Sabotaging is to deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct something. Now, imagine doing this yourself that to your self, diligently, day in and day out year after year. That's some serious self-sabotaging.
It is not that we are consciously choosing to sabotage ourselves. It happens as if it is an automatic program, a program that got embedded in childhood, a non-stop tape inside our heads that constantly speaks to us in a voice that tells us what's 'wrong' with us, why we cannot succeed despite working hard and how things will never be any different. It is a program that tells us we are not OK, and it keeps getting reinforced till it becomes so scary for us to come close to actually tasting real success, or find our true potential, that we scuttle our chances, we sabotage ourselves so that the 'I knew I couldn't get it' program can win, yet again
What constitutes self-sabotaging behaviour ?
The self-sabotaging stems from a firm belief that we are undeserving of love, unworthy of victory, incapable of achieving goals and with every successive 'I told you so' the belief hardens and this in turn reduces our ability to achieve what we want. With every failed attempt, we are proving ourselves that we are incapable of being good at anything. Seeking success of any kind makes our this program kick in, and we start anticipating failure, pain and emotional hurt.
To try and protect ourselves from this anticipated pain, we do something or get into behaviours that make it impossible to even attempt and certainly difficult to succeed. That's self-sabotaging behaviour. Self-sabotaging in that sense comes from a need of self-preservation. We create something that can take the blame for the failure. We now have a reason for why something didn’t work out. Our failures therefore are not a result of incompetence but an outcome of choosing some other thing, or an act of nature or just plain bad luck.
Sometimes, self-sabotaging behaviour comes across as simple forgetfulness ('Oh, dang! I forgot my cell phone. Now, I just cannot call her to ask for a date.') or procrastination. At other times, it can even seem altruistic and magnanimous - like giving to a competitor your key insights and work products. It can get really dangerous as well - like the dancer who literally breaks a leg for fear of getting on that stage, or the lover who deliberately cheats because this relationship is getting serious. Over the long term, such instances of self-sabotage can become patterns of really harmful behaviour: self-medicating, substance abuse and other ways of self-harm, and that can really be a challenge
Depression is a state of hopelessness. It is a hopelessness about oneself as much as about the world.
When depressed, everything can seem pointless and too much of effort, because one's critical mind mistakenly reasons that everything is doomed, nothing will ever be right and anyway it all falls apart. The brain is in a loop of ever deepening negativity, a whirlpool that sucks the hapless soul into black pits of nothingness. Happy thoughts and motivation struggle to swim against it, and often it is just a sinking feeling. There is a constant loop of negative thoughts, self-defeating beliefs and mood is depressed.
Even as we look at depression as a mood and thought disorder, at another level, it is an issue of love and compassion, for both oneself and the world around. Part of depression, when deeper, seems almost like punishing oneself. It is like a dictator has taken over the land, and is ruthlessly putting down every good thing - the hard, critical voice takes over and churns out unloving, uncompassionate messages that sap one's ability to believe in positivity, in people, and the world around them. That difficulty in experiencing self-love and self-compassion erodes esteem and confidence, setting into motion vicious cycles of self erosion.
Getting through depression requires attention to defeat these critical beliefs and thoughts at the first level, but it requires something more - it needs us to start being able to love, start to again be compassionate, and as the saying goes love is needed most when it seems to be deserved the least.
When our depressed brain tells us we aren't worthy, the world isn't worthy, that's when we need the love the most. In our quest to fight depression, let's be conscious that this isn't a war on depression. No weapons of mass destruction are needed. No aggression. We aren't fighting. We don't need battle armour and sharp, hard objects, or explosives. We need weapons of thought monitoring and whole lot of love and compassion.
Ajanta, Mahesh and other InnerSight counsellors and guest contributors are happy to share their thoughts here.