How do we respond when we feel the familiar pull to self-sabotage?
“What is required for many of us, paradoxical though it may sound, is the courage
to tolerate happiness without self-sabotage.” ~ Nathaniel Branden
Over the last several weeks, I created a construct of time that was narrow, restricted, collapsed in upon itself. In the self-made squeeze, I told myself lies and hung them with care on the walls of my mind.
The complete opposite of curating a beautiful mind.
“I’m so behind.”
“I won’t get it all done.”
“I don’t have enough time.”
“My book launch is in only seven months. I won’t be ready.”
“There’s way too much to do—this is impossible to finish in time.”
I would run forboding mental scenarios on a loop, replaying image after image of falling short. The equivalent of a recurring loss of control nightmare of staring down at a final exam for which I didn’t prepare or even attend class once.
The Vice of “Not Enough”
On this narrow slippery slope with no room for error, possibility, or creative insights, I contracted my perspective, focused only on what was directly in front of me. Running after an invisible horizon.
I stayed in the vice of “not enough” time until I gifted myself an extended journaling session. I poured out every nugget of mind funk, every fear, every strange and strangling thought. As I wrote page after page, I felt the knots inside my brain loosen. Lines filled with panic and worry gave way to calm, strategic ideation.
And right on cue, time once again became my ally, open bellows of what could be, pumping oxygen into the fire of my imagination and intuition.
On the other side of this episode, I tried to trace its origins. After years of practicing how to not let icky thoughts slip past my awareness unaddressed, I wondered where I was leaking energy and mindfulness.
The Addiction of Self-Sabotage
I realized I had chosen my old nemesis, my old addiction of overwork, to chuck a wrench into the machinery of my forward progress. Deep down, I knew I was well on my way toward building a brand new level of visibility in the world, and the part of me who’d rather cling to the skirts of staying small and out of the circle of engagement trotted out some hefty fear-based thinking.
Is it possible we get the worst addiction cravings right as we approach our most powerful thinking, breakthroughs, and creativity?
I think yes.
The dying ego of our soon-to-be former self can throw everything but the kitchen sink at us to get us to retreat. Stay small. Hide. Maintain status quo even though we dream of a magnificent life. Refuse the call to our greatest work and joy.
We can choose instead to stay awake, alert.
Our flashing indicator light that something is off is how we are feeling in the moment. If we hear the drumbeat of anxiety get louder and witness the crawl of fearful thoughts in our minds multiply, we can collect our true selves and come home.
We can witness ourselves with love and compassion as we reach for the destructive behavior that once buffered us from pain. We can choose to stay in the fire of becoming and let it burn away the parts of us we have already outgrown.
We can find courage in community and in our own forgiveness.
And we can take heart that our desire to retreat as we scootch right up toward our biggest dreams simply means we are on track and closer than we’ve ever been.
Don’t go back to sleep.