The Dangers of Black & White Thinking

fluid thinkingA Fluid Mind By Vandana Kohli | May 03, 2015

“We sow the seeds of our future hells or happiness by the way we open or close our minds right now.” — Pema Chodron

A friend is moving away.  To mark the occasion, she gathered a couple of us together to eat, drink, do yoga, and be merry. Not necessarily in that order.

Naturally, during the eating, drinking, and merry-making portion of the evening, we began talking about change, taking chances, transitions, life, and death. You know, the usual. What I wasn’t expecting was a story about a death that included the wildest, comedic, truth-is-stranger-than-fiction tale, that had us all rolling on the floor laughing so hard we were crying.

As I was wiping the tears away, I said out loud, “What a great reminder that nothing is all one thing.” The group nodded in agreement.

It’s true, isn’t it?

Yes, of course, some things are just awful and tragic. But that doesn’t mean we won’t ever laugh again or even laugh in the midst of the experience. And yes, some things are purely joyful, just plain light and silly.  But that doesn’t mean we won’t have a wistful longing for a person not present to enjoy with us. It’s simply how we humans are. Fluid. The strangest, sometimes totally inappropriate, thoughts just pop into the mind at really odd moments and we can’t control them, and I vote we not try. (The work instead is what we do with those thoughts, by the way, but that’s a different post)

Funnily, it’s so easy to TRY to be perfectly black and white about things, to make them either this way or that way. Whatever “it” is, trying to organize “it” into an all good or an all bad box, feels somehow simpler. Lord knows I like my own emotional messes tidy. (Ahem, they’re not, because I am human.) But the truth is, trying to paint anything just as one thing or another actually deprives ourselves of the power of flexible thinking, the joy of creative problem solving, and the freedom to make the best of what we got.

So, for all my hardcore committed absolutist thinkers (you know who you are), this one’s for you! Go with more options, not less. Because seriously: nothing is all one thing.

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2 thoughts on “The Dangers of Black & White Thinking

  1. Anna says:

    While I don’t consider myself an “absolutist thinker”, this post really spoke to me. It can feel complicated or even awkward to struggle with something upsetting during a happier time or to find a bit of light in an unfortunate situation, but you are spot on that life is often about managing that complexity and balance. Thank you for this insight!

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