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How to Stop Self-Sabotage

“Nothing will sabotage our happiness and success more thoroughly than the fear that we are not enough!

– Bill Crawford


In our article in November 2020 ‘Gathering your Inner Strength’ we outlined four survival archetypes common to all of us that come into play when we have moved into a place of fear.


We have spoken many times about the nature of fear:


Fear comes about when change is afoot. When something in our life is about to change, our perception of what that change means for us will affect our body chemistry.


This happens as we internally project ourselves into an imagined future where the change is implemented. We may engage in fearful thinking because it is the human condition to imagine the worst so as to prepare for it – this is a survival mechanism. Humans are also predisposed to think negatively since we are the descendants of the more overcautious cave dwelling ancestors who remained in their caves out of fear when an unexpected noise was heard and therefore were less likely to be attacked or eaten and so survived to pass their genes on to us. This fearful projected thinking creates body chemistry which we perceive as negative emotion such as dread, doom, fear or apprehension.


Underlying negative thinking are the two common core beliefs that each of us holds in one form or another.


I am not good enough/worthy

I am defective/broken/incomplete


These beliefs exist to boost us into a state of extreme effort to fit in and to be acceptable. To the psyche rejection is synonymous with death, and so our survival depends on it.


We may also project into the future in a positive way when change is on the horizon. Such thoughts will affect our body chemistry positively which might be perceived as excitement, exhilaration, anticipation and eagerness. Unfortunately, because of the human propensity to default to the negative, this state can be short lived as it is quickly reframed with thoughts such as

‘what if it fails?’

‘what if I don’t get what I am so hoping for’

‘what if I can’t do it?’


These thoughts generate negative emotions and further reinforce the above negative beliefs.


This is where the survival archetypes come in.


The survival archetypes present as a set of behavioural characteristics which unconsciously come into play when we have moved into a position of fear, to stop us from moving forward.


This happens even when we perceive that moving forward is a good thing because there is fear that it will not happen.


According to celebrated archetypes expert and prolific author Carolyn Myss, the four survival archetypes are as follows:







These are the four accepted ways that we unconsciously intervene in our own situations to block things from coming to fruition – because of fear.


They serve to keep us safe by preventing us from moving forward into unknown territory.


Today we will focus on the Saboteur.


We know that the Saboteur has been unconsciously invoked when we find ourselves stepping into a situation to spoil or ruin things with damaging behaviour especially just as they are beginning to look like they are happening.


Common characteristics include undermining plans, focussing on fear of failure, imagining negative outcomes, speaking negatively about the project to the Self and others, procrastination, destroying progress, apathy, inertia, lack of motivation, displacement and failing to speak up. All of these behaviours are bound to create negative outcomes and result in the sabotage of success and ultimately an inability to proceed.


This behaviour is prompted by unconscious thoughts that are driven by a deep-rooted belief that we will fail – or that we are not worthy of success.


We know that failure will generate the negative body chemistry associated with disappointment and anguish which will feel awful.


We are also averse to having those uncomfortable negative core beliefs affirmed.


We therefore feel a compulsion to not begin the project or to speed up the process of failure so that, even though we are not getting what we want, all of the fear and uncertainty stops, landing us right back in familiar territory. If there is a fear of the unknown, then with this behaviour we have removed it. If there is an underlying belief that we are bound for disappointment, then we might find ourselves wondering if there is any point in wasting our energy in the first place.


In other words, if we are bound to fail – what is the point in investing time and effort in keeping this project afloat or even starting it at all?


The irony is that by engaging in unconscious sabotage, we manifest the very thing that we fear – failure.


Most of us will identify with the Saboteur. We are all guilty of putting off revision, work or difficult conversations in favour of scrolling through our phones. We have all been guilty of speaking with mischievous intent when we know that it will trigger a response in someone and result in a collapse in progress. Most of us have willingly sabotaged a diet, health kick or new and wholesome habit in favour of our comfortable and yet tiresome ‘old ways.’


As with all aspects of unconscious survival mechanisms the key is to first make them conscious.


This means that we must observe it.


As usual, the key is to recognise any situation where we have unconsciously sabotaged our own progress. We can then acknowledge that this is an automatic survival mechanism and as such is a choice.


We then have the opportunity to decide whether to let it run or not.


Observing the presence of our survival archetypes is a key skill. It is by consciously choosing our responses to fear that we cultivate resilience and remove obstacles to progress.


Try this:


Put yourself on notice to be informed when you have moved into a pattern sabotage.


This might look like, procrastination, lethargy or lack of motivation, inertia, apathy, provocation, focussing on mistakes or failure or pessimism.


As always, cultivate the habit of stepping into the shoes of your Observer Self.


Remember that this is the part of you that bears witness to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. It is not the part that is doing the thinking, feeling or behaviour. It does not judge or analyse. It simply notices with gentle curiosity so that you can come into a place of consciousness and choose what to do next.


Let it be like the ringing of a bell.


Once you have noticed the behaviour press pause.


Offer yourself a message of gratitude and appreciation.


You are doing the work!


Take your awareness to your breathing.


Come into the present moment.


Ask yourself the following questions:


What is it that I want to achieve here?


What is it that is getting in the way?


Take a few moments to experience what comes up for you as you do this.


Be kind to yourself.


Now visualise the new situation unfolding exactly as you want it to.


See it clearly and in detail.


Use all five of your senses.


Allow yourself to remember what your intentions were when you first birthed the idea.


Imagine clearly how you will feel when your goals are achieved.


Visualise your doubts dissolving.


Know that you are perfect, whole and entirely worthy of living the best version of your life.


Know that you only need to get out of your own way.


Breathe deeply - and begin.


For more insights and a host of tools and techniques for exploring the Self and improving your human experience see our book:

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