Counter-productive habits, also known as self-sabotage, Martha Beck, lifestyle coach expert tells us, often self-sabotage ourselves but not in the way we might think. In fact, Ms. Beck says, many of our bad habits are our subconscious attempt to deal with a deeper self-sabotage that we may not even know exits! To eliminate the counter-productive behavior on the surface, we first have to correct the self-betrayal we have buried inside.
Humans, and some frogs too, live in cages that we build ourselves. Ignoring our actual desires, we try to do what we think is right (or admirable or healthy or good). Sometimes this works out, but most of the time it doesn't. Picture yourself as two beings in one body. The first being is all about joy. He knows nothing about going to work, paying the bills, or other worldly responsibilities. Let's call him the animal being. The second being is the logical one; he's the thinker and analyzer, We'll call him the computer being. When these two beings want the same thing, everything work out great. For example, if you eat broccoli because it's healthy AND because you love it, that's a good thing. A win-win for both beings. But if your logical-thinking computer being takes a job working nights because it pays more money, and your animal self likes to sleep at night...then problems occur.
Self-sabotage happens when your animal being starts rebelling against your computer being. The computer self tends to build a cage out of obligations and restricted beliefs. Bad habits are your joyous/fun/animal self 's attempt to "ease the distress while living in that cage." When the animal self feels caged it fights back and, ultimately, wins. "The animal selves are operating on a deeper evolutionary level, sabotaging the plans that don't contribute to basic happiness. The animal self's urges are powerful and nearly impossible to resist," states Martha Beck. She goes on to say the only way to eliminate bad habits is by releasing the animal from it's cage and creating for it something closer to a safe and less confining place to live...really live. "If you cease to betray yourself in fundamental ways, the self-sabotage on the surface simply stops. Here's how the process works."
1. Figure out what's really going on.
To soothe your animal self, you must first become aware of your inherent desires and the times in your life when you're disallowing them. Begin by getting a pen, some paper and half an hour to sit still. Then make a detailed list of things you plan to do tomorrow. yes, everything...large and small; showering, preparing then eating breakfast, running errands, going to work, taking a nap...whatever it you that you really plan to do. Next, says Ms. Beck, think about the bad habit you're trying to break. Do you feel the compulsiveness? Take a deep breath, relax, and read over your to-do list. Imagine yourself doing each activity and notice how much you feel like engaging in your bad behavior. Mine, just for the record, is napping. I do that whenever I am faced with doing something I don't want to do! If the activity doesn't make you want to do your bad behavior, but a zero next to it. If it puts you into a coma just thinking about it, put a 10 next to it. If it's somewhere in the middle then give it the appropriate level number between 1-9. Be prepared. This exercise can bring you face-to-face with some scary truths. "Beneath that familiar urge," says Martha, "you'll find a feeling of constriction...one that may feel like weariness, sorrow, or terror. Instead of beating and deriding your animal self for feeling this way, move on to the next step."
2. Release yourself from the cage.
Now that you've discovered your animal-self's cage, it's time to let your logical computer-brain self take over. Look at each high-inducing bad behavior item on your tomorrow's to-do list and ask yourself; A. In a perfect life would I do this thing at all? B. If so, what would I change to make it more enjoyable? C. If not, what would I rather do? Don't be afraid to let your imagination roam while you ponder these last two questions. Don't limit yourself to what's logical, doable, or even possible. Think Big! Think outside-the-box. If you can dream it, you can do it.
3. Build yourself your "ideal personal environment."
Starting with your wildest-ever dream from step 2, start making changes, even teeny-tiny ones, that will allow your current life to more closely resemble the one in your imagination. Your personal, ideal environment doesn't have to be created in a day. They rarely are. Ms. Beck reminds us, "When you give your animal-self a little love, incredible things occur." And all it takes to do this is a little time and compassion. Begin caring for your animal self...even before you've made much headway towards creating your ideal personal environment. .
Hindsight is always 20/20, the old saying goes. It's true here, as well. What you once called self-sabotage may now be seen as wisdom...."the unlikely spark that lead the way to a happier life." If you cease to betray yourself, the self-sabotage in your life will simple stop
You know what? I'm not tired anymore. I'm going to forego my daily nap today and do something nice for my animal-self. Oh, wait. I AM already an animal! Okay, so I'll do something nice for my human self....or is that cheating?