Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Keeping Resolutions - Part 4

Self Sabotage & How Our Vices Serve Us

Many of my clients often wonder why they self sabotage.
They start into something with all the gusto in the world and it almost seems too easy...
This is the initial phase when our reserve of will-power is at it's greatest and we seem to have limitless resolve to do the things we want and need to be doing...and to avoid the things we know we shouldn't be doing!

However often after a short time the compulsion to NOT do the good things and the compulsion to derail ourselves through negative action can become almost overwhelming.

This springs from a couple of behavioral patterns.

One of these is that we are considered to only have a certain amount of willpower to devote to anything at one time. It can be quite difficult (with our reduced neuroplasticity) as adults, to institute new patterns of behavior and we do require a large degree of resolve or 'will-power' to do this. However we really only have a certain amount of energy to devote to this, and so if we try to change too many patterns at one time we will be less likely to succeed in any of them due to a diffusion of energy and effort.
If we instead focus on only one or two changes and see them through to the point at which they become ingrained patterns of behavior we are much less likely to 'fall off the wagon'.
This also happens if we are suddenly inundated with stress; and I see this a lot with my college age clients. Around exam time for example they are exerting SO much will-power to stick with an intense study and exam schedule that the energy and resolve required to exercise and eat well is often lacking.

The other, and perhaps MOST important factor in self sabotage is a survival one.

Anything, be it a movement pattern, a behavioral response or an emotional or psychological pattern, is to a large degree learned.
We can 'learn' many things, and once they are patterned to the sub-conscious level as a 'belief' they are part of our survival imperative.
If someone for example is told that they are fat, and they begin to believe this, and even reinforce it by telling themselves that they are fat this belief will become their natural, safe and appropriate set point.
The body-mind complex on a deep level believes that this is a safe place to be, and to move outside it could potentially be dangerous.

IF we then try to DO things that will take us away from this natural set-point (for example by eating well and exercising) the body-mind will believe that we are perhaps moving out of our safe and comfortable place, towards a place of potential danger and will begin to bring to conscious recognition things in our environment that are conducive to us NOT achieving the goal of weight loss.

We only bring up into our fully conscious faculty a tiny proportion of what we actually 'see', 'hear', 'smell' etc in our environment, and what we bring to cognition is what is deemed to be most important for survival.
SO if we see potential danger (a threat to survival) in losing weight we may be that much more aware of the chocolate cake at the work function we are attending - and feel compelled to eat it!

This is why so often with weight and body related goals we hear that "I didn't even really 'want' it...I just felt like I 'needed' it!" or "And the silly thing is I NEVER usually eat that stuff!" - of course you don't - because the survival imperative wasn't there!

Some of the perpetuations of this we call "treasured wounds". I have treated many people who either perpetuate physical disorders or injuries in response to life situations.

A professional athlete I worked with for example always had hip issues arise when he had a major career decision to make, and another client suffered with terrible abdominal pain that debilitated her whenever she needed a break from the self-imposed demands of her family, church and work because she hadn't developed the ability to say 'no' to people.

Reducing the presence of 'treasured wounds' and finding the negatives that serve us...and releasing these self-limiting beliefs and behaviors can really help to reduce the amount of will-power we need to exercise to achieve our goals, and make the process of goal achievement that much easier.

I work with my clients to identify and reduce negative and self limiting beliefs and behaviors and help them to encapsulate their dreams and set, and achieve the goals that really matter. 

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