Stress Mastery: Three Key Questions About Either/Or Thinking

by Doc Orman, M.D.

This week, I’m revisiting the role that Either/Or Thinking plays in our stress. Today, I want to look at three key questions about this pervasive hidden cause. 

#1. How many times each day do you suppose you engage in Either/Or Thinking? 

While it may seem you only engage in Either/Or Thinking a couple of times each day, the actual count is much, much higher.  The reason for this is that this pattern of thinking is so ingrained in our culture that we’re not usually aware when we are using it.  Every time you think something is good, you are using it.  Every time you think something is right or wrong you are using it. Every time you think something is stupid or smart, pretty or not pretty, moral or immoral, hot or cold, quiet or loud, black or white…you are using it.  And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  If truth be told, we probably engage in some form of Either/Or Thinking more than 1000 times each day. 

#2. How does Either/Or Thinking cause us to experience stress? 

As I pointed out in my first post this week: 

“The problem with Either/Or Thinking is that it can lead to faulty impressions. These in turn can cause us to experience stress.  The reason for this is that life rarely happens in exclusively one-sided ways.  Life is much more complex and multidimensional.  Therefore, when we focus just on one side of a complex duality, we mistakenly view life as being exclusively one-sided, when in reality it is not.” 

In other words, Either/Or Thinking makes us “blind” to how life really works.  When we see something as exclusively “bad” or “wrong,” for example, we become blind to any aspects that might be “good” or “right.”  So we only get half of the true picture. 

This doesn’t take into account the proportion of times when we mistakenly judge something to be mostly bad when it is actually mostly good, or when we judge someone to be mostly wrong with they are actually mostly right. 

Do you see how problems, conflicts and stress can be generated by misperceiving reality in these ways?  And don’t forget, if we’re engaging in Either/Or Thinking more than 1000 times each day, what are the odds that a good percentage of these one-sided viewpoints are going to be misleading? 

#3. What can we do to reduce the stress-producing impact of Either/Or Thinking? 

Either/Or Thinking is an automatic pattern of thinking that our bodies do without much conscious intent on our part.  However, once we become aware that we have automatically become trapped within a narrow, one-sided view of reality, we can consciously choose to expand our focus.  We can consciously explore other legitimate viewpoints, and in so doing, we can prevent or eliminate much of the stress that would have resulted from our previously distorted one-sided perspectives. 

We all have the ability to expand our focus…anytime we choose.  Even though our bodies are programmed to think in Either/Or ways, we don’t have to remain stuck in these narrow perspectives. 

We’ll explore a few ways to do this in my third and final post in this series. 

NOTE: For more information about my unique approach to eliminating stress, please visit


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