PTSD and Why You Self-Sabotage

PTSD and Why You Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotage is most of the time not intentional, though it is extremely frustrating.

On the one hand you want to change or be successful, but on the other hand, a part of you seems to be holding you back.

When things are not going your way you might either get angry with yourself for not achieving what you set out to achieve or project your frustration onto others and blame them.

Signs of Self-Sabotaging Behavior

Sabotage can come in many forms and can be very evident at times, or be more subtle.

Relationships are an area where sabotage becomes most apparent. Again, it is not that you intentionally try to hurt the other person or wreck the relationship, it is that you have default survival patterns that are coming to the foreground because you are having to act in relationship with someone.

For example, and this is just one possibility, your spouse might have to go on a trip for business or family reasons and this, unconsciously, threatens you because you have been neglected and felt abandoned as a child. Closer towards your spouse’s trip you get angry, throw tantrums, become accusative, and even get horrible headaches, all in an attempt to prevent that trip from happening.

The reactions that are a result of your conditioned survival patterns are often disproportionate to the situation or circumstance. To make things worse, you will possibly trigger each other and feel activated, project onto each other, and continuously cycle into blame, guilt, shame, self-reproach, and self-righteousness.

When you are calm, however, your behavior actually reflects your love and affection for your other half.

It is as if you have multiple parts within you that are fighting for dominance and conflicting with each other. In my counseling sessions I often refer to this as the adult part, which sees clearly what you want and in which direction you want to move, and the child part within you, that has, because of your traumatic experiences, other objectives: mainly keeping you safe and alive.

It are these two parts that are in conflict with each other.

Self-Sabotaging Thoughts, Actions, and PTSD

The other major area of self-sabotage is when you have certain intentions or things to do but somehow you are not able to start them, break-off halfway through, lose interest, have bouts of amnesia and forgetfulness, or freeze up in the process.

You might be fully conscious of not wanting to persist with a certain action because your anxiety mounts, and thus you channel your energy into superficial occupations (youtube, fb, over-organizing, ruminating endlessly, getting focused on less important things, cleaning, and so on and so forth).

Self-sabotage might also happen on a more unconscious level in which you might get physical reactions or even illnesses which prevent you from reaching your goals and completing your intentions.

What Causes Self-Sabotaging Behavior?

As said earlier, there are different parts within you that have conflicting interests. It is those conflicting interests that contribute to self-sabotage.

While your intentions and objectives might be sound and clear, the child part within you might perceive a new direction or certain intentions as threatening. That child part within you sits at a deeper part in the brain because that part of you was created when your nervous system was still developing. Thus that deeper part, your child part, or unconscious, has a lot more power and force. You can try to overcome it through force of will, but it will almost always take the upper hand because those reactions are tied in with survival.

Secondary to this is that when you hold two states of mind where one part of you says “yes” and another part of you says “no,” by definition you are not sending out a clear message to yourself, others, and the world; what comes back to you, then, is dissonance which can further contribute to your not getting to where you want to be.

How to Stop Self-Sabotaging in Relationships and Oneself

How to stop self-sabotaging isn’t as easy as telling yourself to not do it.

First of all, you have to become aware that you have different parts of yourself that have different objectives. If you can validate both parts of you then that helps you to stop fighting with yourself and genuinely give your attention to both parts in an attempt to align your intentions.

Once you are not further engaging in conflict with your self-sabotage you will have the energy and flexibility to observe yourself, and most importantly to work through the deeper fear patterns of those child parts of you that are preventing you from making significant changes.

In which ways are you aware of how you self-sabotage? Leave your comment below.

Dive deeper into this topic by reading

The Trauma Essential Series

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Comments

  1. Eve  August 6, 2018

    HOW do I lose the inner child and the over powering survival mode emotion. I have had enough of being dominated by my past, a consequence for a choice I was powerless to control. I am nearly 50 years old, I have researched; been to countless therapists etc and yet still I am negatively ruled by my f@cking past! When does this stop? When will I unlock these shackles that control every aspect of my life so that I can live the remainer of my life like a ‘normal’ human? Enough is enough..

    reply
    • martin  August 6, 2018

      Eve, Hi, I am in the same place, and I can’t give you any advise that will make your life better, all I can say is, we just have to keep on searching, asking questions and make a point to start to heal. I turned 50 in Jan and I also just seem to do the same old stuff over and over
      again, despite wanting to change and even trying. Be strong, I do believe there is hope.

