Thinking in Colour
We all have ingrained patterns of thinking. We can become focused on an issue, a worry or an experience and ruminate, going over and over it again and again. We then concentrate on only what our internal dialogue tells us, missing other important information about the issue, the situation, ourselves and the world. This can lead us to interpret much of our world though a ‘lens’ which may not be strictly accurate, will lack balance and is unhelpful to us, and those around us.
For example, if we wake up on a January day like today where the light is poor, the sky is low and grey and there is heavy rain, we may think to ourselves, “Today is a write off, it’s going to be a rubbish day”. This thought is likely to encourage us to focus on everything that supports it. When no one phones or invites us to Zoom coffee with them, the original thought is reinforced - “I was right it is a bad day!” Perhaps we then notice all the jobs around the house that need doing, but we don’t feel inclined to do them, as it is a rubbish day. Then we feel bad about being unmotivated. Low and behold it’s a bad day!
I came across this interesting blog which describes the usefulness of practicing ‘dialectical thinking’. Dialectical thinking is when we open our minds to more possibilities than that which our usual internal dialogue tells us. The author suggests we step away from the ‘binary thinking’ of good or bad, or black or white and she reminds us that, even when something bad happens, it can be possible to think ‘paradoxically’, or to see some good elements within the situation.
I also found the blog about dialectical thinking interesting because I am someone who has a tendency for black and white thinking. In recent years I have been learning to do some of what the author recommends: realising that everything has good and less good things and practicing seeing events, people and situations ‘in the round’ or from as many angles as possible.
I have lost two of my beloved cats in the past 5 months. This was difficult and upsetting, especially as one was an emergency euthanasia during lockdown. That meant I could not be with her. However, the other side was, due to lockdown, I had been working from home for most of the last year and had spent much more time with both cats than would have been possible in a normal year. So, even though it was difficult, there are still some things to be grateful for. If I just concentrated on the death and my loss of my cats, I would not be able to think about and remember the time I had with them in those precious months.
How we view others, especially when they don’t make changes
This then made me think about how we work with others who need to make behaviour changes for their sake, for the sake of others in their lives or for the health or welfare of their animals. We, as workers, or as friends and family, can often take a black and white stance; that the person needs to change and if they don’t they are a bad person or unwilling or difficult. But life is not simple, change is hard and complex and more importantly, there are always reasons and ‘back stories’ to everyone’s situation and behaviour. Often these are not obvious, even to the individual concerned.
This dialectical thinking blog was a welcome reminder. It is good to see things more broadly, to be open to others and to try to understand their situation, how they got there and why they find change difficult. By doing this we are not condoning behaviours, rather we are working to be helpful to the person, and are more likely to be able to support them to make changes that they need to, and can make. Dialectical thinking, or thinking in colour is useful for how we think about and talk to ourselves, but also it can be applied to how we think about and view others.
The world is better in colour.