- Exposure therapy has been found to be more successful than avoidance strategies.
- These walls may protect us temporarily but they also limit our freedom and potential to be who we want to be.
- Taking a preemptive view of self-judgement the self-saboteur eliminates or minimizes the impact of any judgment from others.
- You are more than what appears obvious. Remember to account for the oblivious.
There is a metaphor, from early Native Americans, suggesting that the buffalo reacts differently to a storm than a cow. Native Americans first witnessed this phenomenon on the western plains of the United States. Apparently, when a storm would come, cows would try to outrun the storm and subsequently spend more time suffering in the storm, while buffalo were seen to run at the storm and escape the storm’s effects more rapidly by coming out the other side. Whether this is true for cows or buffalos is beside the point.
How can humans deal with personal storms?
As humans, do we run away from a challenge or face it? Phobias tend to suggest that at times we run away or avoid our fears. This only empowers and reinforces our fears and makes them stronger. Avoidance strategies are at best only delay strategies. The avoider does not solve the problems or issues they are facing. Temporary relief is not necessarily a solution. Exposure therapy has been found to be more successful than avoidance strategies (Hofmann & Hay, 2018).
Procrastination is another temporary avoidance strategy. The delay will not absolve the problem at hand. In fact, avoidance may even put more pressure on the person to move from procrastination to desperation.
Escapism takes many forms. The huge loss of individualism that is wasted through drug and alcohol use, along with other addictions is one example. Self-isolation, which appears to be on the rise with the growth of technology, is also a form of escapism on the rise. Burying our emotions in fantasy and daydreaming is equally contraindicated.
“Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.”—Marilyn Ferguson
When we fear, we build walls to feel protected. These walls may protect us temporarily but they also limit our freedom and potential to be who we want to be. Removing the walls of fear will begin the process of unleashing our courage. Another positive outcome of being less fearful is that it will open the gates to new and challenging commitments. We are now moving in a direction that eliminates confinement and emulates freedom.
“Find out what you’re afraid of and go live there.” —Chuck Palahniuk
Face Your Fear
Because fear restricts freedom, we have to decide what we want. Are the fear and avoidance strategies worth the price of freedom? Do we want to maintain the chains or release them? Freedom opens opportunities while fear closes them down. Facing our fear moves us to a new place. Not facing our fear keeps us stationary. We have the potential to become a river and leave the pond behind.
Some have suggested that fear of failure, or even fear of success, could be a possible precursor to self-sabotage. How would this work? Perhaps by taking a preemptive view of self-judgment, the self-saboteur eliminates or at least minimalizes the possible impact of any judgment from others. Self-sabotage thus becomes an avoidance strategy to circumvent any external critique or evaluation. This pre-emptive strategy when reinforced gives the self-saboteur a perceived increase of control over the assessment of their work or performance. With the fear of success, the self-saboteur may fear there is even more to lose. Once recognized as being successful, how does one handle the possible loss of esteem that comes with the territory of even more outside scrutiny? Chronic self-sabotage depletes drive and motivation and leaves us sad, anxious, and with damaged self-esteem (C.R. Wilson, 2021).
“Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.”—Pablo Picasso
Observing the negative stages of the self-saboteur demonstrates a self-creation that eventually leads to self-destruction. All the self-protective measures incorporated by the self-saboteur will metastasize into an inability to function. Beyond the loss of functionality is the potential loss of one’s identity. How does the self-saboteur recover?
A valuable reframing exercise for the self-saboteur would include a more balanced approach to one’s self-assessment. In today’s modern world, we are bombarded by how we can be more. We are constantly told we are not enough.
You are more than what you see, hear, do, or achieve. You are also more than what others observe you to be. You are more than what appears obvious. Remember to account for the oblivious. All potential self-saboteurs would benefit from avoiding the temptation to engage in pre-emptive self-judgments. A test of conscience would reveal that your strengths far outnumber your limitations.
To be a buffalo takes courage. We need to face our fears not run from them. Like the buffalo, we can arrive at the other side of our personal storms only by facing them. Each time we do, we become stronger.
Hofmann, S.G. & Hay, A.C. (2018). Rethinking Avoidance: Toward a balanced approach to avoidance in treating anxiety disorders. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, April 2018: 55, 14-21.
Wilson, C.R. (2021). What is Self-Sabotage? How to stop the vicious cycle. Positive Psychology .com, Self-Esteem, 22 April 2021.