Thinking in black and white

Do you find yourself thinking in black and white? As in this is right and that is wrong? This is good for me and that’s bad?black and white thinking

It’s interesting how in our political and national situations that polarized views have become more prevalent these past few years – Brexit, UK general election, US presidential election. We seem to have become communities of For or Against.

But is that really what you think?

In my own world, “it’s more complicated than that” 😉 I may have strong views about something, but not be too bothered about something else. My family may have strong views about something I’m not particularly interested in. Does that make me a bad person?

Interesting isn’t it! 😉

What I’ve noticed this year when I’ve had more time to listen to myself and learn more about myself, (the more you listen, the more you learn) is that, for me, there’s a whole scale from black to white on everything. Which is why limiting beliefs can hold so much power over us if we don’t take notice them.

We all have limiting beliefs which are stuck in our unconscious mind. These form when we’re very young, usually between 0-4, with more layers being added up to the age of 7. Richard Barrett calls these two stages “Surviving” 0-2 and “Conforming” 3-7 in psychological development. We’ve heard about the impact of neglect and malnutrition on babies, which effects children as they grow. However we’ve all been impacted in some way by our life’s experiences and what we make up about that.

We’re all told things as children that we may or may not believe unconditionally. “You’re great at art”, “you’re stupid”, “you’re a super talented athlete”, “maths and you just don’t go together”. Those things stick! And they’re usually NOT TRUE! But those thoughts are planted in our unconscious mind and that’s what feeds our conscious mind if we don’t take charge.

So when our parents or grandparents told us things as children, it’s likely we hold similar beliefs – unconsciously. As we get older we may challenge those perceptions our parents had. We may not, but we each have a choice in every situation. Each of us is a unique person and what someone else believes to be true may be for them. But is it for you?

Many people I know spend years trying to get rid of their limiting beliefs. I’m not sure I was aware of mine until these past few years. Really aware of how they held me back and what I made up in my head about situations.

“It’s clearly not meant to be if that’s happened to me”

“I couldn’t do anything about that – it was out of my control”

“I’m not good enough anyway, so that’s why that’s happened”

When something happens out of your control do you excuse it? Or make up a story as to why it’s happened? That’s just your limiting beliefs making things up or helping you make sense of things. Does it help? Probably not. In my experience, it’s reinforced the idea that the situation was out of my control, so it’s OK. What I failed to learn was that I had the ability to create things to change my own circumstances.

Black and white thinking puts things in boxes

What I’ve learnt from Nick and Runa at the No More Boxes movement is that we very easily put things in boxes and think that makes it OK. We label things. “Essex girls are…”, “Northerners are…”, “Rich people are…”, “Poor people are…” We do! All of us do it. By putting things in boxes it feels like we’re making things simpler in our lives, and who doesn’t want a simpler life?

But when we put others in boxes it’s likely we’re in our own box/es too. Our limiting beliefs are creating havoc in a way that they hold the power over us. Whatever we make up about things we do, see, want are coming from the base of those limiting beliefs holding the power over us.

If we let them.

There’s another way though. Listening is the starting point, in my opinion. Others may suggest a different starting point for you. For me, if you’re not listening to yourself you’re not in control. I’d spent years blaming others, the economy, the “situation”, about things in my life. I felt stuck, trapped and couldn’t see any way out of the mess that was my life at the time. I was unwell a lot of the time as well very unhappy. When I started listening my life started to change.

Listening better shows what’s true for you

When you start listening to yourself you get to know yourself more. In a recent conversation at the Conscious Cafe I stated,

The more I’ve listened and understood my wholeness and what makes me who I am the more fulfilled I feel.

It was an insight I’d not noticed before, but it had a huge impact on those I was chatting to about happiness and fulfilment.

When you listen to yourself you get to know what’s right for you in your life. It stops mattering what others think or do because you know who you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing. For me I use the language of life purpose, but you may have different words you use to describe what’s important to you in your life.

  • When you listen to your body does it tell you to “drink cranberry juice every morning before anything else”? Or do you notice that there’s something not quite right today and you think cranberry juice will help ease that?
  • When you listen to what you notice in your work, what do you hear? “You must get that xyz system as it’s fantastic and currently on offer”. Or do you notice that you need to get a good system in place to help you communicate better with your customers?

It’s not black and white is it? What you hear isn’t always clear. What you notice may be a marginal discomfort in your left toe. It could be for any number of reasons, so it’s not clear. It’s not black and white what’s caused the discomfort. There may be many ways to ease it too (usually ignoring it is the best one I’ve found as when we focus on it we’re putting energy into thinking our toe hurts).

When you listen more you start to hear more things. Just like when you go for a walk with no phone, no earphones and just walk. What do you hear? The world often opens up as we listen more carefully. Our world isn’t black and white. There are many colours and shades and hues. So I encourage you to start listening more and see what you hear.

This 21 days of Hope series helps you start listening more, if you’d like some help with this.



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