Crying Over Coleslaw | Everything Has "Cause" (Emotional Reactions to "Small Things")

According to Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), designed to help those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder (and other mental illnesses):

 "Everything has cause."

By this she means that something happened before whatever is happening now, and if that event had been different, so would whatever is happening in this moment. 

Everything is part of a chain of events.  Sometimes it's clear to us what the cause of an emotion, mood, or circumstance is, and other times it is not. But even if we are not clear on what the cause was, there was indeed one (or many.)

In one of her videos,  From Chaos to Freedom, Dr. Linehan uses this (rather upsetting) example: 

*Possible Trigger Alert*

Dr. Linehan talks about a situation where a child on a bike is hit by a car at an intersection, and the child passes away.  Many people will say and believe things along the lines of, "That should NOT have happened! There was no reason for this!"

But, when the police check all the facts, they notice that the brakes weren't working very well on the child's bike and that a car raced through an intersection where there was no stop sign.  

So, whether we think it was fair, right, horrible, or unthinkable, Dr. Linehan says that due to all of the causes, this "should" have happened.  She tells us that this assessment is not a judgment of the incident that happened but just a factual look at cause and effect.

*End Trigger Alert*

As upsetting as this example is, and perhaps even because of it, I have remembered to consider that when I am feeling a certain way, there is, in fact, cause.

As I sat on my kitchen floor tonight literally crying and inconsolable over the fact that the grocery clerk had evidently forgotten to give me the coleslaw I had paid for and was desperately craving, I realized that the coleslaw was really not the issue.  My wise mind kicked in, and I knew that the coleslaw was just a "final straw" on a stack of other stressors that I've been experiencing lately.

There was "cause" for my crying at the frustration of the missing coleslaw, but I knew that my reaction was not in proportion to just this incident.  

I've been stressed over a number of things lately, including interpersonal issues at work, a slow down in available work due to the economy, my boyfriend's plans to finally pick a date to move back overseas, a friend being recently admitted to a psych ward, and trying to figure out what the best course of action is for my life with all of this going on.  

In addition, DBT group was cancelled again this week. This was frustrating because I look forward to the weekly appointment and find it's an important part of managing my symptoms.

It's not easy, and somehow, as I've done before, I thought that if I didn't acknowledge the pink elephant in the room (all of these things going on in my head), I could somehow outsmart the stress or maybe put off dealing with it all a bit longer.

In addition, I've noticed the following over the past few days:

☑ Moodiness
☑ Sugar Cravings
☑ Soothing with food
☑ Very irritable and wanting to be alone
☑ Tired
☑ Tense

All of  these combined are red flags that my body and mind were giving me that the need for self-care was imminent.  I'm so good at encouraging others to self-care, as I discuss in my recent video, and I'm usually good at walking the talk, but I've recently been letting things build up, and well, you know the rest.

So, I need a plan.  The first thing I will do is self-care tonight: a long, hot shower with pretty smelling soaps, watch a couple of upbeat shows on TV while wrapped in a snuggly blanket on the couch with my cats, perhaps a meditation CD or falling asleep to my favorite Enya CD, and radical acceptance that, even if it's just baby steps, I must face the issues that are happening in my life like an adult. 

Noticing, describing, and actually dealing with our problems - it's not always easy, but it is a part of building a life worth living.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.


  1. Great post, Debbie. I'm starting to realize that looking at facts is key to nonjudgmentally viewing the "incident." There are usually very good reasons
    (facts) why I get so upset, although there are alternate ways I could cope with anger and other difficult emotions.



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