Taming Your Saboteurs
Have you met your saboteurs? I’m not talking about the spouse who brings home your favourite dessert to celebrate your sticking to a meal plan, or the friend who compliments your weight training achievements with “you’re really getting cut – does it bother you that people will start to think you look like a man?”
The saboteurs I’m thinking of live even closer to home, in your own psyche. They sometimes act up just when things start going your way, and sometimes wait until you’re getting close to reaching a goal you’ve been striving for before they pounce.
When I’m working with someone in therapy and find that they have either hit a prolonged plateau or are backsliding after some initial progress, one of the things I’m always curious about is whether there’s a saboteur at work. Because while process resistance may often rear its head – knowing what to do in order to get what we want, but not always wanting or feeling motivated to do it – sometimes the saboteur is outcome resistance. Outcome resistance is the part of us that wants what we want but also fears what we want, or is uncertain we can handle all that comes with what we want, or wonders if we should want what we want, or gets stymied at the thought of what we’ll want next, etc. etc.
Outcome resistance usually operates at the preconscious level, because it’s linked to our core beliefs – that is, our long-ago formed ideas about who we are, how the world works, and what we deserve. If someone has a deep-held belief that they are undeserving (of love, of health, of attention from others for example), the glaring incongruence between that belief and the changes they are trying to make creates the space for sabotage; to bring things back into alignment, they would either have to change their core beliefs (if the ‘core’ didn’t already tip you off, this is not an uncomplicated task), or bring their outcomes closer in line with their beliefs.
So how do you prevent your psychic saboteurs from, well, sabotaging? You start by being really clear on why you want what you want.Â For example: Why do I want to lose weight? Not (just) because I want to fit into the too-small jeans I bought on sale last week, but because I deserve to live in a body that is mobile and has energy and vitality; I want to feed that body well, and move it every day.
So next time you’re contemplating making a change that you think will significantly impact your life, spend at least as much time thinking about why you want to make that change as you do thinking about how you’ll go about it.Â Getting familiar with where your potential saboteurs may be waiting for you is the first step to negotiating your way around them.
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