The Abuse Cycle of Self-Sabotage
It took me a few turns (okay, a lot) on the self-sabotage ride before I started thinking to myself, Hmmm, this seems familiar. And because I’m me and I love the research side of things, I began doing a lot of self-help reading, counseling, and reaching out to friends to find out why I couldn’t seem to pull myself out of the rut I was in.
Turns out, there are a lot of other people feeling the same way. When you’re willing to be open, honest, and vulnerable with your weaknesses, you get much of the same in return. Some of the people I thought had it all together were going through the same patterns. Together, we formed a big picture combined of individual scenes and audience perspectives.
Over time, I started to be able to predict what I’d see or hear … because I’d seen it before in my and my friends’ pasts with our exes.
Yup, it was eye-opening – the cycle of self-sabotage looks something like an abusive relationship. Don’t believe me? Check it out:
- Phase One: The Honeymoon Period. Things are going great. You’re setting your goals and hitting them. You’re looking forward to the future. You might even be thinking that you’re actually on the path to happiness!
Yay, you! You got this!
- Phase Two: Tensions Build. But wait a minute. Who says you are allowed to be happy? You’ve made too many mistakes in the past. Hurt too many people. There’s no way this can be real.
If you’re happy, there must be a shoe about to fall. Where’s the shoe coming from?
Wouldn’t it be better if you could control the damage from this impending disaster by pushing all the good stuff away before it can leave you? What if you reach your next goal? What’s on the other side? It might be scary!
But, if you don’t make it, oh, my goodness, What will people say????????
- Phase Three: The Explosion. Before the shoe can fall, you throw it down yourself. Breaking up with a good partner, turning back to our bad habits after you worked so hard on quitting them, procrastinating on an important deadline.
And repeat, over and over until you finally decide you want off the roller coaster ride.
Abuse can be physical or emotional; the results are the same. And self-sabotage can be active or passive; the results are the same.
Your path to happiness is waylaid, and the only one to blame, when you really get down to it, is you. (This is not the case in an abusive relationship, but in self-sabotage, you’re the only one in the relationship.)
Pointing fingers makes absolutely no progress, though. Recognition is what you need so you can figure out how to make the patterns stop.
Recognizing these cycles can help you stop being the main character in your own comedy (or tragedy, or horror) of errors. You can change the way your sequel plays out, no rewind button needed.
How to Stop the Cycle
Just as movies have predictable patterns that the audience observes and expects, so does self-sabotage. Recognizing your unique pattern is the key to stopping it.
Don’t run into the woods! Don’t get out of the car!
Don’t… do that thing you do when you start to put the sabotaging events in motion.
Easier said than done, right?
In my case, I noticed that when things started to go well, this little voice in my ear was always reminding me of my screw-ups.
How do YOU think you deserve happiness, Amanda? Remember that time when you (insert mistake I’d already atoned for a million times)? You know no one is going to forgive you for that, so you may as well squeeze yourself back inside that box you’re trying to climb out of and stay there quietly until you die.
Harsh, huh? But those words are almost exactly what I’d listen to, whether I realized it or not. They became so common in the background of my movie scene that they were like the stage I was living my life on.
What are you telling yourself that’s limiting your growth? Before you can change the stage and scenery, you have to recognize that it’s a script. A backdrop. A prop. Fake.
And walk away from those false words that don’t serve your purpose any longer.
These tips can help you recognize the predictable signs in your technicolor movie called “Life.” With them, you can avoid the scripts that would take you where you don’t want to go.
- Watch Your Behavior in the Whole Scene. Getting to know your core values, your normal thought patterns, and how you respond to situations is the first step in predicting your next behavior. As you find yourself in conflict, try to become the audience instead of the main character.
What is truly going on in the scene? How are you reacting? Why would you be thinking or acting that way? Is there anything happening in the environment or the other person/people that would indicate which way this conflict is headed? Do you see those indicators and are ignoring them anyway?
- Hit the Pause Button. Before you make any decisions, speak, or engage in an impulsive behavior, pause for at least three seconds. Swap your perspective to that of the person in the audience. What would they urge you to do?
You may be reacting instead of responding. When we react to situations, we use our emotions instead of common sense to determine how we respond to a stress, especially if it was a trigger or unexpected.
Think through the cycles of abuse and sabotage. Are you in the midst of one? Does this seem familiar, like a previous time when you may have sabotaged yourself actively or passively?
By pausing and thinking through your next words and their potential consequences, you’re able to write the upcoming scene with more clarity. You begin to see patterns in your past thoughts and behaviors, and use them with intention.
- Plan Your Sequel Intentionally. That word “intention,” there. That’s what life’s all about.
Sabotage is intentionally, either subconsciously or consciously, destroying your progress and happiness. It’s the action that happens when you don’t love yourself enough to allow success in your life.
When you begin to make decisions intentionally, you replace sabotage’s role in your current movie scene and knock it out of the way of future sequels. Right now it may have a starring part, but over time, as you recognize how you let it take over your script, it will begin to play bit roles instead.
Make the intention to adjust your seat so you can view yourself with more love and compassion. That person there who may have made poor decisions in earlier scenes, they didn’t have the whole picture. It’s okay. Love them anyway.
Grace and compassion, not screaming and yelling, is the way to stop the sabotage cycle. It’s abuse, and abuse never ends well with more abuse.
Stop abusing yourself. You are worthy of happiness and good things. You’re the main star in your life. Recognize the cycle and take control of the script. You can rewrite it so it leads to your happy ending.
If you recognize any of these patterns in yourself, but you aren’t sure how to stop the sabotage cycle, head over to Miracle Lab. There, Jules and Josh teach us how to live life with more grace than grief.