• Iain Adenis

Self Sabotage





“And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile

With a beautiful wife, and a beautiful house

And you may say to yourself….. well, how did I get here?”

(David Byrne 1984)


A few years ago, I ticked every box to qualify for one of life’s successes. I had the wife, the kids,the house, the job, the academic status, the income, …. The list goes on. I was wanting for nothing, and my future was so bright that I needed a pair of sunglasses to see my way ahead! I felt like the little boy on the beach who had made the most wonderful sand castle….. The moat, the crenulations, the turrets. All I had to do was stick a flag in the top and it would be complete. So I did the only thing I knew…. I kicked it down!


Success…… but why didn’t I feel it! What I actually felt was that I was a fraud, I was permanently dissatisfied, I was stuck, frustrated, trapped and desperate. Surely the “trinkets of success” would make me feel better about myself? I could brag about my external achievements, on the hope that it would make me feel like I had succeeed in life, but the hit was only temporary. I had a deep sense of unworthiness and inadequacy that emitted into every corner of my life….. but I didn’t realise it. There was a quiet yet persistent voice that whispered a stream of negativity into my ear that seemed to get louder as I put my head on the pillow to sleep. My sense of impending doom would hit an orchestral crescendo at 3am in the morning!


So I imploded and self destructed.


What I am describing here is a concept which is described, in NLP terms, as self sabotage. When we feel unworthy and inadequate, feel “less than” or cannot live up to our (or indeed others) expectations, we find ways to confirm our subliminal negative self belief, and a lot of this can happen unconsciously, and feel as if we had no control over this.


One of the presuppositions of NLP is that every behaviour has a positive intention. It’s a pretty hard concept to swallow when the outcome of the positive intention appears somewhat negative! In my situation, the fact that I lost the lot, including my identity, left me perplexed about the positive intention of this self destructive behaviour.


It is believed that self sabotage is a way of stopping yourself doing something that you believe (at a subconscious level) will cause you emotional harm. We feel that if we carry on with a way of acting that is incongruent with our deeply held beliefs, we will end up in emotional pain. In other words, what we say we want is in conflict with what we really want.


Quite often , we develop beliefs at an early age of how the world is going to be. These beliefs may be based on a wonderful set of experiences that stay with you for the rest of your life, and filter into many of your daily actions. Sometimes these beliefs are negative in nature, based on early trauma or significant life experiences. We develop a story that involves consequences (usually negative) and use this story to filter information to our unconscious mind. We start to see the world through this filter and find it hard to see otherwise. The unconscious mind, being the relentless work horse that it is, will go aboutfinding examples of that “story” in other areas of our lives. And then we find ourselves coming out with those old and painful clichés:


Why does it always happen that way?


I knew this would happen


Same as it ever was (David Byrne!)


So far, this is all interesting stuff. But I guess the question that you are looking to answer is “how do you deal with self sabotage?”. NLP can offer a range of ways of managing this issue. We may look at the root cause of your distresses and explore ways of re-framing your initial experience that led to self sabotaging behaviour. It may be useful to identify your self sabotaging behaviour specifically, as often it is not what you think it is! This can be done by communicating directly with the unconscious mind using various techniques. Once the pattern is acknowledged, and the purpose of the behaviour has been recognised, alternatives to that behaviour can be generated….. far more positive behaviours that give the same outcome as the self sabotaging behaviour.


In my case, I realised that my positive intent was that I wanted a sense of self worth, self fulfilment and serenity. I just picked the wrong vehicles to get me to that destination! Once I realised this, I set about looking at my life with a different set of glasses on, picked up the tools to help me re-frame and identify alternative strategies, and got on with the change work. It was quick, painless and has served me well. I am now far more comfortable with the choices I make, as I now know that my emotional compass is pointing me in the right direction.


Easy really!! 




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