How Black and White Thinking Hurts You (and What You Can Do to Change It)

Black and white think is the tendency to think in extremes : I am a brainy success, or I am an talk bankruptcy. My boyfriend is an angel, or He ’ s the devil incarnate. This think convention, which the American Psychological Association besides calls dichotomous or polarize think, is considered a cognitive distorted shape because it keeps us from seeing the world as it much is : complex, nuanced, and full of all the shades in between. An all-or-none mentality doesn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate allow us to find the middle ground. And let ’ s face it : There ’ s a reason most people don ’ metric ton live on Everest or in the Mariana Trench. It ’ sulfur hard to sustain life at those extremes.

Most of us engage in dichotomous thinking from fourth dimension to time. In fact, some experts think this design may have its origins in human survival — our crusade or flight response. But if think in black and white becomes a habit, it can :

  • hurt your physical and mental health
  • sabotage your career
  • cause disruption in your relationships

( notice : There is conversation in the sexual health and mental health fields about NOT referring to dichotomous or polarize think in terms of ‘ blacken and white intend ’ as it could be interpreted as referring color and race. More much, professionals refer to it as extremes or polarizations. ) here, we discuss :

  • how to recognize polarized thoughts
  • what they could be telling you about your health
  • what you can do to develop a more balanced outlook

What it sounds like

certain words can alert you that your thoughts are becoming extreme .

  • always
  • never
  • impossible
  • disaster
  • furious
  • ruined
  • perfect

Of course, these words aren ’ thymine badly in themselves. however, if you notice that they keep coming up in your thoughts and conversations, it could be a bespeak that you ’ ve adopted a black and white perspective on something .

How does black and white thinking hurt you?

It can harm your relationships

Relationships happen between individuals, whether they see each other as family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or something else wholly. And because people have ups and downs ( to phrase it dichotomously ), plus quirks and inconsistencies, conflicts inescapably arise. If we approach convention conflicts with dichotomous think, we ’ ll credibly draw the improper conclusions about other people, and we ’ ll miss opportunities to negotiate and compromise. Worse however, black and white think can cause a person to make decisions without thinking about the shock of that decision on themselves and others involved. Examples may include :

  • suddenly moving people from the “good person” category to the “bad person” category
  • quitting a job or firing people
  • breaking up a relationship
  • avoiding genuine resolution of the issues

dichotomous thinking often shifts between idealizing and devaluing others. Being in a relationship with person who thinks in extremes can be truly difficult because of the repeat cycles of emotional upheaval .

It can keep you from learning

I ’ megabyte bad at mathematics. Most mathematics teachers hear this announcement over and over during the school year. It ’ s the product of a success or failure mentality, which is a natural outgrowth of a grade system that defines failure ( scores of 0–59 ) as over half the grading scale. Some courses even have a bare binary to measure learning : happen or fail. One or the other. It ’ sulfur all excessively easy to fall into dichotomous thinking about your academic accomplishments. A growth mentality, which is becoming increasingly democratic, encourages students to recognize incremental advancement toward command — to see themselves moving cheeseparing to being able to do what they have set out to do .

It can limit your career

dichotomous think makes and sticks to rigidly defined categories : My occupation. Their occupation. My function. Their role. In many collaborative exploit environments where roles shift, expand, and re-form, having rigid limits can keep you and the administration from achieving goals. A 2017 discipline examined the workings of a dutch film studio apartment. It found that some ambiguity in people ’ sulfur roles and responsibilities had positive overall effects on the creative undertaking, tied though some conflicts arose as people expanded the oscilloscope of their work. Black and flannel think can besides limit how you think of your career prospects. During the 2008 fiscal crisis, many people lost jobs they ’ d defend for a long meter. hale sectors slowed or stopped hiring. The crisis forced people to look expansively at their skill sets, rather than clinging ferociously to a inflexible theme of what they could do. think of your career as fixed and narrowly defined could cause you to miss out on possibilities you might find enrich, literally and figuratively talk .

It can disrupt healthy eating habits

several studies have found a association between eating disorders and dichotomous think. Black and white think can cause people to :

  • look at certain foods as good or bad
  • look at their own bodies as either perfect or revolting
  • eat in binge-purge, all-or-nothing cycles

Researchers have besides found that dichotomous think can lead people to create rigid dietary restraints, which can make it hard to maintain a healthy relationship with food.

