Transforming Fear to Joy

Self-Sabotage: The Outcome of All Addictive Habits

After reading the title, you might be thinking, “Well isn’t that obvious; nothing new here”, and I would agree.  But what if I added, all habitual behaviours that keep you from healing and growing are addictions.  What is your response now?  Again, nothing new here?  Well, what if I reduce the statement to all habitual behaviours are addictions.  Right about now, you are probably checking out your daily habits—brushing your teeth, washing your face or showering, drinking 5 to 8 glasses of water, jogging 3 miles, yoga, etc.—against my statement.

For the sake of clarity, the dictionary defines addiction as the fact or condition of being physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance or activity.  However, when we hear the word addiction our mind jumps to obviously harmful behaviours such as overeating and drug or alcohol abuse.  And yet, these surface behaviours or symptoms emerge from less visible, typically unconscious patterns meant to distract us from our discomfort, struggle and suffering.  In other words, we depend on them for some type of relief.

To illustrate, let me share the story below as it was told to me.  For the purpose of confidentiality, I refer to the storyteller as Sandy.

Sandy shared with me her addictive habit of procrastination, which she claims has been with her since early childhood.  By the way, most of our unconscious behaviours can be sourced back to trauma in that time period and often in our family of origin.  As Sandy described her procrastination pattern, she could connect its current thread of battered self-esteem back to repeated disapproval and belittlement from her father.  What challenges her today is whenever she needs to complete a job for a client, her wounded self-esteem and conditioned disbelief trigger uncertainty and resistance to initiate the work.  As a habitual procrastinator, Sandy recognizes she is motivated by fear of failure.  Nonetheless, procrastinating gives her a “temporary hit of relief” from the increasing internal pressure to complete tasks.  Over time, this immediate release of pressure or mini self-reward became her normal way to respond.  Notably, psychology 101 teaches us that when our behaviour is rewarded, there is a greater likelihood we will repeat it.  So, now Sandy has habituated a “neurotic self-defense behaviour” to protect her sense of self-worth.  Fear is not rational.  For Sandy, her personal value is so deeply attach