The Secret to Overcoming SELF-SABOTAGE!
©2006 Lauralyn Bellamy, MA, MDIV, Certified Dreamcoach®
“It’s happening again!”
“Why do I keep doing this to myself?”
“I know what I need to do to succeed at this, so why can’t I just do it?”
Welcome to the Self-Sabotage Zone, that shadowy repository of failed jobs, relationships, diets, resolutions, projects and dreams. We’ve all made deposits there. We’ve spent significant money, time and energy trying different techniques, strategies, therapists, counselors and/or trainers to achieve what we say we want for ourselves. The tons of how-to books we’ve bought, the CD programs we’ve listened to, the workshops and seminars we’ve attended are evidence of our good intentions.
Our self-improvement regimens seem to work – for a while; and then, we start to undermine, forget, neglect and (ultimately) just give up. Worse, part of us observes the beginning-of-the-end pattern of our destructive behavior as if behind a thick plate glass window. We shout exhortations, warnings, threats, pleading not to do this, again! But it’s as if the self we’re observing is in a trance or unable to hear the observer.
At this point, many of us get distracted and seduced by the power of, “Why?” We live in a culture that has absorbed the psychoanalytical premise that exploring why one behaves destructively will lead to powerful insights into one’s personality that will trigger an emotional catharsis (an emptying out, a cleansing) that will lead to the learning of healthy behavior. So, like Alice catching sight of the White Rabbit and chasing it down the rabbit hole, we jump up and chase after the answers to “Why?!”
Frequently, the pursuit of answers to “Why?” does lead to the discovery of insights that are truly illuminative of the reason one behaves a certain way. When that “Ah-HAH!” moment happens, it often does produce catharsis – the kind of weeping that seems to empty us out, wash us clean and leave us ready for a deep restful nap.
BUT, it does not follow as night follows day that this powerful insight and emotional catharsis lead to alternative behavior that overcomes the problems we’ve been attempting to solve.
Gotcha! OK, I’m going to tell you the answer to, “Why?” Then, I’m going to describe an alternative strategy that will successfully dismantle your self-sabotage machinery.
WARNING: Reading the following information will not empower you to successfully overcome your patterns of self-sabotage. It will give you information that may lead to greater self-awareness and, yes, some significant insights into yourself. However, it is the nature of self-sabotage to survive in its host; it will mutate beyond your ability to single handedly eradicate it. Because it is a product of your personality, it has the advantage of knowing your limitations and weak spots, giving it the ability to anticipate your efforts to destroy it and mask itself, go underground, lie dormant, or aggressively attack you for daring to threaten its existence. The information you are about to read can only be successfully applied with the assistance of a coach or counselor trained to equip and support you in this life-changing quest.
First, because the goal you think you want to achieve is not real to you: it lives in the realm of Ideals. Ideals are abstract concepts. They make useful templates against which you can design and measure what you actually use in your life; but, no sane person actually lives in the realm of ideals. The “real” world is your best translation of your ideals at any given moment of your life.
Secondly, human beings are programmed to regard the Unknown as a place of danger, risk, and threat to survival. The closer you come to the Unknown, the Wilderness, the Abyss, the Void, the greater your anxiety becomes until it reaches an intolerable intensity and you retreat to the Familiar. No matter how unhappy or painful your familiar behaviors, relationships and thoughts are; you experience relief in getting away from the unknown. You have become addicted to the need for relief from anxiety. What you call “bad habits” are your mechanisms for numbing your anxiety and, in doing so, experiencing moments of relief.
Thirdly, every campaign you launch to achieve your stated goal enchants you. You enter the world of HOW-TO and experience the pleasure of being swept up into a new life of strategies, schedules, techniques, equipment, and people to transport you to your goal. You are so enthusiastic in mastering How-To that you don’t allow your attention to focus on what will happen when you reach your destination. Your goal remains hidden in the Unknown Wilderness of your future.
Fourth, the closer you get to reaching your goal the more intense your anxiety becomes. You only know how to make the journey. You have not prepared yourself to live in the world of your destination. It’s as though you boarded a train that will take you to the Forbidden City, a place you’ve heard wonderful things about. After a while, you’ve begun to worry about the wisdom of going to any place called “Forbidden.” You don’t know what to do; but if you don’t do something soon, you’ll be there and it will be too late!
Fifth, before you reach your destination, you get yourself off that train! You begin the journey back to the familiar place you started out; except, you’re battered, bruised, and carrying heavier baggage. Self-sabotage is a misguided effort to save your life from the threat of the Unknown.
Now that you know why you self-sabotage, you will begin identifying examples of self-sabotage operating in your own life.
Next, you will glean insights about these behaviors.
And after that? Probably an endless loop of recognizing, interpreting and ruminating upon the instances of self-sabotage; but no longterm, practical changes to achieve success. Unless…
To be continued!