In a recent video I watched, Tony Robbins talks about self-sabotage and how it’s the goal of our behavior to give ourselves a positive intent.
So in anything we do, whether it can be perceived as a healthy or unhealthy activity (smoking cigarettes, for example), we do it because it gives us something positive. In the case of cigarettes, it temporarily takes away stress and replaces it with something pleasurable.
In my own life, I tend to behave a certain way when it comes to romantic relationships. My behavior is to end things before things get too serious. I do this, I think because I’m afraid of letting myself be vulnerable, to expose my soft inside (I am a Cancer, after all 🦀). So I kill the relationship. I self-sabotage.
This kinda sucks.
Sure, I get to protect myself from ever being vulnerable with another human being – which I can objectively say is not healthy or positive in the grand scheme of things. But I’m missing out on experiencing so much, including true intimacy and deep connection with another. All because I’m trying to protect myself.
And remember: this behavior has a positive intent, after all, but is the cost too great? I certainly don’t think it’s in my benefit to behave this way.
So what does Tony suggest?
Associate Pain to the Self-Sabotaging Behavior
He would tell me that I need to sit down and write down how this behavior of mine is, in fact, hurting me, and to associate pain with this behavior. Whereas before it had a positive intent (to spare me from the pain of possibly getting rejected), I have to begin to associate it with pain.
So I could consider how, if I continue to go through life like this, I’ll be alone. Or how I won’t have any close, meaningful relationships in my life. How, when I’m older, I won’t have a significant other to grow old with, to share in life’s moments with, to laugh and to cry with.
I could also consider, too, the personal loss I would feel if I never opened up to anyone and what I would miss out on by never experiencing this aspect of myself.
Associate Positive Feelings with the New Behavior
Once I’ve considered all the pain that I can associate to my current behavior, it’s time to start thinking of the benefit that exists in changing that behavior to what I envision.
So for me, it’s being more open with people; it’s developing close, intimate relationships with romantic partners.
What’s the good that could come of that?
Well, I would experience deeper feelings of love and connection with another. I would have someone I could trust and confide in. I could be myself and share my thoughts and feelings with another and feel that they could do the same with me. I could create amazing memories with that person and we could grow together mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I could grow old with that person and we could create something together, something greater than what we could each create on our own.
The idea is to change the association we have to the current behavior we want to change as being painful to us and create a positive, new association to the thing we want to do instead. Because ultimately, as Mr. Robbins explains, everything we do, we do it because it has a positive intent for ourselves. Someway, somehow, the behavior provides us with something of benefit to us.
So we have to learn to associate positive feelings with our new behavior, to rewire our brains so that the next time we think of doing the old behavior we associate it to pain and to associate pleasure and positive emotions to the new, preferable behavior.
Check out Part Two of this series, to learn how we can put into action our new associations and behaviors.