If things aren’t perfect, they must be horrible right?

If you’re not a fascinating person, then you must be boring?

I’ll either succeed, or I’ll fail.

You will love me or hate me.

Are you a person who sees things in extremes?

Good or bad,

Perfect or useless,

Right or wrong,

Moral or immoral.

YIKES . . . what a tough way to live!

If you are someone who looks at things in absolutes or falls victim to polarized black and white thinking, then this blog is for you.

All or nothing thinking is a thought pattern that can generate a “flight, fight, or freeze” response to danger. And, although much is going on in our world today that is concerning, we often fall prey to distorted thinking, better known as “stinking thinking.”

Small children just learning how to speak and organize thoughts think in black and white terms. This is normal and is called primitive thinking.

As adults, we are prone to primitive thinking during moments of crisis and stress. When an adult starts to feel overwhelmed by emotions, they can regress back to the way they saw the world as a child.

Black and white thinking is seeing the world only in extremes, and it skews your perspective. This kind of thinking can make you feel stressed, confused, overwhelmed, or just plain fed up. It can exacerbate depression, marital conflict, anxiety, and a whole host of other problems. By thinking this way, we miss the reality that things rarely are one way or another but usually somewhere in-between; in other words, there are many Shades of Gray.

Just ask Crayola!

Can you see yourself in any of the next three scenarios?

Becky is a middle-aged married woman who is continuously feeling depressed. She says she NEVER feels happy anymore and that she is ALWAYS disappointed with those around her and herself.

Susan, who attends Weight Watchers regularly, just ate a delicious piece of chocolate crème pie and told herself, “I guess I just blew my diet today, I might as well eat another piece.” All or nothing thinking can turn a single bite into a full-blown binge.

Joseph, an aspiring actor who supports himself currently as a carpenter, despite good reviews in several plays, reports feeling overwhelming anxiety whenever he has to audition for a role. Joseph ALWAYS prepares thoroughly but becomes increasingly anxious for days before the audition. He says he NEVER does well at auditions and would NEVER overcome this anxiety. He believes he will NEVER make it in the business and ALWAYS will just be a carpenter.

Joseph eventually realized that his black and white thinking became a self-fulfilling prophecy. He learned how to view his situation how it was, a mix of good things and room for improvements. With a newfound appreciation for the many shades of gray, Joseph is now happier, more realistic, less anxious, and successful in his new career.

You too can learn to recognize faulty thinking and make a choice to challenge it in favor of healthier living.

Recognize there may be more than one way to interpret any given situation. By doing so, you can avoid jumping to wrong and possibly harmful conclusions. When looking at a situation, your perspective follows your current line of thought, which is NOT necessarily the reality of a situation.

Stop using language that exaggerates. Words like:


Replace negative words with positives ones

Can’t Can
Problem Challenge or Possibility
Always Often
Never Seldom
Bad Unwise
Faults Differences
Mistakes Valuable Lessons

There is precious little in this world that is genuinely black and white. Give yourself and those you love a break and discover the many beautiful shades of gray. When you learn to recognize the spectrum of gray in the difficult experiences you encounter in life, you will be better equipped to explore ways to improve your situation and come out on top.

And lastly, as an Empowerment Coach,

“Don’t believe everything you think.”


Today’s author: Kat Middleton is a professional certified coach and the founder and CEO of Wholehearted Concepts, LLC. Kat is a Professional Energy Empowerment and Self-Acceptance Coach who specializes in helping clients personally and professionally that struggle with inner doubt, perfectionism and being way too hard on themselves. She is available for private one-on-one coaching as well as group workshops, seminars, and speaking events. Learn more about her at her website: www.wholeheartedconcepts.com