Self-Sabotage in Complex PTSD, PTSD, and Survivors of Child Abuse
Self-sabotage is most of the time not intentional, though it is extremely frustrating.
On the one hand, you want to change, but 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.
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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 might be sound and clear, the child part within you might perceive a new direction as threatening. That child part within you sits at a deeper part in the brain. 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. One part of you says “yes” and another part of you says “no,” and so, 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. You can then 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 to observe yourself. Observing yourself is crucial in working through the deeper fear patterns that are preventing you from making significant changes.
In which ways are you aware of how you self-sabotage? Leave your comment below.