Dichotomous Thinking


As Temperance upright denotes balance, reversed warns excess.

Dichotomous thinking is usually described in psychology literature as”black and white thinking” and “thinking in extremes.” And while this is seen as a common symptom in many mental illnesses, it is a common symptom in just plain high achievers.

If you are an ambitious person, or even a perfectionist, you have surely experienced dichotomous thinking. If I do not succeed fully, I am a failure. If I finish anywhere but the top, I am worthless. The extreme ends of this spectrum are damaging and come from our best frenemy, the inner critic.

Moderation, or temperance, comes from self compassion. Being able to do your best and be proud of yourself for just that is mind-boggling to some of us. In fact, that thought might even be scary because if we’re OK with “just doing our best” we’ll fall into mediocrity and never find our way out. But, on the contrary, that in it of itself is greatness. If we can wrap our arms around ourselves and hug ourselves into a next level of ambition┬áthen we have truly succeeded. No one is perfect and to hold ourselves to such high standards is just unfair.

If I don’t get married by 30 I will die alone. If I don’t get this promotion at work I should quit and find a new profession. If no one reads my blog I should just give up because it’s completely pointless.

Sound familiar? We have all had thoughts like this at one time or another. And they sound so silly from the objective outside!

So rather than thinking in extremes like this, try changing your tune. If I don’t get this promotion, I’m going to volunteer for this project that I know I will kick ass at. If no one is reading my blog, I’m going to promote it more and look at the statistics patterns. If I’m putting so much pressure on marriage and my relationships aren’t working, maybe I should look deeper into my role in the relationships I do have.

Turn your extreme put-downs into goals and solutions. Being a defeatist is not only super dangerous but really uncomfortable to be around. Life will only defeat you when you let it, so turn the black and white thinking into a rainbow of opportunity. Start to sparkle and stay witchy ( *)