So far, I have been viewing Black & White Thinking as a type of thinking that, like Relational Thinking, and in its purest form, reflects God the Father. Meaning that God the Father, as our creator and creator of this world, defines right and wrong, good and bad, light and darkness, etc. He is the One who defines what is Holy and what is not. He is able to judge the actions and motives of humanity justly and right. And God is the one who stands on truth because He is the Truth. Yet, God is also Relational, as we see throughout His constant interactions with us and His Son being sent to reconcile us to Himself.
I have also stated that there are weaknesses in Black & White Thinking inside of us, that it is often legalistic (Pharisaical) and that faith in Christ and an understanding of grace can help move someone from being Black & White to being more Relational. Yet we have only touched the surface of Black & White Thinking. If you were to google Black & White Thinking, most of the articles will show the worst parts of this “cognitive disorder” and will take you on a journey thinking that maybe you, too (if you’re a Black & White Thinker), have Borderline Personality Disorder, or Dissociative Identity Disorder, or are narcissistic. So perhaps now is a good time to differentiate between Black & White Thinking vs a “Mental Illness.”
Black & White Thinking is present in many (if not all) of us in different areas and different times in our lives. Most of us have areas in our lives which we see as right or wrong, good or bad, either – or, etc. These are moral judgments we make about actions, people (including ourselves), and things that are important to us. One such area that we have seen recently is in the polarizing of politics. If you’re not a Conservative Republican, you must be a Liberal Democrat. Isn’t there any other option or only the two? Yet, the Black & White Thinking may not apply to all areas in our lives. Often, as people mature and are involved in relationships, some of the black & white thinking begins to erode and relationships are able to function better.
According to NAMI (National Institute for Mental Illness), a mental illness/disorder is defined as “a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood.” Black & White Thinking would be considered a mental disorder if it is a pattern that causes suffering or a poor ability to function in life. Meaning that if the Black & White Thinking negatively effects success in relationships, jobs, or other activities, most Psychiatrists or Psychologists would consider this extremely harmful (and I would agree). Black & White Thinking is not listed as a Mental Disorder or Illness, yet this type of thinking is found in Mental Illnesses such as narcissism, depression, anxiety, etc (more on these in a later blog). It is also found in those struggling with disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorders. I think it is fair to conclude that Black & White Thinking is not a Mental Illness in itself, but it is a common trait found in mental illnesses. I believe we can also conclude that not all people who think in Black & White have a Mental Illness. The differentiating aspect is whether it effects and to what extent it effects everyday relationships and employment. This is one of the reasons it is so important to tackle this type of thinking, and for Christians, to tackle it Biblically.
The term Mental Illness or Mental Disorder is not used in Scripture, but that does not mean that the Scriptures are silent or cannot speak to those diagnosed with Mental Illnesses. And it certainly doesn’t mean that only Psychotherapy can speak into Mental Health issues. No, the Bible is relevant for all of our struggles and suffering and for those who think Relationally or Black & White. In the next few blogs, we will be looking at Black & White Thinking in Depression, Anxiety, and in relationships. In addition, we’ll take a closer look at how Black & White Thinking combined with pride can even lead to Narcissism and abuse.