Upgrade your thinking to colourPosted: December 20, 2011
Black and white tellies were all very well in the days before you could buy a reasonably priced colour set. But let’s face it - the world looks better in colour, and few would go back to those days of monochrome.
I’m slowly realising that the same is true of the way I think. I am often guilty of what a therapist might call ‘black and white thinking’. For instance, if I were responsible for proofreading something, then spotted a missing comma or full stop in the final, printed publication, I would want nothing to do with it, no matter how much work I’d done on it or how good it was. My thinking can be that absolute.
Black and white thinking is the domain of the perfectionist. Yep, guilty again. If something I’ve done isn’t perfect, it’s no good at all. I could, for instance, draw a picture of a tranquil beach for my parents – a place we’d been to on holiday, and which held happy memories for us all – and feel annoyed every time I looked at it because I hadn’t drawn the rocks as well as I’d have liked. Do mum and dad like the picture? Yes. Is it framed and on their kitchen wall? Yes. Am I happy with it. Er, well no. You see, the shading just isn’t right on those rocks. The way I’ve drawn them makes them look closer than they should, and… Ah, there I go again.
The two examples above are not imagined. They are real. This is how critical I have been of myself. Would I be this harsh to anyone else? Would I judge them with such eagle-eyed scrutiny? Of course not.
Here are some other examples of black and white thinking, or perfectionism, and the conclusions it can lead you to:
- You take your children out for the day and everyone is having a great time, when suddenly the kids do something really silly. You lose your temper and shout at them. That’s it – day ruined. You’ve shouted at your children. That makes you a bad parent and an angry person. Self-loathing 1, self-esteem 0.
- You once upset someone by choosing to do one thing instead of another. The fact they were upset with you (could be recently, could be years ago) means that you are a bad person who can’t be trusted to make good decisions. Oh, and that person hates you and holds a grudge against you and that makes you feel annoyed with them. How dare they judge you? Time for an imaginary argument.
In my case, this kind of thinking is part and parcel of depression. I don’t know which came first: the negative thinking or the depression. They feed each other.
I am trying to trade in this negative, black and white thinking for something more rainbow-hued. I’m trying to put into practice the things I’ve learned from counselling and from wise friends. Take, for example, 2011. It would be easy for me to look back at this past year and label it a bad year. I started the year on a pretty good note. I finished my counselling and felt good about myself. But by the autumn, I was on a downward spiral and depression was back with a vengeance. Therefore, Black-and-white Me would conclude, I have failed to get better and this year might as well not have happened.
That, though, would not be an honest or fair review of this year. Lots of very good things have happened, as I can see when I look back through the notebook I’ve been writing positive things in every day since January 2011. Things like the pantomime I’ve just been in; a lovely weekend away with my wife at our friends’ wedding; some exciting new experiences; meeting some fantastic people; and starting this blog.
Writing about depression has been one of the most beneficial things I have ever done. I have been truly humbled by the way people have responded. I’ve had so many encouraging conversations, read so many supportive comments, and none of this would have been possible if I hadn’t had depression. My evil alter-ego, Paul Brookes, is not going to like reading this – but he has inadvertently inspired me.
Thank you everyone for your help, guidance, empathy and support since I started this blog. Each positive comment is a poke in the eye or a kick up the backside for Brookes, and another step in the right direction for me.
I hope that if you’re experiencing depression or any other mental illness that you can turn it on its head in 2012 and find the inspiration that will propel you out of it. Maybe we can all start living our lives in colour.