On my commute to work this morning, I started thinking (as is common for me) in black and white. If you’ve ever had cognitive therapy, read a self-help book based on CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy), or followed pop psych terms, you’ve probably heard of “black and white thinking”, sometimes called “all or nothing thinking”. I was first introduced to the term in college, when I sought help at the student counseling center for what I deemed were “romance issues” (The problem: no one on the planet was as perfect–cough, sputter–as me!). My counselor said something to the effect of, “Megan, it seems like you’re prone to a cognitive distortion we call ‘black and white thinking’. It means you see life in dichotomies, or polar opposites. So, when you have a problem, you think there are only two solutions, one at one end of the continuum and another at the far opposite end. This makes life very challenging, especially when you begin to discover that situations and people don’t always fit neatly into one or another category and solutions aren’t always so cut and dry.”
How very true this was for me! Since then, I’ve spent much of my life trying to find my way out of black and white hell. There have been times when I’ve succeeded in seeing all the subtle shades of the rainbow between those two extremes on the color spectrum, times when I’ve been able to resist the urge to categorize myself as good or bad, fat or thin, success or failure, perfect or utterly flawed, worthy of love or totally unlovable. I’ve been able to overcome the desire to live my life as only starved or stuffed, giddy or depressed, loving or hostile, selfless or selfish. Yet, there are times like this morning when I need to remind myself that not only do I know how to live my life in the myriad colors between black and white, it’s essential to my well-being that I do so. Life is NOT easily compartmentalized, boxed up, solved, categorized, or classified. Life is messy. People can be (I am) inherently good, yet have flaws. There is a whole rainbow of color in the world to bear witness to.
When I was a little girl, my aunt and I wrote and illustrated a very short story together using a rainbow of colors. I’ve always felt that rainbows that appear after a storm are unbelievably beautiful. Today, I hope to keep the image of a rainbow in my mind as I attempt to be kind to myself and others. Are you seeing the rainbow?
Peace, joy, and health!