Self Sabotage Q+A


The Epoch Times | Press Contribution, 2018

  • Why do we self-sabotage?

  • How can there be a part of us that works against our conscious goals?

  • What can we do to bring it to light?

  • How bad can it get? Or how did they finally turn it around?

The specific reasons why we self-sabotage vary between individuals but at the core, it is a defense against feeling something much worse; a way to avoid feeling pain, sadness, loss, shame, etc.

For example, someone might procrastinate and miss deadlines or assignments sabotaging their future despite being quite capable. It’s possible that this person harbors shame about part of themselves that they want to remain unknown to the world. It could be a fear of responsibility or an unconscious terror that if they allowed themselves to get ahead they would be “found out” as an imposter. People feel terrible shame and guilt overconfidence and pride, often from the messages they received growing up. 

It is entirely possible that we are not at all aware of what it is we feel shame about or what we are trying to hide. Others self-sabotage to remain identified with a parent or significant other out of a fear that the relationship will be lost if we shed the negativity that we’ve had in common for so long. If the foundation of a partnership or family unit is based on shared loss, grief, anger or misery it is a momentous feat to shift that dynamic and still remain close and connected.

People often have a sense of how and what they are doing to sell themselves short, even if many of the motives for the behaviors are unconscious. The patterns become clear but getting out of them feels impossible.

Our unconscious is quite alive and powerful and it’s really only when the self-sabotage starts affecting our mood and overall well-being that our conscious self-starts to want change. Change is hard but possible and with lots and lots of self-discovery, awareness and intentional interventions of our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Of course, I am a strong advocate of insight-oriented psychotherapy as its main theories are rooted in unconscious motives for behavior and long-term change.