Most people have a variety of self-sabotaging behaviors that prevent them from manifesting the life that they want. The first step in overcoming self-sabotaging behaviors is to first recognize them. One of the most powerful self-sabotaging behaviors is denial.
Denial is a defense mechanism that discharges anxiety and emotional discomfort. By denying there's a problem we don't have to feel bad about the fact that there's a problem. Unfortunately this doesn't solve anything or make our lives better. It just sweeps our problems under the rug. They're still there. Still gnawing at us and still getting in our way.
One example is the area of health. If we have a bump and we are afraid to go to a doctor to find out that it might be something really bad we deny that it is a problem. Unfortunately when it becomes the elephant in the room, something we no longer can deny, it becomes a problem much more difficult to resolve than had we acknowledged it and faced it when it first appeared.
One form of denial is denying that our behaviors are actually self sabotaging. For example, when we are late for an appointment we might tell ourselves that it's not going to matter, that the excuse we give will be accepted and that there won't be any negative consequences. But this usually isn't true. When we are late for appointments or don't call people back in a timely fashion, as another example, people may be gracious about it but they probably are registering some degree of irritation, disappointment, feeling disrespected or undervalued. And this may over time lead to passive aggressive behavior on their part or them not doing something to assist us in the future when we ask them for help.
BLAMING OTHERS AND SEEING OURSELVES AS VICTIMS
Shakespeare once wrote "the fault dear Brutus lies not in our stars but ourselves that we are underlings." So one form of denial would be thinking that the fault lies outside of ourselves and that we are victims of a hostile, chaotic universe out of our control, as opposed to us being the prime movers of our fate.
This is a very powerful form of denial, blaming other people and circumstances for our difficulties. For example when we tailgate and get into a car accident we have a tendency to call it an accident when it is actually the result of our poor judgment and we tend to blame the car in front of us for stopping abruptly.
This is very common to blame others and not take responsibility for our actions. Oftentimes when couples fight, one partner will blame the other partner, stating that "you made me angry, you made me throw the toaster against the wall, you made me scream at you, you made me hit you, if you hadn't antagonized me, if you hadn't pushed my buttons, if you hadn't called me that name, if you hadn't provoked me, then I wouldn't have behaved that way." Denial in this case is the denial of ownership. It doesn't matter if we are provoked. We have a choice to behave correctly and honorably or not and if we don't, and don't admit it then we are in denial.
Denial is very common with alcoholics and addicts. "If I just have one drink it won't really matter, I'll be able to handle it, it won't escalate into a serious problem." Alcoholics and addicts tell themselves this despite having a history of one drink or one drug hit escalating into a serious problem.
Another form of denial in regard to alcohol and drugs is that people oftentimes convince themselves that other people don't know when they are high. This is usually never the case. Most people can tell when other people are under the influence.
We are in denial when we abuse other people and tell ourselves that they'll get over it, they're not going to leave us. Usually, sooner or later, they do, and when they do there is often too much water under the bridge, too much built up resentment and anger for the relationship to be repaired.
We are in denial when we keep on putting off proper diet and exercise. The denial part is not that we are denying these are important things to do but that it won't one day catch up with us and put us in the grave prematurely. We deny the long-term consequences of our actions.
SHOOTING THE MESSENGER
When someone tells us something we don't want to hear or deal with, we find ways to attack them and invalidate them so that we don't have to acknowledge that they've made a good point. We might tell them that "you do it too." And so this allows us to deny the importance of us getting our own house in order regardless of how other people behave.
In relationships when we tell our partner that "I don't have any problem. I don't need anger management. You're the one with the problem not me. You're the one who needs therapy not me," this is denial in spades and is a sure fire predictor of a relationship that will never heal and will most likely one day disintegrate. This is another example of shooting the messenger.
Another form of denial is called "contempt prior to investigation" which means we prejudge and reject an idea without first evaluating it to determine if it might have validity. "That's not going to work." "It's a waste of time." These are dogmatic denials that have no basis in reality because we actually haven't looked at the data.
Another form of denial is "doing the same thing and expecting different results." Some people refer to this as insanity.
When we are told something that is true that we don't want to hear or deal with and we seek out people who will yes us and support our position, this is denial. Just because we can find a bunch of people who tell us we're right doesn't mean we're right.
"I'm only kidding" is a form of denial. When we say something to somebody that is hurtful and they react negatively, we backpedal and claim that "I was only kidding." Sometimes it's not denial, we know that we weren't kidding and that we were making a harsh point, but oftentimes we con ourselves into believing that we really were only kidding, we were only teasing, we meant no real harm and that the person was being overly sensitive. This prevents us from looking at our behavior objectively and correcting it.
LIVING IN THE PAST
Living in the past and not seeing the handwriting on the wall is a form of denial. Whether or not you think marijuana should be legalized and whether or not you think gay marriage should be legalized, the handwriting on the wall is that these things will one day universally come to pass and to deny this and fight this is really a huge waste of time, energy and resources that could best be spent elsewhere.
Another form of denial is denying that forgiveness, acceptance, and love have the power to move mountains. Most people believe that anger and aggression are the way to solve problems. In the short run this may seem to be the case but in the long run they are not. Love is a miraculous force that can transform. When two people are fighting with each other, if one person can rise above the battlefield and express true unconditional acceptance, forgiveness and love, it oftentimes can discharge all the negativity and restore peace in the relationship.
Most people think that forgiveness is a sign of weakness. They don't believe that the meek shall inherit the earth. This is denial. Forgiveness is a reflection of great strength and personal power. Survival of the fittest will one day prove to be survival not of the physically fittest but of the spiritually fittest: those who choose not to fight and instead insist upon finding peaceful resolutions.
The premise of my book Forgive To Win! is that we sabotage ourselves with denial and in other ways as well because at an unconscious level we are filled with guilt, shame and self-loathing; at an unconscious level we believe we are undeserving and unworthy of happiness, health and success, and that our subconscious mind, believing what we believe about ourselves at an unconscious level, believing that we deserve punishment and not reward, manifests in the real world that "truth" by causing us to do things that get in our way and generate failure.
So -- if self-sabotage and denial are the result of guilt, shame and self-loathing, then the way to end self sabotage and denial is to love ourselves and forgive ourselves. The way to love ourselves and forgive ourselves is to love others, forgive others and be of service to others. The more we do this, the more we send the message to our subconscious mind that we are good, loving beings who deserve happiness and success, the more the subconscious mind shifts its purpose. It stops whispering negative messages in our ears, it stops encouraging us to engage in self-sabotaging behaviors, and it helps us to attract positive people and circumstances in our lives that will be rewarding rather than punishing.
The Forgiveness Diet is a structured program of daily exercises and behaviors to help achieve the goal of ending self sabotage.
Dr. Jacobson, a graduate of Cornell University, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and the UCLA / San Fernando Valley Psychiatry Residency Program, is a Board-Certified Psychiatrist who specializes in cognitive-behavior therapy, couples therapy, and past life regression therapy. In addition, he is a Best-Selling Author ("Forgive To Win!" and "Einstein's Cosmic Journey") and a Motivational & Inspirational Speaker. His YouTube videos and his blogs on his website http://walterjacobsonmd.com/ offer people spiritual techniques and cognitive tools for achieving happiness, physical well-being, and success in all realms of their lives.