So, learning to practice more balanced, or dialectical thinking, can help to dial down our level of anxiety, see the nuances in situations, and act towards others and ourselves in more effective ways. This type of thinking can affect your relationships, career, and even your health. Instead of thinking about a problem or predicament in an either-or polarity, thinking in shades of gray requires us to evaluate things on a scale of 0 through 100. You can use any one or a combination of the methods described below to combat irrational, automatic thoughts and cognitive distortions. He bought one bag of ice. This was about six months into my DBT treatment. We would never think of speaking to a close friend in the way we speak to ourselves in our own mind. Black-and-white thinking can sometimes serve a good purpose, but it often leads a person down a path of irrational belief too. This is especially imperative with relationships, most crucially the relationship with their parents. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Do you live your life in black and white terms? Here are three black and white thinking examples. Editor’s note: This story is based on an individual’s experience. Much like a judge overseeing a trial, the next step is to remove yourself from the emotionality of the upsetting event or episode of irrational thinking in order to examine the evidence more objectively. You may recognise black and white thinking in yourself, or in someone you know. “You never told me that,” is a common employee retort. Shifting your thinking can be difficult but with the right support, you can learn some helpful strategies. Right or wrong. “My co-worker spoke in angry voice toward me” and “I forgot to take out the trash” are facts. | So I would suddenly hate someone I had liked just based on their political views – which is unfair and immature. Privacy For example, someone might think, “You can’t do anything right. Using this method, a person seeks the opinions of others regarding whether their thoughts and attitudes are realistic. It appears you entered an invalid email. (I discuss this way of thinking in greater detail here) Aren’t they all inferior to someone else too? Most situations in life are actually better looked at in shades of grey. I didn’t think I had black-and-white thinking or pretty much any of the other symptoms that I can now see I obviously had. It was completely irrational, but it was an obvious display of black-and-white thinking to me — a demonstration I really needed because I didn’t even know I was splitting. So part of living in recovery of BPD is constantly analyzing my thoughts to look for signs of my symptoms like splitting. I met L when we were in DBT in 2012, and she is still one of my best friends to this day. For example, statements such as “I’m selfish” and “There’s something wrong with me” are opinions. Terms. A problem can be solved in more than one way. This will allow you to examine them later for matches with a list of cognitive distortions. It isn’t only about others – we may think of ourselves under these strict guidelines as well. The best part is once I realize I’m splitting, I’m able to dialectically work it out in my mind so I don’t get so polarized about everything. We can wish that things could stay the same and also acknowledge that change is inevitable. Once you realize that extreme black and white thinking damages all areas of your life, you are able to make a conscious change. L can talk about whatever she wants and just because M’s a prude doesn’t mean she can be such a bitch about it. For example, something could be done, but to what degree? Cognitive distortions — also known as “stinkin’ thinkin'” — can be undone, but it takes effort and lots of practice, every day. When I did engage in political discussions, more so when I was younger but occasionally still do, I would do things like argue facts that have been proven to be incorrect, just for the sake of staying right. 5. You won’t be able to go from being an extremist to being extremely open-minded. There are also a number of CBT websites that walk you through the steps, such as MoodGym. With black and white thinking, situations, problems, outcomes, and even people are seen in extremes. The official psychological term is splitting, though it may be called all-or-nothing, either/or, love/hate, us/them, and most commonly, black-and-white thinking. Our limited viewpoint can lead us to act in rigid and self-destructive ways. I will be more careful in the future and I’m sorry to have upset you.”, “It’s OK, I just wanted to get the chance to speak up…”. Sign up below for regular emails filled with information, advice and support for you or your loved ones. Suddenly, she was my best friend and I had to defend her, though I really didn’t know L that much better than M at the time. Example #1. New York, NY, US: New American Library. If you’re experiencing depression, it’s common to fall into black-and-white thinking. We can not be in the mood to do something and be willing to do it anyway. Efficiency declines. Smart or stupid. The most important step of fixing any problem in your life is identifying exactly what the problem is and how extensive it is in your life. They may not be aware that the thinking processes of young people are different. While it may feel to us as if compartmentalizing ourselves, other people, situations, countries, ethnicities, genders, professions, etc.