MHHH Support Group: Self-Sabotaging


What Is Self-Sabotage?

Behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems and interferes with long-standing goals. The most common self-sabotaging behaviors are procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury such as cutting. These acts may seem helpful in the moment, but they ultimately undermine us, especially when we engage in them repeatedly.

People aren't always aware of their own self-sabotage as the effects of their behavior may not show up for some time. Unfortunately, connecting a behavior to self-defeating consequences is no guarantee that a person will disengage from the behavior. Still, it is possible to overcome almost any form of self-sabotage, and people do it every day. There are behavioral therapies aimed at interrupting ingrained patterns of thought and action and strengthening deliberation and self-regulation processes. Motivational therapies reconnect people with their goals and values. There are even computer programs that help eliminate the constant temptation of online distractions.

Are you sabotaging yourself? Some people drink, some procrastinate, others are just way too modest. How do you get in your own way?

1. Dodging Emotions: The Help That Harms

We often get into trouble trying to escape intense negative feelings.

Everyone does it sometimes. Some do it regularly—shoot themselves in the foot or put obstacles in their own chosen path. Behavior is self-sabotaging when in attempting to solve or cope with a problem, it instigates new problems, interferes with long-term goals, and unsettles relationships.

Comfort eating is a common form of self-sabotage, especially when a person has weight concerns; self-medicating with drugs or alcohol is another common form, although procrastination may be the most common of all. Less common is self-injury/cutting to escape painful emotions, or going on shopping sprees when one can't afford the merchandise.

2. Procrastination: Oops, Where Did the Day Go?

We fool ourselves in the minute-by-minute choices we make.

When it comes to self-sabotage, procrastination is king. Why? Because procrastination is the gap between intention and action, and it is in this gap that the self operates. The undermining behavior lies in not closing the gap.

We make an intention to act, the time comes, but instead of acting we get lost in our own deliberation, making excuses to justify an unnecessary and potentially harmful delay. Who makes this decision? We do. The self, in fact, sabotages its own intention.

3. Extreme Modesty: The Case of the Disappearing Self

There is a point at which ingratiation is corrosive, and women too often find it.

Self-sabotage can show up in the strangest places. Take the recent neuroscience lecture in New York, which was followed by the customary question and answer period. Eventually, the speaker announced there was time for only two more questions, and a female neuroscientist, probably in her late 30s, wound up with the last slot. But instead of asking her question straightaway, she fell into what might best be described as a self-effacing dance. "Oh my gosh," she said, curling around the microphone stand as if to disappear into it, "I'm the last questioner. I feel almost guilty." She declared her near-guilt again before posing her question. I forgot the question. But the prologue was memorable—it made the audience squirm.

4. Addiction: The Long Slide

"I Did All the Things I Wasn't Supposed to Do"

Self-sabotage is not an act, it's a process, a complex, tragic process that pits people against their own thoughts and impulses. Though we all make mistakes, a true self-saboteur continues to try to fix those mistakes by top-loading them with increasingly bad decisions.

Addicts, for example, present a parade of excuses and delusional thinking while avoiding the painful, decisive action necessary to set their lives right. All too often we hear stories of talented individuals who, despite much potential, allowed drugs and alcohol to drag them down.


9 Ways Your Old Programming(childhood) May Be Holding You Hostage

1. Underestimating your potential—and so believing that whatever successes you’ve had are largely fortuitous and not really reflective of your capability.

2. Constantly finding fault with, or attributing negative intentions to, yourself—and so “validating” the notion that you’re a bad person.

3. Regarding yourself as undeserving—and so believing that you have little to no right to ask  for what you want or need.

4. Seeing yourself as an outsider or outcast—and so believing that you don’t, or can’t, fit in with others.

5. Perceiving yourself, or perhaps the whole world, as untrustworthy—and so believing that you should be suspicious of yourself and/or those around you.

6. Devaluing or belittling yourself—and so believing that you’re less worthwhile than others, regularly selling yourself short.

7. Viewing yourself, co-dependently, as more responsible for others’ welfare than your own (and see—here and here—to access my earlier posts on this subject).

