Íse Murphy

When we sabotage ourselves

The saying goes that we are our own worst enemy, and the more I become aware of my life and how my mind and body works, the more I understand the nuances of this statement. Over the years I have noticed how, when I set out to achieve something, I am the one who gets in my own way.

I believe that we are the ones who can only truly block our own growth, our own potential. We are the most self critical, we are the harshest commentators of our own actions and we are the first to call ourselves up when we make a mistake. Well, for many of us anyway.

My creative outlet is writing. In 2015 I started a blog to write about my experience as I began to question “ is this all that life is?”. You can’t see this blog today because over the last seven years it morphed from one site to another, from one domain name to another and the content switched between travel and self expression. Essentially, the writing didn’t flow and I struggled to maintain any level of foundation and commitment because I was hiding who I was in fear of sharing my inner experience and my opinion. I was afraid there would be backlash and that I would be burned at the stake, or worse, #cancelled.

Was anyone reading the dribblings of my work? Probably not as they wouldn’t have been able to keep up with my practice of domain hopping. I couldn’t share who I was, but as I wrote I became bitter that I wasn’t sharing who I am. This tension stopped me from writing and kept me locked in an endless cycle of making pretty wordpress websites and conjuring up new pseudonyms. All the while, my creative expression stagnated.

Whether or not these fears are unfounded, they were true to me, and it is how I sabotaged my creativity and my self. You may be reading this now wondering why I would even consider these as fears, perhaps. Dear reader, I ask you to ponder your own passions and what blockages you perceive to these passions. Say them out loud or write them down. Pretend you are telling me what they are. Do they sound so scary when you write them down or speak them out? Perhaps, perhaps not. In our mind is where they are the most frightening. In our mind is where they hold power. In the dark is where they fester. If we dare bring them to light we may see them for the smoke and mirrors they really are.

Yet it is important we practice calling them out because although they are groundless, they have real impact. They stifle our creativity. They choke our abundance and block our kaleidoscope of joyful experience. They hinder the very meaning of what is means to be alive.What I have learned is that until they are called out, until we lift up the metaphorical tablecloth and look underneath, our creative outlet will continue to be blocked, no matter how much we try to push through. If we brush it under the rug, we continue to trip over the hump.

For me, this meant that no matter how much I tried to write in different areas (online, offline, in a notebook etc.) I still felt uneasy and that I wasn’t firing from all pistons. I tried to ignore it but it didn’t go away. The sabotage kept arising in forms such as “how are you going to make money from this?…We need to do xyz before you can write…how are you presenting yourself to the world?…what if you don’t get any work if you publish this…what if they find out who you really are?…should you be using this costly platform, when this other one is free to use, oh but if you start earning then they take a bigger cut” so on so forth.

I would see other writers on Instagram and feel envious of their apparent success (jealousy), their beautiful newsletters, their stunning use of language and their captive audience. If only I kept up my writing from 2015 (guilt), I think, I would be successful (regret). Ah! the mind has sabotaged me once again through a miriade of guilt, regret, and jealousy… it’s going for them all. These agents of self sabotage are working hard to keep me locked in the same position I was in seven years ago.

So today, instead of writing about the usual topics I am inspired to write about (before the sabotage sets in), I have decided to write about the very thing that is blocking me. I am lifting up the cloth and looking under the table.

What do I see when I lift said tablecloth? I see a scared child, hiding under the table and backing away as I lift the cloth to inspect the rustling that comes from underneath. The inner child, conceived by Carl Jung and now utilised in analytical psychology, represents not just the child we once were, but the very creative essence in ourselves. We never grew up, we just aged like a husk encasing a bean.

In Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis, each one of us is a trio of archetypes; The Parent, The Adult and The Child. The Parent is subdivided into unbalanced Critical Parent and balanced Nurturing Parent as is The Child is subdivided into unbalanced Adapted Child and balanced Free Child. When we interact with other people we come from a place of one of these three (depending on our emotional state or triggering). Ideally we want to communicate Adult to Adult but most of us are ill equipped to manage our emotions (see: all world conflict) and so speak to a loved one from our Critical Parent: “I told you not to leave the towel on the bedroom floor!” or Adapted Child: "Stop telling me what to do!".

Many of us did not have the opportunity to emotionally develop correctly as children and so we created patterns to keep ourselves alive, that now as adults prevent our inner growth and freedom;

“What we learned as children to survive, we must unlearn as adults to thrive”

So as I look under this metaphorical table, I see me as a child. She is scared because she has experienced judgment for being herself. She now believes it is dangerous to be herself and so every time me-as-an-adult tries to do something where I put myself out there, she sabotages it in an effort to keep me safe.

This is the great irony of all our self sabotaging patterns. They exist out of fear, yes, but also out of love and protection. They exist to keep us alive. For years I was angry at myself for constantly blocking my own path and I tried to push my way through with brute force and bitterness. All that did was strengthen the pattern and deepen the resistance. It dug its heels in. What I am learning now is that we don’t get very far when we override or overrule (see: the French) and it’s only through engagement, empathy, understanding, compassion and collaboration that we can actually make a change. This is the approach I am now taking with myself and stakeholders when I plan or work on an event.

There is no point shouting at this scared little child or forcing it to behave a certain way, it will only make the situation worse for both of us. I need to embody the Nurturing Parent archetype, sit with her, listen to her, and tell her she is safe. Only then can we maybe find a way out of this pattern together. I need to recognise that she was trying to keep me safe, that this whole time she was doing her best to keep me alive. I need to thank her not berate her. I need to appreciate the love behind the pattern.

“All human behaviour is either an act of love or a cry for love” Stan Dale

Yes this love was blocked, but it was still there. I believe this is why I felt like I wasn’t firing from all pistons, because the source of my power was blocked. The source of our power, our creative expression, is love. The only way out is through and by accepting ourselves, we are able to unblock the flow of creativity and release our power. Self-acceptance is an act of love. In fact I believe being able to accept someone for who they are to be the greatest act of love.

Becoming aware of how we sabotage ourselves is a gift. It is a gift because the very thing the sabotage is protecting is the very thing we are looking for. Self-sabotage is like a dragon and our creative power is the treasure it guards. The dragon fiercely defends and protects this treasure because it is very precious. It’s almost like we need to earn our treasure back because we do not understand just how powerful it is. We need to show the dragon that we have in fact taken responsibility for our lives, that we no longer behave as victims and we have stepped into our own authority. Only then will the dragon disappear when it knows we are able to handle our own creative power.

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#awareness #psychology