Give Yourself a Break
“Nothing will sabotage our happiness and success more thoroughly than the fear that we are not enough”
– Bill Crawford
Much of our work both as practising health professionals and teachers of wellbeing and resilience involves encouraging Self-awareness and the removal of those things which block our progress.
Most of us know that when we do the work, we can remove those blocks ourselves.
Why is it then that even the most compliant and willing of us so regularly feel compelled to sabotage our growth and give up on those things which we know are doing us good?
If you have explored our many articles, you will have noticed that we encourage our readers to take responsibility for all their responses in every situation. When we are both accountable for and understand why we interpret a situation in a particular way, we can usually see that the obstacles to creating our ideal life are placed there by the Self. When we recognise this, the power to create change lies with us.
We block ourselves from moving forward because of fear. When we perceive that we are moving into unfamiliar territory, there is an unconscious negative feedback system within the psyche that applies the brakes. This manifests as a negative thought stream, allied with uncomfortable emotion resulting in destructive or unhelpful behaviours – all of this is driven by a core belief that we are not worthy of success.
For example: I am applying for a new job at work which will give me more responsibility, greater autonomy, and a much-improved wage packet. Initially I am excited and confident, and I possess all the qualities required for the role. Unfortunately, when I muse upon my impending interview, I allow myself to indulge in fearful, negative thinking in terms of possible failure. I imagine how I will feel if I am unsuccessful. I visualise having to tell my family and I feel the shame of walking back into my old role the following day. I picture the disappointment of missing out on the extra money and not being able to book the holiday I was going to treat myself to as a celebration of my promotion. I am suddenly keenly aware of how much is at stake. This negative narrative affects my body chemistry in such a way that I feel depressed and fearful and not inclined ‘get my hopes up.’ As a result, my behaviour in my current role demonstrates no optimism and my people skills are lacking. I am not fun to be around, and I do not have the level of focus and concentration required for my current role let alone a more challenging one. This behaviour is witnessed and experienced by everyone around me including my manager who has a pivotal role in deciding whether or not I am fit for promotion. As a direct result of my fearful thinking and negative core belief, I do not get the job. The obstructions to success are placed there entirely by my own hand. It was I who applied the brakes. I have, in fact manifested the very thing that I was fearful of in the first place.
Unless we are looking for those unconscious patterns, we are often unaware of why we are stuck or indeed that with consciousness, we can become unstuck. There are many articles on this website that teach you how to do this.
In therapy then, many of our patients learn these tools too. They know that in learning how to invoke the Observer Self – the part of us that can bear witness to what we are thinking, how we are feeling and what our go-to behaviour is without doing that thinking, feeling or behaving – we can also learn to affect alternative conscious choices. If I used this facility in the above example, I would have observed my negative narrative as a fearful story that I was telling myself and challenged it. I would have observed the negative emotion and taken physical steps to mitigate it. I would have observed my destructive behaviours and consciously chosen ones that confidently displayed my competence. I would have manifested a different outcome – my ideal one.
Our patients know this very soon after beginning therapy. The problem then is that the application of it invokes fear. It is scary because by moving blocks, once again, we are moving into unchartered territory and our psyche perceives that we are once again in peril. Even when a change is desirable it is still new and therefore unknown. Once again, we are unconsciously moved to apply the brakes. The negative feedback system kicks in at the very point that we are undertaking to outwit it and the whole thing feels exhausting.
Give yourself a break.
When doing this work there is a constant requirement to remain conscious and to observe everything. There is also a requirement to become removed from any emotion which might be evoked – this includes any frustration that you might feel when you fail to make what you perceive to be ‘the right choice’ causing you to take yet another trip around the roundabout of repeated outcomes.
There are no right or wrong choices here – only information and consequences. You can feel free to continue along with the same patterns of thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and outcomes as many times as you like – or until you decide that this particular repetitive outcome is no longer for you – and that is where you make your changes – in weights and measures.
Step into the shoes of your Observer Self as you have done many times before.
Observe your cognitive behavioural cycles and the environment that they are manifesting for you. Do this without emotion but rather a gentle, light curiosity.
When you catch yourself taking repeated trips to the same outcome or placing obstacles in your own way be kind. Be mindful that you are challenging the very primitive and instinctual systems that you inherited from your careworn ancestors and that they have done an excellent job of keeping you alive up to now. Thank them and begin again.
Step away from all emotion as you observe – especially any frustration, irritation or thoughts of Self- deprecation which may arise when you can see your own unconscious wilful sabotage despite your best efforts. These serve as an indication of your desire to grow but if allowed to run, will contaminate the process.
Treat it as a game of consequences. Only a game – even though you wish to move forward you are safe where you are – so no big deal.
Where possible, lighten up with humour. We have both shared moments of hilarity on speaking aloud our own irrational thoughts and behavioural cycles. Humour is cathartic and almost always disperses the heavy feeling of things having gone awry. Be careful though, to share your inner workings only with someone you trust and who will not judge your behaviour or give unsolicited opinion or advice – and when you find such a person, offer up thanks.
Keep going. On our courses we have often observed that this work is ongoing. Nether of us have ever met anyone who has no further work to do in terms of personal growth so we may as well accept the journey and enjoy the ride – besides - roundabouts are fun!
For more insights and a host of tools and techniques for exploring the Self and improving your human experience see our book: