SELF-SABOTAGE: Why we do it and how to stop it.

Jun 27, 2024


Art Credit: Jano Tantongco, jano.tantongco@gmail.com


How can understanding self-sabotage empower you to overcome hidden barriers and transform your life?

Understanding self-sabotage is crucial in unlocking our true potential and overcoming the barriers that hinder our personal growth. Delving into the etymology of the term “sabotage” reveals its roots in malicious destruction; when internalized, it translates into how we unconsciously damage our prospects. Often, it manifests as internal protest, where parts of our psyche attack our conscious goals.

Recognizing self-defeating behaviors involves understanding the internalized negative beliefs that stem from early childhood experiences. We internalize these beliefs, leading to actions that confirm our perceived inadequacies. For example, if we were criticized frequently as children, we might unconsciously seek failure to validate these negative self-perceptions.

Exploring the psychodynamics of self-undermining, we find that fear of success can be a significant driver. Success brings change, and change can evoke anxiety. We might sabotage our efforts to avoid the responsibilities and expectations that come with success, preferring the comfort of the status quo.

Unresolved inner conflicts often underlie self-obstruction. When our conscious desires clash with unconscious fears, this ambivalence can lead to behaviors that undermine our goals. A classic example is imposter syndrome, where the fear of being exposed as a fraud prevents us from fully embracing our achievements.

Defense mechanisms play a crucial role in self-betrayal. Avoidance is a common strategy where we steer clear of situations that might trigger anxiety or discomfort. This can manifest as procrastination, failure to complete tasks, or avoiding opportunities for advancement, protecting us from immediate emotional pain but perpetuating long-term self-sabotage.

Another defense mechanism is self-handicapping, in which we create obstacles to our own success. Behaviors like substance abuse, inadequate preparation, or distractions serve as excuses for failure, allowing us to attribute our lack of success to external factors rather than our own shortcomings.

Our psychological needs and dynamics also contribute to self-thwarting. The need for control can lead us to sabotage our success to maintain a sense of predictability and avoid potential disappointment. This dynamic is often seen in individuals with a history of chaotic or unpredictable environments.

Feelings of guilt and the need for punishment can also drive self-impairing behaviors. If we feel we do not deserve success or happiness, often stemming from rigid moral teachings or authoritarian familial dynamics, we might engage in actions that ensure we do not attain what we unconsciously believe we do not deserve. Interpersonal dynamics, such as fear of rejection or abandonment, can lead to self-limitation.

Achieving our goals might threaten our relationships, leading to envy or resentment from loved ones. To maintain the status quo, we might sabotage our success to ensure we remain accepted and connected.

Some of us have deep-seated dependency needs, fearing that becoming successful or independent will lead to losing support or care from others. By failing to achieve independence, we ensure continued attention and support, albeit at the cost of personal growth.

Psychotherapeutic insights offer valuable strategies to address self-sabotage. Psychoanalysis and depth psychology can help uncover and understand our unconscious motivations and conflicts. Techniques like free association, dream analysis, and exploring early childhood experiences can reveal the roots of self-sabotaging behaviors. Identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and beliefs can help change self-compromising behaviors. Through small, manageable steps, behavioral strategies can gradually build confidence and reduce their negative impacts.

Jungian concepts provide insights into self-disruption. The shadow, representing the parts of our psyche we reject or remain unaware of, often manifests as self-sabotaging inner figures. Integrating shadow involves acknowledging and accepting these repressed aspects, leading to greater self-awareness and reducing the related behaviors.

Complexes, emotionally charged groups of ideas and memories in the unconscious, can dominate our actions, leading to repetitive patterns of self-sabotage. Identifying and processing the painful memories that form complexes can reduce their power over our behavior.

Dream analysis provides valuable insights into self-invalidation. Recurring dreams or nightmares often symbolize unresolved issues or internal conflicts that manifest as self-sabotage in waking life. Keeping a dream journal and discussing dreams in analysis can aid in understanding and integrating these healing messages.

Integrative approaches in analytical psychology, such as active imagination and creating psyche-inspired art, can also help address self-handicapping. Engaging with images and figures from the unconscious in a conscious dialogue can reveal and integrate unconscious content that leads to self-sabotage.

To address self-sabotage effectively, we must first understand its psychodynamics and underlying drives. We can uncover the deep-seated unconscious conflicts behind self-destructive behaviors by confronting our shadow, unraveling our complexes, and attending to our dreams. We can work towards overcoming self-sabotage and achieving our full potential through analytic intervention and increased self-awareness.


I met my husband’s ex-girlfriend with whom he has no contact in real life. We are cordial with each other. She asks me if I am envious, and I say that I envy my husband’s childhood. He was free to pursue his interests and speak his mind. I ask her if she is sad about breaking up with my husband, and she says they are just friends. Later, she and her aunt tried to kill my husband and me by tricking us into taking an Uber to an empty field. We thought we were going to a restaurant, but the Uber driver had been co-opted into their plan. The ex-girlfriend and aunt smiled innocently as we realized we were tricked.


***HERE’S SOMETHING SPECIAL…you’re invited to JUNG’S AMERICAN MUSE: THE VISIONS AND ART OF CHRISTIANA MORGAN, a live podcast recording on Saturday, July 13th, at 2 pm EST. Tickets are on sale now for $5. Christiana Morgan’s visions and art were pivotal to Jung’s understanding of the nature of the feminine. We’re thrilled to welcome her granddaughter, filmmaker Hilary Morgan, as our guest. Hilary will share Tower of Dreams, her short documentary, and then discuss her memories and reflections on her grandmother’s life. BUY YOUR TICKET HERE


Unlock The Power of Your Dreams. Transform Your Sleep into the Greatest Adventure of Your Life with Dream School! Discover how to interpret your dreams through our engaging webinars, thought-provoking audio sessions, and nurturing community. Crafted by Jungian Analysts Lisa, Deb, and Joe, “Our program is designed to companion and inspire you every step of the way. Unleash your hidden power tonight. Join our revolution of consciousness.” — Learn More!

Support Dreams and Depth: Join Our Patreon Community Today!

Shop Exclusive ‘This Jungian Life’ Gear – Browse Stylish T-Shirts, Custom iPhone Cases, and More. Show Your Love for TJL Today! SHOP HERE

Don’t Miss Out – Submit Your Dream Now for a Chance to Be Featured on Our Podcast! Submit Your Dream Here

Help Shape Our Show! Your Suggestions Inspire New Discussions. Share Your Ideas for Our Next Podcast—Let’s Hear Your Voice Today!

Stay inspired every day! Connect and Grow with our vibrant community. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube for exclusive updates and engaging discussions on soul growth, empowerment, insight, and creativity.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *