BREAK PAST THE BINARY - How to Rid Yourself of Black and White Thinking

Have you ever slept in, and then thought you were lazy?
Have you ever made a mistake, and then thought you were stupid?
Have you ever given in to a craving, and then thought you were weak?

Chances are, you’ve probably had thoughts similar to these at some point in your life. We all have. 

These definitive, dichotomous thoughts are examples of black and white thinking. And black and white thinking is a bitch that can keep us locked up in boxes. But, luckily for us, we have the key that can set us free.

In today’s post, we’re going to talk about what black and white thinking is, how it messes with our lives, and ways we can interrupt the binary, and make our thoughts more colorful…not to mention, more empowering.


Welcome to the blogcast, Unlocking Wellness! I’m Crystal McLain, curator of Crystal McLain Creative, an online self care coaching resource that empowers people to become confident, free-thinking innovators for the care of their mind, body, and mother-lovin’ soul.

If you enjoy my content, and would like a more personal experience, I’d like to invite you to join the The Dream Team, an ever-growing community of folks who are becoming self empowered badasses. Memberships start at just $3/month. You can find out more at

Alright. Let's get to it.


So, black and white thinking. It’s kind of a bummer, but we all do it to some extent. The reality is, we all make snap decisions or judgements. We’re human. We’re designed to do this. 

It’s part of that whole autonomic nervous system thing, meaning it automatically happens. In an instant our brains react to stimuli all-day-long. And how we react to said stimuli is based primarily on how we feel about ourselves. And how we feel about ourselves is dependent on how we’ve been programmed. 

Spoiler alert, trauma and toxic relationships has a lot to do with black and white programming.

But we’re not going to get into all that. You can discuss that with your therapist. 

What I’m concerned with is getting your brain on board with recognizing when these definitive thoughts pop up, challenging their validity, and taking back your power.

Occasional black and white thinking is one thing, but when we’re more often all-or-nothing, we really need to pay attention that. So, let’s learn how…

So, black and white thinking is a thought process of absolutes. It’s definitively right or wrong, good or bad, and leaves little to no room for anything in between. And the problem with this all or nothing thinking is that it can really put a strain on your mental wellbeing. 

Mainly, because we use these extremes as a way to evaluate our self worth. 

What do I mean by that?

Well, let’s say I make a mistake, and my natural inclination is to say something like, “ugh, I’m so stupid.” Those words actually make an imprint on my subconscious. And if I say shit like this enough times, eventually, I just start believing that I am stupid. And if I think that I’m stupid, I’m not going to try new things, speak up for myself, or trust that I know what my needs are. 

Does that make sense? Can you see how toxic this kind of thinking can be?

So, the first thing we need to do is start training our brains to recognize when we’re using black and white thinking. And some common definitive words we toss around may sound like:

  • always/never
  • should/shouldn’t
  • good/bad
  • perfect
  • impossible
  • terrible
  • stupid
  • can’t

When we catch ourselves using this kind of language, it’s important that we stop what we’re saying and rephrase our message so it feels more humane or supportive or open to something better. 

So, let’s go back to the previous example. Let’s say I make a mistake, and I blurt out, “ugh, I’m so stupid.” As soon as that thought leaves my mouth, I’m going to retract it and say, “Actually, no. I’m not stupid. I just made a mistake.”

Can you feel how much more empowering that is?

When we stop seeing ourselves and circumstances in polarized extremes, we leave room to think more creatively. There’s more space for interpretation and problem solving. There’s an opportunity for hope, possibility and exploration.

There’s permission to not be perfect. 

Liberating yourself from black and white thinking is the secret sauce for successful self care. 

If you’d like a little extra guidance while wrangling your black and white thinking, I offer a free Mindset Makeover Kit when you sign up for my Newsletter. Or, if you want to go all-in, members of The Dream Team get the deluxe model and have the opportunity to join group discussions.  

If you’re curious about either of these things, I’ll leave links in the show notes below. 


I love you.
I appreciate you.
Thank you SO much for being here.
I’ll see you soon. 





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