Self-sabotage and getting stuck between intention and action

Stop hurting yourself! I scream this at the mirror every day now.

Check out this post: http://www.uncommonhelp.me/articles/stop-self-sabotage-behaviour/

I’m trying to understand why I do what I do, and why I feel what I feel. I’m allowing myself to feel everything, trying not to judge, but really trying to understand.

Whenever I get a huge project at work, with a definite deadline, I get very angry. I get irrationally angry at my boss for imposing this on me. Suddenly the entire project is crap anyway, and why should I waste my time, and who are they to demand I put so many hours into this? Yes, well, umm, they do pay me for it. No one has tied me up, put a gun to my head, and said create a 32 page powerpoint presentation to deliver to the client based on the data from the past 6 weeks of our pilot program. Nope, I get a simple email request. So why the anger? And why the inevitable dragging of my feet and procrastination? Why the dread? Why the avoidance behaviors? (like blogging about it right now when this thing is due tomorrow)

The answer seems to be two-fold for me. First, I believe I actively sabotage myself in many ways. Second, I think I have issues with people controlling me, and I rebel, like an adolescent who is told to be home at 10pm, and comes home at 10:15pm just to see what might happen. Do I push limits with authority because my parents never gave me rules? They never noticed what time I came home, or if I came home at all on occasion. And never any consequence, except the silent treatment, which I already got so often it was hard to distinguish a cause.

So the link I shared above had a cute little story. I don’t see an author credited, so maybe it’s an old fable. 

“A talkative mouse, a rat, and a small shrew were trapped in a flood, desperately clinging to the side of a lily pad – and sinking fast! A helpful owl came to their rescue, first telling the rat to clamp its teeth onto its talons as the owl flew to safety and then returning for the shrew, who received similar instructions. Finally, as the tides rose ever higher, the owl came back for our talkative mouse.

“You are rescued and will live!” said the owl. “But I’ve noticed you talk a lot. Promise me you’ll keep your mouth closed around my legs and on no account open it, or you’ll fall to your fate!”

“Of course!” said the mouse, who proceeded to clamp his mouth onto his feathered rescuer’s landing gear.

They took off and flew across the floods. The owl was about to land on some high ground, but the mouse decided he wanted to alight some other place to get dry.

“Not there…” shouted the mouse, but those were the last words he ever spoke as he fell into the swirling waters below.

– See more at: http://www.uncommonhelp.me/articles/stop-self-sabotage-behaviour/#sthash.tGFnGXu1.dpuf”

————————————————————————————————————————————————

The author of the post writes “Okay, the mouse’s behaviour came from ignorance and heedlessness; he just didn’t think. “

OK, see my very first thought while reading this story was that the owl was trying to trick the mouse, since, well, owls eat mice (and rats, and shrews . . .), and well I always think someone is being selfish even when it may appear to be helpful to others. (Like people who work at soup kitchens but make sure everyone knows they do so they get the credit for being good, or all the gifts given to victims of psychopaths to buy trust, I have so many more but you get the idea) So I was thinking maybe the mouse saw a good place to land and thought he was saving himself from both the flood AND the owl, or would rather drown than become lunch, or take his chance with the water instead of certain death with an owl. I really didn’t see this as self-sabotage, if the mouse unintentionally opened his mouth without thinking, because, then it was unintentional – an simple accident or mistake. I don’t identify with doing something without thinking as self-sabotage, I have never had this freedom of not thinking. I have a million thoughts between each action. I also thought how interesting that the big and powerful owl came to his rescue but said he had to keep his mouth closed or he would not survive. No option of holding on any other way, the owl could have picked him up with his feet and they could have had a lovely chat the entire flight. This story felt too familiar to me, as my abuser said he was saving me from a hateful mother and that I should trust him, cling to him, and also keep my mouth shut. Victims are not given options. I’m pretty sure that is not the intended message of this story, but I’m sharing my thoughts.

The things I do, I do with full knowledge of the consequences. By avoiding my project right now, I am making it very likely that I will need to stay up all night tonight working on it. I know I will get it done, I always do. So why make it harder than it already is? Do I also enjoy the anxiety of the self-imposed time crunch? Do I think I’m getting away with something? Do I feel like it is my choice and I have more control this way? Do I want another reason to be annoyed with myself?

I keep trying to work on it, but nothing happens. the files are all open – again. I stare at them a while, nothing making sense, so I go make some coffee. Stare some more, and visit facebook. Stare some more and send some emails. Stare some more, and research procrastination and self-sabotage and blog about it! I hate getting stuck in this cycle, I really do. I get stuck between intention and action constantly.

So here’s what the shared post has to offer for reasons why we self-sabotage, with my thoughts added:

