silvia@hummingbirdmindtherapy.uk 
 
Self-Sabotage, a phrase that is often thrown about in conversation. Perhaps around the subject of relationships or healthy eating but I thought I would explore this some more with you this month as it has a huge relevance when understanding how our minds work , why we do harmful things to ourselves and how this explains very well what the actual purpose of Hypnotherapy is. 
If I was to ask you right now if there were any areas of your life that you were currently self-sabotaging what is your gut response? Ill leave that one with you for now. 
 
We as humans are born and raised by adults around us. This experience will vary from person to person but as we grow and learn and are influenced by our environment and experiences , our values are formed. These are the things in our life that we believe in, that we like to live by, that we perhaps expect or want in others . Our values are not stagnant, they may well change over time although some very specific core values may never be compromised. 
Our values are the things that guide and drive us in life, and we feel uncomfortable when we are not or cant live by our own values. Many factors can effect this. It may be that the company you work for pays women less than men and makes no allowances for disability. Fairness may be one of your top values, so working for these employers is never going to sit well with you. Alternatively, you may firmly believe that men are worth more than women, so this will fit with your value system and this will cause no discomfort at all. Our values may cause us to make a judgment about the situation but the judgment will not change the value each person believes in. 
Exploring values and respecting that they will of course be different for each person is sometimes quite reassuring when connections with other people become difficult. Respecting that each person simply has different values can be a clearer way to see a situation in contrast to they are wrong, you are right, you are good, the other person not so. Not always easy to swallow but true none the less. We could delve here into morality and how this fits with values and so much more , but I want to focus on self-sabotage today. 
 
Self-sabotage is anything we do that gets in the way of what we need to be doing or want to be doing. It takes us away from living by our personal values. We do it though because our brains are hard wired to avoid discomfort. 
 
Hmmm, even I can see how this is beginning to make no sense what so ever. 
…we self-sabotage, take ourselves away from the things that stop us feeling bad….because we don’t want to feel bad ??? 
 
Let’s go back in time. To when our minds were first wired up, when we evolved into humans beings. 
Fundamentals at this time were, staying alive, being accepted by our tribes because this helped us stay alive and learning about danger and things that got in the way of us staying alive. 
 
Very effectively the brain learned how to do this. Lets say we went up to a giant animal we hadn’t come across before and it ate us. The rest of the tribe would learn to avoid that animal from that point. 
We foraged new red berries found on an unknown tree and half the tribe die. The rest of the tribe was very angry with us so to avoid shame or failure we choose to avoid new things in the future. 
We see a new tribe over the hill. Best plan is to avoid until we can assess if they are a threat or not. 
Avoidance is a natural response. It is designed to keep us safe and comfortable. 
 
We all do it because we are wired to reduce discomfort, and this is often extremely positive for us. This is actually what self-care is all about ! Avoiding the things that makes us feel discomfort, taking us away from stress and doing things that reduce stress. It may very well be that our relationships, jobs, actual life, is not providing us with what we need and causing us harm, so avoidance is a great tool to use. My advice is always use it when you need to. This is not self-sabotage. This is essential for our welfare. 
 
Self-sabotage on the other hand is when the avoidance takes us away from what is important to us, when it drains our resources and we spend more of our time on self-sabotaging behaviours than we do on ones that are important to us. 
 
Let me share an example to highlight further. Welcome Jane. 
Being healthy is one of Jane's core values. To her being healthy is extremely important,she likes to feel healthy and she also likes others to think of her as a healthy person. Being healthy has become part of her identity. She has always exercised each week and made time for cooking healthy meals, but in the past couple of years Jane has been working in a demanding role at work that means she is living with high levels of stress and working longer hours. This makes Jane feel tired and more and more often she has been turning to takeaway foods in the evening, drinking more wine and missing her usual gym sessions. In doing this Jane is no longer living by one of her core values and it feels awful. Negative self-talk works it way into her mind. Her confidence dips, she has to buy larger clothes and she feels like she is losing her identity, but attempts to get back on track have failed. Jane is wondering why oh why it is so difficult to get back into living her healthier lifestyle. It made her who she was, it fitted with her goals so why each day is she self sabotaging it because it’s her and only her that’s missing the gym and eating the takeaways ? 
 
