Extremism – “splitting”, black and white thinking or all are nothing thinking – as a psychological concept feels to me a relevant concept in the world right now.
A theory by Ronald Fairbairn holds that we develop this belief as infants. Rather than see a parent one complex and complete individual, we develop simplified concepts of a lovingly good force and a bad.
So as adults, we might not notice the details of a complicated situation. We forget we can make informed choices about our own behavior based on that information.
Our mental first draft falsely thinks we either “won” or “lost”. The result is a “failure” or “success”. An event is either a “catastrophe” or an “achievement”
In our revised reality, every person and situation has some advantage and disadvantage.
Every win involves some sacrifice. Every loss has a lesson. Throwing babies out with the bathwater is the thinking of babies.
As infants, we’re not wrong to see the limited in our choices.
Part of the journey of maturity* is accepting our opportunities. What once we knew as shame becomes gratitude. Where once we felt a need for negative attention becomes our own participation.
Observe without judgment the benefits and drawbacks of our own thoughts.
We all have a reason to be who we are. Also true that we often also can observe a reason for a desire to change. If we accept why we’ve been this way for so long.
Apply this as you will to extremism you witness in yourself and others
*(Side note: Originally drafted with the word “adulthood” instead of “maturity”. I think these concepts connect and work more understandably when separated. Adulthood exists as a legal, biological, and social method of repercussions and consequences. The term maturity implies a more inherent active self-acceptance of our behavior and any results. This might mean that I accept my choices can be both displeasing and – at the same time – advantageous. For example, graciously denying an occasional request can both a momentarily unpleasant expression of autonomy and by its very nature creates truthful intimacy, resilience, and trust in a relationship )