Self-Sabotage: Why We Start, How We Stop

Why Self-Sabotage Starts

It’s THE most frustrating part of healing. I’ll swear I’m done with an old behavior, forged a new path never to return, and then before I know it I’m right back where I started! What is up with that? Why do we so often act against our best interest? This is the subconscious mind at work.

Our subconscious has two components that propel us to self-sabotage:

  1. A core belief that is not congruent with our stated goal.

  2. Patterns (thoughts, feelings, behaviors) constructed around the belief to protect it.


Here’s 3 examples of self-sabotaging patterns stemming from subconscious beliefs:


The subconscious belief: “It’s not safe to feel emotions.”

Not like numbers but like numb-ers. The behavior keeps them from feeling their emotions, from being vulnerable. Consider hypothetical Holly as an example, who grew up with a rage-o-holic father and a mother who was often hysterical in response. Though they never abused her, she learned from them that emotions weren’t safe. She started her bad habit as a method to numb her emotions. Stopping the behavior now feels very destabilizing, like a threat to her safety.


The subconscious belief: “I’m not worthy of health or happiness”.

For these folks, the behavior is like a pain that hurts so good, a comforting thrashing that keeps them small. Imagine you have a friend Lisa, who was bullied as a kid. Her peers treated her like an outcast, and wouldn’t dare be seen with her. She learned she was not worthy of their acceptance, and took this as her lot in life at the time. She started some bad habits to cope with some later pain, but can’t quit now because she doesn’t believe she deserves the positive outcome.


The subconscious belief: “I’m not capable of change”.

This person engages in their habit because a better life just doesn’t seem possible to them. Regardless of reality, they feel as if they’ve never succeeded at anything and why should this be any different? Let’s say Jamie never quite measured up to her older sister Brenda. Brenda got all her family’s praise and Jamie always felt “less than”. She started her bad habit because she’d never be enough anyways. She can’t quit now because she doesn’t believe she’s capable of achieving the result.


These are just a sampling of the many ways our complex psyches manifest in self-sabotaging behaviors. You might find yourself leaning to one category, or a blend of all three, or perhaps your brand of sabotage is completely different. This is common because the subconscious mind is tricky AF!

The subconscious mind doesn’t have any ill will against us, although it may feel like it sometimes. The subconscious mind is a record of our past, so it simply propels us to behave in accordance with our past. This is because our past, no matter how good or bad it seems now, was good enough to keep you alive and got you here today.


How Self-Sabotage Stops

Step 1: Be caring, curious, and persistent when it comes to your growth.

You’re gonna meet resistance on the path to change, and these attributes make the process easier and more enjoyable. I know for many of us this is a tall order. If you know me at all, you know self-marriage is my number one recommendation to nurture your relationship with yourself. You deserve it!

Step 2: Shine a light on your subconscious beliefs.

If you’re able to see that an experience from your past is determining your current choices, then that is a powerful step towards making a different choice today. Try observing what you project - what do you blame on other people or conditions? Observe what you’re afraid of – what’s the experience you’re trying to avoid? These are well known ways the subconscious makes itself apparent in our lives.

Step 3: Cover the basics.

Regular maintenance of your human body is hugely important! Rest, feed, and water yourself adequately. If you’re feeling ambitious, add in a mindfulness practice and you are making big strides in the direction of healing. In moments of stress, exhaustion, or hanger your brain does not have the energy to make new choices. By taking care of these basics, you are letting your body know that the path of healing is a safe one.


This work is not easy, and you do not have to do it alone. Most people you know are going through something similar, so reach out for support if you feel the tug. A trusted friend might be all you need, but remember there are professionals who have dedicated their lives to helping people like you overcome subconscious patterns and beliefs (Hello!). There are a TON of techniques to help loosen the grip of the subconscious mind on your behaviors. For example Holistic Counseling, EFT, hypnosis, energy psychology, many forms of body work, journaling, energy medicine and quantum healing.

I have my fingers crossed that you believe in yourself as much as I believe in you.  Thanks so much for reading, please leave your questions and comments below! 

Erin MooreComment