If you want to live a happy life, it’s a good idea to notice when you lapse into black and white thinking!
What is black and white thinking?
Black and white thinking is when you generalize and catastrophize about what’s going on. Black and white thinking is when you make everything extreme.
You know that you are indulging in black and white thinking when you use words like “always” and “never”. Or when you generalize about something or someone and say “everyone” or “no one”.
In other words, black and white thinking has nothing to do with reality because in reality there’s no such thing as “always” or “never”. There’s no state of total perfection or total failure. Reality is more in between – more nuanced.
So you’re indulging in black and white thinking whenever you say things like:
* Always or never. For example: I always fuck up. I’ll never get it right. He’s always late. They’ll never accept me. She’ll never understand.
* Everyone or no one. For example when you say: Everyone does it. Or everyone thinks it’s wrong. Or no one cares about me. No one likes me. Or no one will ever understand.
* Totally or complete. For example: This is totally wrong. I’m a complete failure.
Statements like this have nothing to do with reality because they are so extreme and unrealistic – and very unkind. As you become more psychologically mature, you will begin to see things in a more realistic manner and not have such unrealistic (extreme) expectations to yourself, life and other people.
People who are more relaxed and laid back about life don’t indulge in black and white thinking. They can appreciate that things change and that sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don’t. They also understand that sometimes things work out the way they’d like them to and sometimes they don’t. And they don’t make everything either totally wonderful or absolutely terrible but realize that by sticking to the middle way, life becomes more relaxed and satisfying.
Whenever you say – I “should” be different than I am – you’re really saying you shouldn’t be you. And this leads to stress, anxiety – and low self-esteem.
One of the things that happen when you learn to take better care of yourself is that you stop putting yourself down and shaming and blaming yourself for being you. But this doesn’t mean you can’t work to improve yourself. Of course you can! The difference here is that healthy self-improvement begins with a sane, humble and realistic assessment of who you are and where you are in your development – and not with ruthless criticism.
Healthy self improvement is based on and grows out of a realistic look at your strengths and weaknesses – and not with ruthless criticism. When this happens, the mature person looks realistically at himself or herself and then says: Ok, well maybe I could do this a little better. Or maybe I’ll work on that for a while. Or maybe I will try that. That sounds like a good idea. That might be good for me. I think I’ll try that and see how that works.
This is not the same a saying I “shouldn’t” be me but rather it’s a healthy realization that everyone can improve and that all growth and learning are an ongoing process that is wholesome, beneficial, balanced and sane.
What if it turns out that your life is the perfect set-up for you? That everything – including all your problems and difficulties and aches and pains – are exactly what you need to evolve into the next best version of you? What if that's the case? What if you knew for sure that all the things you perceive as "problems", all the things you feel are preventing you from living the "happy life" you dream of – what if all of these things are just here to give you the opportunity to grow?
It's an interesting thought isn't it?
Well try this.
Take the very worst problem you are facing at the moment – the absolute worst thing – like you're sick or handicapped or your lover just left you or you don't have enough money – and ask yourself – why is my life better because I have this problem or difficulty? And then be honest with yourself. Find at least three reasons – three reasons why your life is better because of what you are facing. Three honest reasons...
Be honest now – really honest – and see what comes up! If you can find three honest reasons why your life is better, I am sure you can find five or maybe 10.... Don't give up until you've found as many as you can.
This is such a mind-blowing exercise in self-discovery because we discover the damndest things....
Here’s what I’ve discovered — happiness is a mind that is at peace with itself. A mind that is fully present and that is not resisting what is. A mind that is not telling stories about how things “should” be. A mind that accepts what is and which is at peace with the way things are and the way people are.
When this happens, you are no longer at war with the present moment, but are awake and alert and can deal with whatever is happening in this now moment. And it feels good. And allows enough space for you to surrender to the Infinite Presence that is your true nature.
© Barbara Berger. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life
by Barbara Berger.
What is preventing you from being happy now? Is it your partner, your health, your job, your financial situation or your weight? Or is it all the things you think you “should” do? Barbara Berger takes a look at all the things we think and do that prevent us from living happy lives now. Barbara presents 10 practical ways to use this understanding in your daily life, your relationships, at work and for your health.
Barbara Berger has written over 15 self-empowerment books, including the international bestseller "The Road to Power / Fast Food for the Soul" (published in 30 languages), "Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life" (more than 20 languages) and “The Awakening Human Being – A Guide to the Power of Mind”. American-born, Barbara now lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition to her books, she offers private coaching sessions to individuals who wish to work intensely with her (in her office in Copenhagen or on Skype and telephone for people who live far away from Copenhagen). For more about Barbara Berger, see her Web site: www.beamteam.com
Find and Follow Your Inner Compass: Instant Guidance in an Age of Information Overload
by Barbara Berger.