Artwork / Everything’s Fine / Black-and-white Thinking

a black-and-white panda that’s half white-and-black holding a clapperboard upside, art about all-or-nothing thinking
Gwenn Seemel
Black-and-white Thinking
acrylic on panel
12 x 9 inches


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Black-and-white thinking or splitting is the tendency to see people, their actions, and their motivations as being all good or all bad. It’s often described as a defense mechanism, because it usually comes into play when someone’s been hurt and they’ve decided that the person who hurt them won’t ever be allowed to do it again.

In my experience being on both the giving and receiving ends of splitting, these extremes in idealization and devaluation have less to do with self-protection and more to do with needing to simplify. Black-and-white thinking is appealing when the nuances of life have become overwhelming—when the idea of crediting others with the same kind of complexity as we feel in ourselves overloads our minds—and when it seems impossible that we’ll ever really understand each other. That’s when the clapperboard gets turned upside down and we call “cut” just to get out of finishing the scene.

You can see the making of Black-and-white Thinking.

panda split in two
detail image