      reply
      • Eve  August 7, 2018

        The searching will never end, I belive that now. I had hope when I realized WHY and have used every last energy cell to grow and learn my way through, to no avail. I have the most beautiful Disney smile and known to be the happiest woman ever, until I go home to a house as empty as my aching lonely heart. I know I will never hold down a relationship after so many failed attempts and have accepted I am a miserable outcast purely surviving and waiting to die. It angers me so much that I have been robbed of the life I deserve. My anger, victim mode and defense my greatest enemy but it hangs on like a leech. Nice to read these articles though, at least they hi light why I am such a fuck up and I can justifiably lay blame, – for what it’s worth.

        reply
      • Julie  August 8, 2018

        Hi Eve & Martin,
        I too have been shackled to my abusive childhood, I tried the whole ‘Joyce Meyer’ forgiveness routine, but was hurt even more, so I ended up inviting more trauma & chaos not just into my life, but into my kids lives…
        One thing I do know that helped me is understanding my coping mechanism as a child, became problematic behaviour as an adult, so knowing this I was able to be more aware of it, specifically with dissociating…. anxiety….. I had a therapist help me learn to sit with the memories in a safe space OFTEN, until they didn’t have the impact on me so much anymore….. don’t get me wrong, last week I had to go into hospital with pneumonia & asthma, I could barely breathe, I had a panic attack that sent me tacky cardiac because I’m terrified to be around people I don’t know when I’m vulnerable ie: sick…

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        • Eve  August 10, 2018

          Hi Julie. I can relate on so many levels. My anxiety, anger, frustration and cynicism affects every friendship, personal relationship and family relationship and it only compounds my negative self image further, especially after I take such great pains to be aware and conscious of not acting “the victim”, in fact I am the master of disguises when I’m with anyone! I have taken note of your experience as it is not something that has been suggested yet. In fact of all the therapists I have been to, not ONE has ever asked me to verbalise my incidents, ever. To this day I have never uttered a word to anyone and would not know how. Maybe the opportunity/person will come around, I don’t know? Thanks for that.

          reply
    • Ireen  August 6, 2018

      Innver child therapy or voice dialogue?

      reply
      • Roland  August 6, 2018

        It really depends on the level of expertise of your counselor/therapist.

        reply
        • Katie  August 6, 2018

          What do you look for in a therapist or search for? I’ve been through quite a few and still haven’t found one that meets these needs?

          reply
          • Roland  August 6, 2018

            Finding the right person/therapist can be a frustrating process and I wish I could give you a clear answer to your question. Your best bet is to see if he/she has some work published with which you resonate and go from there. That work should include experience with complex trauma and in my understanding, incorporate some form of a somatic or presencing approach. Have a look at this page too for online counselors: https://rolandbal.com/online-counseling-ptsd-cptsd-complex-trauma-roland-bal/. I will be adding a third person later this month. Hope this helps.

          • Julie  August 8, 2018

            Someone who is trained in trauma informed care!

          • Eve  September 2, 2018

            Katie, I have been to one and all in the past. I stumbled on a new option of therapist purely by chance. The difference – assertiveness, she really focused and listened (passionate about her role)
            Good luck sifting though all your options – it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack!

    • Roland  August 6, 2018

      Hi Eve,
      When you suffer you naturally want to get away from it, be done with it, get rid of it, or overcome it. It is a natural response because you feel constantly overwhelmed and hence suffer. The “getting rid-off response” is a dissociative response and simultaneously keeps the very pain that you want to avoid in place. It is more about embracing the child part within you and holding the space for that part, which is you, in order to process the emotional residual charge that is in the past and continued in the present moment. Once you start to get more containment to hold the upsetting emotion in awareness, the energy of emotion starts to flow into presence.

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      • kathleen  August 8, 2018

        I so relate to what you are saying Eve. I like Roland’s reply about processing emotional residue. Even so, at 52, I know intimately the ongoing feelings of bitter sorrow and regret for what might have been, had I not been so badly abused, neglected, blamed and abandoned as a young child. For instance, I was unable to sustain a relationship with a healthy person and I was not able to have children as a result, until it was too late for me. Yet I am still in touch with my very deep maternal instinct as I witness all kinds of other awful abusive people being parents, and it makes me sick inside. (I have also experienced discrimination on the job for not being a parent but that is another topic).
        I digresnow understand that my PTSD symptoms will remain for life, it’s just about how to manage them when they come up, and remembering as best I can what is likely to set the stage for a spiral. Lately I am having some anxiety and fear around security because my employment situation is changing, and my mother has terminal cancer. Normally this would be enough to do me in. This time I am making an extra effort to stay inside my body with yoga (though I trained as a yoga teacher 10 years ago, my practice is on and off because I have a very hard time being consistent, and this too is a form of self sabotage, knowing what helps and heals and then avoiding it). These days when I am really feeling awful, I have been trying to breathe very gently into my heart, and visualize the soft energy connecting with the back of my brain … it may sound a bit out there, but after decades of personal work and every type of therapy and self-help, this is what I’ve come to. Breathing and staying inside my body, rather than fleeing into despairing repetitive thoughts. It doesn’t always work of course, but you know, we survivors do what we can. I hope you have a better day, today Eve. Sending you good thoughts.

