(NaturalNews) Self sabotage - the lurking vulnerability behind any plan for self-improvement. Success, goals, diets, relationships, personal discipline and more crumble in the face of self-sabotage like a building rigged with precision explosives. Better yet, self-sabotage often spares you the effort of constructing the building in the first place.
"It's like a monster inside me that doesn't care about my plans. All it cares about is ruining them," a recent student in our NLP course told me. "No matter how intensely I intend to stick to my diet, I find myself not caring before long. In fact, I seem to get a weird pleasure out of messing things up."
There are as many theories about why we sabotage ourselves as there are ways to carry it out, but today I want to address the "strange pleasure" that, at times, comes as we ruin our best laid plans.
I am reminded of a time as a young counselor when I tried to help the lady in the office down the hall to quit smoking. A few days later I noticed she was out on the patio puffing away. As I passed by, she gave me an arrogant smile along with a look in her eyes that said, "Don't mess with me." Of course, this is just my interpretation, yet I will never forget the peculiar pleasure she seemed to take in it - almost as if she were showing me up.
Why do we at times take a mildly perverse pleasure in harming ourselves? There can be no doubt that the tendency exists. In fact, entire food and beverage industries thrive on it. Pleasurable self-harm is a multi-trillion dollar phenomenon. It's almost as if we have a built-in mechanism that simply enjoys pain, melodrama and failure. Here are some examples from various areas of life:
Feeling the momentary thrill of victory for winning an argument even though you hurt a loved one and your relationship in the process.
Refusing to cooperate with your spouse or partner's reasonable expectations and embracing the pride of proving they can't "order you around."
Reveling in a box of Twinkies after a hard day's sacrifice on that diet.
Feeling the freedom that follows failure to do something right because you won't be asked to do it again. (My wife will NEVER ask me to do her laundry again after the controversial Silk Blouse Disaster of 2006)
I won't go into the more obvious and Sadio Masochistic practices that represent the physical and demonstrative end of the spectrum. Suffice it to suggest that doing so would rest my case. Something inside us (or many of us) has an appetite for destruction. For most people, milder and subtler forms of destruction are enough to get satisfaction.
I found the solution for myself in Alexander Pope's famous quote: To Err is Human; To Forgive, Divine.
Here is how it can play out. When you screw up, forgive yourself immediately. Don't feed the failure by indulging in a good self-thrashing. So you ate a King Size Snickers bar after you promised you'd never touch junk food again. Forgive yourself right away, before you have the chance to revel in that loathsome act.
Forgiveness is a skill. It can be learned and it requires practice. Much of forgiveness consists of putting yourself in a position where it is an option. Forgiving yourself is not possible while you are indulging in the perverse pleasure of self-criticism.
I am not suggesting this is easy. Forgiving yourself for mistakes immediately does, however, free up a mountain of energy that can be directed toward regaining lost ground and refocusing on your goal.
The challenge for most people is to admit what's really going on. What? Take pleasure in harming myself or sabotaging something I value? That's absurd! You must be some kind of sicko, Mike. No one finds pleasure in ruining things.
Yes, they do. Check the history books. Most civilizations have indeed ruined themselves. Countless individuals have ruined their lives with pleasurable bad habits, many which quietly guided them into an early grave. At present, some researchers suggest the human race is on a runaway train toward certain ruin because we won't stop doing the things we know compromise our environment and relationships with each other. We possess self-destructive tendencies.
So, stop the vicious cycle in your life by forgiving yourself instead of indulging in self-blame and exacerbating your oh-so-human failures. At some point, beating yourself up for making mistakes will become an absurd concept for you. Letting go of self-sabotage, however, starts with the admission, that you - well - kind of like it.
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