Self-sabotage is when people engage in behaviour that either hurts them, or gets them into trouble. People use drugs, steal, starve themselves, find and stay in abusive relationships, cheat on their spouse, drive too fast, drink themselves to death, overeat, don't exercise, or push people away.
As a child, everyone wants to be loved and accepted. Some children receive unconditional love from their parents and are told, "We love you. We want you. We will nurture you." Other children are told either verbally or nonverbal, "We don't want you. You are a bother, a burden.” Children who are not taught coping skills don't learn how to survive in a sometimes hostile and frightening world. Other children are brought up with an unrealistically excessive idea of their own power or to mistrust their power. They can feel totally powerless over situations that occur around them. Having either a sense of too much power or no power can cause children to misjudge situations and hurt themselves in the process.
Internalization of invisible messages results in people not valuing their own existence. Self-sabotage is the result of an internalized self-destruction wish or an inability to take care of oneself in the world. Their parents and others have often shamed people who feel worthless. They are told they are not good enough. These people may continue to engage in self-sabotaging behaviours to maintain their shame. This validates their feeling that they actually are worthless. It contains the confused message that somehow this self-sabotaging behaviour is keeping one safe when in reality it is doing the opposite. It is a twisted attempt to be accepted, as you believe you are, not as you really are.
Self-sabotaging people need to heal that part of them that was injured and learn to love, nurture, and validate themselves for who they are. Healing from shame involves knowing that one is lovable when being authentic. How do you know if you self-sabotage? Here are some examples:
1. Always bending over backwards to win over people.
2. Expressing contrived concern for others.
3. Always trying to smooth out rough edges in uncomfortable situations with others.
4. Always looking for outside approval.
5. Always worried if you have upset someone or believing that others may be mad at you and disregarding your own feelings.
6. Always trying to explain or justify you to others.
If you feel yourself bending to one of these behaviours, you might be readying yourself to go into sabotage. Try to do the following instead of your habitual way of reacting.
1. Bring yourself into presence. Take a deep breath, step back, and or yawn. Do anything that will wake you up to the present moment.
2. Next ask yourself if you feel uncomfortable anywhere in your body with what you were about to say or do. Is there a part of you that is feeling afraid?
3. Check to see if you want to explain, talk too much or do any other behaviour right now that is coming from a self-sabotaging place inside of you.
4. Stay silent. Being consciously silent helps you stop self-sabotaging. Watch you want to react in your habitual way, but do not give in. Breathe through the desire to talk.
5. Once you are alone, release the pressure that has built up in your body by not talking by walking fast, painting, running, writing down the experience.
Working in this way helps you identify clearly your habit of self-sabotage, slows down the habit of doing so and helps you regroup so you have the time and energy to act in a different way. What you are trying to do is reclaim your right to your feelings and act authentically. Taking some time to paint or draw situations in which you habitually self-sabotage help you get a clear picture of moments that you unconsciously out of habit. Painting the scene helps bring consciousness to this unconscious part of your life.