        reply
  2. DD  August 6, 2018

    Resilience, circumstance, context, in addition to slightly different epigenetic variance enabled me to (very barely) survive several adverse childhood events, while my younger brother by 19 months and only I sibling grew up with did not (he completed suicide at 23). I have worked hard and had the good fortune of having excellent mentorship over the years. I have been in a (mostly smooth, following early marital counseling) stable marriage of 24 years. I have been working toward a doctoral degree in sociocultural anthropology since 2006. I have finished all coursework requirements, conference presentations, field research, and interview transcripts, both in the Dakota (Sioux) language with accompanying (gloss) English translations in 2014. Now that it’s time to write-up this ethnographic project (titled “Sioux Valley Dakota Nation: Perspectives on Language and Identity”), I find myself in complete self-sabotage mode. I just can’t seem to sit and write. I seem to insist on editing whilst writing; each sentence must be acceptable and properly citated before moving to the next. It’s so frustrating. I have made, and been utterly unable to meet, several self-imposed deadlines to my research committee co-chairs (and others) these past few years. The deadline is looming for the seven-year limit to get the dissertation drafted, edited, approved by committee members, successfully defended, and finalized administratively with both the department and the graduate college (by or before fall of 2020). I am under the regular care of a psychiatrist and meet several times a month with a licensed clinical counselor/social worker, both of whom are trained to deal with CPTSD. I have been diagnosed with, and am being treated for the bouts of major depressive disorder (bedridden for days, weeks), generalized anxiety disorder, and adult ADHD. I work closely with my counselor to set and ACTUALIZE my goals towards finishing my program with a degree in-hand, but so far, nothing really works. That I’m fighting myself totally resonates and aligns well in terms of describing my present situation. While I work hard to focus on my progress rather than awfulizing my lack thereof on the dissertation writing, the negativity bias has been dominating (and “winning”) regardless. Any suggestions, Mr. Bal? Thank you for your very useful articles and for getting much-needed information to a large wounded population of folks in a disastrously dysfunctional culture with multiple historical tramas, on collective and individual scales, affecting both our selves and our societies.

    reply
    • Roland  August 6, 2018

      Trauma is so big that it seems like we have become blind to it. When you are in self-sabotage mode, hold yourself there for a moment. Don’t try to force yourself to work or divert your attention into the superficial. Connect with the feeling of self-sabotage without further judging it. See how it feels, the texture of it, where it sits in the body. It will likely feel like resistance, avoidance, a not wanting. Now track that feeling and ask yourself: “What is it that I don’t want to come close to?” Ask it honestly without trying to figure out the answer with your thoughts. The intention is to connect with the underlying emotion of avoidance. If you can get this far, you will connect with the deeper pain, and that likely has elements of fear connected to it (hence the avoidance). Think of fear of failure, rejection, feeling inadequate, a trauma of embarrassment (either from an individual experience or that runs collectively in your culture/tribe). If you can connect with that and give space and containment to that, you are starting to make headway and dealing with your self-sabotage, but on a very profound level.

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      • Geertje  August 6, 2018

        Yes. I do. I have learn from a therapist to take my inner child in my arms. To look at her, feels her pain and to be there with her and love all what is. Now so I can see of feel my struggles and go in and feel, feel, feel without thinking. And after that I take the feelings with me in my heart and there is love and kindness for that feelings. And there is space for other feeling to! It feels great! In thoughts every time I thanks my therapist for her words ; Take your inner child in your arms.
        And there are times I can’t and I survive.

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      • DD  August 6, 2018

        Nina pidamayaye washte (Dakota gloss “you give me goodness/fortune/healing, etc.” English gloss: (Many great thanks to you from me.”) for taking the time to respond to my comment and inquiry. It’s pragmatic and will be useful, but I also know it I as a process rather than a “quick fix.” But that’s okay. Nothing worth persuing, no dream hardfought to realize and actualize—is ever “free,” without cost in some way (or ways). The documented and ongoing research on the neurobiologically plasicity of our brains gives me much optimism. I do know I always have a choice or choices: “When something bad (or even very, very bad) happens (and one stands in the face of the negative), there are at least three or four options. Let the damage and pain define, destroy, or develop one’s identity, agency, autonomy, and life expeeience; regardless of mitigating factors (culture, history, colonization, political policies, nation-state control, etc.) beyond one’s control.” Best to let that go on a personal level and get into a healing relationship with one’s self through healthy interpersonal interactions and relationships with others. I’ve also heard it said, “Be kind (to yourself and thus) to others; you can never really know how heavy a burden of pain and damage another person may be (is likely to be, in some way or another) carrying.”

