Understanding and Breaking Free From Self-Sabotage

Ever found yourself in a self-sabotage cycle? 

Have you ever missed out on achieving a goal you’ve been longing for, possibly due to self-sabotage.

In this podcast I’m suggesting a radical reframe on self-sabotage. One that will free you from the grips of the self-sabotage and self-blame cycle.

Self-sabotage isn’t just about preventing ourselves from reaching our goals. It’s more nuanced than that. 

Self-sabotage can be viewed as a misguided protective mechanism, resulting from conflicting desires and motives within ourselves. 

We navigate this intriguing aspect of self-sabotage together. As well as uncovering the Nervous System connection.

We’ll explore how cultural conditioning and attachment dynamics can influence and contribute to our self-sabotaging behaviors.

Tune in to discover effective ways to overcome self-sabotage, unlock your potential and rediscover your flow state.

Full Episode Transcript

Hey, welcome to the podcast, my friend. I really wanna explore the concept of sabotage today.

So have you ever thought to yourself or said to someone else, said to a coach, or a guide or a counselor? I’ve sabotaged myself. I am sabotaging myself. That didn’t work out, that didn’t come to fruition. I must have sabotaged myself. I do hear it a lot as a guide and a coach, and I’m sure that I’ve said it myself for sure, and I wanna explore it more because I think by exploring it more, we can get some better insight and then free ourselves from what we’re terming as.

Self-sabotage. I do think for the majority of the time when we talk about self-sabotage, we are thinking that obviously we are doing something to stop ourselves from succeeding, stop ourselves from moving forward. We are doing something to ruin a relationship, to ruin a goal that we have to ruin a. A career goal that we have.

For example, we might say we are sabotaging it by showing up late for work, uh, three days a week over the course of, you know, every single week for three months. And then we get warning after warning. And then, you know, something negative happens in terms of our employment and we might reflect, oh, well I was sabotaging myself, so I wanna really pause around that and reframe self-sabotage as actually a protective mechanism.

So hear me out, because it is a misguided. Protective mechanism from my understanding of my own journey of working with clients through all of my training, everything that we do or don’t do, whether it’s conscious or subconscious, whether we know the reason for it or not, there is. An outcome that your psyche is wanting or a part of your psyche is wanting that it thinks is for your benefit.

So overall, if you’re looking at it from your rational thinking brain, your rational mind, you can see that, you know, arriving late to work. Every few days and not doing something to correct it and not addressing the problem is not going to work out well for you. Is not in your, is not in your favor and is not, you know, you wouldn’t think that that’s doing something to protect you.

Right. But very often there are psychological parts that we have. You know, it could be a young part. It could be a very wounded, traumatized part. These are aspects of our psyche that have needs and wants, ways of functioning in the world. And they can those patterns, cause that’s really what they are.

Those patterns can stimulate behavior that when we look at it from our rational thinking mind, we don’t see it as being beneficial. And in those cases we say, you know, I’m self-sabotaging. I’m, that thing that I’m doing is really harming me and so therefore I’m self-sabotaging. But what I, what I see for client, what I see for myself is that whenever there is self-sabotaging behavior going on, there is an underlying reason for it.

Sometimes that reason is fairly conscious and we can notice it, you know, pretty immediately. And other times that reason is very, very, Subconscious and it’s not that easy to track, but. Either way, there is a protective mechanism going on, so you are not deliberately doing something to harm yourself or hold yourself back because you hate yourself or you know, you, you wanna cause harm to yourself.

It’s not about that. It’s actually about. The on one, you know, one example, and one way it could be is that conflicted parts of the self. There’s one part that wants to move forward. And as an example, you wanna grow your business. And to grow your business, you need to be more, more visible in your community.

And there’s another part of you that has some. Experience of trauma around being visible that considers being really visible in your community is actually, I. Unsafe. And so you can imagine that part that I just explained then will not want you to be visible. Mm-hmm. So you can go and, you know, your, um, your external goal is to succeed in your business and you realize that you need to get more visible in your community.

And so you, you set up, you take actions towards that, but there’s a part inside you that doesn’t think that this is safe. That in fact thinks it’s the opposite of safe, and that is very unsafe and very risky. And so this is where self-sabotage comes in because there’s a conflict inside of us in those psychological parts.

One part wants one thing, the other part doesn’t think it’s safe. And so then the protective mechanism comes in and. It does things to shut it down, to move you away from being visible. It can cause challenges within relationships as a way of, uh, protecting you from becoming too vulnerable in a relationship.

It can pull you back from being intimate with someone. You know, when that intimacy is starting to really open up emotionally, sometimes we. We pull back or we do something really shitty to the other person or betray them and we name that as self-sabotage. Well, yes, but we wanna look at the underlying reasons in quote marks or the underlying motivations behind that, because if there is a part of you that finds it incredibly unsafe to be that vulnerable and, and.

