The reason we sabotage ourselves is because we have unconscious fear. Any emotion that is unconscious will control our behavior. So there is a lovely opportunity to heal. That is to make our fear conscious(simply by noticing it is there) and treating it with compassionate acceptance. Then we will be able to move through it.
Common examples of sabotaging ourselves are listed below.
- Avoiding relationships; we do this by not being vulnerable and putting ourselves out there, by putting up defenses, by finding a reason to move on or blaming them, by choosing people who are not capable of loving us. We avoid because we have fear that we are not enough, not worthy or that we will be rejected.
- Quitting jobs or struggling with our work life. Not valuing ourselves enough financially or not valuing our ability. We do these things because we have fear we are not good enough or we might fail. This same fear of failure can also create the tendency to be a perfectionist or to control.
- Struggling with our social life or social anxiety. This is usually because we have a core fear we are not enough or will be rejected. This fear can have many outcomes; avoidance of connecting with people, being very defensive or pretending we don’t need relationships, being very controlling of another we fear may leave us, actively pushing people away by sending out barbs so we can reject them before they reject us.
- In sport, art or any hobbies we may also have avoidant behavior. For example we may avoid going for the ball if we are not confident. The easy solution is to totally accept our lack of confidence then aim to make sure we don’t withdraw. Start by doing the basics and build up. See mindfulness and cricket post
- In study we do the same if we have fear of failure we may put it off or avoid it or pretend to ourselves we are not interested in it (defensiveness).
How to heal Sabotage
The answer to healing all of these is simply to acknowledge the fear (or lack of confidence) with loving acceptance. Then we can consciously choose to adjust our behavior. Fear will not affect our behavior negatively if we greet it with acceptance and then have the willingness to step towards our fear. If we gently face our fears we can learn not to avoid any aspect of our lives. We can truly embrace our relationships, our work life, our hobbies or our study.
The following practical steps are very helpful.
- Totally lovingly accept the fear. Have a few breaths then feel the physical feeling of fear in the body and greet it with absolute acceptance. Aim not to spend time ruminating on fear based thoughts. However if you notice fear based thoughts just accept them and come back to the breath or present moment. Accepting the fear emotion in the body will also help to slow down the thoughts.
- Spend time focusing on what you can do well, what value you want to offer the world or other humans. Every single one of us has value we can offer the world we just have to learn to see it. It is valuable to make a list of what you know you enjoy, do well and want to offer.
- Then slowly step towards doing what you need to do, taking small manageable steps and allowing your fear. If you see yourself stepping back into old patterns of avoidance just notice it, acknowledge the fear and move forward again. It helps to move forward very compassionately gentle steps are best.
This all sounds simple but actually it is very challenging to do. It requires persistence and courage. The reasons for this are listed below
- Many of us don’t want to stop long enough to see our recurrent patterns. There is an unhelpful belief that if we stay busy all the time we are doing the right thing. Not so, staying busy is a way of avoiding what we need to see in ourselves if we want to change our unconscious patterns. Engaging in life is very important. However we need to spend time in stillness, seeing our inner being. Even starting with 5 minutes of meditation or tuning into our emotion each day would be a start.
- Wanting to blame others all the time or situations, rather than compassionately accepting that if something is recurring in our lives it is because of our patterns.
- An unwillingness to notice our uncomfortable emotion. We have been conditioned to bury our uncomfortable emotions very deep, so deep that we don’t know they are there controlling our behavior. I have sometimes seen clients for months or even years before they get good at noticing their own fear. It is an incredibly important skill to be able to tune in and notice our uncomfortable emotion and just to observe it with loving acceptance. We are so used to judging fear, wanting to be rid of it or suppressing it. All addictive behavior is a way of attempting to bury uncomfortable emotion. It is so important to practice the skill of compassionately acknowledging uncomfortable emotion because it will facilitate healing.
- Once we acknowledge our fear then we need to see the avoidant, controlling or defensive behavior it is creating. Any behavior needs to be acknowledged with compassion there is never value in judging ourselves.
- The final step is to start changing the behavior. This will inevitably bring up discomfort. To quote Brene Brown “He or she who is the most prepared to feel uncomfortable, will heal the fastest.”Any time we are facing fear we will feel vulnerable. We will be putting ourselves at risk of rejection, of making a mistake or of failure. However the willingness to be vulnerable is absolutely a key to healing. It is our avoidance of that which keeps us stuck in unwellness. We have to learn to step towards fear and stay in that vulnerable place. Otherwise we will cut ourselves off from friendship, love or offering our value to the world. We have to learn to greet our failures and mistakes with acceptance and simply as learning opportunities. We have to be prepared to mess it up. We have to be prepared to open our hearts to love knowing we may be rejected. Ultimately we can learn to offer love no matter how it is received. That doesn’t mean that we let people treat us disrespectfully. We can set clear, firm boundaries if needed and still treat others with compassion.
Ultimately the practice I have described will lead us through fear towards far greater love and fulfillment. To quote Gary Renaud;
“Why don’t you stop worrying about whether or not people love you and just love them? Then it doesn’t matter what they think of you. You can just be love. It’s so simple! And guess what? It will ultimately determine how you feel about yourself.”