        Thanks again for all you do, Mr. Bal! You are kind to disseminate and share your expertise in this critical area of healing from such tragic, intergenerational, damage from human abusiveness. Hurt people, well, hurt people. But we can always heal. Where there is still life, there is also hope, choice, and a chance to heal (the caveat here, however, is healing happens relative to the degree one is willing to work towards this most-necessary goal). Please pardon my digression.
        Here’s wishing you and your, and all of us, only the very best on our various life journeys.

        reply
  3. Annelle Kamfer  August 6, 2018

    Im being treated for bipolar mood disorder with mania and aggression and ADHD. im a very broke single mother and Ive learned a couple of things through the past cpl years of self sabotage: 1) When youre down….GET UP!! You allow yourself for one minute to wallow in that self pity and it will keep you down and eat you. GET UP!! 2) Every little bit counts. Every little bit is never enough. Do more!
    Its a crazy mixed reversed psychology i use on myself. It works for me.

    reply
  4. Andie  August 9, 2018

    Has anyone heard of or tried NLP therapy? Neuro Linguistic Programming, basically rewiring the emotional pathways that we have followed since young. I’ve heard of it working for one person but that’s all I’ve heard about it at all, doesn’t seem to be widely known.

    reply
  5. Charlene  August 9, 2018

    At 58, I have lived with doctors medicating me for anxiety and depression. Finally, about 5 years ago, after being hospitalized for an attempted suicide, I was diagnosed with cptsd, from abuses experienced from childhood through my mid-forties. Lately, I have been struggling with depression so badly. I am dealing with dark thoughts, that I will not go through with, because of my love for my family, but, I can’t seem to control the thoughts. I feel so locked up inside. So lost and painful. I don’t know how to break those locks. What do I do.

    reply
    • Roland  August 10, 2018

      Hi Charlene. Please go through all the resources on the website. If you can, purchase a copy of the trauma essentials. If you want to dig a little deeper, consider the trauma care meditations or working with one of the counselors of this site. Healing from trauma is a tough road to take. Don’t give up! Go with the little steps.

      reply
  6. Claire  September 2, 2018

    Holy meow, I really needed exactly this article in my life right now! I am stuck at work and cannot bring myself to make any kind of progress on my projects. Thank you so much!

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  7. Jesse  September 2, 2018

    Eve, as some have recommended a good therapist and inner child work can help immensely with this. I do (as a client and as a thrrapist) Internal Family Systems, and it has been the most helpful therapy.

    One thing that jumped out about your question was the idea of losing that inner child. IFS doesn’t judge or try to counter that inner child, but all parts are welcome. They need to learn that you are now safe, and the things they did to protect you aren’t needed anymore. But your inner child doesn’t need to leave, just heal.

    reply
    • Eve  September 2, 2018

      Thank you for your input Jesse. Since these posts I have done a little more research and have begun to address new suggested ways to work on certain areas that require a different approach to overcome. Just sharing was a great start and my attitude has improved dramatically. I have found a new local therapist, however I won’t be able to see her for a while but it’s a start and just the ‘thought’ of a new and highly recommended therapist excites me – HOPE!
      I am already feeling more confident and this has allowed me to open my mind a little more, enabling me to explore and begin tackling issues differently. Slow but sure is the answer. I am very grateful that I discovered Roland’s very helpful guidance. His constant communication has mostly always been very relevant and extremely helpful in assisting to fight the demons that have controlled my life for so many years, mainly due to complete obliviousness and ignorance.
      I have to mention again that I am BLOWN AWAY by the positive effect that even just a little HOPE has given me, it’s relieving and a lovely reality.
      If there are any other helpful avenues/tools/literature to explore that would assist me on my path that is recommended I would be more than happy to know about them. Thanks again

      reply
    • Eve  September 18, 2018

      Hi Jesse. Yeah, lots to learn still, even at 50. My mindset is already changing slowly with this new found knowledge. Therapists arn’t exactly a dime a dozen this side of the world but these online platforms and feedback are very useful.
      The ‘inner child’ theory is a foreign thing to me, never heard of it before so need to do more research on that. I want to be FREE and start ‘living’ so badly. Nature is my only relationship (and I love it!) it’s beautiful but there is a gaping hole to fill in order to bring myself to balance

      reply
  8. Tammy  September 18, 2018

    Uuuugh this reiterated my self sabotage tendicies. Which tells me I need more work. Which means I need to push harder with more determination than ever to stop this behavior.

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  9. Christopher  September 25, 2018

    Me ; me and definitely me and i am not jiking

    reply
  10. Chad  October 13, 2018

    That was a way I wasn’t fully looking at so makes sense.

    reply

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