If you have been in the process of trying to become well for any length of time, you are probably familiar with the concept of self sabotage. Someone in your life, whether they mean well or not will have said to you something which translates to "why are you behaving/not behaving in this way which I think would be so good for you", or "why do you keep doing this to yourself/ feeling this way?" These well-intentioned people often want to help us because they feel we simply aren't doing a good enough job helping ourselves.
Dr. Margin Seligman, father of positive psychology, coined a term he called "learned helplessness". Learned helplessness is when certain physical or psychological conditions are imposed upon us for a length of time, and when those conditions are removed, we continue to function in a way which is stymied.
Many of us experience periods of learned helplessness throughout life: during difficult relationships, challenging situations at work, and periods of prolonged illness.
Self sabotage is real. The patterns of keeping ourselves "safe" and "small" have an important function, especially when it comes to chronic illness. Sometimes we just need to hunker down for long stretches of time and not take any risks because well, our interior and physical experience already feels way too risky.
But this can take a toll. Eventually, enough of this protective energy begins to block our progress. As a species and as beings who are evolving to experience higher levels of consciousness, to stop expanding our life experience and worldview (even because we are suffering) will eventually hurt us more than it helps us. Sometimes this manifests as a subconscious fear of becoming well, or a complacency and despondency regarding our situation.
I, like many of you, have experienced shades of learned helplessness many times over. It is always an opportunity for growth and more self compassion. One of the most unhelpful things you can say to somebody who is in this state is to "snap out of it", or "just stop being so helpless".
A few months ago I had a doctor who I very much love and respect, exasperatingly say " Anja, why are you sabotaging yourself?" Now, as a very self reflective person I am quick to admit where I notice inner resistance or where I feel I am self sabotaging myself. (Getting to the "why" is often more difficult to discern.) In this instance, the practitioner saying this to me felt unsupportive and after several moments reflecting on her words I realized she was wrong, I was not sabotaging myself. I was, in fact. handling my current situation incredibly well and dealing with a complex situation created by a lack of oversight and missed signs that many doctors (including her) had missed months earlier.
Be discerning, but don't play the blame game. Tough love has its place, but it always takes second to true self compassion. True self compassion wont always be comfortable, but it will cut through to the dark places. Blame just masks the dark places with anger.
As I sat in that appointment and realized my own grace and my practitioners error in that moment, I remembered a truth that comes to me often: we are the only ones who can discern our experience, and because of this we have a great responsibility to ourselves. We must cultivate the kind of self love that encompasses and sees through our own resistance, without blame.
Nobody else can do the work of loving your situation just as it is, while also being discerning enough to see where we need to push ourselves and grow.
Below, I've outlined a powerful meditation from the lineage of Kundalini Yoga. It is called "Meditation to conquer self animosity" and it brings us back into that deep relationship with our self where we are not afraid to have a compassionate, all encompassing view of what is actually going on in our life. The video is recorded by Sat Siri Kaur, a loved and respected teacher.
MEDITATION TO CONQUER SELF ANIMOSITY
If you choose to practice this meditation, how did it feel? I'd love to hear from you.
Do these words resonate with you?
What can you do in your life to allow for deeper self compassion for where you are?
With Love, and In Health,