Is black and white thinking a symptom of other conditions?

Some black and white intelligent is normal, but persistent dichotomous thought patterns are associated with a issue of conditions.

Narcissism (NPD)

NPD is a condition that causes :

  • an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • a deep need for attention
  • a profound lack of empathy for others

Black and blank intend is one of the symptoms of this personality disorder. Researchers have found that the inclination toward dichotomous thinking makes it much harder for people with NPD to get the avail they need because they may devalue and discard therapists besides cursorily .

Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

The National Institutes of Mental Health identify BPD as a mental illness that causes people to “ experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety. ” People with BPD :

  • usually have problems controlling impulses
  • often experience black and white thinking
  • may struggle with interpersonal relationships

In fact, studies have found that the tendency to think in diametric opposites is at the kernel of the problems many people with BPD have in their relationships .

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Some psychologists think people who have OCD normally think in all-or-none patterns because the ability to put something into a firm class may give them a sense of control over their circumstances. dichotomous intend makes it potential for people to maintain a rigid perfectionism, and that can make it harder to get aid. If a person has a reverse, it would be easy to see that as a full failure of therapy rather of viewing it as a fleeting hiccup in the overall progress .

Anxiety and depression

People who are vulnerable to anxiety and depression may have a inclination to think in absolutes. A 2018 study that examined the natural address of people with anxiety and depression found much more frequent use of “ absolutist ” speech among them than in see groups. all-or-none think can besides cause us to ruminate, which can worsen anxiety or depression. It ’ mho besides worth noting that researchers have found a connection between black and white think and negative perfectionism. Researchers have found black and white think is salute when people are dealing with anxiety and low .

Racism and homophobia

It ’ s been surmised that dichotomous think may be at the ancestor of some of our most persistent social divisions. racist, transphobic, and homophobic ideologies much fixate on “ in ” groups and “ out ” groups in society. These ideologies tend to involve projecting veto qualities about entirely on the “ out ” group. negative stereotypes are typically used to describe members of those groups who they believe are unlike themselves .

What causes black and white thinking? 

Although personality disorders and genial health conditions are sometimes genetic, there international relations and security network ’ thyroxine adequate inquiry to say conclusively that black and white thinking itself is inherited. It has, however, been linked to childhood or adult trauma. Researchers think that when we experience injury, we may develop dichotomous thinking patterns as a coping scheme or to try to protect ourselves from future damage.

How can you change black and white thinking?

Black and white think can in truth make things difficult for you personally and professionally, and has been linked to mental health conditions that are treatable. For these reasons, it ’ south important to talk to a psychotherapist or mental health professional if you notice that thinking in extremes is affecting your health, relationships, or mood. You may want to work with person who is trained in cognitive behavioral therapy, because it has been proved effective in dealing with dichotomous think. You may besides find it helpful to try some of these methods :

  • Try to separate what you do from who you are. When we equate our performance on a single metric with our overall worth, we’re going to become vulnerable to black and white thinking.
  • Try listing options. If black and white thinking has you locked into only two outcomes or possibilities, as an exercise, write down as many other options as you can imagine. If you’re having trouble getting started, try coming up with three alternatives at first.
  • Practice reality reminders. When you feel paralyzed by black and white thinking, say or write small factual statements, like There are several ways I can solve this problem, I’ll make a better decision if I take time to get more information, and Both of us may be partially right.
  • Find out what other people think. Black and white thinking can keep you from seeing things from someone else’s perspective. When you’re in conflict with someone, calmly ask clarifying questions so you can come to a clear understanding of their viewpoint.

The bottom line

Black and white think is a tendency to think in extremes. While it ’ s convention from time to time, developing a design of dichotomous intend can interfere with your health, relationships, and career.

It ’ south associated with anxiety, depression, and a number of personality disorders, so if you find yourself hampered by thinking in black and white, it ’ s crucial to talk to a therapist. A therapist can help you to learn some strategies to gradually change this idea pattern and live a healthier and more carry through life .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *