From Black & White to Full-Color Thinking

Black & White to Full Color Thinking

Things never turn out right.
I screw up everything.
Every time.

It’s called black-and-white thinking. It has us thinking in absolutes, and it slams the door on the full-color range of possibilities. If you find yourself stuck in black and white thinking…

1. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” Sad? Disappointed? Angry? Overwhelmed? Just feel your feelings. Name them. “I am feeling really angry right now.” Or “I feel so disappointed.” Don’t let overwhelming feelings do your thinking for you. Take care of yourself. Go for a walk.

2. Check to see if you’re falling into negative explanatory styles, e.g. seeing problems as all-encompassing, permanent, and all about you. See if you can frame the problem/issue as a) very specific, b) temporary, and c) existing, at least in part, outside of yourself.

3. Ask yourself, “What constructive steps can I take to fix this particular problem?” Rather than focus on the problem, focus on the solution.

4. If you find yourself engaged in black-and white thinking, try opening up your negative mantra by looking at the words you’re using. Here’s an example. “Things never turn out right.” What things? This one thing? Two or three things? Be very specific about the exact things are you talking about in this moment “Never.” Really? As in, not once, not ever, not even a little? Or just a few times? Or just one time? “Turn out right.” What does that mean? If you mean “to my liking,” is there something that can be done about that? Are your expectations too high? Too low?

Start paying closer attention to the things that do go right–even the seemingly little things like getting out of bed, taking a shower, enjoying a meal or having a conversation.

If black-and-white thinking has become a habit, it may take a good bit of self-monitoring, time and effort to start changing the pattern. But don’t be discouraged! The more you notice it, the more you’ll be able to turn it around and open yourself to full-color thinking.

©2015 Suzannah Ferron, MA, LMFT. All rights reserved.