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Stop Sabotaging Yourself

Many people struggle with following through on their plans, commitments, or stated desires.

Sometimes it is as if there is another voice or person inside of us that gets in our way.

This part of us might tell us to postpone an important task until tomorrow, or might tell us that we shouldn’t aim for that promotion. It seeks to lead us astray and ultimately keeps us from accomplishing our long-term goals.

At other times, not only does this alternate voice get in our way, it actually harms us.

There are different forms of sabotage:

  • The parts of us that seek to stamp out unpleasant tensions or conflicts from within through impulsive and ill-conceived actions. They are the impulses to get drunk to deal with a break-up, to go on an eating binge to distract ourselves from unpleasant memories, or to cut ourselves to overcome emotional numbness. They seek to solve a problem, but ultimately end up causing an even worse problem. Their intent is to put out fires, but their means of doing so are harmful to us.There are parts of our psyches that have been necessary to prevent what we perceive as unbearable emotions and internal conflicts. Without their rash attempts to distract us, our fear would be that we would not survive or would not be able to cope.
  • The parts of us that we don’t like and that we find to be threatening to our self-understanding and our everyday functioning. They are often emotions or experiences that have been labelled shameful or threatening and have had to be banished to the basement of our psyches so as not to flood us with unpleasant emotions or jeopardize how others see us. These parts of us can get activated or triggered by situations that remind us of how we once felt, and it is because we are not at peace with these parts of us that our fire fighters get called upon to quickly distract us.
Why we do it:
  • One of the reasons we sabotage ourselves is therefore that we have a divided mind where several parts of us are at odds with each other. Our impulses, for example, are often at odds with other parts which they try to distract ourselves from. At other times our banished parts are odds with our conscious intentions. A part of us that feels inferior and rejected might get activated when we sit down to study for an exam because we start to feel that the material is too difficult and that we are going to fail. This might start a battle inside of us between a part of us that tells us to plough through and the exiled part that threatens to flood us with shame and feelings of worthlessness. Another part of us might therefore think of a justification for why we should not be studying but should instead be cleaning our apartment, or another part inside us might compel us to go on an eating binge. In this way multiple parts of us might be at odds and take charge of us, ultimately defeating our stated purpose to study and excel at our exam.
How we stop it:
  • If we accept that we have multiple voices or parts of us that often vie for control of our conscious actions then it follows that every act of self-sabotage is an instance of one part of us that is acting up and defying another part of us which we identify with as our true desire or intention. The trick to stopping our self-defeating habits or behaviors is therefore to get to know the part of us that gets in our way and understand what other parts it might be reacting to. Oftentimes, when we approach a part of us which we don’t disagree with or wish we didn’t have from a place of curiosity instead of judgment, it will reveal to us its function and role within our larger psychological reality and will show itself to have an ultimately benevolent intent. 
Align your actions with your intentions:
  • What is needed for your internal boxer to relax and not sabotage you future goal for a promotion is therefore a greater degree of confidence that your bullied child can stand up for itself. For this to happen, you would need to heal the bullied part of self and endow it with resources to fight its own battles. This in turn, would require more in depth exploration of the needs and reality of another part.

    Only when acquainted with all the parts of you psyche can you begin to negotiate all my opposite wishes and actions in a way that gives all parts of you a voice but ultimately contributes to the one and same overarching goal of acting in the way that is best for you.







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