"It's not your situation that really matters."
The question then is, what is it?
"It's your reaction to the situation."
NLP for Eliminating Self-Sabotage
By C. Devin Hastings, C.I.
Have you ever said or felt that one of the following statements is true about you?
“How come I can’t lose weight” (control my temper/get up on time/or whatever).
“What’s wrong with me? I know I shouldn’t do that.”
“I must be sabotaging myself (again).”
When I ask students in my classes if and of the above is true for them, I usually get a large variety of similar self-talk patterns.
What is striking in every class I have taught around the U.S. and overseas, is that every person raises their hand when I next ask them if they have ever, at least once, engaged in self-sabotage.
Self-sabotage (dark, deep inner forces over which we have no control) is a concept that was created by Sigmund Freud, the ‘Father Of Modern Mental Health’. Just for the record, Freud snorted a lot of cocaine and really didn’t like women so, I find his ‘mental health’ theories just a tad suspect.
The point here is that a frightening number of people subscribe to the belief that they were created with an inner terrorist that forces them to ‘self-sabotage’. What a terrible way to live.
Think about it: If a person truly believes in self-sabotage, then what chance do they really have to change and be happy? This ‘SS’ force (self-sabotage force) has all the characteristics of something that one really can’t control. And, this uncontrollable force doesn’t even like the person in which it resides!
Here’s the truth about self-sabotage: It does not exist. There simply is no such thing as self-sabotage.
Now, when I say this in my classes, there is always a “lively” debate that ensues. It seems that some people are hell bent are keeping their limitations and as some wag once said: “If you argue for your limitations, you get to keep them.”
However, for those people who are open-minded, their brains fall out. Ha ha. Just kidding. I wanted to see if you were really reading this.
Seriously though, for those of you who are curious about challenging and changing a harmful, long held belief, then the following idea may be valuable to you: Self-sabotage does not exist because in reality, it is just a terrible and incorrect name for “inner miscommunication”.
You see, self-sabotage is a ‘label’ for essential, unchangeable unworthiness. And we all live up, or down to, labels we have about ourselves.
Speaking of harmful and inaccurate labels, do you think that you (or someone you know) have flaws?
Most people answer, “Sure. We’re only human so it’s normal to have flaws.”
Here’s the flaw with having flaws: Thinking they are real is very damaging because doing so is the emotional equivalent of staring at the sun in that it blinds a person to change.
Thinking that you have flaws reinforces the idea of a deep unworthiness because a flaw is intrinsic and hence, very tough if not impossible, to change.
The point is this: Thinking that one has flaws is emotionally crippling because it perpetuates the whole self-sabotage belief pattern.
What if, instead, you (or someone you know) had ‘growth opportunities’? Doesn’t that feel better? Can you see how that label makes much more sense?
Many people feel this new definition click into place because they deeply sense (in spite of an inner critical voice) that “growth opportunities” is a true description of reality.
Isn’t it true that flaws are limiting? However, ‘growth opportunities’ nicely invite a person to accept that their current behaviour is what it is and that it does not have to be permanent. The great thing about this more accurate perception of reality is that it gives a person a real opportunity to grow and change.
Now, let’s get back to self-sabotage. As I said, it is a state of inner miscommunication based on an inaccurate message of worthiness that originated from some time in our past. In other words, we have learned to incorrectly talk to ourselves about our-Self.
And keep this important fact in mind: As children, we are born with the tendency to like ourselves. However, “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree” and most of us learn to talk to ourselves in ways that do not affirm our self-worth.
In fact, some of us learned at a very young age that we, for some inexplicable reason, are born with terrible flaws and hence are unworthy. (Womb experiences are very important but beyond the scope of this article.)
However, the truth is that children are created liking themselves. As far as they are concerned, there is nothing wrong with them and they naturally give and expect healthy love because that is how they are made.
