We’re all semi-well aware of what self-sabotage is, you know that “spanner” that we throw in our own works, the one that usually finds itself getting firmly lodged between where we are in life and the things that we want the most?
Whether it’s a career that completely fulfills us, a healthy and well-balanced relationship, or even a house on a hill with a whopping big Land rover Discovery parked in the driveway, none of us could put hand on heart and state that we are 100% completely content in absolutely every area of our lives!
So why is it that certain things in life seem to be constantly out of our reach for us? Perhaps we find ourselves reaching a particular goal or temporary objective, only to have it mysteriously taken from our grasp for 9 times out of ten, reasons completely unknown to us.
To understand this we must first understand our often highly destructive self-sabotaging nature.
Imagine this, there’s something that you want so badly that you’d do anything in order to obtain it, your mind will unconsciously set the wheels of thought in motion to devise the best structured plan in order to make it happen.
Once the plan’s in place, the mind activates and determines how you feel about this goal, which becomes the driving forces behind every action you take towards reaching your ultimate goal.
So, your body begins carrying out the mind’s instructions. Your mind and body are in sync, an at this stage you’ve completely mobilized yourself, the machinery is humming along smoothly and you feel on top of the world until something unthought-of happens: something deep down inside catches wind of your strategic operation and suddenly realizes this new activity stands to potentially threaten your comfort zone.
At this point your primary objective becomes safety. The safety zone is the comfort zone and when you’re operating outside of these parameters, the mind becomes completely plagued by doubts, fears or failure, insecurity and low confidence (or as medical professionals might suggest; psychological homeostasis).
When the human mind believes that it’s comfort zone is being threatened it “acts out” in all sorts of various ways to restore equilibrium and keeping inner peace (I.e. dropping the ball just before completing an important project, instigating a major fight just when it’s clear the relationship could last, drinking the night before the exam, going on a spending spree the first time you have extra money available to put towards your financial future). Sound familiar?
But why is it that so many of us can find ourselves guilty (even on a daily basis) of completely sabotaging our very best intensions? Would the unconscious mind see this exciting new challenge, opportunity or new activity that promises a richer and fuller way of living life as a threat?
Absolutely, and herein lies the key!
When we step out and attempt something new for the first time, we experience an inner conflict between the new picture of how you could see yourself being, and how we’re used to being in the past. When tension is successfully managed, it will actually aid in propelling you toward whatever the goal is that you’re pursuing.
Without this awareness, it’s inevitable that our ‘inner person’ will “act out” to relieve the tension we’re experiencing in order to restore equilibrium (and get back into the comfort zone). So how do we successfully manage the tension?
Consider how self-sabotaging can damage our relationships? It takes two to tango and in order for a relationship to progress healthily, it requires both members to be committed towards investing 100% of who they are truly are into the relationship.
But this doesn’t always happen, and if you’re anything like me, you probably haven’t experienced this kind of relationship throughout your life, because we’re all innately and naturally selfish.
When I say that we’re all selfish; what we’re all fundamentally driven by is having our own innermost needs met. When we’re looking for a potential partner to enter into a relationship with or we’ve chosen someone, we’re going to have a series of expectations. We expect to feel secure when we feel significant and when we feel valued by this person.
Recently a guy came on the phone to me who was facing trauma and crisis in his life because he’d found out his long-term partner had been cheating on him. As you can imagine, he was absolutely broken, he felt completely insignificant and that his partner valued this other man far more than she had ever valued him. He had expected that they would get married and stay together forever, but he hadn’t got what he expected, so the trauma wasn’t wrapped up in what he found but in his expectations not being met.
I asked him what it was that initially attracted him to his now ex-partner, and he told me he’d met her in a bar and she’d just stood out and he knew she was the one. As we know by now, attraction is not a particularly strong foundation on which to build a relationship, because we’re looking for people who are genuine. Entering into a relationship with someone based upon their looks and how they conduct themselves is all quite superficial and yes, this is important because there has to be an element of physical attraction, but this man was looking for a life partner who would complement him and this didn’t work out, because she found a more attractive trophy.
