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December, 2010

Defeating The Saboteur Within

By Elizabeth Anderson-Peacock, DC

Healing does not stop with our office visit. There are times when we can support our patients by helping them recognize the little voice inside which stops us from growth. When identified, we can help them with a "you can" attitude.

We know that change can be difficult not only due to years of ingrained less than-ideal-habits but maintaining change has to occur consistently to make plastic changes in the brain.

A technique used successfully with both patients and coaching clients is to identify the impact of the Saboteur in the process of change. Not a saboteur in the flesh but in the mind. You may call it a bad advisor, a sinister voice. It may take the form of a dark cloud, a squeaking monkey-on-your-back. Identifying the Saboteur is important as once activated it becomes more difficult to actively listen to others. The internal conversation we have with it reduces our available adaptive response.

"It" is the inner conversation, thought or program we automatically run which allows us to feel safe. "It" is the voice which tells us we will fail so why bother in the fist place. The Saboteur is the dialogue we have with ourselves which tell us why we cannot do or achieve whatever we want to accomplish. "It" stops us from growth and change. "It" keeps us playing life small. "It" keeps us afraid of the "what if's?"

What if I fail - What if they say no - What if I am rejected - What if I am not smart enough -What if I make a mistake - What if I forget something - What if I am embarrassed - What if I lose money - What if they do not like me - What if it hurts...

The saboteur is like old baggage weighing us down. This negative inner dialogue seems to provide compelling reasons why we cannot be successful, why we cannot change, why we should live life small. We feel "It" advises us as to what we can and cannot do. "It" impacts our self-esteem.

We may have learned this negative self talk through comments made innocently or not by parents, teachers, friends, peers or through our culture. At some point we have taken what was said as our truth, to our heart. Our conversation may play out something like this:

I am not smart enough, my idea is stupid, I cannot change, I am not strong, I am do not want to change, I am too lazy, I am too old/young, I can't...

Have you heard excuses for not moving ahead in life based on fear provided by this internal talk? Are you aware of the Saboteur's affect? How has it stopped growth and change?

What is of importance is to note the Saboteur is not you really you. It is just a voice/thought which we may or may not give credence to. When we identify it for what it is in our thoughts, we can speak to "it" as a third person, separating it from ourselves. When recognizing it, decisions may be made differently.

Giving the Saboteur an actual name or visualizing what it looks like allows you to separate it from the real you. One can then begin to be the observer of "self" - one's thoughts without the same judgment or charge. You can then put these thoughts in their rightful place, gain insights and perspective, and work through the opportunity to see your own resourcefulness.

When hesitation is observed with in making change, this may be an opportunity to identify this Saboteur.

Describe what is surrounding its appearance? If one was to remove it, how would that occur, what would it look like?

The first stage is to identify this saboteur. Imagine the Saboteur as an actual "thing" with a shape and give it name or look.

What are the effects of the saboteur on you?

Can you describe any feelings - anxious, tired, confused, angry, short tempered?

How is the body is responding to this saboteur - breathing changes, heart races, sweating, tense muscles, headaches, skin crawl, stomach go into knots?

List and describe in as much detail as you can both feelings and body reaction.

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