In an intimate relationship, then it’s gonna protect you by, um, by causing roadblocks in between you and that person that you are, you know, a part of you is wanting to be intimate with. So this is how self-sabotage comes about, and. Why it’s important to discuss it is because often when we say we’re self-sabotaging, we are giving ourselves a hard time or admonishing ourselves or, you know, sort of layering on that, uh, belief of, I’m bad, this means I’m a bad person.

I do this because I’m a bad person or I’m not good enough and I never will be. So that’s the train of thought that the brain can go into. The mind can go into, but when we understand it that, you know, it can come from this conflict of psychological parts. One part. What’s one thing? One part doesn’t want that thing.

In fact, it wants something else. And it’s actions that we label as self-sabotage are actually a protective. Mechanism, can you feel how different that is inside your, you know, internal felt sense, experience? Can you feel that? Like there can be a softening and an opening and understanding and we are more able to have compassion for ourselves through that experience.

So when you catch yourself saying, I must be self-sabotaging this, then it can be a good time to look into. Oh, if there was a part of me that didn’t want this thing that I think I want to happen and it was trying to protect me from something, what would that be? If deep, deep down there was a part of me that didn’t want this, what would that be about?

And you can sit with that. And you can feel into that and see, see what comes forward. And for me in my life around, around the visibility of wanting a part, you know, a part of me really wanting to be visible and connect with my community and to serve and to people, that’s been my, you know, lifelong passion.

And then there’s also has been a part of me that finds that. Very anxiety provoking and unsafe to put myself out there. It feels for that part, it feels really risky to be vulnerable, that I might be shut down, that I might be admonished, that I might be pushed out of the group, which is, you know, the fear that, uh, our brain has at that core level because it’s all about that group connection and safety.

And so you can see that. If both of those parts are running side by side, I might be trying really hard to get myself out there to be more visible. But when I look deeper, There’s a part of me that is trying to protect me from that because it feels unsafe and why it feels unsafe. There can be many, many reasons.

It can be about, um, attachment dynamics. It can be about trauma that we’ve experienced. It can just be around our cultural conditioning, particularly as women that we are much more conditioned to be in nurture attunement mode than we are to be in. Um, Expressing power and standing out in the world. Of course, we know that both are available to us.

It’s not confined or defined to any gender, but there is, uh, you know, our gender conditioning around that. And so, Looking at yourself, and it’s quite a good flag when you hear yourself say, you know, while I’m self-sabotaging, is to kind of sit down and go, well, is there a part of me that doesn’t want this to happen?

And if that was the case, what would this part be saying? It’s not safe for you to be out there being so visible. You’re making yourself vulnerable. You are going to get shut down. You are going to get a lot of hate pour on you, whatever that. Part is expressing and remembering that this is just a part of your psyche.

And so for me, you know what I did around that over the years is do that deep work around that part. That is fearful around being visible cause that has been my experience and, and work towards some more integration for that part that I can feel that it can, that part of me can feel safer. That can feel more secure.

Some of the trauma that has sort of tri, not triggered, but some of the trauma that has loaded into that response. When that becomes more integrated, then that protective mechanism is not showing up so strongly. And the other piece that I wanna offer around self-sabotage, that shows up for many of us. Is that we might do, we might do things like lose our keys, miss an appointment, hit a part of our body, hit our head trip over, all that kind of stuff.

And I actually remember many years ago, so 20 odd years ago, and I was going to my part-time job and I really didn’t wanna go. I was feeling tired, I was feeling really cross that I had to do this job that I hated. It wasn’t in the helping professions at all. Um, and I, I. Slipped and fell on the ramp outside our house, and it was a rainy day or damp day.

The, you know, the ground was we, and I just felt in that moment that I really self-sabotage myself. But when I look at it, there’s two elements to it. A part of me didn’t want to go, right. I’m not saying I, I deliberately fell over, but because there was so much conflict going on inside of me. My nervous system was really dysregulated, so I was in a, a high degree of fight and flight in that moment, which, when that’s going on for us, our body movements are less sure we can be more prone to falling over or slipping or hurting ourselves.

And that’s exactly what happened for me in that moment. It’s not like I deliberately fell over. I did end up actually going to work anyway, but I just had a, I think I had a sore, something, some part of my body, but I did actually go, um, it’s not like I deliberately fell over, but my system had become so dysregulated because I wasn’t supporting myself through this, uh, difficult.

Time of my life in this difficult morning, and then I fell over because of the dysregulation. I didn’t make myself fall over. There was such a degree of dysregulation in my body that I wasn’t paying attention and I slipped. And this can happen in many different areas of our life, and this is why I teach.

