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Self-Sabotage Or Self-Love: The Choice Is Yours

Self-sabotage is any behavior you engage in that impedes rather than furthers the achievement of your goals and dreams. To stop sabotaging yourself, you need to understand specifically how you sabotage yourself, what triggers it, and why you do it. Only then can a strategy for replacing your self-defeating behavior be devised and implemented. By choosing to replace your self- sabotage with constructive behavior that supports accomplishing your goals, you are demonstrating self-love.

Some of the ways people sabotage themselves include: buying into limiting beliefs about themselves, second guessing their decisions, delay taking constructive action, demanding perfection or putting themselves down. Other forms of self-sabotage involve making excuses, failing to follow through or give up prematurely, being chronically late or disorganized, dwelling on mistakes, or giving in to destructive impulses or addictive behaviors.

You need get to clear about the specifics of your self-sabotage. If you are a procrastinator, for example, ask yourself what sorts of actions do you procrastinate on? Is it completing projects at work, meeting your girlfriend’s parents, or going to the dentist for a check-up?

Do you know the reason why you procrastinate on those actions? Or do you ignore that issue and rationalize your procrastination with lame excuses? Do you tend to distract yourself doing something that gives you immediate pleasure and calms you down, but may have a big price to pay? Do strong negative emotions and feelings of resistance make you uncomfortable each time you begin acting constructively on certain projects? If so, do you stop, and the discomfort stops?

Most self-saboteurs are aware to some degree that they undermine their own good. They take responsibility for not having gotten where they want to be in life, but may not be able to say specifically why. Others may blame their lack of success on conditions outside themselves, like the economy, or other people’s actions, but to do so is to be in denial about their part in not getting what they want in life. Yet many who recognize that they self-sabotage, know specifically how they do it, and take responsibility for it, do not know why they do it and thus, how to get themselves to stop.

Before you can stop sabotaging yourself, you need to understand what purpose your self-sabotage is meant to serve. You don’t engage in self-defeating behaviors with the intention of hurting yourself or thwarting your goals. Instead, there is an underlying need or desire that you are trying to satisfy, at the subconscious level. It often involves protecting your from some harm or reducing your fear.

Once the underlying need or desire is determined, the key is to figure out a positive way to satisfy that need or desire without working against your other goals.

At that point, a strategy for replacing the behavior that sabotages your good with constructive behavior that furthers your aims can be devised and then implemented with the help of hypnosis.

At The Change Method, hypnotherapy for self-sabotage involves a two-phase approach:

  • In the first phase, I engage your conscious mind in a cognitive inquiry to determine 1) your goals, 2) the specific ways you sabotage those goals, 3) what triggers you to sabotage the goals, 4) the underlying need or desire your self-sabotage is intended to satisfy, and 4) what constructive behavior that satisfies that need can replace the self-sabotage.

  • In the second phase, I induce hypnosis, a relaxed, inwardly focused state in which your subconscious mind is conditioned to: 1) help you become mindful of any urge to self-sabotage before you succumb to it, 2) motivate you to replace the sabotage with constructive action that satisfies its underlying need or desire, 3) encourage you to perform actions leading to your goal’s completion, and 4) prompt you to reward yourself with praise, good feelings, and other suitable rewards.

To see how this would work, consider the case of Roger, an IT professional and would-be marathoner. Rather than go to the track one day after work to do a scheduled training for his first marathon, he stops off for a beer at his favorite watering hole. He promises himself he’ll just have one beer, to help him relax. He tells himself he deserves it after getting reamed unfairly by his boss that afternoon. But one beer led to five or seven; he can’t remember the exact number, as he got drink and cited for a DUI on the way home.

Cognitive work with Roger would uncover his unhealthy habit of excessive drinking to numb his underlying anger at an alcoholic father who was emotionally abusive to him as a child. In hypnosis, Roger would learn how to soothe his hurt and angry inner child without drinking and to use self-hypnosis to resolve the anger towards his father. He would recognize that his boss’ severe reprimand triggered the old urge to drink excessively that Roger developed quite young to try to cope with the abuse inflicted by his dad.

Using the tools and techniques provided in hypnotherapy, Roger could have stopped off at the watering hole, had a soda and a quick game of darts with his pals, vented some to them, and then gone to the track where he used any residual anger to fuel his run. He could have imagined racing his boss and leaving him far behind in the dirt, as he himself crosses the finish line victorious.

If Roger had handled the situation that way he would have had some fun with his buddies and a reason to praise himself and feel good for sticking to his commitment and knowing he was one training run closer to completing the marathon.

Without the benefits of hypnotherapy, Roger not only delayed his goal to run a marathon by skipping his training, but allowed himself to fall back into an old destructive pattern of excessive drinking to cope with the underlying anger at his father which now put him one step closer to losing his driver’s license.

Hypnosis is not a magic wand. To act or not to act is still your choice. It’s up to you. By choosing to replace self-sabotage with constructive actions in support of your goals, dreams, and your good, you are demonstrating self-love. Self-love is not being selfish, since it is never at the expense of another. Self-love is about treating yourself with kindness and respect, encouragement and support. It involves positive self-talk even when engaged in self-criticism. It’s being able to say “no” to another (even a loved one) when doing what they ask feels out of integrity.

Your self-care says a lot about your self-love, or the lack of it. By ignoring your self-care, you are also engaging in self-sabotage. Do you keep your body well nourished and hydrated? Do you exercise regularly, get adequate sleep, and remember to take your vitamins and medications? Do you allow yourself quiet time, perhaps on walks in nature, to restore and renew your spirit?

Being self-loving also involves forgiving yourself for any behavior that you regret. Holding on to feelings of sadness, disappointment, guilt, shame, regret, bitterness, embarrassment, or self-loathing for something you did in the past serves no one’s good. In fact, it does you harm.


Dwelling on what you did wrong in the past, or what another did in wronging you, fills your mind with negative self-talk and causes you more pain and suffering. It drains your energy and distracts attention you could otherwise focus on breaking the bad habits that undermine your success. To progress you need a strategy, not self- blame and self-punishment.

If you’ve harmed another, it’s never too late to apologize; if not in person, in a letter, phone call or email. If that person is no longer alive or you don’t know how to reach them, a sincere apology can still be made in your mind and from your heart. If you feel the need to express the apology aloud, ask a trusted friend, therapist, or spiritual adviser to listen.

If another has wronged you, letting go of the negative thoughts and feelings you still harbor will free you up. At times it can be really difficult to let it go. You find yourself replaying the hurtful incident in your mind over and over. But you do have a choice.

You can choose to think inspiring thoughts instead, about whatever inspires you. You can choose to visualize or imagine people, pets, and places you love, and by doing so, elicit warm and happy feelings within you. Doing that expresses self-love and opens your mind and heart to allow the beauty, courage, joy, compassion, generosity, creativity, and intelligence within your to manifest in magnificent ways.

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