This post is a brainstorm about how we might be creating worlds of trouble with close to zero awareness of the motive. It may not seem complete, but it should be provocative.
Many of us are running around helplessly creating misery for ourselves, then denying we had anything to do with it. It’s as if we’re saying, “I’m so committed to making myself unhappy that I am never going to give myself a chance to be any different.”
If you hide what you’re doing from yourself, you have zero chance to stop doing it on purpose. And the other problem is, how can you possibly know what you’ve hidden from yourself?
“Hidden from yourself” may sound clandestine. It’s more accurate to say that you do things unconsciously. Research shows we have pervasive subconscious tendencies to process emotions, hold bias and make complex decisions unconsciously. They become aware of the results of such decisions only after they are made.
And so any consciously induced solution must involve making the unconscious conscious. We need to become aware of how we’re thinking and feeling before we can know how to do anything differently. The highest leverage opportunity has to do with beliefs or how we make meaning out of what happens within and around us.
Here’s the absurd truth about beliefs:
* Beliefs are flexible. It’s possible to believe anything.
* It’s common to believe that what’s bad for you is actually good for you.
* We experience and treat beliefs as irrefutable facts.
* When we’re willing to question our beliefs, it’s difficult to find the right ones to question.
* Emotional bias stemming from false beliefs can lead to decisions – all occurring at a completely unconscious level.
- Being alone is the only option for me. If I need other people, it means I am weak and will be rejected.
- My father should approve of me. It’s wrong for him to disapprove for no good reason, so I must keep trying to prove him wrong and win his approval no matter how many times he rejects me.
- No one has the right to expect anything from me. I must refuse to do anything others’ tell me to do just because they’re telling me.
- Anything I do will result in failure, so there’s no point in trying.
- Nobody has ever loved me, so I am unlovable. It’s better to prove that up front to people who try to love me.
- I’m stupid and worthless and if anyone finds out, I’ll never survive. I need to prove how stupid and worthless others are so there’s no chance that my ugly secret will be discovered.
If you take the time to think about how these beliefs play out in real life, it’s not a pretty picture.
Worse, getting someone to admit they are carrying around destructive beliefs so they can change them is worse than pulling a molar with nothing but a shot of whiskey and some rusty pliers. Not many takers. We’d rather live with the rotten molar and find a way to escape the pain. And then the escape route causes more pain. Vicious cycle.
Every self-destructive belief is a false trap that sets us at odds with the real world. Trying to escape a false trap is like punching a pillow that turns out to be a brick. It hurts. And then we’re upset with ourselves for being so stupid.
• You believe no one has the right to tell you what to do.
• You have a job.
• Your boss tells you what to do.
• You rebel in any number of ways.
— Refusing to do it
— Dragging your feet
— Spreading rumors
• The boss is upset with your performance and tells you to correct it.
• You refuse to give in and correct yourself.
• The boss starts to micro-manage you.
• Now your problem of being told what to do is much worse than if you had simply cooperated in the first place.
• Your “solution” is creating more of the problem. You’re trapped in a vicious cycle.
Feeling trapped is intolerable. Think of what wild animals do when cornered. They become aggressive. They’ll take great risks and harm themselves in order to get out of that untenable situation.
Here’s another scenario:
• You believe you have no right to ask anyone for help.
• Besides, asking for help makes you selfish and weak.
• There are many things with which you need help.
• You refuse to reach out and live with a tremendous burden.
• And you resent people for not noticing and offering to help.
• But you give no clues that you need help, so others are unlikely to notice.
• Every once in a while, someone offers to help and you turn them down.
• You suffer in silence, a life of quiet desperation.
Again, you’re trapped. You need help. Asking for help is not an option, given your beliefs. Once again, you cannot see an obvious escape route.
Remember, beliefs are experienced unconsciously as facts. You take them for granted as truth without understanding how they affect your decisions. Therefore, you must live with the decisions that seem right, even though when viewed from a distance, they are absurd.
If this article applies to you, it may be helpful to learn more through this free and enlightening self-sabotage video.