Understanding Self Sabotage and How to Overcome it
By Nirmala Raniga
“Sometimes we go through phases where a clear vision of our dharma or purpose seems to elude us. Or we might encounter roadblocks, whether internal or external, that seem to prevent us from fully living that purpose once we identify it. These obstacles, however, don’t have to be permanent for us. Because of who we truly are—infinite potential—we can learn to move through all that hinders us from living our dharma.” – Deepak Chopra
Many individuals who struggle with addiction are also known to be victims of self-sabotage- a destructive behaviour that prevents one from reaching their goals, life-long dreams and other important milestones in their lives. Self-sabotage ruthlessly takes away the ability for a person to live out their purpose, and grow into who they’re truly meant to be.
As human beings, it’s easy to rationalize our actions and the choices we make by convincing ourselves they’re in our best interest. However, some decisions we might believe to be beneficial at the time can actually turn out to have the opposite effect. For everyone, the ego plays an important role in the development of self-sabotaging habits. This is because the ego is a part of our sense of self- the part that allows us to believe there’s more important things to do than focus on the people or tasks in the present moment.
What is Self Sabotage?
Acts of self-sabotage are often forms of the reactive response- the response that stems from unwanted factors occurring in our lives, such as an unexpected change, or having our ego’s boundaries crossed. An example of a reactive response would be reacting to a problem by temporarily numbing one’s pain with a substance or destructive behaviour, rather than looking at what could have been done to prevent or properly resolve the problem.
Similar to the fight or flight response which puts us in “survival mode”, and prepares us to escape from threats, the reactive response often occurs with very little thought and with the intention of preserving safety and protecting the ego. When we react, we fall back on automatic and habitual behaviours in order to control our environments and keep things as we’d prefer them to be. In many ways, such behaviours become self-sabotaging habits and disguise themselves as comfortable ways of dealing with stress.
How Conscious Choice-Making Prevents Self Sabotage
The reactive response that triggers self-sabotaging behaviours almost instantaneously can be difficult to stop before it occurs- that is, without prior thought and practice. But through a process called conscious choice-making, we can begin to gain control over our unconscious reactions. Making a conscious choice means having the ability to first slow down and determine the best course of action when we are faced with a challenge, rather than respond in a self-destructive manner.
While we can’t control the choices of others, we can control our own choices. Understanding this offers us a sense of empowerment when it comes to controlling the outcomes of challenging circumstances and situations. In that sense, making conscious choices actually gives us the control that we believe we achieve when we instead rely on the reactive response, which can ultimately serve to sabotage our happiness
The 2 Most Effective Ways to Overcome Self-Sabotage
Dharana, or the sixth branch of yoga, translates to one-pointed attention and is pivotal in keeping the ego from distracting us from staying present. Dharana is reinforced through the regular practice of meditation – and the sustained practice of meditation is the key to connecting with our ability to make conscious choices. By quieting the mind and staying in the present moment, we find it easier to remain self-aware in times of stress.
Therefore, when we meditate regularly, the result is often having a far different response instead of reaction to obstacles that would originally cause us to fall back on self-sabotaging actions. Meditation teaches us to breathe, slow down and handle those challenging situations in ways that serve us, rather than destroy us.
In addition to a regular meditation practice, we can cultivate single-pointed awareness by visualizing the outcomes we desire for any given day, rather than focusing on all of the obstacles in the way. Writing down our goals and creating a solid plan of action helps to create a clear path on which to focus, and minimizes the perceived significance of the difficulties that may occur. Eliminating distractions while visualizing is important, such as turning off cell phones or other devices. In doing so, we can encourage our minds to focus only on the present moment. Fewer distractions also make it easier to remain calm, grounded and focused.
We all exhibit self-sabotaging tendencies at one point or another. At times, such behaviours can be unavoidable and should not serve as a source of shame. Practicing meditation for 30 minutes twice each day, setting clear goals and incorporating other spiritually nourishing routines such as a regular yoga practice, or making time for long walks in nature can allow us to remain in the present moment and prevent self sabotaging behaviours. Remaining in the present moment and strengthening our self-awareness is critical to making conscious, beneficial choices. The more we consciously practice being in the present moment, the easier it is to identify when our choices may block our path to true happiness.
Learning how to reverse destructive behaviours on your own can seem difficult at first. For this reason, it can be beneficial to have additional support on your healing journey to create new behavioural patterns that last. At Paradise Valley Healing Center we help you incorporate daily exercises to overcome self-sabotage, and other destructive behaviours for good.
Click here to learn more about the Chopra Treatment Center’s addiction and wellness programs.