Self-Sabotage: Identifying and Healing Toxic Patterns

  Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

For the last few months I have felt very ungrounded. Primarily, because my boyfriend and I were in a very complicated living situation which had us moving around several times until finally landing in our (now) permanent home.

I’m a Taurus through and through.  I like stability, consistency, predictability, and routine. It’s what I thrive on.

At the same time these emotional cravings are a total crux. Because life is unpredictable--change is the only constant. And there is never a guarantee in life for anything. 

This delicate dance is my life’s work. Learning to be comfortable with the discomfort of change. Finding stability amongst the ebb and flow. Maintaining routine despite fluctuation. This personal challenge stems from my own childhood and wounding.

I know very well that identifying this and trying to break the cycle is the path to healing.

So, it’s no surprise that this moving/living situation was my ultimate test. It pushed my buttons in every sense possible. I was living in a very small space with two other humans and an animal. I was living out of a suitcase (all of our belongings were being kept in a storage unit until our final landing in our home). And because I work from home, this scenario didn’t leave a lot of physical space for me to have privacy to do said work.

This led to a very anxious me. As a result, I began to see my personal routine fall by the wayside.

My meditation practice became non-existent. I was eating out a lot more and cooking way less at home. Being active became much more inconsistent at times. I was putting my work flow on the back burner, which then led to me falling behind on work, which in turn manifested into stress.

I started to feel really destabilized. I noticed my emotional tolerance becoming fragile. I was not living in the present moment and became over identified with attachments. I got very stuck in being the victim. “Why is this happening to me?”, “This sucks”, “I wish this was different”.

I felt very disconnected from my self.

It’s easy to get stuck in the emotions. To feel stuck in what’s not working. Especially when it stems from old patterns and beliefs. And I did. Being human, I allowed it to get the very best of me.

Now, as I sit here writing this from our new home, nesting, and easing back into normalcy, with more distance and perspective, I reflect on how I could have handled this more gently in hindsight. I acknowledge the ways in which I am my own worst enemy when it comes to change (big or small) and how I can allow myself to feel stuck. And I recognize that I sometimes have a very distinct, old pattern of spiraling when I get thrown off course.

It seemed that when I was getting swept up in the fear and anxiety of change and the unfamiliar, I was then letting go of my routine and practices (self-care), which then fed to more anxiety and fear. I was contributing and feeding my own stress.

When I was working one-on-one with a client last week during a private holistic healing retreat, I shared with her an excerpt from Louis Hay’s work, which also really struck me on a personal level. Hay’s writes:

“For every habit we have, for every experience we go through over and over, for every pattern we repeat, there is a NEED WITHIN US for it. The need corresponds to some belief we have. If there were not a need, we wouldn’t have it, do it, or be it. There is something within us that needs the fat, the poor relationships, the failures, the cigarettes, the anger, the poverty, the abuse, or whatever there is that’s a problem for us.

 I say to clients, “There must be a need in you for this condition, or you wouldn’t have it. Let’s go back a step and work on the WILLINGNESS TO RELEASE THE NEED. When the need is gone, you will have no desire for the negative pattern.

 The webs we create around ourselves need to be unwound. If you have ever untangled a ball of string, you know that yanking and pulling only makes it worse. You need to very gently and patiently unravel the knots. Be gentle and patient with yourself as you untangle your own mental knots. Get help if you need it. Above all, love yourself in the process. The willingness to let go of the old is the key. That is the secret.”

 I wondered, “What need within me continues to trigger this sense of distress I create when things change unexpectedly? Why do I allow myself to continue this cycle of letting go of my self-care practices in the face of the unknown?” My self-care practices are the exact tools that keep me grounded amongst fluctuation. Why am I choosing to not do the one thing that helps?

While I’m still personally exploring and gently untangling my own mental knots around this particular pattern, based off my past, I assume that something about inconsistency, maybe even chaos, feels familiar. Even if it is toxic.

Sometimes even the things that we intellectually know are unhealthy for us, can be addictive. We can become addicted to not feeling good. To the highs and lows. My spiritual teacher says, “sometimes we’re afraid of what we want the most because we’re afraid of losing it.”

Something scares me about routine. Consistency makes me anxious. Even though I emotionally crave these things the most—actually having them is very uncomfortable. I have the belief that eventually the other shoe will drop. Things can’t be calm or stable for too long.

It’s easy to get consumed by fear to the point that we’re unconsciously behaving in ways that get us exactly what we do not want.

With this new awareness, I’m beginning to simply notice the moments of resistance towards routine and consistency. The tiny ways I may be self-sabotaging in creating a nourishing, sense of stability for myself.

Making changes and establishing new, healthier patterns starts with this conscious awareness and then choosing to act opposite of the urge.

In the morning, when I intend on going to the gym, instead of saying “I have too many other things to accomplish today, I don’t have time” I ask myself, is this coming from that deeper need—the one that believes I don’t deserve stability? The one that is afraid of routine (safety)? When I have that craving to make art but I find a million other things that I “need” to do, I consciously decide to break that cycle of avoiding consistency, and just make art. Knowing it’s for my own healing and nourishment.

My personal example, is just one of many ways in which we can cling to unhealthy and toxic patterns. It’s easy to allow our mind to become consumed by anxiety, fear, and doubt—soon they run the show.

A gratitude practice is one way to practice mindfulness and combat those emotions.

With my above scenario, during the challenging moments I had with our living situation, I could have spent a little extra time being grateful that I had a home to eventually move into. And that I had places to live temporarily, even if they were less than ideal. When we’re caught up in worry and fear, we forget all that we do have.

Self-sabotage and unconsciously clinging to unhealthy patterns is tricky to identify. This is often times because it means we have to take ownership for our own unhappiness. We can’t toss the blame onto anyone but ourselves.

When we step aside from ego and take ownership, we can see the bigger picture and begin to implement effective steps to heal. We can empower ourselves by doing this because we’re redirecting the focus back to ourselves. Not fixating on external factors that we cannot control.

You are in control of your emotions and therefore your own happiness. You can live your life and not have life live you.