while we wrestle with the situation or a problem. Remember life is beautiful. Difficult complicated joyful. Order for us to be able to fully live, appreciate and enjoy life. We need to embrace all the complexity that is involved with it.

If we want to get healthier, it's not about just feeling better. It's about getting better at the feeling. So consider a couple of these questions. Can someone love you and still be insensitive sometimes? 

Can you be basically intelligent and still do something dumb? Can an experience be really hard but it's beautiful in some way. Remember, one of the main reasons people get depressed is because of how they perceive reality. 

When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change. When we're able to be more flexible and intentional in how we think, that depression is gonna be more likely to lift and will start to get feeling better. 

Depression often centers on one, incessant thought like, No one likes me. When we replace those negative thoughts with healthy thinking depression has nothing to feed on. 

Changing the way we think is really quite difficult. We might not even notice that we're doing it. So try to reach out for some help. Ask others, for their perspective on how you talk about situations. 

Watch yourself for signs of this negative and black-and-white thinking. Or work with someone like a mental health, professional to change the way you think. 

By reducing or eliminating black and white thinking we can live much healthier lives. So hope this was helpful. Thanks for watching and take care.


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