“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Rumi
Black and white thinking occurs when we believe there is a right or a wrong view or a good or a bad way of behaving and we split by taking sides. We are closed to learning and to others who do not reflect our view. We may attempt to strengthen our position by nurturing our dislike and even hate of the other who is wrong and we alienate one another and often refuse to interact with those who do not express our views thus limiting our ability to learn and heal. Acceptance of the other is out of the question because we think that a different view is unacceptable which makes those people unacceptable. Often to deal with our discomfort around our differences, we shut them out.
Children think in black and white (good/bad; right/wrong), so if we are in this frame of mind, most likely we are triggered and there is a part of our traumatized or hurt child who has come to the forefront. The child may have felt they didn’t have a voice; that they were bad or wrong; that they weren’t good enough or strong enough or lovable enough or worthy enough. Most likely their feelings weren’t acknowledged and so they continue defensive/reactive patterns in adulthood that were developed in childhood that attempt to rectify their feelings. Patterns like arguing, withdrawing, taking a stand, trying to prove they are right (or at least not wrong), doing more to be good enough, trying to be heard. When we come from this place, we are triggered and in a fight, thus unable to be loving.
When we are triggered, we don’t have the ability to be open because we are either in fight, flight or immobility, and the way the brain works, when we are in fight or flight, we have only those three ways of responding. When we respond from fight or flight we are not calm or open or loving but responding from a hurt, fighting or shut down place—which is not good for developing and maintaining relationships or for healing our or other’s trauma.
Black and white thinking is occurring in buckets right now because of our fear of loss of self or others as a result of the pandemic and the state of the world (political strife; race issues, etc). The media stimulates our fear with constant reporting about the negative state we are with the virus (probably hoping to encourage us to take precautions, get the vaccine, etc) and other issues of police brutality and riots. The fear we feel triggers the unmet needs of the past and we behave as though we are back in that place. It also triggers unresolved ancestor trauma (which is often unconscious but prevalent right now). Taking sides about right and wrong in this time does not alleviate our fear or our loss or our childhood trauma. It does not resolve our differences. It causes more splitting and hurt and trauma, piling onto our personal and our ancestral and our societal trauma.
What if, instead of taking sides and perpetuating a fight, we worked to clear our own and our ancestor’s trauma and fear? (Check out www.changeworksinc.com to find out more about clearing.) Once we clear, we are not triggered and then we can access our heart. Then we could come to the “other” from a framework of love and trying to understand and heal. Listening is one of the great healers. Listening to understand and acknowledging one another’s fears and positions (even if we don’t agree) helps us to build bridges and relationships by working from a place of love and understanding—which is what our traumatized child part, our ancestors and what our traumatized world needs more of now. It also helps us to learn what we may be missing in the story and what we might need to know to bring the opposing sides together. When we work from a place of making the other wrong and shutting out or shunning others, we perpetuate our human trauma. Let’s try to move to a place of open heartedness with one another which will move us toward healing of self, our ancestors and society.