Self Sabotage Counselling
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
Self-sabotage shows up as thoughts and/or behaviours that undermine our best interests and conscious intentions. The phrase "you are your own worst enemy" possibly resonates with many of you. How many times have you acted against your own self interest?
Self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviours are perpetuated by an inner critic we all possess, which Psychologist and author Robert Firestone calls the “critical inner self”. This epitomises a cruel "anti-self", a part inside us that is turned against us. It makes us doubt our abilities, undermines our desires and makes us paranoid and suspicious of ourselves and people close to us and holds us back or steers us away from our goals.
Many of us invite the harmful, inhibiting, defeating effects of self-sabotage into our lives without even realising it. If we go back to the inner critical voice, which is formed from our early life experiences, without being aware, we internalise scripts directed towards us by parents or important caregivers. If our parents saw us as lazy, we may internalise the narrative "Why bother? You'll never succeed anyway. You just don't have the energy to get things done.". Equally if we grew up with a self-hating parent who saw themselves as weak or a failure, we may, as an adult have similar self-sabotaging feelings towards ourselves.
You may have tried to reach a goal like losing weight, getting a new job, curbing overspending, or finding a satisfying relationship only to be disappointed when your efforts failed. You may have avoided getting close to people or desperately wanted to connect with someone and your neediness scared them off. Have you ever stopped and thought "Why did I do that?" after reaching for that piece of cake instead of something healthy. If any of this sounds familiar, you are stuck in a cycle of self-sabotage.
I always say to clients that one thing in life is certain - you can't change the past but you can change the present and the future. In therapy we can identify your internalised self-sabotaging thoughts and begin to challenge them and differentiate from the negative identity that you have given yourself. As you become familiar with your inner critical voice you can consciously start to see ways you act that you neither respect or like.
To begin with this may make you anxious as you are challenging deeply engrained, familiar attitudes that you have held for many years. As we continue, this will become a normal part of your life, and you will be able to differentiate from self-sabotaging behaviours and live a more liberated life where you are more powerful and in control of your destiny.
Our defences and critical inner voice often lead us to recreate dynamics from childhood and encourage us to act out defences in all areas or our lives, but most often in our closest relationships. They often hold us back from getting what we really want or we may choose partners who play into these old dynamics. You may also self-sabotage because your self esteem and worth are very low leading to feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness.
Self-sabotage damages reputations and can lead others to view you as unreliable, unmotivated, uncommitted, lazy, or lacking drive. Repeated failures and disappointments create guilt and frustration and this feeds shame which then supports low self-esteem. I will look to increase your sense of worth with the use of positive affirmations and by helping you to learn to give yourself positive strokes rather than having to totally rely on receiving them from others.
I will often use CBT to challenge your negative automatic thoughts and behaviours and offer alternative balanced thoughts but I also look to the ideas underlying 'differentiation'. In the book "The Self under Siege; A Therapeutic Model for Differentiation", co-authored by Dr Robert Firestone, Dr Lisa Firestone, and Joyce Catlett, they describe the four steps of differentiation.
Step one involves you separating from the destructive attitudes (critical inner voices) that you internalised based on painful childhood experiences.
Step two needs you to separate from the negative traits of your parents or caregivers.
Step three involves challenging the destructive defences or adaptations you made to deal with the pain.
Step four asks you to develop your own sense of your unique values, ideals and beliefs. Once you have separated from the negative aspects of your past you can uncover who you really are. So you can stop self-sabotaging and choose to be the person you want to be.
Author Elizabeth Gilbert says, “You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes everyday. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That's the only thing you should be trying to control.”.