If there are ever times these days, when you find yourself feeling stuck between agreeing with someone else’s perspective or holding your ground and honouring your thoughts / feelings / experience, then it is highly likely you’ve been trained to think in an all or nothing way that sounds something like this:
- If I acknowledge any validity in what you are saying that means I am completely negating my perspective and that makes you “right” and me “wrong.”
Or, put another way:
- If I let you know that I understand why you think and feel as you do that means I’m saying it’s right or okay and that means you won’t take the time to acknowledge or validate my perspective, nor will you see any need to grow or change (if your perspective/approach doesn’t work for me). In other words if I acknowledge that I understand you it means I am agreeing with you and therefore I am agreeing to things continuing to be as they are; agreeing that you are “right” and therefore I am “wrong.” I’m not okay with how things are therefore I can’t acknowledge your perspective. (This, by the way, is the mentality that leads to most of the divorces in our society).
Not so my friends, not so! In fact, this way of thinking really only indicates that you have received an overdose of irrational thought training – aka All or Nothing Thinking.
Why can’t I acknowledge, (if it is true), that I understand why you did what you did, thought what you thought, felt what you felt, and still have a valid perspective myself, or still assert that, moving forward, things need to happen differently?
Why, if I demonstrate any understanding for you does it completely negate my perspective, my needs, and close the door to any understanding for me (first and foremost from myself – and secondly from you)?
The only answer to that question is that you’ve been raised to believe that there is one, absolute RIGHT and anything else is absolutely 100% WRONG!
You don’t want to be WRONG, that’s understandable.
But if there’s only one right and only one wrong and no room for understanding WHY people do what they do and that, based on how they are seeing the world or the situation, their perspective makes sense to them, you are existing in a very stuck, closed minded world where you will be chronically insecure and defensive, feeling great anxiety and overwhelm at the mere thought of someone thinking or feeling differently than you; never putting yourself out there for people to know you; assuming that their judgement or different perspective makes them right, which means you’re stupid or lacking in some way and it’s just a matter of time before people reject you because you think differently about something, and then going home and binging, purging, restricting, drinking etc. etc. to cope with the anxiety and stress of your life and the fears of things repeating themselves tomorrow.
Okay – you’ve been taught to think this way. Based on what you’ve been taught through the words and actions of key people in your life, there is no room to think differently. You will be judged, ridiculed, shamed, ostracized, rejected (ie. emotionally abused) or physically abused for thinking differently.
But you don’t have to continue to buy into that limited, dysfunctional perspective on the world – they can, but you don’t have to. In fact, your healing and true happiness in life demands that you let it go: And, the sooner the better.
The truth is every emotion and every behaviour that you experience is perfectly right given the thoughts you are having in that moment. That is not the same thing as saying it is healthy or even rational.
But it is true that your emotions and your behaviours stem from your thoughts, so if you’re feeling sad, or depressed, or anxious or right pissed off, it doesn’t make you weak or bad or wrong – that’s totally missing the point.
Your emotions stem from your thoughts. So if you’re feeling anxious, the only explanation is that you’ve just had a thought that triggered you to feel anxious. If you’re eating and you’re not hungry it means simply that you’ve just had a feeling that overwhelmed you, and that feeling stemmed from a thought that triggered a need for numbing or nurturing and that the way you’ve learned to meet those needs for numbing or soothing or nurturing is through food.
That makes sense. And, it doesn’t make you stupid or lazy or lacking willpower when you just see things clearly. In fact, when you see things clearly, it often makes you relax, feel more compassion towards yourself and seek to understand what that triggering thought was so you don’t go down that path again.
This is healthy! This is rational! And this is what The CEDRIC Method is all about.
So, if you’re thinking that there is only one right perspective and that to acknowledge that the other person’s perspective is valid for them (or may even have some degree of validity for you too), makes you 100% wrong or stupid, you’re stuck in All or Nothing Thinking and it’s time to learn to think with a more adult, rational perspective on the world.
It’s not possible that there is only one right way to think or feel or behave. Look at all the different ways people dress, or wear their hair or makeup; look at all the different cultures and languages and spiritual beliefs in the world. Is any one of these RIGHT?
I was at the store the other day with my dear hubby helping him choose his first pair of glasses and I was struck by all the posters and images of these super cool, super sexy young folk wearing glasses. It wasn’t that long ago that humans, in their infinite tolerance for things that are different (sarcasm intended), ridiculed and ostracised people for wearing glasses.
Back then, those glass wearing humans were believed to be just plain “stupid.” They were nerds. They were totally uncool. They were sub-human. Now, not many years later, they are super cool and super sexy; as they say, Nerdy is the new sexy! Who knew!
Don’t even get me started on the “logic” of racial prejudice and the determination of worth or intellect based on the color of a person’s skin or the slant of their eyes.
The point here is, if you are existing in your world today with a perspective that says that you and “they” can’t both have valid points, you haven’t come much farther in your ability to think rationally and reasonably than those folks who said dark skin, or glasses, or scruffy clothes made you less human and therefore less intelligent and less worthy of respect and dignity and happiness.
Just so we’re clear. That way of thinking was also true of me, and not so long ago. I know that those who think in an all or nothing way have come by it honestly. I know you didn’t choose it but were taught to think that way.
And, I know that now, as an adult you can learn to think in a more rational way; a way that allows for different perspectives, different feelings, different approaches to things – yes, it’s okay for your husband to stack the pots on top and the cups on the bottom of the dishwasher! He can be right and you can be right – as long as the dishes get done, does it really matter?
You can learn to allow for those different perspectives while honouring your own and while also being open to learning. You never know, maybe (and this is often true), the actual best solution for the situation at hand requires a combined approach – aspects of your thoughts and approach combined with aspects of theirs. And if you didn’t take the time to listen and learn about what others think and why they think it, you’d never get to see how your perspective fits in and enhances theirs and vice versa. And whether they “get it” and also see the value in what you think and do, does that really matter if you now understand them better and you have maybe even learned a new piece of information that will benefit you in the future?
Life is about learning. In order to feel safe opening yourself to new thoughts and behaviours you have to be able to trust yourself to honour your values and principles and not be swayed by pressure or exuberance on the part of others.
If you’re binging, purging or restricting I know you’re not honouring your core values and I expect that you know it too. That makes it a lot harder for you to trust yourself and assert yourself with others and therefore to be open to asking them questions and to validating aspects of their perspective.
There is so much I could say on this topic. In fact I’m writing a book on it. In the meantime ask me your questions. Tell me what doesn’t make sense. Give me the opportunity to help you, through this newsletter or through some one on one work, to begin to feel the peace and strength that come from thinking clearly.
I want to challenge you this week to notice, just notice, how you vacillate between feeling small and stupid or insecure if someone challenges your perspective or seems to have judgement of your or, unwittingly, expresses an opinion contrary to yours and/or (at least in your mind) judging them as stupid and wrong or lazy for thinking and behaving as they do.
Notice how you feel when you go to those places of judgment and then just ask yourself:
“What am I telling myself would happen if I acknowledged that what they think or feel or how they are doing something is right for them?”
If you want to take it a step further here’s what you do: Ask a question!
Ask what makes them think or feel or behave that way. Don’t assume you know and that they are right or you are right. Be open to learning. Ask questions and you will be absolutely amazed how quickly you feel more at peace in that moment and how quickly you start to feel like more of an equal in the world at large.
The natural outcome of challenging your assumptions/all or nothing thinking in the way I’m suggesting is high self-esteem and a life well lived.
Go for it!