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Moving Beyond Black and White Thinking

Understanding ‘black and white thinking’ is crucial for mental clarity. This thinking style, marked by absolute views, often misses the complexities of real-world situations. It turns multifaceted issues into simple binaries, ignoring the range of possible perspectives. Acknowledging these limitations, we start a journey toward a more nuanced comprehension of our thoughts and feelings. This blog aims to further explore and offer insights into this topic.

Exploring the Landscape of Our Thoughts

When we explore the landscape of our thoughts, the journey can often feel like we’re moving through a vast, vibrant, and occasionally thorny forest. Each thought we entertain, each question we ask, are like seeds we scatter on this mental terrain. Some grow into strong, towering trees, their roots shaping the neuroplastic pathways in our minds.

Just as a gardener tending their plot, it is our task to shape the growth of our mental forest, guiding our thoughts away from the wilderness of the amygdala’s survival responses and towards the cultivated grounds of our executive center. A key part of this journey involves rewiring our thinking to move beyond absolutist statements, those black and white proclamations that can sometimes make the forest feel unnavigable.

A Closer Look at Absolutisms

Imagine a photographer who only works in black and white. While the images they create can be striking, they inevitably miss out on the subtleties and nuances of colour. Absolutist thinking is much the same. Statements like ‘They were always that way for me,’ or ‘I would never do that,’ paint a stark, two-tone picture of the world. Yet, in reality, life is awash with countless shades and hues, filled with complexities and contradictions. Understanding this is akin to moving from a black and white photo to a vibrant, full-colour image, capturing the true intricacy of the world.

From Infatuation to Resentment: The Shift in Perception

Let’s dive deeper into this metaphor. Picture meeting someone new, someone you’re immediately infatuated with. In the warmth of your first impressions, their positive attributes are all that you see, much like the radiant colours of a vibrant sunrise. You’re unconscious of their flaws, and you seek them out impulsively, drawn to the dawn’s glow.

However, as the day (or relationship) progresses, the harsh light of the midday sun begins to cast shadows. The more time you spend with this person, the more you start seeing the downsides, the negative traits you were initially blind to. What seemed a flawless sunrise is now a landscape of varying brightness and shadows. Your once black-and-white perception now reflects the complex reality of a full-colour image.

The same transition can occur when we harbor resentment towards someone. At first, you may only see the downsides, like being in the shadows of the evening. But with time, even a moonlit landscape reveals its beauty, and you begin to notice the positives you’d initially overlooked.

Asking the Right Questions to Avoid Black and White Thinking

The wisdom of the ages reminds us that the quality of our life is often dictated by the quality of the questions we ask. If we probe deeper and challenge our initial impressions, we free ourselves from the impulses and instincts of the amygdala. This liberation is akin to a bird escaping its cage, finally free to explore the vast sky of possibilities.

Often, our life can feel like a rollercoaster, carried along by emotional charges, stored like ticking time bombs in our subconscious mind. These strong emotions, from profound infatuation to deep-seated resentment, can seize control of our thoughts and keep us stuck in the oscillating loops of pleasure and pain. Yet, by maintaining a balanced perspective, we regain control. We find ourselves more poised, present, and productive, no longer distracted by these impulses and instincts that have been dictating our course.

Black and White Thinking Absolutes: Dissociated Fantasies

Picture an artist, deeply engrossed in a masterpiece, losing sight of the world around them. In the same vein, we often get so engrossed in our ‘black and white’ perspectives that we lose sight of the entire picture, creating dissociated fantasies. When we puff ourselves up with pride or shrink away in disgust, claiming, ‘I would never do that,’ we create a distorted self-image, devoid of our complexities and contradictions.

Instead, as we cultivate our mental landscape, we must remember that we are not just the gardener tending to the plants. We are also the soil nurturing the seeds, the sun providing the light, and the rain providing sustenance. We are the entire ecosystem, filled with diverse and complex life, far from the stark, black and white absolutes we may initially perceive. This understanding paves the way for us to develop a more profound, compassionate, and nuanced perspective towards ourselves and others, helping us navigate the vibrant forest of our minds with greater clarity and wisdom.

Embracing the Spectrum Beyond Black and White Thinking

Our journey beyond black and white thinking illuminates the rich tapestry of our thoughts. Absolutist thinking, like a black and white photo, often hides the true complexities of life. By challenging these perceptions, we embrace a world of diverse shades and nuances. This not only deepens our understanding but also increases our empathy and compassion. As we tend our mental gardens, let’s value the greys between extremes, key to navigating life’s varied landscapes with clarity and grace.

Release Hypnosis Melbourne Hypnotherapy

Since 2016, Lawrence Akers has been working under the name Release Hypnosis offering Hypnotherapy and ACT based work to the people of Melbourne or an online service. Based on St Kilda Rd, Release Hypnosis is an easy and convenient location to get to and accessible by the ANZAC station train and tram stop. Release Hypnosis can help with a wide range of presenting issues, and I offer a free 30 minute no obligation discovery call for those who are unsure if hypnotherapy is the right way forward for them.

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