Two weeks ago when I was writing about the fear of not failing, it occurred to me that, as the crime author said when confronted by the police about his google search history, there’s another side to the story.
In that entry I talked about subconscious self-sabotage, but what about when it’s conscious and deliberate? Because I for one have purposefully crashed and burned more times than a pyromaniac moth left alone with a Bunsen burner.
The most common example was when I would intentionally lose at sports or a video game. While this can partly be explained by the logic of my previous post, where losing is an easy way out because it alleviates the pressure to win, I also think it has to do with control.
By choosing to lose, I could at least feel like I was still in control of the outcome. It wasn’t that the world or other people had beaten me; I had ended the game on my terms. In a terrifyingly chaotic and uncertain world, maintaining some degree of control over what happened to me helped to ease my anxiety. It allowed me to enforce some comforting stability on life’s hectic turbulence.
The tricky thing, however, is that while the decision to lose on purpose may be conscious, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re conscious of the reasoning behind it. Indeed, as a teenager I’m not sure I could have articulated why I felt the need to screw up on purpose. The key to solving this issue, for me anyway, was to drag these thought processes kicking and screaming out of the shadows of my subconscious and thrust them into the floodlights of conscious scrutiny.
Whether deliberate or subconscious, self-sabotage is like addictive psychological junk food; it may give us some relief in the short term, but at the cost of long term damage. It inhibits our growth, shackles our potential, and robs us of the success we deserve. But here’s the good news; since self-sabotage comes from ourselves, the power to stop it is ours as well.