I am a yeller. I come from a long family line of yellers. The yelling isn’t necessarily done out of anger; it is simply another form of communication… a loud one.
After children came into my life, I could see the negative impact the yelling had on them. I wasn’t crossing the line into verbal abuse, but I would raise my voice to get their attention. I would raise my voice even louder after the third time trying to get their attention. By this time, I was yelling out of frustration.
“Do your homework!”
I yelled, but the yelling didn’t change my kids’ behavior. It actually seemed to make them listen less. My special needs child, who suffers from huge amounts of anxiety, was made more anxious by my yelling. My yelling only ramped up her negative behavior. I continued this terrible habit, knowing that my yelling was counterproductive. I wanted to stop.
This revelation got me thinking about self-sabotage and the unhealthy patterns we create in our daily lives, even though we know better. We all have friends and family that make huge mistakes in their lives. Sometimes we think, if only she would dump him… if only she would see. We can have a different perspective because we are viewing the problem from a distance. Since we aren’t emotionally involved in their specific situations, we aren’t carrying the same emotional baggage. We don’t really understand their personal stories; we can’t.
I pondered this aspect of self-sabotage too. If we can see others’ issues so clearly, there has to be a way to see our own issues clearly as well.
I got to the point where I wanted to change, and I needed to see myself with more clarity. At the time, I was survival-parenting without respite for longer than I am willing to admit. This state of desperation forced me to devise a new plan that would work without too much struggle. That plan had to be immediate and doable.
Looking back at it now, yelling never really worked as a communication tool. It was only a short-term solution that had long-term negative effects.
There are many theories on coping with self-sabotage. One theory is rooted in a person’s fear of success. The belief is that you are sabotaging yourself because if you succeed, then you have to live up to that new expectation. I wrote this amazing novel and won the National Book Award, so the next novel must be even better.
The counter, of course, is the fear of failure. I am going to end up eating that entire cake anyway, so I might as well do it. To me, it seems like we sabotage ourselves for many reasons, not just one.
There are what seem like a million strategies for breaking the cycle of self-sabotage. Experts say you must break the cycle from childhood, create new pathways of thought, consult various professional books, see a therapist regularly, EMDR, undergo electroshock therapy, ect.
When I realized that my yelling was out of control, I didn’t have the money or time for anything other than a library self-help book and a good long look at myself.
Many people rely on prayer or meditation to help them make decisions in life. These two things can create calm in our daily lives, but this takes practice and dedication. If you have the time to develop a system that works for you, that’s great. However, some of us find ourselves in survival mode, or in a phase of life where this coping strategy isn’t possible, or the method does not follow our personal beliefs. We need a fix yesterday.
Conscious Mindfulness, combined with a bit of grace, seems to be the best answer to self- sabotage for me. By setting aside the expectation for a perfect outcome, I can take a moment and look at my decisions and my motivations behind them.
I know, easier said than done; but now, when I feel like yelling at my children to finish their homework and do their chores, I stop and take a deep breath. I think about what kind of outcome I want and then I talk to my children about my expectations. Usually, I find that they are more willing to comply when we are having a discussion rather than a yelling match. Progress!
Every day, I make a conscious choice to be mindful and present.
Hopefully, this practice will bring me closer to my goals.