Black & white thinking is also known as dichotomous or all-or-nothing thinking.
It is the inability to view both positive and negative perceptions of the self, others, or outcomes of circumstances in a realistic way.
This means thinking in extremes, believing something is either all good or all bad without a middle ground.
Black & white thinking can cloud judgment, preventing you from seeing reality clearly.
It can result in you being unable to:
- Complete your work
- Forgive yourself for small mistakes
- Work with others
- Regulate your own physical and emotional health
- Maintain stable, peaceful relationships
LGBTQIA+ people commonly experience minority stress, which can exacerbate our tendency to think in black & white.
We may have been rejected in the past by friends or family for our identity, so we protect our feelings by imagining possible bad outcomes.
For example, we may want to say to our partner, "I want to try an open relationship", but fear that they'll either break up with us if we suggest it, or even leave us if
we try it.
We can reduce this by practising grey thinking, where we imagine more than just the best and worst outcomes.
This can be done by making lists of alternate possibilities.
Instead of hyper-focusing on one narrative, you can list other possibilities, focusing on narratives that are neutral or positive.
This can also be done by shifting our language use. For example, using less ‘B&W words’ and more ‘grey words’
Instead of using words like 'never', 'always', 'need to', etc., consider trying:
- I’m noticing that…
- I’m willing to…
- I don’t like this circumstance
- I prefer something different
- I’m flexible enough to…
Mindfulness can also help.
By regularly tuning into your thoughts and body's sensations, you can better notice when you're spiralling, helping you work past situations when you might be engaging in black-and-white thinking.
Voda has a series of Meditations available in our beta app.
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