Pyxis Counselling Services: Helping You Navigate Life

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"Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn't happen".  
Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby

August Newsletter from Pyxis Counselling Services
It's August, a month of sunny summer days interrupted by intermittent panic when seeing the date on the calendar and finding all the summer clothes gone from the stores. New at Pyxis Counselling Services: Online Scheduling.  It is now possible for new or existing clients to book a session with me directly online. This is possible through the "Schedule Appointment" button on my website, by using the "24" appointment icon on my Facebook page, or through the same "Schedule Appointment" button on my profile on Counselling BC. This new feature allows clients to book an appointment and make changes to it up to 24 hours in advance.  As well it means that an e-mail or text message reminder will automatically be sent for the appointment.  The article this month is about self-sabotage, including some possible reasons this might be happening and some steps to take to get out of our own way.  

Self-Sabotage: How We Get In (and How to Get Out of) Our Own Way
Recently I was reading a novel in which the main character is reflecting on how he prevented himself from loving a woman that loves him and that he has known for a long time.  When an opportunity arises for him to meet with her again and let her into his heart, he avoids the meeting at the last minute, leaving her waiting for him.  About this event he says, "I panicked in the face of the possibility of happiness".  (p. 334, "The Underpainter" by Jane Urquhart) This profoundly sad and insightful statement made me think of self-sabotage - the ways in which we unconsciously resist the things we say we want, and end up getting in the way of our own happiness.  

What exactly is self-sabotage? 
Anything that we do to get in the way of accomplishing what we want can be self-sabotage.  A student procrastinating on writing a major paper can be a form of self-sabotage, where the task is put off until it's too late to do a good job of it.  Someone with a consistently negative and pessimistic view of life might be sabotaging a chance to be happy by only looking on the dark side of life. Individuals who say they desperately want to be in a relationship but then turn down or find fault with anyone that asks them out are sabotaging the chances of connecting with someone.  Self-sabotage is not a conscious process, meaning we don't generally set out to mess things up for ourselves.  So what is going on then?

Possible Reasons for Self-Sabotage:
  • Failure feels familiar: No matter how miserable or unsatisfactory things are, it can seem safer to stay that way than to make changes.  We want to feel in control and know what is coming up, so if we trip ourselves up then we can be sure we know how it will turn out, even if this is not well.
  • Having a feeling of being undeserving of success: There may be a deeper sense of being unworthy or undeserving of good things, which could stem from not feeling good about ourselves. It just might be too much to fathom being successful or actually getting what we want, so we make sure it doesn't happen.
  • Attempting to avoid disappointment: Being hopeful and having plans to accomplish something can feel like a set-up for disappointment if it doesn't turn out.  So of course then it's easier not to try, or to try but then make sure the attempt is sabotaged at some point.  The subconscious mind says "Phew, now I've made sure that I don't have to be disappointed when I don't reach my goal".
  • Needing drama or excitement: There are those for whom things feel "normal" only when there is chaos and conflict.  Creating drama and upset can be a way of sabotaging a peaceful existence, again, because it might feel unfamiliar or unsettling for things to be going smoothly.
Ways to Overcome Self-Sabotage
  • Awareness: As with any change in thoughts and behaviour, a good start is to clearly identify what is going on. Maybe a particular area of life just never seems to go well, whether it is relationships, career, finances, or social life.  And maybe it is not entirely due to outside circumstances or influences.  
  • Attention: Bring attention to this area and be curious (not judgmental or hard on yourself!) about how you might be getting in your own way.  Imagine how it might look different if you stopped resisting a move forward.  Visualize what it would be like to take that promotion or go on that blind date.  There may be fear and anxiety associated with trying to do things differently, and this is fine.  It's possible, in fact necessary, to acknowledge feeling afraid and still go forward in life.  (On this note I would recommend a book called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, by Susan Jeffers).
  • Action:  Try out a new behaviour.  Try saying yes when someone asks you out, even if you're not sure if the person is "perfect" for you.  Try taking on that other commitment at work that might lead to other possibilities.  Try a "Let's see what happens" approach to life, particularly in an area where it feels like things are stuck.
  • Ask for Help!: This might be the most important one, as all of the above are best done with some outside input. It's tough to see our own blind spots and any hidden motivations that might be holding us back.  This can be a trusted person who can be honest about what they observe in us, or a counsellor who can give objective feedback and help uncover the underlying issues. 
Taking steps to overcome self-sabotage will be empowering.  Ultimately it's a process of bringing any mixed feelings or motives to the surface and being as clear as possible on where we want to go, so that we can help rather than hinder ourselves along the way.
Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback; I can always be reached by phone or e-mail using the contact information below.  
All the best in getting out of your own way, and I look forward to connecting with you again next month.

Susie Merz MC, RCC


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