Why Do We Self-Sabotage Our Healing & How To Let Go - humblHuman (2023)

Self-sabotage is something I struggled with for years. Actually, nearly my entire adult life. At a conscious level, it started in middle school when I began deliberately deciding to fail tests just so I could experience what it was like (I was a straight-A student and always “teacher’s pet” growing up which got old pretty fast for me), escalated to abusing my body with illicit substances back in high school and college, then evolved to more subtle forms of self-sabotage such as breaking my helping lifestyle routines or pushing myself too hard when I knew I shouldn’t.

A couple months ago, I began trying to really understand why I was always doing this to myself. Why was it, that when things started going really well, all I wanted to do was make them fall apart? The answer evaded me despite my multiple years of talk therapy sessions.

In meditation, I began asking the tough questions:

  • Is self-sabotage really as simple as rebelling against oneself?
  • Or do we do this because of unconscious urges to still prove someone wrong or exercise our will in unsupportive ways, like a child who throws a tantrum just to see if they can get what they want?
  • Where has this come from?
  • And why do we feel the need to still prove a point or do damage to someone else, when it’s really just hurting ourselves?

As I analyzed my own life and experience with self-sabotage, I realized that I had a lot of wounds that still needed to be healed. It occurred to me that as adults, some of us basically just run around as slightly more evolved, angry teenagers, still trying to prove our parents wrong or show them who’s boss, or tell them that you are an independent person.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I tear up at the notion of this; the thought that even as an accomplished adult, I maybe still harbored some sort of resentment against my parents, who – while incredibly devoted parents – were very strict with me growing up.

At times it felt like we were in a constant power struggle. Looking back, I know my parents (and all parents) were just doing the best they knew how to, and dutifully trying to keep me safe and on a generally good path. Still, certain personalities can challenge and trigger us, even within the household. That was certainly the case in mine growing up, and I was always trying to “break free,” be heard, and gain respect.

Some of this is a normal teenage reaction. However, for us sensitive folks, I believe it can have a deeper impact. I think many of you (with autoimmune conditions) can probably relate to my story, as many conditions stem from the emotional implications of growing up in “authoritarian” households, feeling as if you were never heard or respected, and/or feeling the need to prove that you’re good enough, or worthy enough of this affection or appreciation. In other words, I’d hang my hat that many of us come from similar household experiences growing up, as these types of situations can contribute to the development of autoimmune conditions and other forms of chronic illness.

Today I have a fine relationship with my parents: they’re my friends and we have a blast when we’re together. Still, unconsciously I think we can harbor these feelings for years and they sort of become . . . part of us. We may no longer feel outwardly angry with our parents or our teenage “oppressors” 😉 but the patterns have been established. Similar to a game of whack-a-mole, these patterns pop up in other areas of our life; the same pattern just a different form.

Thus we come to develop self-sabotage in our healing or quest for spiritual awakening.

So, what do we do about it? Well, as I mentioned, extensive therapy for most of my life didn’t even help me clear this issue up, so I believe it’s something we ourselves have to sit with, and contemplate. In other words, nobody can do this for us. It’s going to be up to us to reconcile these thoughts and feelings, and stop the cycle.

To help facilitate this process, I’m going to write some things below. I want you to read this in its entirety, and let it sink in. Contemplate it. Cry over it. Be angry. Whatever you need to do. But let these words sink in so that they are internalized in your conscious and subconscious. Allow yourself to have the realization that you hold the keys to your own cage.

Once you can acknowledge the harmful patterns, you can obliterate them. It’s like turning on the light to reveal the big scary shadow in your bedroom isn’t a villain, it’s just a floor lamp — that shadow can’t scare you anymore once you know what it is. That’s what we’re going to do here; we’re going to go “ninja” on your subconscious for deep healing.

Here we go. It’s time to let go.

Why Do We Self-Sabotage Our Healing & How To Let Go - humblHuman (1)

You don’t need to prove yourself, or your maturity to anyone. Nobody is debating that you are an adult who can make their own decisions and do what they want. You’re the only one holding onto these subconscious urges to make yourself known and heard by rebelling against the things that are good for you and that can make you whole.

Why fight these things when there is nothing really to fight against? Why damage yourself and your body when nobody is telling you that you need to harm yourself in order to be heard or seen or understood?

While this behavior may have served a purpose back in the day, and perhaps it did get someone to pay attention to you as you acted out in such a way that would make them “see” you, it is simply not necessary anymore.

You are safe, you are not being harmed, you are not being told what to do, you do not need to be afraid. You are not damaged. You are seen and heard. I see and hear you. Others do, too. Let go of this act of rebellion against yourself and the world. It does not serve a purpose and it does not help you lead the most valuable, exciting life possible. It only holds you back. You build your own cage in this situation and with this line of thinking, so it is only you that can liberate yourself by releasing these feelings of guilt and anger.

Again I ask: To whom are you trying to prove yourself to? And what are you trying so hard to prove (that you are capable? That you are worthy of being listened to? That you cannot be controlled? That you are free to make your own decisions? That you cannot be harmed by someone else, but only by yourself – thus taking the power away from someone or something outside yourself that seeks to inflict pain and damage upon you?) This is all non-sensible, and unnecessary.

You can do what you want, you are already free, and you are not harmed or being harmed; you are safe and undamaged, and you are powerful. You do not need to exercise your will against yourself in order to prove this. It is already known. And you do not need to be punished or suffer any longer for this. You can be free. You are free to enjoy life and do as you please! This is true. This is known.

I hope this can help jumpstart the process of letting go and reducing some of our internal “negative charge” that often leads to self-sabotage. It may not happen overnight (although it might, if you are ready for it), but over time I hope these words can help unravel these patterns and belief systems within you so that in time, you will realize just how worthy of being healthy and happy you really are. And with this, you will finally uncover your own power.

Also, if you’re interested in further exploring and reconciling these unconscious patterns of self-sabotage, I’d highly recommend the book The Presence Process by Michael Brown. This book changed my life, my perspective about my healing journey, and took my inner healing to a level I never thought possible.

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Author: Virgilio Hermann JD

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