Jane's Mental Health Source Page

One of the Web's Oldest Personal Mental Health Sites [Est. 1998]

Self-Sabotage: Why We Do It

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Most of us have “done ourselves in” at some point of our lives; just as we get close to something good, someone wonderful — we do something to sabotage ourselves.

For people who are serial self-saboteurs, how can you break this habit? You can break a habit of self-sabotage IF AND ONLY IF:

  1. you find out what is behind your fear of success and address that fear (self awareness)
  2. you find out what is the hidden reward that you get from not succeeding (self awareness)
  3. you find out an acceptable alternative reward associated with succeeding (behavior modification)

I think the “key” to the lock for most people is not so much #1 but #2 and #3.

I’d assume that most people who read this page will have a certain level of intelligence that they have acquired to cultivate a certain level of self awareness, such that they know there’s something going on with fear of success or fear of failure or fear of *something* when it comes to self-sabotaging behaviors.

But what most of us don’t realize is that we “get high” or “get off” (however sick this may sound, but stay with me here and I’ll explain) when we sabotage ourselves. It appears that we’ve hurt ourselves, but subconsciously we are serving a desire or lust that is not immediately visible to us.

Hence the perpetual victim gains perpetual sympathy, protective behaviors from others, even perpetual pity from others. Over time there is a self identity that is woven around the person, and he keeps reinforcing this fabric of self victimization in order to engage others in the same dance of sympathy, pity, and protective behaviors.

Thus once the person decides to stop getting reward from the self sabotaging behavior, then he can look at ways to link a feeling of reward from a more productive, self-affirming behavior.

We sabotage ourselves because at a deeper level, hidden from our conscious selves, we are feeding a lust for sympathy or pity. Once we identify this lust, unlink the reward system, and install a new reward system with a positive behavior, we can truly break the chain of self-sabotage.

Written by Jane Chin

May 31st, 2012 at 9:05 am

  • janet

    Self-sabotage is a great topic Jane, yes, I’m learning that my addictions can include negativity and rejection. I’ve been told I’m a perfectionist, yet I’ve always felt the opposite, not doing enough. Just in general (don’t know if it’s cultural ) but if someone compliments me, I immediately blurt out, “I got this on sale!” . The vocal self put downs was a way of being less than and manipulation that you would like or accept me. Yes, agree with you about wanting pity. Being the victim is very comfortable, and taking responsibility for my own success or happiness is very challenging. I’ve been more aware of the possibilities of living more joyfully and positive through the teachings of Louise L. Hay (spiritual healer). Relearning new habits of self love and deserving really takes effort. Thanks for these messages of hope!