If you’ve ever looked into Cognitive Behavioural Therapy you may have come across this term it is one of the unhelpful or negative thinking patterns CBT helps people with. Black and White thinking can be defined as “Believing that something or someone can be only good or bad, right or wrong, rather than anything in-between or ‘shades of grey’”
Oh boy is this me. This wasn’t helped as I grew up with the typical “correct answer / wrong answer” schooling many of us get and the “good behaviour / bad behaviour” that school, parents, church, society imposes on us. Now for many people early on they figure that these constructs are often just that – sex before marriage – is that wrong or not? Church says yes, your parents may say yes but you may not feel that way – actually the law is on your side once you are of the age of constent so… shades of grey. But I always thought everything had a right or wrong conclusion so I sought to be right as much as I could. This has in some ways been a good thing in my make-up to look at the positive in that I have great general knowledge my wife keeps telling me to go onto Mastermind or quiz shows on TV as I trot out this useless knowledge. So I research, I retain and I learn facts well which is a useful talent when applied correctly.
I left school at age 18 and entered the world of work. My brother had recently got a job as a computer operator and was on good money. I thought “Computers they are the future” so I applied for a trainee post at a local company. I trained as a software engineer/computer programmer with them and at the local college. This however didn’t help my thinking since… it was either 1 or 0 – there or not – right or wrong. I became known in some of my early jobs as the ultimate bug fixer. That odd bug that elluded others in terms of either recreating it repeatedly or just being able to find the error in the lines and lines of code – I was the man. I regularly fixed “unfixable” bugs. I tried to teach others as our Director then thought this a skill I could pass on. However as I showed people my techniques they glazed over – I really did relate to the problem as the computer did and blindly followed the computer programme logic not the intended action, they often missed the bug as they assumed an action that was implied not actually what was stated. I remember one female colleague asking whether I conducted relationships in the same logical manner and was amazed I was married if I did!
Old, wiser, and particularly being sober, I began to realise that rarely in many cases is there a black and white answer to many of life’s issues. Did I get all the shopping? Even then there may need to be a situation of “Almost, I had to get a different brand/flavour/size etc. of something”. Failure? In my old drinking mind Yes- I didn’t do it perfectly. I was the worst critic on this stuff as well. Beat myself up on that as I’m not a good person as I’ve not succeeded 100%.
Recently I was talking to someone about this old aspect of my life and said that I’m much happier dealing with the plethora of shades of grey. They said – “Really, you still think it is grey?” I looked at them quizzically to which that replied “Black is absence of all light. White is the entire spectrum on full. Therefore you’re living in a world of infinite colour not drab greyness”.
What a great thought and insight. Indeed I believe they are right I’m thinking in a full spectrum of colour these days…