I find our definition of the Saboteur changes as our relationship to it evolves. In the first stage we admit we have a problem and are powerless over it before cross-addicting onto sugar and caffeine. In other words, you know you are in your own way but you don’t know why or what to do about it.
At this point the Saboteur is loosely defined as “that inexplicable tendency I have to be my own worst enemy.” As you start to learn to recognize the Saboteur, your particular version, and how it manipulates you, it becomes possible to also understand why.
Which brings us to our second-stage definition:
Saboteur: [sab-uh–tur’] The part of you that tries to protect you from change by removing choice.
We exist on many levels simultaneously, and they don’t all agree with each other. In fact some are directly at war with each other. You want your business to be growing and thriving, and your relationships to be deepening and evolving, and your life to be challenging, expanding and exciting, right?
Of course you do!
But not all of you. There are some parts of you that see these as threatening and risky possibilities. These are the parts that forget to set your alarm, that hire the absolute wrong person, that over-commit and then implode with overwhelm.
Believe it or not, they do all this for your own good, your protection. And with absolutely no appreciation or recognition from you, you big ingrate! Let me introduce you to two of them:
The neurological level –
The body is programmed to create homeostasis. This means it seeks to normalize the unfamiliar – it will try to bring any dramatic shift back to the middle. It wants balance, predictability and manageability.
Imagine if I asked you to put your hand in water that was (unknown to you) either very hot or cold. Before your mind could register the experience, your reflexes would most likely intervene and yank your hand away. In most cases you wouldn’t even be able to tell if the water was too hot or too cold. The point is, it doesn’t matter.
Your nervous system judged the experience as “too much” and took over, compensating for the potentially disruptive change (extreme temperature) by recoiling from it.
Notice it doesn’t seek permission or wait for agreement from any other part of you. This means your neurology and your conscious mind can be headed in two contradictory directions at the same time.
Think of someone who is addicted to cocaine. Their conscious mind has judged the experience of intoxication to be “good” and worth repeating, and they will spend a lot of time, energy and money unsuccessfully chasing that first high.
Why won’t it ever be as good as the first time? Just like with the hot/cold water, the nervous system has determined that dramatic shift it experienced under the influence to be “too much,” and it begins adjusting to normalize the body’s response.
These competing agendas illustrate how two different levels within one person can be at war, pursuing opposite goals simultaneously.
Perhaps you can see how the Saboteur might be able to take advantage of this to thwart your plans. Do you notice these kinds of contradictions blocking change and progress in your life?
Tune in next time for part two, “The Ego’s Role in Self-sabotage.”