In the process of writing my disability application, a person helping me asked me how I would define self-sabotage. He kind of answered for me when I hesitated because I didn’t really understand why he was asking; but three weeks later, totally out of the blue, this comes to me:
Self-sabotage is doing the same things repetitively to fuck things up; recognizing what you’re doing, and still not being able to stop doing it.
That was me, particularly intensely in my early twenties. I could feel my (inner) child clinging to others, and I could watch them back-tracking; I could understand what drove people away, but wasn’t able to stop what was happening, over and over again. I’m fairly certain I was one of those people who drained people’s energy, or caused them to unconsciously avoid getting too close to me, and yet there was nothing I could do about it.
The shame was crushing, but the most horrible thing about it was being aware of it, even while it was happening, but not being able to stop it. I guess I’m writing this because, although it has shifted quite a bit for me since then, it still comes up now and again, and I still feel the instinct to deny it to others and bear the weight of it myself. That is shame:
Shame is the instinct to hide a truth about ourselves because if others knew about it, we would not be loved. Shame makes us feel like a liar or a fraud at our deepest core, afraid of being discovered.
No one has ever confirmed for me that this dynamic was really real. It has taken a very long time for me to step out of the confusion, and trust that what I experienced was real. The notion that my mind was making up ‘stories’ and thus creating my anxiety did far more harm than good by prolonging this confusion and the healing it prevented me from experiencing, and this is exactly the root of why CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) was such a waste of my time in so many ways. I still find this notion so invalidating — that the adversities in our lives are not founded in anything real at all (so we are even crazier than we’d thought) — change your thoughts, and suddenly you were never abused, rejected and avoided in your life; none of that really happened. Our minds created those stories and all of the grief, depression and anxiety that has fucked us up all these years. So just stop listening to your mind and your senses because they are full of shit. They cannot be trusted. Our perceptions cannot be trusted; they are distorted. Ignore the stories in our minds at all costs and we will be fine.
I’m influenced here by Brene Brown’s talks on vulnerability and shame. It seems like when we can be brought to expose what we are most deeply ashamed of (impossible if we are still thinking that the source of our shame might actually be just a story in our minds), it is an act of deep vulnerability — the kind Brown describes as “the birth place of creativity, innovation and change.” There is so much healing in putting words to “it” (whatever it might be that is itching us inside). The things we are ashamed of are what create the pattern of chronic self-sabotage; but these things are able to be transformed by acknowledging them to the extent that they can be expressed, exposed and understood — the opposite of what our shame would have us do.
- Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change: Brené Brown at TED2012 (ted.com)
- Shame is a Useless Emotion (tinagilbertson.wordpress.com)
- Sabotaging Ourselves (patcegan.wordpress.com)
- what’s your broken record, shame & a step 10 interpretation (heartjunky.wordpress.com)
- dialectical vs. cognitive behavior therapy (heartjunky.wordpress.com)
- the weight of shame (heartjunky.wordpress.com)
- removing the stain (heartjunky.wordpress.com)
- embracing the self-saboteur (heartjunky.wordpress.com)