8. Perceiving yourself as weak or defenseless—and so living your life as a helpless victim, or being excessively dependent on others.

9. Seeing your feelings as only adding to your vulnerability—and so disallowing their healthy expression.


Suppressing your emotions can and often does affect your body in major ways. It is important to find techniques in order to help you become more expressive for a happy and healthier life.

Practice communicating emotions by writing in a journal, listening to therapeutic music, talking to a trusted and safe friend/spiritual guide and/or seeking professional counseling. It is necessary to explore approaches that work for you! You are never more beautiful than when you are real, raw and vulnerable. So, let it out.

Here are 5 ways that suppressing your emotions can affect your body:

1. Suppressing Emotions Can Cause Stress.

Stress causes tension on your nervous system, which triggers your neurotransmitters to go into “panic mode.” Your organs and/or glands then shut down for protection and the stress overtakes your body.

Tension usually goes straight to your head, neck, shoulders and lower or upper back. Most of us carry stress in those areas and eventually tighten up and hold in toxins. The more toxins floating around in the body, the more likely you are to feel some sort of pain.

2. Suppressing Your Emotions Can Cause Serious Mental Illness.

Your brain is the most important organ in your body. It controls everything in the body from your feelings/thoughts to your ability to use your hands, legs, feet, eyes, etc.

Here are the 4 parts of the brain that deal with emotions:

1. The “deep limbic system” in the central area of the brain is important for your emotional state by how it stores highly charged emotional memories.

2. The “prefrontal cortex” in the front side of the brain controls emotions along with impulse control, insight, empathy, judgment, concentration and the ability to plan.

3. The “basal ganglia,” which surrounds the deep limbic system, is in charge of combining movements, feelings and thoughts.

4. The “temporal lobe,” located in the temples and behind the eyes, is in charge of mood stability among many other things.

Therefore, suppressing emotions denies the brain the freedom to work properly and efficiently. It ends up becoming “sick” and unable to see reality for what it is because a false sense of reality has been created by the ongoing/continuous restraining of feelings. As a result, severe depression, anxiety and/or substance and/or alcohol dependence can be developed.

People are created to have feelings and to let them out and these “feelings” have to come in somehow. Holding them in will cause the subconscious to find other ways to manifest what it is truly feeling. Usually, those “other ways” are unhealthy and damaging.

3. Suppressing Emotions Can Cause Weight Gain. Depressed Overweight Woman

When your body goes into “stress mode,” one of the stress hormones, known as cortisol, is released to help your body recover from the other two hormones, adrenaline and corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH), that cause temporary loss of appetite.

However, after those two hormones retreat, cortisol hangs around, causing the appetite to increase, which in turn triggers you to eat more. Cortisol sometimes also stores in your midsections as “visceral fat.” Visceral fat is considered the culprit of a “big belly.” Continued suppression of emotions will inevitably become stress and that stress can cause weight gain, making it more difficult to drop excess pounds.

4. Suppressing Emotions Can Cause Serious Physical Illness.

Holding back what you are genuinely feeling and causing your body to be under constant stress as a result, can also impact the endocrine, lymphatic and immune systems. You become more vulnerable to diseases and disorders when under continuous pressure.

Keeping your deepest emotions quiet puts your subconscious under ongoing pressure. Your subconscious has to find a way to release it so it releases this pressure into the body, which can wreak havoc, triggering the onset of autoimmune disease, cancer, heart disease and more.

5. Suppressing Emotions Can Affect Gut Health.

The gut is considered the “second brain.” Both the brain and the gastrointestinal tract are linked interchangeably, making it difficult to isolate one from the other. Therefore, suppression of emotions and strain caused by the inability to be expressive can cause physical symptoms in the stomach such as upset, nausea, diarrhea, bloating and/or constipation.

In the article, “The Gut-Brain Connection,” Anthony L. Komaroff, Editor-in-Chief of Harvard Health Letter, reports that: “psychology combines with physical factors to cause pain and other bowel symptoms. Psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract, cause inflammation, or make you more susceptible to infection.”