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:
We do this by not being vulnerable and putting ourselves out there, by putting up defenses, by blaming them and finding a reason to move on, 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 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
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 will help you heal sabotage.
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.
Focus on what value you want to offer the world or other humans. Every single one of us has value we can offer, 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.
What gets in the way of healing sabotage?
This all sounds simple but actually it is very challenging to do. It requires persistence and courage and we put things in the way.
Not stopping long enough to see our 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.
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 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.
We need to learn how to release our pent up emotion
We have all been taught to suppress our challenging emotion since we were children. It stays as tension in our bodies creating over zealous reactions when small things trigger us. Regularly every day have some deep breaths and have a good shake of the body, if you can growl ,yell , laugh or cry just let out what is there. This needs to be simple release with no analysis. I often go down to the beach dive under the waves and shake and scream. It’s a beautiful release and it teaches us how to be much more accepting of our challenging emotion. Isira has a really valuable tool called the shakti shake on her website.
Once we have acknowledged and released our fear then we need to see the avoidant, controlling or defensive behavior our fear creates. Any behavior needs to be acknowledged with kind 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.
The practice I have described will lead us through fear towards far greater love and fulfillment.
See this beautiful quote from Gary Renard.
Read more on healing emotion