Fifty Shades of Grey You DO Need

Fifty Shades of Grey, the first book in the Fifty Shades trilogy by author E.L. James, has been on the New York Times bestseller list (along with the other two books in the trilogy) for thirty-three weeks, and counting. There is buzz about the film.  Even bigger buzz is about why the book has been such a hit, and inspiring either “love it or hate it” reactions. I confess, I haven’t read anymore than the first sample chapters that I could get for free on my iPad–and that didn’t drive me to instantly download the rest of the book. Since I was only mildly intrigued, the book has slipped to my “spare time” reading list.  Seems to be another way that psychologists are just like you, for there it stays, waiting for either a classic Dallas ice storm stay-at-home day or a broken leg.

While I am not recommending that fifty shades of grey, there are fifty shades of gray that most of us all-or-nothing thinkers need in our lives.  All or nothing thinking is that thinking trap that I write about frequently because it fuels unhappiness so powerfully:  success or  failure, with no grace in between. Either I parent perfectly, never yelling at my kids, or I’m a bad mom. I earn all As, or I may as well flunk out. My house is spotless, or I’m a rotten housekeeper.

This black and white thinking pattern is so common that we can probably write it off to simply being human. In the course of the evolution of the species, questions with yes/no answers contributed to survival. You steered clear of the saber tooth tiger, or you got eaten. You avoided the poisonous berries, or you died.  Humans who had this “all or nothing” decision tree burned into their brains are the ones who survived. AND lived to reproduce. Here we are, their descendents, only doing what we have evolved to do: reasoning in very black and white ways. We get it honestly.

But the world is not very black and white any more. Decisions aren’t as clear. We stress ourselves less when we learn to look for the shades of grey, particularly when evaluating success or failure. There are innumerable shades of grey along the continuum of our lives, degrees of accomplishment. In defeating this all or nothing thinking in your head, it helps to consider the grey. Count what you have accomplished.

Here’s a little tool for remembering to look for the shades of grey in your life.

I give these out as bookmarks, to remind black and white thinkers to look for the grey. Yes, it’s a paint sample strip.  If you, like me, are plagued by all or nothing thinking, drop by your local paint store and pick up your own.

What form does your all or nothing thinking take? How can fifty shades of grey to shift your perspective?


10 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Grey You DO Need

  1. Helene Bludman says:

    Ann, this is great advice. I find myself slipping into the “all or nothing” mode all too often. If I sneak a cookie, I have no will power. If I don’t exercise, I’m a slacker. You’ve given me something to think about.

  2. Sharon Greenthal says:

    There is very little that is black and white to me anymore – this keeps me from being (too) judgmental of other’s behavior and little less hard on myself, too.

    Love the paint strip sample – what a brilliant idea!

  3. Ann Dunnewold says:

    Thanks, Helene, for reading and affirming. I know that eating trap–though my tendency is not just to dismiss my will power. My version of all or nothing is to say “I wrecked the diet–may as well have ten cookies.” And that has disastrous results.

  4. Grownandflown says:

    Ann, sometimes just presenting a clear example shows us the folly of our behavior. I now have the paint sample strip in mind and I hope It will help me when I am being too black or white. Thank you!

  5. Walker Thornton says:

    Love the paint strip! What a perfect vehicle for getting a message across. Have to find a way to use this in a blog! (crediting your inspiration, of course).
    Absolutes! When people lack clarity or need more structure around an issue, relationship, etc… I think they often turn to the absolute of black/white, right/wrong. I love the idea of gradations as a way of looking at life.

  6. Jenn says:

    What an excellent idea– I might just do that. I often fall into the All or Nothing trap…sometimes I realize I have to find balance. That might be the trick to remembering 🙂

    Cheers, Jenn

  7. Darryle says:

    Very wise thinking; something I think we realize as we get older yet we often still fall back into old patterns of thinking. So it’s very useful to keep that paint strip in mind. Thanks for the reminder, Ann.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.