Drop Your Black/White Self–Embrace Gray!

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Originally published in July 2010; reprinted here while I’m on a tiny hiatus this week working on the UNITE to Face Addiction campaign.
In the July edition of O, The Oprah Magazine, Martha Beck describes the either-or, black or white personality type (http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Martha-Becks-Problem-Solving-Strategies-Decision-Making-Advice).You know, the person who, when presented with two options, can make a snap decision and by golly, not be persuaded off the point.  It’s the car buyer who says, “I’ve driven Fords all my life, never had a problem, had 10 of them, why would I buy a Chevrolet now?It’s the consumer who buys the same brand of bread, milk, ice cream or potato chips even when presented with another brand at a lesser cost  because he or she has always purchased that kind.  It’s the traveler who would never contemplate flying to a destination even though driving by car takes a thousand times longer.

Responding to dual-emmas

Republican or Democrat.  Aisle seat or window.  Baseball or football.  Mashed potatoes or baked.

Beck writes that “limiting ourselves to one answer means we often stop seeing what’s actually happening” and that we tend to make these decisions based on our history of always responding in the same way.

I’m usually envious of people who easily make decisions about where to sit on Southwest Airlines or which side dish they want with their steak dinner.  Plus there is a part of me that is hyper-critical of my inability to choose one side of the fence.  It’s the “what if the grass is greener?” syndrome.

Admittedly, I am minimalizing what Beck calls “dual-emmas.”  Her article discusses deeper life decisions, like whether to begin dating two weeks after a major break-up.  There is a camp of people who would emphatically say either, “Life is short, go for it,” or “Are you crazy?  Why would you do that to yourself so soon?”

[bctt tweet=”Gray gives you permission to not be black or white. #BeYou”]

Then, there is the camp where I live:  “Uh, I don’t know.  If I didn’t, would I . . . on the other hand, if I did, I think I might . . . but what if I . . . and on the other hand, I think . . .

My problem is I think too much and then I run out of hands.  My life is full of dual-emmas.  I can see both sides of situations and have spent much of my life saying dumb things like, “Let me be the Devil’s advocate here,” only to discover that the Devil doesn’t need an advocate.

Learn to be a both-and person

In recovery, I’ve convinced myself that my old journalism school training of considering situations objectively has become a detriment.  Seeing something from multiple angles can be exhausting.  I’ve often wondered if considering multiple outcomes makes me kind of wishy-washy; just make a decision, for God’s sake!

Now though, Beck gives me permission to not feel pressured into being an either-or person.  I can be a both-and person!

I don’t have to force myself into black or white.  I can be gray!

My friend Cathy Dunn, a very wise woman, says, “Gray gives you permission.”

Now that is a statement of freedom.  All these years I thought the color gray was dull and lifeless.  What an epiphany to realize that gray actually is the direct route to a technicolor life!

Thank you Martha Beck, and to my pal, Cathy, may you be blessed with a rich palette of shades of gray.

Photo courtesy of gamerzero

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