His self-esteem and self-worth was crushed and he didn’t feel like a full man anymore because this woman he thought he loved had rejected him for shallow and superficial reasons, possibly the same reasons he had entered into the relationship with her in the first place.
There are two perspectives we can take when entering into a relationship and one is of selfishness, and most of us are naturally selfish. Is this person going to make us feel significant and of value? Will we feel secure with this other person?
When I said that this man was experiencing crisis, we could more accurately describe it as complete mental and emotional collapse. When I asked him how he could sum up the feeling he said that it felt like hell. This happens because sometimes we look to other people to prop us up and be the ones that can hold us up and be our rock in the midst of hard times. The problem with this is that we’re looking to someone or something else on the outside of us to sustain and hold up what’s on the inside of us, because our needs aren’t on the outside, they’re all on the inside. If this person we look to isn’t prepared to take responsibility or ownership of our expectations (which they have no obligation to do), this will, can and does leave us in the midst of crisis that can sometimes be defined as hell on earth. I’ve been there and there’s a good chance you’ve experienced your version as well.
The guy I’ve mentioned lived in Detroit (which has a reputation for being quite high in crime) so I asked him if he would go into a bar in one of the less desirable areas of town and leave his wallet on the bar as he went to the toilet, and then in turn expect it to still be there on his return?
He agreed that he wouldn’t expect it to be there, so I asked him if he would go to a restaurant that had failed environmental inspections and expect to be served a freshly made healthy meal and not leave with food poisoning.
He said that he wouldn’t go there in the first place. You wouldn’t expect a dirty restaurant to serve you healthy food and you wouldn’t expect it to take responsibility for your expectations, in the same way that you wouldn’t expect thieves to take responsibility for your financial well being and not take the money from your wallet.
Why then would we expect another innately selfish human being to make our expectations their responsibility?
There is absolutely nothing on earth that we can control. We can’t control how other people act or behave towards us and all we can really take responsibility for in life is our own expectations. It’s naïve and irresponsible for us to expect other people to take responsibility for us and vice versa.
My expectations are mine, and yours are yours and they will not always be met. It’s when they aren’t met that we will experience crisis, trauma and stress in the context of our relationships, so to minimise this and reduce this, we’ve got to be aware of the kind of people we’re entering into relationships with initially, and why we’re doing this.
If we’re fundamentally entering into a relationship for potentially who they can be for us and what needs of us they can meet, then it’s all about us. In the face of crisis, you’re not disappointed based upon what you found out, it’s all about your expectations not being met.
The only thing that we have any control over in life what so ever is how we choose to respond and react to the situations, circumstances and the relationships that we find ourselves in.
Relationships are developed over time and founded upon trust, so again, why would we ever enter into a committed intimate relationship with someone we don’t even know we can trust?
Choosing our relationships wisely is key, and if they’re worthy of our trust and friendship, we’ll then be able to healthily base our expectations upon results we can see. This involves both parties to be giving 100% and a very healthy perspective to build your relationships upon is not one of expectations of the other person, but one of responsibility, where the only thing that you can take responsibility for is simply being yourself. If you don’t want to be in a relationship with a cheat or a liar, with someone who’s controlling and dishonest, you’ve got to raise our standards in terms of what you’re willing to take responsibility for. We need to be able to take responsibility for ourselves until the right time when we find that right, healthy, meaningful relationship.
Remember the unconscious mind is similar to a computer; it already has firm pictures and beliefs about you and the world. Through careful and through self-exploration we can excavate and examine the contents of our unconscious, discarding the erroneous beliefs that are culturally programmed, handed down by our parents, and formulated by our childhood environment and limited and distorted childhood perception.
It is in doing this that we begin to know freedom, in our work, our relationships, our thinking, and throughout the rest of our lives.