Before you assume you know what this post is going to be about, let me just stop you right there. It’s not that. For heaven’s sake, my mother might see this! This isn’t some poorly written and sordid tale, this is about the Game of Black and White.
Most of us see the world in terms of black and white. We divide qualities, situations, and people into piles we label as either good or bad. But things aren’t that simple, they exist as shades of grey.
Instead of recognizing and accepting those grey areas that exist in our lives, we’re angry when we see it in others. Sometimes the things that annoy us in others are the things we dislike about ourselves.
Where Does This Come From?
When we’re young, we’re taught that certain aspects of our personality are bad and others are good and should be cultivated. Like many things our parents taught us, we need to unlearn this concept.
In some families, communicating feelings is seen as good. Individuals express themselves freely, trusting that it is a safe and healthy behavior. These people deem communication as a trait in the “good” category.
In other families, sharing feelings is deemed wrong. In those cases, individuals seldom develop the ability to communicate in a healthy way. The discouragement from a young age teaches them that talking about their feelings should be avoided, placing it in the “bad” category.
In order to fit in with our family, friends, or society, we repress and disown the “bad” qualities and try to express the ones deemed as “good.” This polarized thinking where qualities are either “good” or “bad” translates into a game called the “Game of Black and White,” the only rule being that white must win. As hard as you try, it’s impossible to win.
I was taught that communicating my feelings was a “bad” thing. I believed that my feelings were wrong, pointless, and should be shoved down into the basement along with the ping-pong table, winter coats, and smelly throw-pillows. However, since sharing feelings is natural and necessary, it would come out in a host of unhealthy ways. I was passive-aggressive, I had angry outbursts and I loved a good tantrum. While I fought my hardest to suppress this side of me, it came out anyways. Because I saw everything in terms of black and white, I was fighting a losing game.
My point is that we will always express our “black” qualities, but since we fight against it, it comes out in covert and dysfunctional ways. The easiest way to spot these disowned qualities is to see what qualities trigger us in others. After all, what we see or are triggered by in others is a reflection of ourselves.
The good news is that we can re-own these qualities is by realizing they exist within us. When owned, these traits mature into qualities that benefit us and others. For example:
- Disowned narcissism can turn into self-love and true self-esteem.
- Disowned anger can turn into healthy boundaries and authentic connection.
- Disowned laziness can turn into productive self-care.
To see how you play the Game of Black and White, you need to determine which traits you’ve put in each pile.
- What qualities really piss you off about other people? List several “negative” qualities. These are the traits that go in your “black” pile.
- What qualities do you think of as good, desirable, and appropriate? List several “positive” qualities. These are the traits that go in your “white” pile.
- In what ways do you play the game so that “white” must win? What have been the consequences?
- If you were to give the disowned trait a voice, what would it say?
- If you were to re-own that trait, how could it benefit you?
I rarely share long exercises because, to be honest, when I read them in other blogs I never do them. However, it’s truly changed the way I view my negative traits and the gifts I have to offer the world. While it’s hard to give up the Game of Black and White, completing this has made it a lot easier to embrace the grey between the extremes. All 50 shades of it.
Do you view the world in Black & White? How has it impacted you? Share your story in the Comments Section below!