Self-sabotage can take many forms. Negative self-talk is one of them. I am lazy. I am so disorganised I look terrible. I’m not motivated anymore. 
 
Procrastination is another. Healthy eating starts on Monday. Ill definitely go to the gym next week, and then the excuses pile up. I’m tired. Ive done lots of work already today. I’m not fit enough. 
 
Self-sabotage can also come in the form of neglect. Self-neglect. Neglecting your bodies needs to be cared for, to rest, to eat well. One stressful week turns into a stressful month and before you know it you live with stress every day of your life and you have never taken the break that you kept promising yourself you would. Burn out, poor mental health and poor physical health are what comes from that yet we carry on even when we know this information. Why? 
 
It goes back to our hard wired need to avoid discomfort. Despite knowing all the facts about eating well and exercising, your mind and body are tired after a long day at work and it will require some effort to overcome this and do the things that you know will meet your value. This is the discomfort. It feels difficult so our brains’ natural response is to tell us to avoid ! 
 
Don’t go to the gym if it feels so bad, stay here and sit on the sofa and don’t bother to get all the pans out and cut up loads of veg it will feel much easier and more comfortable to ring the pizza shop and stay here on the sofa, where all is warm and cosy and we need this comfort after our horrible day at work. 
 
As soon as our mind has made the decision to avoid the discomfort it feels relief. At this point our brain produces dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is produced when we feel pleasure and it transmits this positive message to the brain. This lovely feeling of relief when we don’t go to the gym and we eat pizza, is registered in the brain as a great decision. When the brain registers things as great decisions it wants to keep and repeat the behaviour. 
 
The thing is, these behaviours that go against our values never feel as great as we want them to. The evening has passed and as Jane sits on the sofa she feels bad about herself for not going to the gym and her stomach feels uncomfortable after the unhealthy food. She feels guilty and disappointed in herself. What could she do about that, how can she avoid these uncomfortable feelings? 
 
I know ! She can tell herself that she will definitely start eating healthy again tomorrow and go the gym then ! Hooray all is well again, but you guessed it, tomorrow comes and Jane is tired again and the behaviours that go against Janes values are repeated. 
 
This sounds pretty tragic. Our minds are working against us ! Why would they do this ? 
All is not lost, in fact I have some amazing news for you and this is where the use of hypnotherapy among other things such as good self-care, and mindfulness for example is going to enable you to regain the power of your own life and live a life that fits with your personal values. 
 
If you have ever had a session of Hypnotherapy with me you will have heard me say this. Our minds want the best option for us that’s fact but sometimes they get it mixed up. The mind thinks that staying on the sofa is the best option because of the primeval wiring but if our minds are able to see that doing the things that fit with who we are and how we want to live our lives will bring us even more “pleasure” then it will most certainly be open to changing its ways. 
 
When we do things that fit with our value system the levels of dopamine that are produced are much larger and longer lasting. The pizza only makes Jane feel good for a short period of time but eating healthy makes her feel good and the feeling lasts, it builds even and gets better each day. Each day she goes to the gym she is able to say lovely things to herself instead of negative ones and her mind is just lapping it all up ! 
In Hypnosis there is the perfect opportunity to heighten these positive responses to new or revisited habits. Your subconscious mind wants you to feel all cosy with a pizza yes but it also knows how short lived this is so with some gentle reminders it allows you to overcome that discomfort and go past it and enjoy the positive feeling of doing the things that you need or enjoy much more. 
 
Finding out what motivates you is the key to making positive changes. It really is the way in which changes are made in Hypnotherapy and why I, as a practitioner, will always work with you and your thoughts not any pre- written programmes full of assumptions. I want you to make the changes and keep them there in your life for good and if we aren’t working in alignment with you and your values and motivations then that’s never going to happen or if it does it will, be short lived just like the pizza. 
Questions, or comments? I'm here to help. You can leave a comment or query below, or contact us if you want a confidential conversation. 
Questions, or comments? I'm here to help. You can leave a comment or query below, or contact us if you want a confidential conversation. 
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