The Cycle of Self Sabotage

A friend of mine suggested revisiting a limiting beliefs exercise. While completing it and journalling around it I arrived at some profound realisations about self sabotage and drew The Self Sabotage Cycle. This is experiential for me and wanted to share here in the hope that it would help others who experience self sabotage and/or are not aware of it.

What is self-sabotage?

Self-sabotage is an extremely powerful and destructive behaviour that is almost always created during early childhood. By the age of 10 we begin to apply meaning to our experiences and thus create beliefs about ourselves which then begin to shape and create our lives. The complexity of this process means, that the fears we hold at the core of these beliefs, then force us to create rules and excuses that become ingrained within us and form our ‘innate’ character. By thinking, behaving and acting based on these beliefs, over and over again, we condition ourselves until the responses become automatic – and we live on autopilot.

We aren’t consciously aware that the actions we are taking and decisions we are making come from a completely dysfunctional perspective, simply because of the meaning we placed on our early childhood experiences.

How do we create self-sabotage?

Self-sabotage is created as a way of ‘protecting’ ourselves during traumatic or negative childhood experiences. As an example, and this will vary from person to person depending on individual experience, an immobilising fear of; making mistakes, being ridiculed, being rejected, being physically or emotionally abused, being disliked and being unloved, is the catalyst for a child to develop a need to create a response that, in their mind, will keep them safe. In this example, that response is to ensure one remains small and goes as unnoticed as possible. The fear the child has is very real; in response to the behaviour and actions of someone close to them and/or to the environment in which they live, but as an adult, although the threat no longer exists, the fear and the need to protect oneself remains as strong as ever.

The child may experience difficulties with interpersonal relationships, but largely; going unnoticed, keeping quiet, not laughing or having fun and playing the victim, does the child little harm. It simply serves the purpose (although on a subconscious, ‘unconscious’ level) i.e. if I act this way I am less likely to; be ridiculed, be noticed, be hit, be rejected, and so on. As the child grows up, however, and inevitably becomes an adult, self-sabotage wreaks havoc on every element of life; from work and finances to all interpersonal relationships, especially intimate ones where trust and commitment is required, health and lifestyle.

What are the effects of self-sabotage?

Where a child’s needs are not met, it can be the case where the adult also experiences addiction. Although driven by a need that can never be met to fill a hole that can never be filled, addiction becomes merely another form of self-sabotage and a useful and wicked resource from which ‘it’ can draw from. Adult life can become tumultuous, chaotic and very painful.

Sabotaging jobs, relationships, finances, health and so on are all common place when self-sabotage is at play. It goes undetected because of a lack of self-awareness and simply not realising where the behaviour stems from and that it is responsible for the life you are living.

How can I be free of self-sabotage?

Not everyone becomes aware of the self-sabotage at work in their lives. However, fortunately, due to the nature of the destruction it can cause and the associated feelings of being stuck (which truly are beliefs and excuses we create) it can lead to seeking a better life and a desire to become free.

Self-sabotage requires mindfulness, patience and loving kindness towards oneself. Bravely delving into the limiting beliefs held about yourself and uncovering the fear that lies at the root of them. The fears are rarely real. The only frightening realisation is that something you were afraid of 30 or 40 years ago is now ruling and ruining your life – keeping you from living the life you desire and truly deserve.

When anything is brought into the light it is never as frightening as it seems. When you can identify the beliefs, rules and excuses, and importantly the fear beneath them, it brings a level of awareness that enables you to notice your actions. Over time it becomes easier to realise the thoughts and behaviours driving the actions that no longer serve you. There will come a point when you are able to see clearly the points at which you are sabotaging something you want to bring into your life; whether that be around work, purpose, money, health or relationships.

Naturally, the most powerful limiting beliefs you hold about yourself are the areas in which you sabotage the most.

By living ‘mindfully’ you are able to choose differently. When your choices are no longer based on fear and fuelled by beliefs that are simply not true, you will find you begin to manifest more of what you want in your life, rather than getting in your own way and receiving more of what you don’t want. The only thing keeping you stuck where you are, is you. Be courageous and make your goal and intention to become free from the cycle of self-sabotage.

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”

– Grace Murray Hopper

The Self-Sabotage Cycle

Practising mindfulness brings self-awareness. You will notice a pattern emerging around your self-sabotage behaviour; a cycle – the series of actions that you regularly repeat in the same order.

The diagram below shows the Self-Sabotage Cycle at the point that most people become aware that self-sabotage is ruling (and ruining!) their lives.

Before this time, you will have probably gone through the cycle countless times over many years and most likely, experienced it throughout your adult life to date. The sabotage will often kick in before you have even taken any action. You might get an idea or want to do something or bring about a change in your life, only to ruin it before it even starts. You won’t have even been aware you were ruining it, you were just doing what you do. Life is chaotic, and you constantly change your mind, second guess your decisions and generally run amok with yourself. Self-sabotage is cruel, relentless and plays out in a myriad of destructive ways.

As time goes on the cycle might continue to where you experience some progress and even success, but no matter how far around the cycle you get, you will inevitably at some point sabotage your happiness and eradicate the possibility of getting what it is that you desire.

The stages of the Self-Sabotage Cycle

In any area of your life you may set yourself a goal or intention. You act and find you are making progress. This inspires you and you feel excited to take more action towards achieving what it is you want. You may even achieve some success, and this gives you confidence to work on achieving and realising your goal. It is at this point that you will sabotage yourself. Whether that is convincing yourself it wasn’t for you, distracting yourself to do something else or out and out destroying something or putting an obstacle in your path to ensure you don’t achieve your goal, no matter how big or small it is.

