In my practice, after a client’s first session they are excited to have some ‘New Direction”. They have a plan and are ready to go home and share it with family and friends. The problem with that is most people, well-meaning or not, dislike change. When it is someone they care about, their first line of defense is to criticize what they are doing. They will tell them they don’t need to change, or that they have failed so many times in the past, why do they think it’s going to work this time? This is only their distorted version of reality, not the person who is in the process of changing.
When a client tells me they feel ‘defeated’ (usually in the second session) I know words can have different meanings for each person. It could mean they are finished and want to stop the process, but more often it means that that they are feeling ‘deflated’ and need some emotional CPR. That is why it’s so important to hire someone who has the knowledge to understand the feelings behind the words.
I think most people are surprised at how often friends and family unknowingly will attempt to sabotage your efforts. They will do everything they can to keep you tied in with your old self in order to protect themselves from having to change. Change is scary for a lot of people.
Here are four basic types of behavior that I learned about from Dr. McGraw years ago.
1. Overprotection. The underlying message here is fear. “I don’t want to see you get hurt” or “You are setting yourself up for failure again”. This pattern is very dangerous because it’s disguised as love and concern. Be very aware of their motives.
2. Power Manipulation. In this type of sabotage, people will attempt to take away your personal power by talking to you like a child. They may say something like: “Who told you that going back to school was a good idea? You are too old.” Or,” Don’t be stupid and throw your life away by changing jobs”. This is a power manipulation move.
3. Leveling. This is a way that people who feel inadequate will try to ‘level’ the playing field by bringing your down. Your success poses a threat to them and they will sabotage you anyway they can.
4. Safety in Status Quo. People are comfortable with circumstances that they know, even if it’s not ideal. A change for the better is still a change, and a threat to what’s familiar and the status quo. These behaviors are usually subconscious and FEAR is the motivation behind it.
If you want to change your patterns of behavior and move beyond the toxicity in your life here are a few suggestions.
First and foremost, don’t get in your own way. What I mean by that is ‘Stealth Sabotaging” is something that we are all very good at. So don’t say you want one thing, and then go about doing everything you can to ensure it doesn’t come to fruition.
Drop the blame game. The “ He/She doesn’t understand me”, ship has left the dock. Let it sink. They don’t need to know why you are doing what you’re doing, just how to support you. It may seem obvious that going to eat pizza is not the best idea for someone trying to lose weight, so you need to speak up. Tell everyone how they can support you, don’t assume that they know. If you feel someone is sabotaging your efforts, then think about how you would like to be supported and be clear and direct.
Make the changes you want the world to see. If you quit smoking, declare that you are now a non-smoker. In psychology they refer to this as boundary selection. You have purposefully made a decision based on what you want, regardless of anyone else’s opinion. You have the final say. Done deal!
And last but not least, if none of the above work, your last option is to change the situation. Either take a look at your decision, and perhaps make some minor adjustments with your goals to make them little less threatening, or change your tribe. That means surround yourself with supportive people instead of those who are trying to sabotage you.
It’s your life, and in the end, the only person who has the final decision over your thoughts, feelings and emotions is you, so make them ones you won’t regret.