Tag Archives: black and white thinking

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. Continue reading

Skillfully-planned New Year’s Resolutions Work Best

hd-wallpaper-with-fireworks-at-new-years-eve smIt’s New Year’s Day for most cultures, and no doubt many of us have painstakingly worked on lists of all the things that we are going to do to improve ourselves in 2016.  Most of those will be focused on all the “good” things we are going to nurture, and all the “bad” habits we are going to cast by the wayside.  

Inevitably, we will fail in most of them. The reason is simple: such resolutions nearly always focus on the worst things that we believe about ourselves — habits, compulsions, ingrained ways of behaving — that are by definition the things that are most difficult to change.  I’m not suggesting that they don’t need changing, but that taking on the most difficult tasks of our spiritual development all at once is a recipe for disaster.

Black and white, rigid thinking comes naturally to addicts, whether we have been plagued by chemical or process addictions like shopping, overeating, sexual compulsions — whatever.  “Wearing life like a loose garment” is hard when we have spent entire lives convinced that we are either “good” or “bad,” (often by someone else’s definition).  We have to believe certain things or our entire legend will fall apart, and we come to believe them to a degree that makes it pretty hard to become flexible.  A list of resolutions based on good and bad, right and wrong, healthy or unhealthy is going to be an incredibly tough row to hoe, and most of us will crap out on it.  Then our self-esteem and shame will tell us, once again, that we don’t measure up.

I suggest that, instead of a big list of promises that will likely sabotage the whole project, we concentrate on one (or at the most, two) things that we want to change about ourselves. Second — but no less important — we’ll stop thinking of those things as “good” and “bad,” but rather as “skillful” or “unskillful” things that we can change gradually.  

That is an extremely important change in perception.  When we are learning a skill, we expect to make mistakes — to be more or less unskillful — for quite a period of time.  When we’re learning, we’re allowed to make mistakes.  If you weren’t allowed to make mistakes before, I’m giving you permission to do so from now on.

We start each project as error-prone, unskillful practitioners, but doing our honest best.  When we make the inevitable slip-ups (hopefully not slips, but even so…), we forgive ourselves, resolve to work at becoming more skillful, write in our journals the things that we have learned, hit some extra meetings if appropriate, call our supports, and go about learning our new skills.

Changing the habits of a lifetime is a big job.  We wouldn’t start on do-it-yourself re-roofing, plumbing, carpeting and painting the house all at the same time, and it doesn’t make sense to take on too many major self-help projects at once, either.

In fact, it’s pretty unskillful.

Have a Happy, Skillful New Year, and know that I wish for you those things that I wish for the people I hold most dear.

Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

I’m not making New Year’s resolutions this year. I haven’t for a long time, because it finally occurred to me that I’ve probably never kept one. I did quit smoking in January some years ago, but that was more or less coincidental. (I suspect the toothpicks had more of a bearing on the issue than the date.)

It seems to me that resolutions are setting myself up for failure. If I dig around for something to resolve about, I’m most likely to come up with something that’s pretty difficult for me to do. I mean, after all, there wouldn’t be a lot of point in resolving to stop eating chicken livers. I never have eaten chicken livers, and don’t expect it to become an issue in the future. Continue reading

Tolerance Is An Important Part Of Recovery

New post on the Sunrise Detox Blog:

There are a variety of characteristics that make up what we refer to as “spirituality,” but it seems to me that tolerance stands out as one of the primary things we need to work on in recovery. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines tolerance as 1. capacity to endure pain or hardship; and 2.sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own. Both of these are important for recovering people to remember.

We addicts know The Way Things Ought To Be. We tend to be hard-headed and prone to black and white thinking…

More Here