Counseling “How To” Guide: Self-Sabotage
Are you good at beating yourself up? My hunch is that you just nodded your head yes. Being hard on yourself usually comes more naturally than being hard on someone else, or recognizing factors beyond your control as being the reason behind mistakes and problems.
So why is it so easy to beat yourself up? It comes from self-sabotage.
Self-Sabotage Is Real
Though it’s easy to discount the power of self-sabotage I’ve seen it undo years of progress in just a few moments. For example, a person who has carefully worked to maintain sobriety for many months after counseling can turn her life upside down in a span of 30 seconds with just one drink. Before she had that drink she’d likely tell you that there’s no such thing as self-sabotage. After the hangover wears off, she’ll very likely tell you that it’s real.
Self-Sabotage Is Everywhere
Self-sabotage is sneaky. It’s like that metaphor that a fish doesn’t realize it’s in water because it is surrounded by water. It works the same way for self-sabotaging thoughts and emotional reactions. They are so commonplace you don’t even notice them. Self-sabotaging thoughts pervade our thinking and guide our emotional reactions in such a way as to thwart our best attempts to make changes for the better.
So what drives self-sabotage? It boils down to fear.
There are many forms, but two of the more prevalent forms I encounter when helping people address this issue with counseling are fear of failure and fear of success. Both those fears, though at opposite ends of the spectrum, utilize self-sabotage to increase the likelihood that positive life change does not last.
As with much of the work that my colleagues and I do as DC psychologists, knowledge about self-sabotage and its impact really is half the battle:
- Recognize that it is real.
- Know that it’s an integral part of most of our lives.
- Understand that it is motivated by fear.
Once armed with this knowledge, you can begin to neutralize self-sabotage and remove it from your life.
Until next time,
Dr. Brad Brenner