Only Fifty Shades of Grey? 

I don’t think so!  There must be at least 1000 shades of grey, and I’m not talking about the book on the New York Times’ best seller list.  Having lived a black and white life most of my (ahem, 40+ years) I still sometimes cringe when I think about moving into the ‘grey zone’ of life.  I like things to be nice and tidy; up or down, day or night, good or bad, right or wrong.  Or at least I think I do. 

One technical term for black-and-white thinking is false dilemma thinking.

This happens when we create an either/or answer to a situation and leave out other reasonable, middle-ground options.  In my case, I think I reacted this way to cope with fear.  A situation that even slightly mimicked (usually subconsciously) an experience that created fear or anxiety in my past could create the either/or thinking.  Fight or flight sound familiar?  

No Balance

It leaves no room to question, consider, or reflect.  There is no balance.  What a small world I boxed myself into with such a narrow mind.  B&W thinking led to chronic disappointment in myself and has been a barrier to personal growth.  It generally shows up now in subtle ways, but used to be much more extreme. 

In the throes of my deepest despair several years ago, my therapist encouraged me to include some fun in my life.  This was a concept I just couldn’t get my mind around.  I was depressed; therefore, I couldn’t have fun.  Right? (I was actually in danger of my depression defining who I was because of my B&W mentality.)

Growing up, I was expected to earn all A’s in school.  When an A- showed up on my report card sitting in the middle of other ‘straight’ A’s, Dad’s scornful remark was “Why the minus?”  The B&W message was ‘only straight A’s equaled success’.  Therefore, since I wasn’t a success, I was a failure.  This mentality plagued me for years.  I actually quit college in the middle of my second year when I got a B.  The feelings of failure were that intolerable.  It was two long years before I returned to college.

The Struggle for Balance Continues

The recent reconciliation with my mom created another ‘opportunity’ for me to enter the grey zone.  While we were estranged, it was much easier to just say ‘We don’t see each other because she doesn’t believe me.”  Now we’re in the infant stages of developing a new relationship.  It isn’t full of anger, resentment, and denial anymore, but it isn’t perfect either.  It’s grey, and I struggle.

How about you?  Have you ever struggled with black-and-white thinking?  Have you found a way to be freer in the grey zone?