Only some time later do many of us stop expecting healthy love and/or we develop odd ideas about what giving love is (to ourselves as well as others). It is at this point when damaging inner miscommunication becomes entrenched.
But there is a way to change this crushing inner consultation process. NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) is a great way to begin repairing oneself. NLP is uniquely effective because it focuses on how we do something rather why.
Answering “how” instead of “why” is very important because sometimes “why” questions are what I call “blue sky” questions. Once you learn why the sky is blue, will that change its color? No. Similarly, there are some emotional “blue sky” questions that even if answered simply do not effect change.
Let me ask you a question: If a cook follows the same recipe every time for their world famous cake, they’ll get the same world famous results, right? And, if someone were to ask why this particular cook always gets the same results, the answer is simple, isn’t it? They follow the same recipe.
However, if this cook were to change one step then their results would very likely change. This is the essence of NLP—change the (cognitive/behavioral) recipe in some way and you will change the results you get.
NLP is also very powerful in this case to helping people change because it neatly sidesteps one particularly powerful cognitive distortion that is crucial to the inner miscommunication process.
In my book: Anxiety, OCD and Hypnosis, I list ten cognitive distortions and the one I am referring to here is “emotional reasoning”. To quote:
“People who operate by emotional reasoning basically believe that “If I feel it, it must be true." The essential point here is that this type of cognitive distortion states that “Feelings are facts and to hell with the truth.””
The ultimate point here is that feelings become fact for many reasons and emotional facts absolutely drive behavior.
So, when a person feels a compelling, powerful and familiar emotion, it immediately initiates a hypnotic regression to the past where some event initially caused them to experience and believe that same feeling as truth---even it wasn’t true.
And feeling (hence believing) that one is flawed and unworthy is a universal recipe for successfully buying into and acting upon the self-sabotage myth.
What this all means is that believing in self-sabotage is a world famous recipe for feeling and experiencing the same hopeless, damaged feelings and results again and again and again.
And take this next point to heart please: It is said that even the most successful and happy people have critical, inner voices-- they just don’t hear them very well.
With the preceding in mind, I invite you to explore the following simplified NLP technique with an open mind because your brains might fall out and then you can wash them clean of old beliefs. I urge you to use this method right now to start changing yours or your clients’ inner self-communication/self-esteem recipe.
Devin’s Brief NLP Process for Eliminating Self-Sabotage
(Please note this technique is merely an adaptation of existing NLP technology.)
Get somewhere quiet.
Remember a time when you beat up on yourself or just felt bad about yourself.
Focus on that inner voice that is criticizing you. Ask these questions:
Where in my head is this voice? (Front, back, center, left, right)
What does it sound like? (Loud, screeching, gravelly, etc…)
What does it look like? (Let answers just flow)
Keep in mind that you are to just give a best guess to these questions.
Now that you have identified something about the way you not-resourcefully talk to yourself, change one of the things you noticed.
For instance, if the voice is screeching and high-pitched, change it to the sexiest voice you can imagine. Keep in my Franz Kafka’s advice: “There are some things one can only achieve by a deliberate leap in the opposite direction.”
Sure you can analyze the “why” of why you talk to yourself that way but sometimes, it just best to do something positive and avoid the “paralysis of analysis” created by blue sky questions.
The thing that is utterly important to this profoundly simple technique is that you are interrupting (in a positive way) the pattern of your usually automatic response and acquiescence to a harmful post-hypnotic suggestion.
This harmful post-hypnotic usually goes something like “You screwed up again and this proves you are irredeemably flawed because you can feel the ‘rightness’ of your wrongness (unworthiness)!”
So the next time you start beating up on yourself, positively change something about the process and you will discover the true meaning of this quote: “Fear knocked at the door and when Faith (positive action) opened it, there was no one there.”
C. Devin Hastings
“Speak well to yourself because your deep mind is always listening.”
Date of last update: March 9, 2011
Questions or Comments? firstname.lastname@example.org
C. Devin Hastings © 2005