Black & White Thinking

One of the things I’ve realized about myself after starting to suspect I am on the autistic spectrum is that I tend to have trouble seeing the gray areas of life. This hasn’t been an overall negative thing. In fact, I believe it is the reason that I am able to stand so firmly in my beliefs. A compliment someone gave me once that I’ve always particularly liked is that I “have the courage of my convictions.”

I think that this has contributed a lot to my decision 8 years ago to go vegan. I have seen a lot of other women, such as Greta Thunberg, who are not only vegan, but autistic as well. I would love to see some research into whether or not this is a trend. I believe the autistic brain may be more able to avoid cognitive dissonance in some ways. When I turn my mind toward a subject like animal agriculture, there is a very stark contrast between right and wrong. Once I had the information, I found it simply impossible to imagine continuing to participate in such a clear atrocity.

So in some ways I do feel my autistic traits (whether I would truly fit the diagnostic criteria or not) are some of my greatest strengths as an individual, things that I am quite proud of. However, understanding this tendency for black and white thinking has also allowed me to realize how I am hindered by it.

Like most aspects of autism, this becomes more of a problem when it comes to social situations. Human beings are one big gray area that despite my best efforts, I am still struggling to understand. It makes it quite difficult to form meaningful relationships with people when you are constantly viewing them as either all good or all bad. Either someone loves me or they hate me. I matter to someone or I mean completely nothing at all to them. See the problem? Neither of these perceptions is very often the reality. And even though I’ve come to recognize this, it doesn’t change the way I view the world.

I find myself constantly going around in mental circles when I am given contradictory signals from the people in my life. I just can’t seem to comprehend that both signals can be true and valid. Someone can be cold to you from time to time and still love you. Just because a person does something hurtful or inconsiderate towards you doesn’t mean that they think you’re worthless. I know that this is true because I can see these contradictions in myself. I have been terribly cruel to people that meant the world to me in the past. But that didn’t mean the feelings I had for them were a lie. Yet it’s hard enough for me to reconcile these strange scenarios within my own heart and mind, let alone deciphering them in someone else.

This seems to lead to rather rocky relationships with other people and even effect the way I view myself. It’s often hard for me to accept someone demonstrating negative behaviors can still be a good person. I also struggle immensely in that regard when it comes to my self image. Sometimes I love myself and feel like I am incredible. Other times I dwell only on my flaws and mistakes, thinking it impossible that any good exists within me at all. Exaltation or condemnation, there is no in between.

I truly hope it proves to be beneficial to have at least begun to realize when I am being influenced by this black and white thinking. Perhaps with practice I will be able to overcome the negative impact this has the potential to inflict on my future relationships.

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