Nuance

I have a tendency to be "all or nothing," and this pattern manifests in many areas of my life. For instance, I stopped all substance use this year as part of my New Year's resolutions. 

A large part of the reason why I create these kinds of guidelines for myself is to better my life by simplifying my decision-making and thus reducing uncertainty. While I believe this has really served me in some areas of my life—not allowing myself to drink caffeine when I've felt tired this year has helped improve my relationship with sleep—I think it no longer serves me when it comes to some of the expectations I have of myself. 

Generalizations are one way that being "all or nothing" can manifest in your beliefs. There are all sorts of generalizations you can make: X is a good thing, Y is a bad person, Z can't bring you happiness. A generalization is something that happens or is true less than 100% of the time, but that we round up to 100% as a cognitive simplification. 

There are a couple less obvious ways that I commonly make the same mental move. One is when I try to convince myself that I feel 100% X or repress my feelings of not X, although I'm actually feeling both. For instance, it's hard to me to accept that I have negative beliefs about my close friends, so I often delude myself into thinking that I don't. Another is when I try to identify the cause of some internal state, and attribute it fully to X even though my felt sense is that X is only a partial cause. 

It's challenging for me to accept certain parts of myself and to feel unclear about my current state! In order to avoid those feelings, I've used those tactics to pretend like those parts of me don't exist and that I can understand what caused me to feel a certain way. But as I've gotten more skilled at being able to sit with difficult emotions, I can more easily hold the nuanced views. Sometimes I don't want to do an activity that I usually enjoy doing; maybe this interaction was part of the reason why I started to feel ungrounded. My ability to hold more nuanced views is related to freeing myself from certain expectations, including the expectation that I need to totally understand myself, and I believe that this ability is a sign of maturity. 

P.S. Something that I think is interesting is that if you compare this post to my post on living with contradictions (from a year and a half ago), you can see an example of my views getting more nuanced.

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