How black and white thinking holds us back....

The 'either/or' mindset often holds us back from making good choices...

It has been a busy few weeks and I just want to share with you a quick thought that may help you when you are getting stuck.

...these past few weeks I decided to get back to an old love of mine and go back for some horse riding lessons and I have really enjoyed it.  I am learning a lot from doing it that I will share with you in the next few posts.   It makes me be completely in the moment and I find I am so focused I have no other thoughts about work, climate change or anything else! I feel great afterwards.

Ultimately the idea i have in mind is that I would love to be able to gallop comfortably on a horse and really know how that feels, like the picture I have in mind is something along these lines..

me galloping off into the sunset...


ahem...I am wee bit off this yet, but it's good to dream!

Now on my second time 'back in the saddle' I had a fall, I came off after a jump (lost my balance and my stirrup!) and gave my body a shock. Just like old times the teacher, checks you are alright and then gets you back on straight away.  After this I was sore for a few days but was uninjured and got Rachel the chiropractor to check me out and re-balance me physically.

Interestingly last night before I was going to horse riding for 7pm I found myself not wanting to go and making excuses in my mind as to why I couldn't go; "I was too busy" "I was too tired" and I knew really this was my logical head talking.  

None of these things were true.

the real reason I was putting off going was that I was making pictures in my mind of myself falling off again and getting hurt..

so in order to try to protect me my mind was going into black and white thinking...the EITHER OR mindset where in that moment I could only see two options:

1) Go and do jumping (which seemed too scary in that moment)

2) Don't go (and make up a different excuse)

and that is all that seemed possible in that moment.  Mad isn't it?  But yet this is often what the brain does when it feels stressed or negative about something, it can't access the creativity needed to come up with new solutions to a problem.

Then when I really thought about it, I then connected again to my original intention with getting back riding, it's for feeling good and being in the moment.  Right now, it's really not so important whether I jump or not, I will do that again when I feel ready and comfortable in the saddle.

I realised that I was stuck in black and white mindset and so was limiting myself because I was scared.

so I realised I had many more options available and an easy one was

Option 3: go to the lesson and tell instructor I want to focus on trotting and cantering and leave jumping this week.

I instantly felt better, the knot in my stomach was replaced with a warm excited feeling about getting up on the horse again.  I told her this at the beginning of the lesson and I really enjoyed getting to feel comfortable, loved the lesson.  I will be ready to jump again next week.

and this got me thinking..

How many times we box ourselves in or get ourselves stressed out by accidentally seeing things only in black and white, that things can only be THIS way or THAT way with no room for in between. 

When we feel ourselves stuck in this mode (which usually happens when we are a little stressed by something) it could be good to ask ourselves...

What am I not seeing here?  What are other ways of looking at this?

What other options or possibilities are available that I didn't see a moment ago?

think of other ways black and white thinking can hold us back:

I need to lose weight OR I am a failure

I need to get 3As in my a-levels OR I won't be happy with anything else

I was working with activists this weekend, something environmental activists might fall into is...

I have to save the whole world! OR there's no point in trying to do anything..

having other ways of looking at things often frees us from the pressure we put ourselves under and often allows us to see other possibilities. When the pressure is off we will find new and creative ways of doing things, that will end up with the same result with alot less stress!

Until next time, thanks for reading.  By the way I have a interesting upcoming workshop in Belfast on emotional eating and how to change it.  Click here to find out more...


Aisling Cowan works as an NLP coach at the Belfast Chiropractic Clinic on the Ormeau Road Belfast. She works one on one with her clients to create lasting change.