Self-sabotage is any behavior, thought, emotion, or action that holds us back from getting what we consciously want. Self-sabotage is the conflict that exists between conscious desires and unconscious wants that manifest in self-limiting patterns of behavior. Self-sabotage not only prevents us from reaching our goals but also plays the part of a safety mechanism that protects us against disappointment.
We’ve probably all experienced a time of self-sabotage especially in the form of procrastination or interpersonal conflicts. There are countless other forms including but not limited to: self medication with drugs and/or alcohol and over eating from stress.
Unfortunately, it is a fairly common occurrence for someone in recovery to self-sabotage their progress in recovery. This is because addiction itself is a form of self-sabotage, and is a characteristic that addicts are masters of. Instead if dealing with negative thoughts, feelings, and situations, addicts will turn to drugs and alcohol to escape their problems and in doing so replace that issue with a much bigger one. Self-sabotage tends to reoccur in addicts lives because of a lack of self esteem, self worth, self confidence, and self belief. In addition, some people have difficulty managing their daily emotional experiences and people in ways that hinder progress and prevent a person from reaching their goals and objectives. Self-sabotage is used as an effective method for coping with stressful situations or high expectations. Other factors that can bring on self-sabotage are: boredom, isolation, refusing help, missing recovery meetings, keeping an unhealthy lifestyle, dishonesty, denial, self pity, inability to say “no”, bottling emotions, etc.
The concept of cognitive dissonance is defined as the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. This concept can be another reason a person self-sabotages. People like to be consistent- a person’s actions seem to sync with their beliefs and values. When people feel the two don’t line up they make an effort to match them up. If a person starts to have accomplishments and victories, yet they still feel flawed, worthless, or incapable they might pull the plug on their successes to get rid of dissonance. These people might think it feels bad to fail, but it feels worse to succeed.
Continued self-sabotage will only lead to a life full of regrets and unfulfilled expectations. So how can a person prevent this self defeating process? The root of this process often seems to be fear of failure. In other words a fear of trying ones best and not succeeding, of being personally let down and publicly humilated as we worry that our best may not be good enough.
The key to prevention is to write down and pinpoint the thoughts, feelings, and actions that are leading us down the self-sabotage path. Though conscious self-awareness we can begin to put a stop to these behavior patterns. To so this we must indentify, recreate, replace and practice.
1.Indentify: First we need to indentify the self-sabotaging thoughts or behaviors that are preventing us from moving forward. We need to be aware of our daily choices, decisions, actions, and resulting consequences. Pin point specific triggers that may be causing these behaviors. These might include: people, thoughts, places, objects, times, events, locations, etc. Try to be as specific as possible. By removing triggers form our lives we will be better prepared to take control of our thoughts, feelings and actions. In addition, we must indentify limiting beliefs and work on converting them into postive, empowering beliefs.
2.Recreate: Now that we have identified our possible triggers, we should be able to consciously recreate the self-sabotaging pattern by outlining all the triggers and the associating behaviors that occur as a result of these triggers. We ask ourselves how exactly does the self-sabotaging behavior manifest in our life? Then we ask ourselves what triggers this behavior and how? With a clearer understanding of the patterns that create a certain behavior we will be prepared to replace the behavior. In addition, we engage in positive self talk. We remind ourself that we are a valued person placed on the earth for a purpose. We are loveable and deserve success if we apply ourselves. We are not worthless people. We may have made ourselves unproductive by our choices, nevertheless those choices do not have to define us. We are capable to change choices and by doing so change the results.
3.Replace: To eliminate an old pattern of behavior we must replace it with a new pattern that is helpful and practical. However, change cannot happen if there is a lack of motivation behind the change. We must have a sincere and willing desire to make the change. Once we have decided we are willing to change, we ask ourselves how we could respond in a more resourceful and practical way that would help us get the result we want from the situation? How and why would this be a better way to respond? What are the reasons for making this change? What would be the long term benefit for the changed response?
4.Practice: Once we have identified the new behavior or behaviors, we must take time to practice implementing the behavior as often as possibe until a new habit is established. We begin by running the healthy replacement behavior to the situation in our mind. We visualize every detail. We feel the positive energy thoughout our body as we overcome the old self-sabotaging behavior. Once our imagination has been activated, we can then put ourself in real life situations that will natually trigger our old behaior. This time however, we are ready with a new response that we will continue to practice over the next four weeks until a new healthy and empowering habit is formed.
Remember the choice is ours. We no longer have to fall prey to self-sabotaging behavior. Anytime we are truly ready to commit to ending self-sabotaging behavior we will be able to achieve our goals-we are worth it!!