Why Self Sabataging Behavior Makes Change so Difficult

We have heard it said, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” We want to change for the better but we continue the same old self defeating behaviors. Even when things seem to be going well, there are those who sabotage themselves in ways that prevent them from sustaining feeling good about themselves and achieving a more satisfying life.

Simply put, we are all creatures of habit, for good or for ill. There appears constant roadblocks to overcoming those habits that don’t benefits us. It may seem crazy but we do experience secondary gains by not changing these habits. Hence we unconsciously sabotage ourselves, resulting in further reinforcing behaviors that don’t bode well for us.

Let’s look at some of the subtle and not so subtle ways we get in the way of our making positive changes in our lives.

One prominent example is when people grow up in an atmosphere where they do not meet the expectations of their parents or significant others. As a consequence they grow up  thinking that they are not good enough to enjoy the good things in life, Therefore, when things are going well for them, they quickly do something, either in thought or behavior, that will prevent those good things from taking root.

On the surface, this may not make sense in that everyone will tell you that they want the best in life.  So why would they sabotage this from happening?  What they fail to realize is that for good or for nil, we are all creatures of habit. What that means, is that if you chronically think you are destined to fall short in life, you will automatically resist any positive changes in your life.  It matters little if such thoughts are true or not.  All that matters is what the person believes to be true.

Another example, is people having a fear of an unknown future. With there being  no guarantee in life that a new future will be better than the current one, paralyzing fear can surface resulting in thoughts and behavior that will sabotage any movement forward. The push is to maintain the status quo. Though they want life to be better, they have learned to get by in the dysfunctional world they are use to.  Though dysfunctional, this behavior minimizes the stress they would experience in trying something new with no guarantee of success.  Adjusting to a possible new and even better world can bring forth an initial uncomfortable feeling that some are unwilling to work through.

Also, remember that if you use to thinking you are not capable of doing much with your life and all of a sudden success is on the horizon, panic can be the reaction. Bringing yourself down to the level you are use to will keep you “under the radar”.  The results will keep others from thinking you are more than you think you are or worse yet, magically prevent something worse happening.

Fear of success or fear of failure ?  Take your choice. Either choice can lead into a life style where we constantly fall short of expectations. In order to avoid possible embarrassment and uncomfortableness, there is a tendency not to try our best but rather to hold back and rationalize repeating the same sort of behavior.

Resistance to experiencing a better life can be manifested by a lack of sufficient motivation, procrastination or a sudden feeling of paralyzing fear or anxiety. There can also be a fatalistic attitude that nothing will change, so why bother?

However, what would you do if you thought you could not fail?  How would your life be different? If your thoughts can keep you from realizing your best, what changes in your thoughts need you make in order for you to realize your best?  We will examine these questions in our next blog.

Further questions, comments or suggestions can be directed to Ray Shocki PhD, LCSW, LMFT at lifesourcecenter@aol.com.