Binary Thinking

It seems that addicts, especially in early recovery, are exceptionally inclined to find fault with other entities, whether people or organizations. This is especially true early on when we’re in denial about most everything and our fellowships are beginning to strip some of it away as we kick and scream. But it’s also true about the world at large, and not only those of us who admit to addictions are guilty. Psychologists believe this is partially because it enables people to feel better about themselves, but also due to the human tendency toward binary thinking: wrong v. right, good v. bad, black v. white, our tribe v. them, our warriors (teams) v. theirs, and so forth.

Binary/black and white kinds of thinking may come from upbringing by caregivers who thought that way, religious influences, our desire–perhaps need–to believe we are superior to others and counteract our own doubts, or other reasons. Actually, regardless of the reasons, we’re stifling our ability to understand others and broaden our own horizons.

Some addicts find one fellowship acceptable while another turns them off. Yes, some are more staid and sedate. Some are more narrowly oriented, which can be comforting to folks who don’t want to look at other addiction issues. Others are boisterous, with a lot of “language.” But all have something to offer the people who choose those rooms. I may find the meetings alien, disturbing or simply too rough, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Like most other differences, they’re just…different.

The same is true in politics, religion and many other aspects of life. If we aren’t careful, our individual issues and cultural influences can lead us to draw conclusions about people who don’t meet our “standards” that are widely divergent from reality.

Many Americans, for example, seem to think of Cuba as a “backward” country–yet Cuba’s infant death rate is lower than that of the US, its health-care system has pushed the age of death up to a level well above many “first world” countries, and they turn out doctors who are in demand all over the world. Recently a third year Cuban medical student passed the test to become a full-fledged doctor in the US. (She went back to Cuba to finish school.) Cuban students tend to be better educated than those of other Western countries across the board. Deprived? Sure. Backward? Hardly.

And so it goes. Just about every time we set arbitrary standards based on our assumptions instead of facts we will–if we look with open minds–find so many glaring exceptions that our conclusions are rendered obsolete, if not demonstrated to have been downright bigoted.

When we’re confronted with things of which we don’t approve, it’s always best to ask ourselves, “What else could this mean, what could I be missing here.” That’s true in most situations where we are inclined to judge first and forget the questions, but especially in the recovery fellowships where we all have different stories and are, to begin with, totally unequipped to walk a mile in our own shoes, let alone anyone else’s.

Self-righteousness almost never goes well with others, it retards our recovery tremendously, and it’s SO embarrassing when we’re wrong!

One thought on “Binary Thinking

  1. Pingback: Binary Thinking – Crackerboy

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