ABOUT Black and White Thinking

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The Challenge of Gray —

from Black and White to Balance

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
The FIRST of The Black & White articles from
The Challenges Inventory™ Series
(updated content March 20, 2013)

Black and white yin-yang symbol

  • A or F
  • Perfect or worthless
  • All or nothing
  • Good or bad
  • White or black
  • Always or Never!

Perfectionism and Black & White Thinking can turn a bright, shiny day into a thunderstorm!

One of the Nine Challenges (from my Challenges Inventory™), Black and White Thinking is an area that will be explored in one of the eBooks in my upcoming eBook Series.

ADDers (and those involved with them) seem to fall into the black and white thinking trap more than most – especially where the functioning of the ADDer is concerned.

That’s a shame, too, because the damage inflicted by black and white thinking seems to stop ADDers dead in their tracks more quickly than than those with the so-called “neurotypical” brain-style.

Maybe it is because we have heard it levied against us so often in our lives.

  • Why can’t you ever be on time?
  • You always interrupt me!
  • You are the messiest person I have ever known!


Letting Go of the Judgment of Unrealistic Standards

“Black” and “white” exist in language, appear to exist in the color spectrum, and are useful concepts in scientific constructs. They do not exist in action. 

In fact, if it were possible to always or never do much of anything,
I’ll bet life would run quite smoothly.

It would be a bit boring, perhaps, but everybody’s life would certainly run smoothly.
Mine too!

And if anybody reading jumped immediately to the idea that erratic ADD behavior is a strategy to avoid boredom, you are partially correct and mostly black and white!  Keep reading the articles here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com, and do your best to fight against confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is a term describing the tendency of people to favor information that confirms their hypotheses or closely held belief systems. Individuals display confirmation bias when they selectively gather, note or remember information, or when they interpret it in a way that fits what they already believe.

The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues, for deeply entrenched beliefs, when we are desperate for answers, and when there is more attachment to being right than being effective.

Resisting the Lure of the Absolute

Since the human brain equates certainty with safety and security, we LOVE absolutes because they reduce the anxiety that comes with uncertainty. However, to move forward in life, we ALL need to learn to identify and let go of the patterns of thought that leave us judging ourselves deficient when we deviate from unrealistic and impossible “norms.”

Black and White Thinking is one of the worst of the lot.

Human beings are remarkably inventive creatures. It is to the credit and the joy of our species that we are always finding new and different ways to do things.

Some experiments fail. Those are the ones that spur us on to create new ways that will prove effective. In my humble opinion, that’s how it’s designed to work!

  • Even machines fail to function consistently all the time.
    Many people make good livings fixing machines that are not functioning correctly!
  • So, why do we expect humans to live up to consistency of action?

More to the point, how come we expect it of ourselves?

In a series of posts about Black & White Thinking, I am going to share some content from my upcoming eBook on Perfectionism, designed to encourage you to let go of the idea that it is possible to obtain true consistency of action, and to STOP the unfortunate habit of beating yourself to death with the black & white stick.

Working around Cognitive Distortions

Although it seldom provides much information that will help you change self-defeating black-and-white thoughts, much of the information you will read around the internet and in books will identify black-and-white thinking as “a type of cognitive distortion” – effectively a mistake in thinking: a logic error.

Unless you are simply fascinated with logic for its own sake, I find it much more useful to think of all cognitive distortions as unfortunate habits of thought.  Habits can be changed.

Unfortunate habits vs. BAD habits

I define an “unfortunate habit” as an ineffective habit:
a habit that takes us anywhere but where we say we’d like to go —
which, for most of us means that state where we are experiencing a life
where we are successful, happy, healthy, and self-fulfilled,
as we personally define those terms.

Think of the related posts as sections of a book designed to be read in bits and bites, each building upon the concepts of the other, giving you time to assimilate new thinking in a manner that will probably slip right past your confirmation bias.

Little by little, we are going to, together, build the HABIT of replacing black & white with gray, returning balance and unconflicted ambition to our lives

As always, if you want notification of new articles in the Black and White Thinking series, The Challenges Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right.  (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too)  STRICT No Spam Policy

If you’d like some one-on-one (or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this article (either for your own life, that of a loved one, or as coaching skills development), click the E-me link  <—here (or on the menubar at the top of every page) and I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

Some related content for the Black and White Concept

Related Posts from around the ‘net

BY THE WAY: Since ADDandSoMuchMore.com is an Evergreen site, I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link BACK, like, follow, or comment on the article, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.


About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

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  31. Erich says:

    Where I live- I am chased down the road of life by a wild snarling pack of unrealistic expectations (ex-police dogs, mostly)!



    • FUNNY analogy, Erich – and a good description of Black and White thinking run amok, even if you mean it literally. Expanding on that metaphor, managing black and white thinking is a little like befriending those dogs – changing expectations of you from “bait” to “provider of good treats,” — the challenge this series of posts will take on.


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