The diagram clearly shows that at the point which you sabotage yourself and thus prevent yourself from achieving your goal and manifesting your intention, the circle is broken. It is symbolic in reflecting the incompleteness and ‘stuck feeling’ it creates within you and your life. The Self-Sabotage Cycle is one where the prize, glory, happiness or whatever you see it as, is missing. In the Self-Sabotage Cycle, once you have sabotaged your goal or intention, you simply start over again with something new. Constantly repeating this cycle can become intense, turbulent and incredibly confusing.

Breaking the Cycle 

With mindfulness comes awareness and clarity. At the point which you would ordinarily sabotage your goal and intention (ultimately your happiness!) you simply choose to continue. Often the one thing we need to do is not a gargantuan task or mountainous climb, it is a simple act and, in this case, choosing to take another step forward, another action and believing you can be successful, you are good enough, loveable, deserving and so on. It is in this final quarter of the cycle you have faith and trust you will achieve what you desire.

This completes the circle and by doing this you have become unstuck. You have created a flow in your life. On a subtler level, over time, when sabotage no longer exists in your life cycle, just as the circle denotes, you feel complete, whole and what was missing is now fulfilled. There is no gaping hole to fill and with more confidence in your own ability to create the life you desire, you will become free, to live a happy, healthy, fulfilled life.

SELF SABOTAGE

 

 

[The beautiful featured image in this post was taken through a Monterey Cypress tree overlooking Carmel beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.]

Joy

I have written about joy before….experiencing it on demand (as the great Chade Meng Tan talks about). Truly though, if you give it a little thought to it, aside from Christmas when joy seems to be scattered everywhere (joy to the world and all that), when do you experience joy?

It isn’t a word I am familiar with. I haven’t experienced a lot of joy in my life and haven’t come to know it well, until recently. It has always been fleeting and has required much thought and focus, which really, if you think about it, totally negates joy.

To me, joy is happiness multiplied. It is the feeling of being overwhelmed with love, happiness, elation, positivity and total bliss in the moment.

The Oxford dictionary describes joy as;

the joy of being alive

..which to me, and am sure you will agree, sums it up perfectly.

Recently, I decided my focus is on joy. Noticing it and bringing more of it into my life. Surprising how that attention of awareness brings so much to fruition. The main joy in my days are my two children – who honestly are not the epitome of children. My daughter is 19 and my son is 15, and although I am totally biased, they are the funniest two humans ever. They make me laugh constantly….the forever running stream of accents that range from Russian to Italian to something Polish and in between. My son only ever speaks to our dog in a Polish accent, it is absolutely hilarious. You could not find a comedian that could make this stuff up. They are my greatest critics and the cause of my greatest sorrow. I love every inch of both of them and my life would not be what it is without them. They are joy in it’s full entirety.

I am always in a state of some self development….and this year has been the culmination of many, many years of work on my self worth…and the value I place upon my self, which, if you think about it is probably the cause of most people’s discord – that feeling of not being good enough basically. I have worked hard on this and have to say, I like who I am today. I have bad days, but don’t we all? But I no longer hate or loathe myself and this is alien to me now. However, joy is also quite an alien thing. It comes and goes, but I want more of it.

I’ve talked about affirmations before and especially the power of writing them down, which you can read about here. My affirmation has been for a while about loving and valuing myself and noticing joy. Seriously, these written affirmations never fail to materialise…it is totally magical and you can’t truly believe it until you practice it and do them daily.

Here is my list of joys just this past week:

  • Feeling somewhat annoyed at a business trip having turned into a mega long trip stuck in traffic, only to realise that my destination [seriously didn’t realise it was that far] was in North Wales…I LOVE Wales – such a great feeling to be there
  • I apologise if this seems racist, it totally is not intended that way, but the total picture of it was so funny…I kept seeing signs on the M6 of pedestrians in the road. I thought that was odd, I mean would they not be ran over? So a couple of miles after the signs, I see a car and a traffic officer with two completely white robed muslim men bombing along the hard shoulder and the slow lane trying to retrieve luggage that had flew off….I was laughing so much I nearly crashed the car
  • Woo (my lovely daughter) singing
  • Re-connecting with the third book I want to publish and actually finding a way to publish it (am working on it and it precedes Maldives for the Mind)
  • Looking at photographs (whilst working on aforementioned book) of my kids when they were little
  • Creating some positive quotes with my photographs for social media
  • Baking both days of the weekend
  • Meeting my sister and mum for drinks at the pub
  • Visiting my beautiful Grandma and sitting in the garden with our faces in the sunshine
  • Embarking on my 50 minute National Parks Challenge that turned into an hour and 43 minute, 5 mile walk through mainly wet grass with our dog, Lenny
  • Visiting my brother and chatting with my nephew who fashioned a ‘fix’ for the light pull in the bathroom. It was too short and you couldn’t grasp the cord so he fixed it with a tampon ha ha ha…seriously the kid is just too intelligent
  • Sitting on my garden swing in the sunshine, just for 10 minutes with a cup of tea
  • Ironing my son’s new (6) school shirts and realising this was the last year I would be doing this and remembering all his school years… picturing him as that cute 6 year old (warms my heart…he is now 6ft 2)

There is so much more….

Notice joy and it is everywhere.

 

[This photograph was taken along the Highway 1 route in California in 2009. My beautiful two children on the campsite we stayed at, just across from the beach.]