Black-and-white thinking is disconnecting us

When emotions are running high and we are discussing important issues we can fall in very dangerous traps of thinking. Let’s take black-and-white thinking as an example.

Black-and-white thinking is on the rise

We can see this playing out in our political arena, as author Brené Brown vividly explains in her recent book “Braving the Wilderness“.

She points out that we are quick to approach the notion that “you are either with us or against us”. It makes for very quick arguments and a secure sense that we know what the heck is going on. But it is a fallacy.

Why black-and-white thinking harms us

The world is colorful, and in this black-and-white thinking our field of vision is actually severely restricted. We are not seeing nuances and details, we are just seeing friend and foe. And we are preparing for defense or attack. That way it is very difficult to find common ground.

And it is actually very difficult to feel that sense of connection. Because that black-white thinking points out that we cannot belong if we dissent. And that makes us very rigid and closed.

What are the benefits of letting go of black-and-white thinking?

When we manage to let go of black-and-white-thinking, and allow ourselves to have a clear opinion and the other person to have a different opinion and still meet each other with respect and dignity, we will be able to learn from each another and enlarge our field of vision. We might actually reach a positive culture of discussion.

How can we get there?

I guess there are two very powerful forces to work against that tendency of dividing the world into black and white. One is trust. Trust in ourselves, trust in the world and trust in the other person. Trust allows us to let down our armour and engage. The other force is curiosity. Curiosity allows us to explore things that are beyond our current knowledge. It allows us to see things that we did not see before.

What experience did you have when you or your conversation partner turned towards black-or-white thinking? I am curious to know. Let me know in the comments below.

3 Replies to “Black-and-white thinking is disconnecting us”

  1. Hello Gabriel: Good article and great challenge. Here in the U.S., black and white thinking is having the predictable effect of division, anger, hostility and anxiety. It is permeating every layer of society, no matter the part of the political spectrum you are on. It is permeating the Church, and having I think, a devastating effect on the spread of the Gospel; it is permeating the workplace, causing disruption at every level; and it is permeating the family- causing divorce, division, and destruction. Sounds like “black and white” thinking might just be a tool for destruction– curiosity, trust and a good dose of tolerance.

    1. Grace, thanks so much for your feedback. It reminded me how deep that topic actually goes. And it inspired me to record another podcast episode on “deep connection”.

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