Q: What is meant by black and white thinking?
A: “Always” and “never” are polar opposite words and tend to characterize the vocabulary of black and white thinkers. Black and white thinking means seeing the world only in terms of extremes. If things aren’t “perfect,” then they must be “horrible.” If you are not “brilliant” then you must be “stupid.” If people don’t find you “fascinating” then they must think you are “boring.” But in reality, situations are rarely black or white, but shades of gray. Falling victim to black and white thinking tends to exacerbate depression, marital conflict, anxiety, and a host of other everyday problems. Black and white thinking is normal ‘primitive thinking’for young children.
Unfortunately, when under stress and feeling overwhelmed by their emotions, adults often regress to this same primitive thinking. When an adult relies on words such as “always” or “never,” and sees the world in black and white terms, they are slipping into the thinking modeof a child.
When someone tells me that they never feel happy, or that theyare always disappointed in their spouse or that they have nothing to look forward to, I know there is black and white thinking to contend with.However, when they realize that their extreme views are making the situation worse, theymay learn to correct the black and white thinking to avoid depression.
If not alleviated, black and white thinking can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You only see the negatives that fit your expectations and think of positive events as “flukes” or “tricks of nature”. With the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) you will be better equipped to cope with life and will learn to recognize black and white thinking so thatyou can make the choice to rid yourself of extreme thoughts in favour of healthy living.