What Can a Carrot Teach Us About Borderline Personality Disorder?

November 1, 2010 Becky Oberg

Meet Teenage Mutant Ninja Carrot.

I recently harvested the carrots in my garden. They all looked like this--carrots in the sense that they were orange and crunchy. They were not straight. They were not geometrically correct. They looked nothing like the carrots you see in the store--you know, how carrots are "supposed" to look.

This is an unrelenting standard, which schema therapy founder, Dr. Jeffrey Young, identifies as a mentality that can influence symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Lesson One: Unrelenting Standards are Unrealistic Standards
That standard is unrelenting because it is unrealistic. Rationality and realism are lost to internalized hypercriticalness.

My brother-in-law and avid organic gardener, Ben Batti, e-mailed me that store-bought carrots are straight and geometrically correct because of special soil conditions and genetic engineering--neither of which applied in my garden.

First, the last genetic engineering in that seed line dates back to Sixteenth Century Holland, according to Gardeners cross-bred pale yellow and red carrots to create an orange carrot in honor of the House of Orange, the Dutch royal family. So my carrot seeds were for ordinary carrots, not carefully selected elite seeds resulting from generations of selectivity.

Second, my garden contained clay soil (pictured here). It's as tough to dig through as it looks. Although "Miami soil" is ideal for supporting top-heavy corn and tomato plants, it is not always kind to root vegetables. My carrots would have to fight the soil in order to grow.

Lesson Two: Limitations Are Not Failures

"Soil preparation for carrots consists of digging to a depth of at least 12 inches and removing all traces of rocks and other debris," Ben wrote. "Even a small twig could injure a carrot's growing tip, stunting the root or making it fork."

It's a profound metaphor. Whether in a garden or life, perfect conditions are almost impossible to achieve naturally. There was no way one woman with a borrowed shovel and limited access to the plot could create soil ideal for carrot growth.

Was this a limitation? Yes. But how could it be a failure? The carrots grew, which was my goal. I had to remind myself, as you may have to do sometimes, that anything downplaying a goal's accomplishment can trigger symptoms of BPD.

You may be one person with limited means to change your soil, or life situation conducive to growth. You may watch others with envy, wishing you had that kind of power. However, you are responsible only for what you can do. Accepting that helps keep the harsh criticism, often a BPD symptom, in check.

Lesson Three: Obstacles Affect the Outcome

Your garden may be new territory with multiple hidden obstacles. We may start digging and discover obstacles such as rocks, broken glass and discarded metal.

Leaving the debris there causes problems, some potentially fatal to further growth. Acknowledging the debris and taking action to remove/overcome it is difficult, but essential for continued growth.

One crucial step toward recovery from BPD is realizing and accepting one's self. Accepting one's authentic self sometimes means realizing that the "standard" is unrealistic, if not unnatural.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2010, November 1). What Can a Carrot Teach Us About Borderline Personality Disorder?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Author: Becky Oberg

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