Self-Sabotage – Are You Getting in the Way of Your Own Happiness and Success?

Internal-Conflict-Quantum-Parts-Integration It’s not uncommon in therapy for me to work with clients who desperately want to achieve a personal goal – such as to be in a fulfilling relationship, save more money, lose weight, or find a dream job – yet somehow find themselves engaging in behaviours and beliefs which indirectly or even actively prevent them from manifesting these dreams. Perhaps you can relate to this and also have something in your life which you have been wanting to achieve for some time now, but for some reason , have been struggling to find success with. At the heart of this , could be an unconscious process, which is pulling you away from taking constructive action and instead pushing you towards engaging in behaviours that reinforce the very situation you dislike or even fear.

Psychiatrist Walter Jacobson, explains this self-sabotaging tendency within many of us to occur because  ” At an unconscious level, we believe we are undeserving and unworthy of happiness, health and success, and that our subconscious mind, believing what we believe about ourselves at an unconscious level, believing that we deserve punishment and not reward, manifests in the real world that “truth” by causing us to do things that get in our way and generate failure. ” (Huffington Post, The Self-Sabotaging Behaviour of Denial).

This seems paradoxical and perhaps ,at first glance, rather unbelievable. Why would we engage in thoughts and behaviours that take us further from the things we want ? Surely being the logical beings that we generally are, this would seem like an utter waste of resources , not to mention assurance of our long term dissatisfaction and unhappiness? The key here to remember is that while our logical brains can see the inherent paradox and , hence, problem,  that it is often The Sub-conscious that is in the driving seat when it comes to self-sabotaging circuitry.

Says Neuro-energetic kinesiologist Christina Paul, ” Self-sabotage is basically when we get in the way of our happiness. It usually comes in the form of negative subconscious beliefs about the world. Without identifying these thought pattens, we can go through life wondering why we’re still feeling stuck despite out best efforts and intentions.” It may take some work, but Paul goes on to advocate the long term benefits of exploring these self-sabotaging strategies confirming that she has seen her clients ‘make huge breakthroughs in areas of love, health and success by identifying, resolving and shifting self-sabotaging thought patterns.”

So , if you suspect you might be self-sabotaging, how can you go about exploring this yourself? Without getting too deep into the psychoanaylytics , the key here in identifying if you might be self-sabotaging is to first grab a pen and paper and then:

(a) Think about the goal that you are trying to achieve . Eg : “Make more money”. Then secondly (b) Begin to think about and write down all the thoughts that you have about that particular goal and the main components of it. So again, in the same example of ” Make more money” – What are you current feelings about people who are making more money around you? When you think about the word ‘money’ , what feelings or thoughts come up for you? And importantly, how do you feel about actually being able to achieve this goal some day? Does it feel like a distant , almost impossible and removed concept or something you can envision happening?

If the thoughts and feelings you have surrounding the goal you have set yourself are primarily negative , you are already self-sabotaging on a thought level and it is likely that you are probably also engaging in some self-sabotaging behaviours and/or strategies.

Im really just scratching the surface here, but by doing this exercise for yourself , hopefully you will begin to identify a more comprehensive and in-depth understanding of some of the thoughts and feelings that you have around the goal you’ve been struggling with. And no surprises, often clients report that the underlying feelings they have connected with the goal are usually negative. One client of mine (whose goal was infact to be more financially successful) , for example , reported feeling very resentful and jealous of others around who were achieving monetary success. In his mind, he also associated such successes with superficiality and poor morals. The goal itself felt almost unreachable if he thought about it , and also , he wasn’t sure if he did intact deserve to have financial abundance. And so here’s the paradox – Even if you would like greater financial success, if the word ‘money’ brings up feelings of resentment, jealousy, lack of self-worth, disconnection and distastefulness, as it did for this client – why would your mind and being allow you to work towards achieving that goal?

So the next time you are thinking about setting goals for yourself , also consider if you are fully aligned , on a deeper level, with your feelings and thoughts about this goal. How can we work towards creating a space where we feel good , empowered and truly connected with the goals that we put out there instead of fearful, pressurised and insecure? This is also known as creating internal ‘coherence’ which is key when working towards the successful attainment  of any goal in life . Diving in and doing some self-exploration is the first step towards putting yourself back in the drivers’ seat and addressing the internal paradoxes you might have which are sabotaging your ability to create this coherence and ultimately acheive your biggest dreams. The next part – learning to create more inner self compassion and worthiness, as Jacobson suggests, takes more work and is a little more of a challenge for most of us , but ultimately will come to form a new bedrock within ourselves which supports coherence and prevents any self-sabotage in the future.

For more information of how to work towards diffusing self-sabotage and achieving the goals you want, contact Anoushka at

Reference: Walter E. Jacobson, The Self-Sabotaging Behviour of Denial, Huffington Post, March 2014.

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