Some people view things in the most obvious colours of black and white with no room for interpretation. Things are very profound to them – either yes or no; it did or it didn’t; you are or you aren’t; you’re either on one side or the other. It’s either all or nothing. They see things only from their own point of view and insist that no other perspective is right or bears any merit.

I like to think of the inkblot diagrams used in the Rorschach test. The images are formed only of black blotches on a white background, and each person who looks at them sees details that stand out to them to form a picture. The interesting thing is that even in these literally black and white diagrams, different details stand out to each person who looks at them based on their personal experiences or perspective. Each person sees something in the diagram that another person wouldn’t have noticed. One person could join the blotches in their mind to form a cat, while someone else insists it is a profile of a woman’s face. Although they are looking at the same inkblot diagram, what’s clear to one person isn’t obvious to another, and sometimes another person won’t see what you see until you point it out to them. When you look at a black and white photograph though, if you look at only the darkest shades that stand out, you’re still not seeing the complete picture because, unlike an inkblot, within the dark and light areas are several subtle softer shades of grey.

In terms of taking care of one’s mental health, this type of mentality can pose a problem. For a person who falls into the mind trap of black-and-white thinking, they can easily become discouraged if they fall short of their expectations. This type of thought pattern will lead them to think they are either one extreme or the other – stupid or smart, a failure or successful, ugly or beautiful, wicked or kind, a freak or human. I’m not an expert, but from my own experience I’ve found that people who have high self-esteem do not think in black and white when it comes to their own imperfections or failures. Shades of grey appear with an explanation and the rationale behind them. However, when it comes to how we tend to perceive others’ circumstances, sometimes we have no room or patience for grey areas. We don’t want to understand and are quick to attach negative labels. Yet, the fact that we are intricate creatures with individual experiences that shape us into the unique human beings we are would indicate that we are much more complex than we appear on the surface, and understanding the human psyche requires us to take a deeper look into ourselves and each other to fully capture the true essence of one another.

 

 

About Rosa Dawson

I'm a 40 year old female from Ontario, Canada. I have first-hand experience with mental health. Officially diagnosed with being in the early stages of schizoaffective disorder in 2004, I struggle with depression and schizophrenia. I've had suicidal thoughts for many years and on a few occasions I have tried to kill myself. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Sociology, I have studied mental illness with the goal of making a positive difference in the lives of others. Looking back, although I would not know it at the time, I probably had issues at a young age. I believe society has yet to take a proactive approach to mental health. With my writing, I wish to reach as many people as possible with this message: You should not suffer in silence. You are not alone.

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