The Bread Crust Theory - A Story of Boundaries

When my daughter Alia was living with K's aunt, she was asked to mind K for an afternoon.

"K doesn't like bread crust," Alia was warned. "You'll need to cut it off her sandwich or she won't eat."  K was an adorable 4-year-old at the time. Things that seem trivial to adults are terribly important when you're 4. (The 4-year-olds probably have the best perspective, but that's a different blog post.)

"Okay," Alia said, and then she didn't do it.  She was a teenager - I don't need to explain this.

You will probably guess that K ate the sandwich with nary a peep. You would be correct; that isn't the point I'm making, though.

Alia explained to K's aunt that the sandwich was eaten, crust and all. Aunt was amazed, and K just smiled with her sweet little face.

The next time K's aunt was minding her, the sandwich was served with crust. And K refused to eat.

There's probably a legitimate psychological term for the way people never forget where your buttons are once they learn how to push them. This is why you don't go back to an ex - no matter how the two of you have grown and changed, odds are high that the same buttons will not only be active, but you will unconsciously thrust them to the front to be pushed. When a certain person and a certain situation are aligned, you expect things to go a certain way. AND YOU MAY CAUSE IT TO HAPPEN, even if the other person isn't actually falling into old patterns.

There isn't one party or the other at fault here, but it's extremely important to understand Bread Crust Theory and to know that it's real. If you're drastically changing  yourself and the way you interact with your surroundings, it may be easier to find new surroundings, and consciously make available the buttons you want to be pushed. People who know you will have expectations, and when you give them the sandwich that hasn't been trimmed, they will balk because it's you that gave it to them, and you should know better.

It isn't always possible and it isn't necessarily the best answer to change your surroundings. Not only that, but completely changing your surroundings may create a false sense of security. Everything's going swell, and then someone hands you a sandwich with the crust on. Boom.

It will be more difficult but ultimately far better to learn to navigate those mines with your new self. You can do it. Like with any other challenge, it only takes awareness to manage.

Be aware of your surroundings; know your triggers. Never forget that other people have triggers, too, and you may not have known you were pushing them before you made your drastic change. It could be that your habit helped make the trigger dangerous, not theirs alone. Don't run around accommodating everyone's neuroses; just be aware of them, stepping aside if necessary. Sometimes you take the sandwich, but not always.

Personal growth is a process, and as with any moving thing it's best to remain flexible. Rigidity causes collisions. You can choose what bread you like, but learn to pick your battles.

Mad Props to The Bloggess, my hero. I'm just trying to be like you (and like me, because I am awesome. Can I be all of us?)

Further Reading:

6 Steps to Changing Someone's Passive Aggressive Behavior

Re-opening lines of communication would be a better description than "changing someone's behaviour." The Bread Crust Theory does align somewhat with Passive Aggressive Behaviour, because it manifests as a silent protest.  This article teaches Benign Confrontation as a way to re-open lines of communication which may have been closed off. 


  1. L'islam prive les musulmans de leur liberté.


    1. L'Islam prive les Musulmans de leur liberté, mais pas plus que toute autre doctrine organisée. Dieu ne veut pas que votre religion soit un fardeau pour vous. L'ignorance est ce qui vous prive de votre liberté.

  2. everything triggers and annoys me... bahaha


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