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  • Writer's pictureTehmina Meherali

The Pit-'Falls' of Self Sabotage

You know the experience where everything seems to be going smoothly in your life, and then suddenly, out of no where, you have this fleeting thought:

Things are going too well. Something bad is going to happen.

Ever wonder why this fear-thought pops up?

Is it because despite our evolution, the reptilian part of our brain is still primed to scope out danger lurking in the corner, or the bogeyman in the closet?

Or, could it be that we are actually afraid we don't deserve things to go smoothly in our lives? And you know what that's called, right?


This may especially be the case for those of us who come from traumatic past histories and/or major family dysfunction. In our world growing up, and perhaps well into adulthood, there is always a very real threat of something bad about to happen. So we continually brace ourselves for the worst, even when all things are flowing tickety-boo in our life.

Some people operate this way because they feel if they are always somewhat prepared for the worst case scenario, then they will not get as easily hurt. It's a preparedness stance against 'danger'.

Still others unconsciously set up obstacles, or little tragedies, that take them away from their flow of life's goodness.

Something like this happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

After recently carving out a teaching sabbatical for myself, I was left with pockets of time for projects I've been dreaming of for years. The stars had all finally aligned! Each day was bringing with it an opportunity for self-care, creativity, AND productivity. I couldn't be floating any higher.

And then, one afternoon, BOOM. I lay sprawled on a sidewalk.

I had tripped over my anxious rescue dog in one of her 'moments' of panic. I know she didn't mean to trip me. And I certainly didn't mean to end up with a scraped hand, knees, and banged-up elbow, but boy, the symbolism of what had happened was potent!

I had fallen. After 2 weeks of bliss and me-time.

So, what did it really mean?

My friend, 'the literalist', would say, it was an accident.

And by all accounts, it was.

But the intuitive part of me knows there are no accidents. Anything that happens 'out there' is informing what is happening 'in here'. In my headspace. Or in my heart. Or in the deep caverns of my psyche.

So I did what anyone in my position would do. I stood up. I limped home with the dog. I cleaned my wounds. I got mad at the dog. I tended to my wounds some more. I got mad at my partner because, well, why not? I basically threw a miniature pity-party with myself as guest of honor.

It all felt reasonable and justified.

But it wasn't until I started processing what was really going on internally that I truly started to heal.

I was afraid of failure. There. I said it. Here I was pursuing my dream endeavors and I was afraid of not being successful. At any of it. That I would fall flat on my face.

Oh wait. I just did.

There is a metaphysical concept which is, 'Energy follows thought', meaning, you end up attracting what you think about consciously or unconsciously. For days leading up to the fall - without realizing it - I was unconsciously filled with fear thoughts about the dreams I was finally pursuing. They were any number of fears ranging from:

Do I deserve having this time off?

Do I really think I can do this and be successful?

Do I really think my partner supports me?

Do I really think my friends, co-workers, family understand why this is important to me?

Do I really know what I'm doing?

And the 'energetic' output of these thoughts was a face-plant on the side of a road!

Thankfully, I caught myself. Emotionally, that is.

Once this incident had settled, I gave myself a talking to. Just me and my journal:

'I am deserving of this time to pursue what makes my heart sing....I am deserving of this slower pace...I am deserving of success...I am deserving of putting me first...There's nothing I need to prove, or to justify, or to explain....'

What this did was free myself of the fears I was suppressing. Even though self-sabotage's very mechanism is the feeling that we do not deserve triumph, goodness, or self fulfillment, no one thinks this on purpose. Oh, no - self sabotage wields its weapon of fear for that. You know, the kind of fear that has become so buried and familiar, we don't even notice it?

It reminds me of a movie I watched about a woman who is in a constant spiral of self-sabotage as she tries to clean up her life to run a marathon. In Brittany Runs a Marathon, each time Brittany 'turns a corner', she manifests some sort of emotional or physical wound that detracts from her heart's true desire. It is as though she feels she isn't good enough, or loveable enough, or deserving enough to actually achieve small goals, let alone big dreams.

We can all relate to this phenomenon. But what should we do about it?

The first step is to truly go within. Examine our fears and give them a voice instead of letting them lurk in the closet with the bogeyman. After all, our fears ARE the bogeyman and he needs to come out of the closet, permanently.

The next step is to look at our belief system about ourselves. Do we truly speak to ourselves with compassion and self-love? Or is there a soundtrack in our minds of self-criticism, self-doubt, and perhaps even of self-loathing that we aren't even aware of because it's become such a familiar tune? We need to change the soundtrack. I would recommend looking up any of Louise Hay's materials on affirmations. It's certainly my go-to when my turntable needs a new record.

Finally, we need to incorporate greater trust in ourselves and in the universe. Yeah, I know. That's loaded. And may even seem impossible if we've experienced past traumas. Our nervous systems may still be fragile, filling us with anxieties of all kinds. But without feeling safe in ourselves and our surroundings, we will always be scanning for perceived threats and danger. And this can be exhausting and uncomfortable on so many levels.

A powerful Louise Hay affirmation is, "I am safe. I trust the process of life". This will mean nothing if we don't believe it. But can we at least say that we choose to believe it, as a small starting point?

Trust in ourselves and our surroundings can take time. This is where the support of a skillful therapist/counselor can really help. But we can help calm our nervous system in other ways as well. Mindful breathing, yoga, tai chi, meditation, tapping - any of the healing arts are an excellent starting point. Once we are able to calm our nervous system, our sense of threat to external dangers diminishes considerably. We feel more calm and confident in ourselves. We walk with our heads a little higher, our steps a little more grounded.

And then we can turn our focus inward. To our innate wisdom, which can always be trusted because it comes from a place of 'higher knowing'. A place that is absolutely accessible to us should we choose to claim it.

I've shared before that meditation and journaling are my ways of accessing this safe place.

I invite you to find yours.

Ultimately, what is important to recognize is: We have a right to fulfill our plans, desires and dreams. And we can do this without feeling like we need to hurt ourselves, or subtract some of our happiness in order to get there.

Always, we are deserving of the experience of soaring, not falling.

Copyright Tehmina Meherali, March 2021

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