Why Do We Self-sabotage (And How to Stop the Cycle)

By July 1, 2022July 31st, 2023Personal Development
why do we self-sabotage

The Saboteur Inside You

If you’re like me, there’s a side of you that’s problematic, a bit troublesome. Someone tucked away within who does not fully serve your highest wishes and intentions. 

This is the Inner Saboteur. 

We all have different sides to us, facets that seem more socially acceptable, wholesome and life-affirming, and others that are more violent, dark-hearted, and mysterious. It is the nature of humans to be somewhat shadow-bound, our souls dappled with places that have not touched the light in a long time. 

These areas, as frightening or repellent as they may be to us (and others), have a lot of power over our lives. Typically much more than we realize. Saboteur comes from these realms. 

Signs of Self-Sabotage

We can detect a Saboteur at work when we behave in ways that contradict our stated goals. 

For an easy example – we think we want to be happy, but we behave in ways that make happiness inaccessible to us. A great example of this is when we have addictions and can’t seem to shake them. At the conscious personality level we want to be free and happy, but apparently another portion of us wants us to stay ill and bound.

Saboteur wants destruction, death, to feed rather than quash our misery. This shadow version of us can create a lot of trouble for us, wrecking our well-laid plans, giving off energies that propel away the cooperation of others, hijacking and spoiling our intentions for higher good. 

Having an inner Saboteur inside is much more common than we may realize, and is a reason for deep self-compassion. Good news is that it’s not a death sentence, rather just one of those cryptic soul signals calling us to a deeper, wider life than we have yet lived. 

The Silver Lining

Like all of the “bad things in life”, the Saboteur, brutal as she can be for us, is actually a doorway into a greater experience of aliveness than we could have imagined for ourselves had she not torn the walls down for us. 

All of that said, it’s important to get to know the Saboteur within us or we can be worn down by the struggle against her. 

So, why do we self-sabotage?

Here are some tips for understanding why we self-sabotage and how to stop the cycle of self-sabotage.

Step 1: Acknowledge your Saboteur

The pathway out of self-sabotage starts, like most things, with first acknowledging the truth of the problem. Part of us does not want to be happy and free, and this part is working against us to destroy our progress towards health and wellbeing. OK. This is our Saboteur.

Step 2: Befriend your Saboteur

Having accepted that we have a side of us that destroys us in lesser or greater ways on the regular, we’re off to a great start. Once we accept that this is so, we can get to know this inner character and befriend her. 

It might seem frightening at first, but this person is only a version of us, and we need not be afraid of our own selves. When we remember that we get to be in charge of our own selves, that we ultimately have the power to retrieve our own life energies out of shadow-bindings, we can have the courage to make friends. 

Make friends as you would with anyone else: be nice, ask questions, approach gently and with curiosity and kindness.  

Step 3: Understand Your Saboteur’s Motivation

Once we’ve established a basic friendship with our Saboteur, by acknowledging her presence without aggression, she can tell us what’s really been going on for her there, deep in the shadows of our being. What emerges will be meaningful: there is always a reason that we self-sabotage which makes sense within the dream-like logic of the psyche. 

If you’re puzzled, look for some way in which self-sabotage has actually served your physiological survival. Perhaps sabotaging yourself fulfilled a need for self-punishment, for example, which was necessary to keep the love of a caregiver or to protect someone else within the family system from taking responsibility for themselves and their own pain. Look for child-logic and magical thinking. At some point you’ll have an a-ha moment about why the behavior of self-destruction makes sense in its own way.  

Step 4: Ask for Your Saboteur’s Cooperation

When you’ve spent a good amount of time understanding, accepting and recognizing your Saboteur for the ways she is actually trying to keep you safe and alive, you might get to the point where you can tell her that you would like to try to be happy now, and see if there’s anything you could do to gain her support. 

Many times the Saboteur is willing to stop hijacking your journey if she feels like she had a chance to air her concerns about the direction you are heading (or more likely, where you’ve been in the past, that she’s afraid you’ll return to). She will also feel much more at peace when she feels you safely in charge of the kingdom of your psyche, and will be more cooperative than you might expect.

With the power of the Saboteur working on your side, you will have new reserves of energy to help you move towards life in ways you could not have imagined previously.    

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