Awareness practice because if you know what’s going on inside of you, if you can track that, if you can be with it, if you can support yourself with it, then it, your system doesn’t have to, or doesn’t tend to get into such a dysregulated state. You can add some compassion into the mix. You can add some empathy into the mix and how you support yourself.

And when we do that, and we are more present to what’s going on. Inside our body, inside our nervous system, then we don’t tend to go to such a dysregulated state. And then the chances of those sorts of things happening are far, far less. And that’s something that we learn over time. So as I see it when we are.

Saying to ourselves, I’m self-sabotaging. What is actually going on is that there is a conflict within the self at the level of parts. Remember, that’s not all of who you are. These are just aspects of our psyche that we all have and, and then that then engenders a protective mechanism within your system, which can show up as those.

Mostly subconscious self-sabotage action. And the other piece, when we might label our behavior or lack of behavior or avoidance or whatever it is as self-sabotage, what else might be going on is that there can be. A fairly large degree of dysregulation in the nervous system, and when we understand it from that perspective, what it gives us freedom from is layering on self-blame and self-hatred, just because we’re not, you know, Succeeding, quote marks or we are not behaving in the way that we want to.

We can actually approach ourselves and, and come to ourselves with more compassion and more empathy, and that opens up. New possibilities actually, because with more compassion and more empathy, that doesn’t mean that we’re just gonna collapse and we never grow and we never evolve. No. It means that we are more able to see those parts, more able to see the motivations of the, you know, the part that is we previously thought was trying to not let us succeed.

For its negative reasons, but actually it’s trying to protect us. We can see that more. We can offer a different way of seeing the world of experiencing more safety while still stretching outside of our comfort zone. And then the second piece of that is noticing, you know, what is going on in my nervous system?

Am I dysregulated quite a lot of the time? And if I am, then there’ll be these sorts of, um, Uh, behaviors or ways of doing things that are not serving me. So, um, falling over, hurting myself, losing things, being late, um, fumbling with things. It is all of that. So there’s something that we do in my house. Well then I encourage people to do in my house.

And I encourage myself to do it as well. And I see it with my kids really clearly. If they lose something, and I do it sometimes too, if they lose something, say their bus pass, right? They can’t find their bus pass. I just check in with them. I’m just checking in with them, you know, are they quite stressed right now?

Are they a bit dysregulated? And if they are, we just have a. We have more of a chat about that and you know, what’s going on. Are they feeling stressed for time? Are they, you know, whatever else is going on? And then just through that awareness, you can make that switch. And then when the nervous system calms down, then you’ve got more access to your rational thinking mind, right?

It’s very interesting. But when that dysregulated state has settled, And that person in my family is calmer. Then they’ll be able to find that paper for me. Sometimes it’s my glasses, but for my kid it’s the bus pass. Right? Then they’ll be able to find it. It just sort of, it shows up and it’s not a woowoo thing, it’s just about how.

When our nervous system is dysregulated, the way our brain works is in a sort of a dysregulated state, and so then memory and cognition, they’re altered. So then rather than trying to force the, you know, where is my bus pass? Where are my glasses? It’s like, no, take a minute. Slow down, take a breath, and just let the, let the nervous system settle.

And very often, very often, that’s where that forgotten thing is. So let’s not. Say that we are self-sabotaging from the place of telling ourselves off of loading on more negativity, more of those thoughts of, I’m a failure, I can’t do this. I’m not good enough. I’m a bad person. Let’s push that to the side, swipe it over there where we don’t need it, and consider.

What we have been calling self-sabotage actually as a protective mechanism that comes from our, mostly our subconscious. And then from that place, without that extra layer of not good enough and self-doubt, we can be with what’s going on inside of us and we can, we can form a relationship with ourself that creates.

Much more opportunity and opening to something new, to working through at whatever level is needed for you. And from that place, we can actually shift behavior and shift how we respond, act and behave in our world. And it is kind of odd, but we’ve all experienced it. We then are much more able to come back into.

A flow state within ourselves. Not that we need to be there all the time, but I really wanted to explore this idea of self-sabotage because when I hear it, these little flags go up in me around, oh, are we lowing on extra? Negative self-concepts, negative self-beliefs about ourself that really is doing us no good and is really not shifting us out of that state.

So that’s a lens through which we can approach it. Uh, I, that is an approach that I find really helpful. Let me know what you think. Let me know how. You support yourself through those times and shift yourself back into that flow state, or at least open up to that flow state again. Okay, my friend, have an amazing, amazing week.

You’re an incredible human being. Go out there, do your thing, be yourself. I’ll talk to you real soon.