3 Simple Ways to End Black and White Thinking


Many creative people live at the extremes. They are up or down. It's everything or nothing. Black or white. This way of thinking is habitual and it feels normal to those who have creative tendencies. By managing these challenges, you can better harness your gifted talents and fulfill your potential. 

You may recognise black and white thinking in yourself, or in someone you know. (I discuss this way of thinking in greater detail here)  

To break the habit and stop living at the extremes, there are 3 simple things that you can do to significantly change the way you experience life, and how you feel about it!

1. One Thousand Shades of Grey


Tendencies to black and white thinking will be exacerbated by high levels of arousal. The more agitated or worked up we are the less subtle our thinking. This type of thinking can be characterised by believing that things are:

Permanent: when we no longer believe that things will change. So when  a relationship ends, the  person might think that she will never get another partner. Not being chosen for a job might be described as “I’ll never get another job.”

Pervasive: when one mishap colours everything. One misdemeanour by a friend will be reason to write off the whole person. A period of ill-health might make the person believe that his entire life is over. A party where you didn’t really hit it off with anyone in particular, gets translated into “nobody likes me anyway”.

How do I manage this? Self reflection, followed by learning how to calm down with a simple breathing exercise called 7/11, which lets the outbreath be slightly longer than the in-breath, gives an immediate opening: the ideal opportunity to

(i) challenge the thoughtwhat evidence is there to support my opinion?

(ii) reframe the thoughtI wonder who my next partner will be? I wonder how long before I’ll be ready for another partner? I haven’t got another job yet.

He may not have done what he promised but he has a lot of good qualities too. Even though I’m bed bound for a while, I have time to read and finally ring the friends I have neglected for a while.

So have fun paying more attention to how you express yourself!

2.     Do Regular Body Scans

Founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts  Prof. Jon Kabat-Zinn teaches a simple mindfulness technique that very effectively reduces stress levels and immediately improves quality of life.

I suggest you use a shorthand version of this technique. By simply tuning into how you are feeling at any given moment – even if only for 15 seconds at a time– 2 things will happen:

(i) This is a chance to just lift the foot off the accelerator more regularly, so that you take the edge off your intensity and speed; notice how good that feels!

You can be surprised at how easy it is to loosen tension anywhere in your body, for example in your lower abdominal area – soften your bum and breath more deeply into your digestive system – ease tightness from your jaw, or just let your shoulders drop.

(ii) The more you do this simple exercise the more you will learn to read your body and thereby be informed by your ‘embodied intelligence’  - I’ll write more about this in my next newsletter. Once you get into this habit you can start to notice how much easier it is to pace yourself and spend your energy more consistently so that it lasts longer and plummets less steeply.

3. Park your Mood”

Let me share with you the wisdom of a 12-year old client. “I’m going to park my mood more often” is how she summed up her decision. She realised how quickly a perfectly good mood could change into a tsunami, sucking her straight into the storm. This could have many unwanted effects: the earlier equanimity and presence of mind might be utterly forgotten by the ‘selfishness’ that comes with heightened emotions; communication might break down and the distraction that such a mood is, could waste a lot of time by taking her way off course.

This young girl is typical of the many creative people I work with. The ease with which a mood can change is sometimes astounding and before you know it you can be blown off course without remembering which shore you had set sail for.

Here’s a simple tip. Remind yourself more often of why you are doing a particular thing. Connect firmly with the strength of that intention and notice when you start wavering. Some people like wearing elastic bands round their wrists which they can firmly tug at when they notice the ripples of an unwanted mood. Pulling at the band gives them a chance to say “no!” to a demon mood.

If you want to explore this idea further I suggest you use my much respected colleague Pat Williams’ CD, Which You are You?  It will give you a better handle on what my young client learnt: to look in on herself without immediately identifying with every rising mood.

As creative people, we have unique challenges, like black and white thinking, that we must be overcome in order for us to realise our true potential. 

If you would like more guidance on harnessing the powers of the creative mind then sign up for my emails by clicking here