Words and Beliefs That Sabotage

January 13, 2008 — Leave a comment

KSL Television ~ Studio 5

It’s amazing how we setÃ? ourselves up to fail simply by the language that we use. I often hear from clients and friends, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I lose weight? What can’t I control my temper? Why can’t I be more organized? Why doesn’t anything ever work out for me?” Just last week one of my dearest friends called me from out-of-state to tell me that her husband rear-ended someone on the freeway, driving that car into the back-end of yet another car! Initially, my friend and her husband were relieved that no one was hurt and that they had auto insuranceââ?¬Â¦..And then they simultaneously said,” Insurance!” Suddenly, they realized the annual insurance premium hadn’t been paid; even the grace period had passed. Her first comment to me in such disdain was, “Liz, why am I such a loser? Why do I always do such irresponbile, dumb things?” The bill had ended up in the bottom of a pile of papers in her busy home office.

Now, things like that can happen to any of usââ?¬Â¦but it’s so easy to go there – to the name-calling, personal criticisms, and self-doubt. We all have these critical tapes running. Here’s the key: Even the most successful and happy people have critical inner voices – they just don’t hear them very well. A frightening number of us believe that we were born with an inner-terrorist that forces us to “self-sabotage.” This “force” leaves us falsely believing that it’s outside of our control.

Beliefs that Sabotage: Self-Sabotage
Beliefs that Support: Inner-Miscommunication

Here’s the truth about self-sabotage: It doesn’t exist! Self-sabotage does not exist because, in reality, it is just a terrible and incorrect name for “inner-miscommunication.” My dear friend is neither a loser or irresponsible – I could give you a number of examples! Just the word “self-sabotage” sets us up to beleive that we have absolutely no control over life. What a fearful and difficult way to live.

“Why” is not my favorite question. If we discovered “why” the sky is blue it would not change its color. There are similar blue-sky emotional questions that we are determined to find answers to and often spend years either in therapy or completely miserable trying to figure them out. “Why was I abused as a child, ” or “Why did my parents have to divorce?” It’s often best to avoid the “analysis paralysis” created byÃ? the whine of “why”Ã? and ask more “how” questions.

Beliefs that Sabotage: Asking “Why”
Beliefs that Support: Determining “How”

How did I get here, yet, again, and what can I do differently to avoid getting into another abusive relationship. The “why” could be that that’s how I saw Mom live; but, for me, “how” can I live another way that leads to greater peace.

Let’s talk aboutÃ? other “how” questions that would be helpful. Allow yourself a quite moment to remember a time when you beat yourself up or just felt bad about yourself. Notice that inner voice that is criticizing you:

How does it sound? (Squeaky, high-pitched, gravelly?)
How does it look? (Color, shape, size?)
How did it get here? (List the series of events and your beliefs about them.)

Change one thing about it. For example, suddenly, you have a sexy, sultry voice calling yourself an “idiot!” or “loser!” The one thing that is most important in this silly yet simple technique is that you are interrupting your autonomic response pattern. So the next time you start beating yourself up, positively change something about the process.

A warning about counting your flaws: Thinking that we have flaws buys us into the idea of deep unworthiness because a flaw is intrinsic, thus leaving us with the beliefs that we can’t change. Believing we are flawed perpetuates the whole self-sabotage belief pattern. Do we have weaknesses? Yes! Just enough to keep us humble and working in the right direction. Let’s just have fun with words – trust the research that shows they’re powerful and change flaws to “Growth opportunities.”

Beliefs that Sabotage: “Flaws”
Beliefs that Support:
“Growth opportunities”

Now that I can handle! I have many of those! Use humor – sometimes that’s the only way to change a negative pattern! If your spouse points our something negative, just smile and say, “Yes, Honey, you found another one of my growth opportunities. Way to go!”

Language is the key component. There are words that undermine our best efforts.

Beliefs that Sabotage: “I’m tryingââ?¬Â¦.”
Beliefs that Support: “I’m doingââ?¬Â¦”

Try often implies the expectation of failure. “I’ll try to exercise; I’ll try to cut calories; I’ll try to save.” “I’m exercising on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM.” Or, “I have changed from 2% milk to skim milk.” Or, “I am going to shop for groceries one day a week after the coupons come out and get buy with what I have until the next week.”

Beliefs that Sabotage: “I intend toââ?¬Â¦.”
Beliefs that Support: “I amââ?¬Â¦”

“Intending” to do something conveys the possibility of failure.
“I intend to pass all my courses this year (but I’m not doing more thanÃ? one hour of homework a day regardless.) But when we change this word into the present tense, we have different results. “I am passing all my courses this year because I have the help of a tutor and do homework until I complete and understand every assignment.”

Bottom-line: Speak well to yourself because your mind is always eavesdropping. The next time you start beating yourself up, make a positive change to interrupt the cycle. I love the quote that says, “Fear knocked at the door and when Faith opened it up, there was no one there.” Again, it’s not that sucessful, happy people don’t have the negative, critical voices it’s just that they don’t hear them very well. And, if they doÃ? hear them, they don’t believe them.

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Dr. Liz Hale

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