All forms of self-defeating behavior are unseen and unconscious, which is why their existence is denied. Vernon HowardI don't deny it. I have many self-defeating behaviours that I indulge in -- And I know they're not to my betterment. But I still indulge.
Stopping self-defeating games can be challenging. Before I even realize I'm at it, the behaviour has manifested itself in some action or word, or even thought, that undermines what I want more of in my life, leaving me with less. And less, is generally in the opposite direction of what I want.
Take my desire for intimacy with C.C. as an example. When he does something that triggers my feelings of being less than, or unimportant, I have a tendency to retreat into silence (okay sulking). Rather than face my feelings and tell him what's happening for me, I clam up and 'pretend' it doesn't matter to me. Thing is, it matters big time and my self-defeating behaviour is interfering with my truth.
When I was married, my husband used to want to climb and hike and ski and spend time in the mountains every available moment. Which meant, we seldom spent a weekend in the city. We seldom did any of the things around the house that needed doing -- the things I liked to do to create a warm and loving home. We seldom just 'vegged out' and relaxed together.
After our daughters arrived, he still wanted to spend every available moment in the mountains. I wanted to spend time at home. The outcome -- he went to the mountains. I stayed home more and more often with the girls and eventually, we went our separate ways. Okay, so it was more complex than that but the outcome was still the same. I engaged in self-defeating behaviours, as did he, and we never did connect through open and honest sharing of our hearts' desires.
My self-defeating behaviour in all of that was to sacrifice what I wanted most -- a loving, intimate relationship where we both felt supported, connected and competent. By not being vulnerable or open about what I was feeling, thinking, 'seeing' in where we were at. I was playing the game of 'get them before they get me', 'silence is violence', 'I'm not worthy'. Any game I play where truth and honesty, openness and kindness are not the foundation of everything I do and say, leaves me feeling -- you got it -- 'less than'.
When faced with those delicate moments when I feel myself retreating, I have the choice of being honest, in a mature and adult manner. Often, if I let myself fall into my self-defeating behaviours, I retreat into silence, stuffing my 'feelings' down with victim thinking like.... 'what's the point? Nobody listens to me. My feelings are not justified. I'm being overly sensitive. I need to grow up. There's no value in rocking the boat. My thoughts on the matter don't count....' And on and on the circle goes as I dig myself into a vat of silence that drowns out all rational and mature thought. My strength and courage becomes drowned beneath the force of my belief -- it's not my fault. If they didn't.... (fill in the blank with whatever they're doing that upsets me), I wouldn't be so....(fill in the blank with a negative feeling).
In my silence, I become my fears -- my voice has no value. I have no value. I have no right to speak up and be heard.
In my fears, I act less than capable of being all that I am meant to be.
In acting less than, I devalue myself and the relationship. I become the problem I fear the most. I become a sulky, inarticulate child in a woman's body, plotting ways to 'get even'.
So, how's that for a positive way to be?
Reality is -- I don't have to be any of those things -- unless I choose to be them.
It is always my choice.
To stop the tide of negative thinking leading me further along the path of self-defeating behaviours, I must STOP and take account of what I'm doing/thinking/feeling.
Is it true?
Is it really true? or, Is it what I am choosing to believe?
What would happen for me if I chose to believe the opposite? What would I feel if I chose to let go of feeling... less than, unimportant, insignificant, hurt, angry, upset by........ whatever someone else did to 'make' me feel the way I am feeling?
Reality is, no one can 'make' me feel anything. I choose my response 100% of the time. Sure, sometimes my responses are unconscious choices -- and I still choose 100% of the time how I will respond to my choices.
One of my unconscious chooses is to feel 'put out' when C.C. says he'll call and forgets. Feeling 'put out' leaves me unsettled, disgruntled and miffed. I don't like any of those feelings.
Knowing C.C., his forgetting to call is not about 'not loving me enough to do the right thing, no matter how engrossed or involved in what he's doing that he loses all track of time'. Forgetting to call really is about his being engrossed.
The story I tell myself is very different. I tell myself -- he doesn't think about me when he's not with me. I'm not important to him. I don't count.
And in that spiral of my negative story-telling, I create a place where angst and dissatisfaction grow. I create my worst fears.
The reality is -- C.C. calls when he says he will, most of the time. Reality is, I know he loves me.
Reality is -- my less than feelings trip me up and I end up falling into a vat of self-pity. It is in that place that I create my problems -- because when he does call, I do not hear him with an open and loving heart. I only hear him through my anger and angst of feeling 'less than'. I let go of being 100% accountable for me, myself and I and make him accountable for how I am acting out.
Being honest, being open and loving require me to let go of my self-defeating games -- doesn't mean the other person has to or even will quit playing their self-defeating games. But, the opportunity for them to do so is greater when I am acting with integrity and not acting out.
The question is: Are you indulging in self-defeating games and keeping yourself from the intimacy you desire? Are you willing to be vulnerable and face the truth of your 100% accountability?