50 Shades of Grey

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 reads my blog! So no, this isn’t some poorly written sordid sex 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. Most things exist as shades of grey.

Instead of seeing this in ourselves and our lives, we just get pissed when we see it in others. But sometimes the things that annoy us in others are the things we dislike about ourselves. None of us really want to admit it. After all, it’s them, it’s not me! But the truth is that we suppress the qualities we’ve deemed as bad to the point that we disown it in ourselves. While at the same time getting triggered when we see it in others.

Where does this come from?

When we’re young, we’re taught that certain aspects of our personality are bad or wrong, while others are good and should be cultivated. And like most things our parents taught us, we need to unlearn them.

For example, in some families, communicating feelings is seen as good. Here, individuals express themselves freely, trusting that it is safe and healthy. These people deem communication as a trait in the “good” category. I don’t know any of these people. I hear they exist though!

In other families, sharing feelings is deemed as wrong. In this case, individuals do not develop the ability to communicate in a healthy way. As it was discouraged, they feel 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. Much like challenging me to a thumb-wrestling match, as hard as you try, it’s impossible to win.

Let me give you an example from my life:

I was taught that communication my feelings was a quality that should go in the “bad” category. At a young age, I avoided it as much as I could. 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. But, 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, I loved a good tantrum. While I fought my hardest to suppress this side of me, it came out regardless. And because I saw everything in terms of black and white, I was fighting a losing game. 

My point is that we 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 by seeing them with awareness and realizing they exist in us. When owned, these traits mature into qualities that benefit us and others.


  • 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.

  1. What qualities really piss you off about other people? List several “negative” qualities. These are the traits that go in your “black” pile.
  2. 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.
  3. In what ways do you play the game so that “white” must win? What have been the consequences?
  4. If you were to give the disowned trait a voice, what would it say?
  5. If you were to re-own that trait, how could it benefit you?

I rarely give long exercises in the Blog because, to be honest, when I read them in other Blogs I never do them. But this was so powerful for me that I had to share it! It’s truly changed the way I view my negative traits and the gifts I have to offer the world. And while it’s hard to give up the Game of Black and White, completing this has made it a lot easier to embrace the world of grey between the extremes. All 50 shades of them.

Do you view the world in Black & White? How has it impacted you? Share your story in the Comments Section below!