The Risk of Black and White Thinking

Emotions will create action urges; we are often compelled to a behaviour based on the way we are feeling. In order to make a sound decision, we allow logic and reasoning to inform our emotions; a concept known as Wise Mind.

Every so often in therapy, I meet clients who rely too much on their logic and they tend to ascribe to black and white thinking. They see things a certain way, and that’s that. No amount of trying to bring their attention to another perspective sways them; they remained locked into their opinion and subsequent solution.

The risks of this type of thinking include:

  • Decreased capacity for closeness in relationships. If the people in your life feel they don’t have an opinion or a say in how decisions are made in the family, it will create a roadblock for true intimacy.
  • Black and white thinking can lead you to tactics such as the silent treatment or cutting people out of your life who don’t agree with you.
  • By not listening to another person’s perspective, you run the risk of losing their respect and admiration. Without respect, you actually lose compliance.
  • Black and white thinking will continue to create and cement a pattern of rigidity; people will begin to perceive you as  stubborn, unapproachable or cranky.
  • It undermines those you love; making them feel small or powerless in your presence.

Life tends to be more grey; there are always two sides to a story and a purpose to compromise. We are much better served when we lean into flexibility and looking for solutions rather than looking to be right. Being open to others opinions, and to our own emotions can guide us into a healthier way of thinking.

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A Little Quote About Fortitude

I came across this quote:

“Fortitude……it means fixity of purpose. It means endurance. It means having the strength to live with what constrains you.” – Hilary Mantel

Fixity of purpose – what an interesting phrase. It lends us to believe that we have some control over our ability to find strength. Perhaps that process happens slowly, with both time and attention paid to getting through what challenges us. A “one day at a time” type deal, where we gather both strength and courage with each step.

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Fake it Til You Make it; a Worthwhile Strategy

Fake it until you make it; this is often a concept we explore in therapy when someone comes in feeling depressed. Depression likes to both isolate and kill effort and sometimes we have to just do things anyway. Accept the invitation, get up and take a shower, walk to the store to pick up a few things.

This strategy; however, can be used other times too. Sometimes we want to change an old habit or create a new one; we realize that we are engaging in poor choices, or leaning into coping strategies that aren’t healthy. The reason that it often works is based on the fact that changes in our behaviours often proceeds internal change.  

Habits tend to form neural pathways in our brain; both good and bad ones. We tend to lean into the same routines and structure; we find comfort in familiarity. It may feel natural to simply do things a certain way, but perhaps it is not the healthiest choice. First, we find an alternative – and then “fake it til you make it.” Eventually, a new habit forms, new neural pathways are created, and the changes get accepted into your routine and internal structure, creating a healthier you 🙂

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A Little Reminder About Our Internal Voice

I came across this little quote that reminded me of how we often come to our own internal voices:

“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” – Peggy O’Mara

When we are criticized, we learn to criticize ourselves. When we are praised, we learn to be proud of ourselves. When we are ignored, we learn that we are not important. When we are effectively responded to, we learn that we are important. The way we talk to our children matters.

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Nature Comes Through Again

Whenever an article comes along about nature, it piques my interest. Not only from a professional perspective, but a personal one as well. I like to say that I do my best thinking when I am walking through the woods.

In “Nature’s Role in Mental Illness: Prevention or Treatment” by Susan McQuillan and featured on Psychology Today, we read about how researchers at the University of Utah conducted a systematic review of research papers in order to examine the overall effects of nature on mental health:

“More than 80% of the relevant research papers reviewed for this study reported at least one association between outdoor activities and positive mental health outcomes, while none reported a single negative mental health outcome. The most common positive benefits seen were significant reductions in stress and anxiety after time spent in nature, as well as increased positive affect, or elevated mood. The overall positive effects documented in these studies were often described using terms such as “psychological healing,” “increased sense of well-being,” and “restorative.””

Restorative – a lovely word. The idea that we can restore a calmer state, clarity, a sense of feeling grounded, or just an overall good feeling gives us all the more reason to get outside. 🙂

To read the full article:

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A Poem About Faith

I am reminded by Morgan Harper Nichols that faith in what is to be is an important part of the growing process:

“The sun is still shining,
the wind is still blowing,
and out in the wild
you are growing.
Days may go by
without change
you can feel,
but what’s happening here
is most certainly real:
You are becoming
what you were meant
to become
out in the wild
in the arms of the sun.”
― Morgan Harper Nichols, Storyteller: 100 Poem Letters

On days when we experience doubt, let the sun and wind remind us that movement is forever a necessary part of life.

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Self-Care Ideas for the Fall

One word that always comes to mind in the midst of the Fall season is cozy. The warm fall days with a slight chill in the air, the cooler evenings, the vibrant colours. Although self-care is something to aspire to every day, all year round, as we immerse ourselves into the beauty of this season, here are some specific Fall self-care ideas:

  • – Go through your summer wardrobe. If you didn’t wear it, donate it to charity.
  • – Write down some things about this season that you are grateful for.
  • – Cook some traditional fall dishes; bake with pumpkin and spice.
  •  Enjoy a walk outside with Fall colours.
  •  Visit an apple orchard or a pumpkin farm.
  •  Light a fall scented candle.
  • Pull out the Fall scented hand creams.
  • Go for a drive in the mountains.
  • Take a Fall crafting class.
  • Enjoy a pumpkin latte with a friend.
  • Buy yourself a cozy new sweater or blanket.
  • Write down a “Fall Bucket List.”
  • Create some positive affirmations about the changing of the seasons.
  • Read a book by the cozy fireplace.

As you can see, there are many ways that we can incorporate Fall self-care ideas into this season. Have any others? Feel free to share by way of commenting!

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Don’t Kid Yourself, It Takes Work

People generally come into therapy because they have an issue that has become too big for them. Once an understanding through exploration has been reached, the next step is usually acceptance, and then change. Some people welcome change and they leap into the process; for others the movement is slower, with smaller, more cautious steps.

At times, there is resistance; generated perhaps by core beliefs, perhaps by fear, perhaps by engrained patterning or rigid thinking. The therapy then shifts its focus to work through it.

In any case, therapy requires work. At some point in the process, we have to get to application; we have to roll up our sleeves and get going. Try new skills, try reacting a different way, exchange old thoughts for new ones.

The same goes when we are not in therapy. If we are in the process of self-reflection as a way to achieve continued growth and we are learning valuable things about ourselves, we require action. Small steps count just as much as big ones do. Success comes with consistency, perserverance, and a willingness to do the work. As this Japanese proverb points out:

“Life without endeavour is like entering a jewel mine and coming out with empty hands.” 

Let’s set about to do the work 🙂

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3 Essential Feelings for Our Well-Being: Post 3

In our third and final post on this topic, we explore the feeling of joy as an essential feeling for our well-being.

We often strive to “be happy.” But happiness in this context can mean many different things; for some it comes in achievements or financial success. For others, it might be found in spending time with loved ones, being out in nature, playing sports. For some, happiness comes in moments, for others, it is an underlying feeling. Happiness is often a mix of both internal and external influences.

Joy is distinguished from happiness as it tends to be linked more to our internal process. When we feel joy, it comes with a sense of peace. Joy grounds us, it warms our insides, it reminds us of our blessings. When we feel joyful, we feel soulful and connected. In therapy we learn that happiness can be too big of a word, instead, let us strive for contentment. Once we begin to feel more content, we have opened up room for joy.

A solid well-being relies on feeling grounded; in control of the overall areas of our lives. The feelings of security, love and joy help to keep our well-being intact, providing protection from the storm. We are best served to strive to focus on creating relationships and experiences that create and maintain those feelings in our daily lives. Our well-being will thank us 🙂

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3 Essential Feelings for Our Well-Being; Post 2

Yesterday we looked at the importance of the feeling of security for our sense of well-being; today we look at the feeling of love. Love comes in many forms – the love we have for our children, our spouse, for our friends and family. Romantic love, committed love, the love we have for our pets, for our departed loved ones. We can often feel love as almost a swelling of our heart.

The essence of love; however, is dedication. When we purposefully and intentionally commit ourselves to another person, we are letting them know that they are part of our inner circle. We support the feeling of love with acts of kindness, with appreciation, with thoughtful intentions and a willingness to help.

To love is just as important as to be loved; to know intuitively that “I can count on you” feeds our sense of security and our overall sense of worth and well being.

As Lao Tzu so wisely reminds us:

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ― Lao Tzu

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