The main reasons for self-sabotaging behaviour

  • The familiarity of ‘failure’. Maybe we’re so used to situations not working out or to being around ‘dysfunctional people’ that it feels easier to ‘put a spanner in the works’ by behaving in some way that either worsens or destroys something promising – a kind of ‘better the devil you know’. — (I don’t think this applies to me, because I am highly praised for whatever I turn in. They have no idea that I waited until the last minute to put it all together. I always get the job done, and do it well, often better than others. My job is easy for me, brain-numbingly easy. I’ve never cut it so close as to actually fail, but I do live with the fear of failure all the days that I am avoiding the project. I worry that I may avoid it too long this time. Do I enjoy that gamble on some level perhaps?)
  • An unconscious need to be in control. If we feel something is bound to fail because it’s ‘too good to last’, we might engineer its failure somehow so as to maintain a sense that we are still in control (because we caused it to fail).– (I do think I crave control, but again I think the failure part is wrong. I’m a perfectionist and expect everything to work out. But I do enjoy setting my own schedule and imagining my bosses’ reactions if I somehow managed to not complete the project. I enjoy picturing them angry and scrambling and fantasize about them firing me. Not too surprising since I strongly dislike my job and have been actively searching for a new one for over a year.)
  • Feeling unworthy. Low self-esteem may drive people to feel they ‘don’t deserve’ success or happiness. — (This one confuses me. But I think it may apply in a twisted, convoluted way that I know some of my friends here will understand. I don’t let myself fail – ever. But I think I enjoy torturing myself with the idea of failure. By putting off my project, I get days, sometimes weeks of hating myself for not doing it, and threaten myself with failure. I always end up doing the right thing just in time, like I’m my own hero, but I don’t let it sink in, because it always could have been better if I spent more time on it. I enjoy the high of external success after all the time beating myself up, and I enjoy denying myself that high just as much by trivializing it. See I told you it was twisted, but this is actually making more sense the more I write. So let’s go one step further. As a child, I was consumed by hiding my reality to the outside world. I didn’t want people to know about my abuse and my troubles. I thought they would hate me and think I was disgusting, because I hated myself so why wouldn’t they? And I couldn’t hate my parents, still can’t. Impossible – I’ve never actually hated anyone – except for myself.   
  • Bad habits such as excessive drinking, smoking, or uncontrolled anger. — (I didn’t know uncontrolled anger was a habit . . .hmmm. I do drink too much sometimes (like last Friday, but that’s a whole different story), but I’m not off drinking or recovering from a hangover instead of doing this project. Some of my activities are actually healthy while avoiding the project, like doing dishes, Christmas shopping, playing with the kids, etc. Just that I have this nagging feeling the entire time that does not allow me to fully enjoy the other activities because I feel like I SHOULD be doing my project. Yes, I used the word should and know all about the problem with it, but I continue to should myself daily. I often feel like I should be doing something else as I go about my days. My other bad habit is staying up too late, but that is a complicated mess of avoiding night time abuse triggers so I’m not sure that counts. I have plenty of bad habits, like overeating, eating junk food, not exercising, not showering daily, not flossing my teeth, watching too much TV, zoning out when people talk to me, etc. But I can’t find any habits that would interfere with my working on this project. Not saying it isn’t there, saying I can’t identify it.)
  • Need for excitement. It might be an otherwise perfect sunny afternoon and seemingly out of the blue, Joe picks a fight, goes into a silent mood, or drags up some unrelated contentious issue from the past. Suddenly, the afternoon turns into a battleground. The desire for ‘excitement’ can take different forms, not all of them constructive.– (This could be a huge part of it. HUGE! I think I do feel more comfortable in pain and stress, the peace and joy is still so foreign to me. So I do think I may make my otherwise boring, simple tasks in to monstrous all-nighters just to feel the excitement, both while I am working, and then afterwards when they say ‘good job’.  Maybe I don’t feel like I deserve the praise for something simple, so I make it harder? And I create this internal conflict and drama even though nothing external exists?)
  • I’m adding one more here myself the article did not include. Perfectionism. I am uncomfortable with this project because it is full of ambiguity, subjectivity, and plain old inaccuracy. It causes me pain to crunch numbers and see the errors of others, but have to work with what they have given me. I have pointed out the flaws to management, and I’m told to work with it as it is. So I must remove myself from caring about it, remove my ownership so I can turn in something way less than perfect, and get my paycheck. My job is to make my boss happy. I have included safeguards so that I am not actually lying in my report, but it still feels slimy to me, because I have been asked to only show positive stats and take things out of context for marketing purposes. Although not lying, it is misleading, and makes me squirm. Categories that add up to 100% on one page, are used again, counted in another category, and that column adds up to 100% too. These things jump out to me, and I fear one day a client will see it too, but thing is, most people see what they want to see anyway, so nothing really matters.

Wow, my last line triggered a favorite Metallica song in my head, so I included it here so you can hear it too. What an odd brain I have.

Nothing Else Matters – Metallica

So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

Never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don’t just say
And nothing else matters

Trust I seek and I find in you
Every day for us something new
Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know, whoa
But I know

So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know, whoa
but I know

I never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don’t just say
And nothing else matters

Trust I seek and I find in you
Every day for us something new
Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they say
Never cared for games they play
Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know
And I know

Ye Yeah!

So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

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3 thoughts on “Self-sabotage and getting stuck between intention and action

  1. Couple of observations while I read: I hate having something thrown at me unexpectedly. I don’t care if it’s doable. It messes up my routine, and it takes me a while to shift gears. I’ve finally learned to step back and do something else to allow my brain to reset. It goes faster when I’m aware of what I’m doing and why.

    No matter how successful I am, NM will point out where I failed, so though I rarely fail, it seems like I always do. The backhanded compliments… the most recent: “Wow! You have five books published, but they aren’t in print.” Sadly, EF says the same thing. He thought he should be able to read my books online for free. “Only if they’re pirated, Dad.”

    Maybe instead of looking at the time “not working on the project” as wasted, instead it’s giving your subconscious time to work out what you want to do. Every time you come back and look at what’s on the computer, you are mentally cataloguing, critiquing, and shuffling where everything will go.

    Yes, having to fudge for someone else grates because you had to do that for the “rents” too.

    Be nice to you.

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