If you self-sabotage, it’s because you associate more pain than pleasure to what you want.

Have you ever found that when pursuing something good for you, you get to a certain point, and then you self-sabotage? Almost as if the closer you get to attaining what you want, the quicker your mind puts on the emergency brakes and forces you into reverse? What’s this about?

The reasons for this can be multi-layered, but in general, it’s because you associate more pain to attaining that goal than you do staying where you are.

A common one that I see is wanting to lose weight, but then self-sabotaging almost as soon as good exercise and eating habits are put in place. And there’s only one reason this would happen: We associate our future weight loss with more potential pain. But why? Don’t we KNOW that this is what we want?

Yes, on one level you do. On another level, the brain may be trying to protect you, especially if it’s related to trauma. If as a younger person, you were sexually harassed, given more attention than you were comfortable with, or felt a lot of pressure to be a certain way based on your appearance, then it’s not uncommon for the brain to try to change your appearance so you can avoid that pain.

Even years later when you’re in very difficult circumstances, on a subconscious level, the brain will still associate a certain appearance with greater pain. So what happens? The closer you get to that appearance, the more the brain pushes back. And there we have self-sabotage.

I will not claim to have all the answers for how to work with this in one post. The healing process around this can often have many layers and dimensions, and if that’s your sense, especially if it’s trauma related, working with a therapist can be very helpful. But to tie it into meditation, as we become more grounded and comfortable with who we are (as happens in the meditation process), we are less likely to fear the things we once did and often feel less of a need to “protect” ourselves. There is an inner groundedness and peace that arises that allows us to move more freely toward our future best self without all of the emergency breaks.