I’ve been thinking a lot about “all or nothing” thinking this week. It’s sometimes called “black or white” thinking. Philosophers may call it binary. It occurs when our mind automatically labels or judges something as this or that rather than seeing the myriad of possibilities that the world presents.
I read an article recently about sexual orientation and it pointed out how the native Americans at the time of colonial conquest had a much more fluid concept of gender identity. The immigrants from Europe brought their binary concept of male and female while the native people had multiple terms for gender, and many roles for people such a males with feminine gender traits, who also had sex with men.
The binary, black or white thinking, often results in anger, anxiety, and irritability. If my view of the multi-facetted, diverse world we live in is rigidly defined by binary thinking, it is going to be constantly bombarded by evidence that challenges my sense of the world, producing raging anger, or a state of unease felt as anxiety. It’s no wonder that the treatment of anxiety is at higher levels when we live in a cultural climate of “us” versus “them” and Fox versus CNN.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps us to notice our automatic thoughts, observe them without judgment, and gently shift them to more helpful ways of thinking. So, if I have a rigid, black or white thought about other people’s gender identity, for example, I will likely live with anger or anxiety when faced with the diversity around me. If I want to heal this anger or anxiety, I will notice the automatic thought, accept it, and practice a new way of thinking that incorporates the evidence of life.
Another method of anxiety management is a good plate of pasta! I’ll leave you with a nice treat to eat. Here’s a simple way to turn the pesto sauce (click here) into another flavorful meal, by adding some fresh pomodorini (little pomodori, tomatoes). Simply sauté halved cherry tomatoes in olive oil till tender, add salt and simmer. When your pasta is al dente, add to the tomatoes along with a little of the salted pasta water as needed. When you reach a nice consistency, add your pesto and serve!