Developing Self: Acknowledging and Healing Emotional Sabotage


By Simone N

Do you emotionally abuse yourself?

What does it mean to emotionally abuse oneself?

What can be done to stop these damaging behaviors?

Continuing on with this  this mini-series, to emotionally abuse/sabotage ourselves, is one of the popular forms of sabotage, in my opinion. Although we cannot see or observe that another is doing it themselves, many of us do not have a secure healthy relationship with ourselves. Just look at our world. As I mentioned many times before, our outer world reflects our inner state. We have a lot of work to do.

So now, what does it mean to emotionally sabotage or abuse yourself? If you remember from from my previous article, I  introduced the subject of sabotage. It is  to willingly, deliberately destroy, impair, something. Like I mentioned before that it would not be at anyone’s advantage, in this case, as the original meaning dictates. Sabotaging yourself has no advantage. To abuse, is to mistreat, ‘ab’ use, misuse  use yourself in an incorrect and/or unhealthy way, done to a bad effect. There are little to no distinguishable differences between the two,  so I use them within the same context.

Now how are the few ways we can emotionally sabotage/abuse ourselves?

Harsh criticisms, judgments. To criticize is to express disapproval through fault-finding (focusing on the perceived or true negatives about self), placing blame, judgement (label ourselves in conclusion, disrespectful/degrading name, negative words). To judge oneself  (in my own words), is to make an absolute conclusion about yourself. Many of the times these conclusions are untrue, and negative. Just remember whatever is said to yourself is going to affect you, whether positive or negatively, as your feelings are connected to your thoughts. For example if you are expressing disapproval toward yourself, will cause you to feel a certain way about you afterwards, can you guess how? If you say “ I’m such a loser,” “I  suck,” “I’m stupid/ugly/worthless” (all judgments),” I can never do anything right,”  “My ears are too big,”” I’m so sensitive,” “I’m too light/dark” (all fault finding, criticisms),” It’s all my fault,” “I’m the reason so-and-so…..,”(placing blame, guilt complex). Saying these things to ourselves will have a damaging impact; as I said in the last article, we are unknowingly repeating the cycle within ourselves, done by another.You heard it somewhere. The reason why it is do damaging to us, sabotaging ourselves this way, is it makes ourselves our worst enemy, when we should be be our own best friend, a safe place of unconditional love, peace and comfort. We don’t stand a chance against ourselves. We can manifest this behavior in a few ways; berating (to criticize in an angry hostile manner, to scold, yell, etc.),  in a calm, cool manner (but is still damaging, because it is the words that matter), and even done in a joking manner. To “make fun”  of yourself may be a good time or laugh with friends and family, but you are further eroding your self esteem by these comments. I believe to make jokes about yourself in this manner, tells of the personal “truth”(something you believe) abut yourself, and thus reinforce those beliefs.

Holding on to damaging/toxic emotions. What I am speaking about here is excessive an frequent guilt, shame, rage, and self-pity. Guilt, in it’s natural form is good thing; which is a signal from our conscience, telling us that what we did or have done is something we shouldn’t have done; something that was not in alignment with our true nature, we then consequently, feel remorse. When we feel unwarranted guilt about something we haven’t done wrong, wasn’t our fault, or in innocence, for example,  is a abuse to the self, and creates a lot of suffering. Sometimes we were told, or meant to feel wrong, condemned, the cause of unhappiness, stress, obstacle of success for the other person, we then develop a guilt complex of an internalized belief of “wrongness”. Emotional (verbal) abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, in the many ways it can manifest , can leave a lot of people with excessive guilt and shame. When you hold on to this toxic emotion you are sabotaging happiness, as you are spending time condemned, feeling undeserving of joy, blessings, love; you cannot have good relationships with others, as well as unconditionally love yourself.

Shame‘s emotional consequences, are closely related to guilt. To feel shame is is to feel highly embarrassed, self-conscious, distressed about yourself  about what you have done, it can encompass feelings of guilt, regret, unworthiness, and inferiority. It is a painful feeling. Naturally, it has the same function  as guilt, to alert that your recent action is less than honorable, ensuring it to never to be repeated again. Unwarranted shame, the excessive, and frequent feeling of it is damaging. Abuses such as sexual, physical, emotional and neglect can cause excessive feelings of shame. Walking around with a baggage of embarrassment/humiliation, unworthiness, “wrongness”, disgrace, regret, guilt, where is the room for feelings of love and appreciation for self (health self esteem), joy, peace, loving relationships, allowing gifts/ blessings? Even if we have done something that warrants that level of shame, I believe that life does not hold anything against us; had we learned, grown, if it was something we were ignorant about (didn’t know any better), etc. Life is for learning/enlightenment, and evolution. You may think that staying shameful/guilty/condemned will make you a better person, it will not. There is value is suffering (if it is warranted), what is done is done, nothing can be changed.

Anger, is a natural emotion, that we all experience from time to time. Anger is an indicator that a boundary has been over-stepped, or crossed (emotionally,physically, well being threatened), it is a signal that something is not right. It can be in conjunction with said above, that something needs to be addressed, or resolved, balanced, or released. Anger that is excessive and frequent is unhealthy; when it is repressed and unresolved turn into a unnatural growth that is rage. Rage is a toxic emotion  that is dangerous, and unpredictable. It is a big sign that there is unresolved issue that it brings. To carry, or hold on to rage has damaging effects on the moods, personality and the physical body/health (as it mirrors and responds to feelings and state of mind); of course negatively impact your ability to maintain a career/job, relationships/social interactions with other people, and can get you into some compromising situations(trouble), integrity, and can go as far as a run-in with the law. You sabotage yourself by holding onto rage, as it’s toxic effects prevent you from finding peace, happiness, joy;  you make yourself sick emotionally, and physically. Rage almost all times stem from a situation, circumstance, of what was done, to us, or around us. Whoever or whatever you are mad at, is not going to do anything positive for yourself, you will not get the results of  whatever you desire(revenge,justice, reciprocation,etc.) because it is only contained within you, and you only hurt yourself.

To have pity for one’s self, does not a have any advantage whatsoever, it does not have a natural positive purpose, I find. Pity, in this case, is to feel sorry for oneself, victimized, powerless (to change self or life). As you see there is nothing uplifting or positive about it. If you say these words: “Nothing good will ever happen to me,” “Poor me,” “My life sucks,” “They are all against me…etc.” What do you think about what effect it will have on you? If you keep this audio tape of pity within your mind, it will turn to depression, further erode your self-esteem, keeps you in a state of defeatism, and powerlessness, which can become a pathology, if it is not already. Also it aborts the potential or possibility of achieving dreams, accomplishing goals, becoming the person you desire/stepping into a role, living a fulfilling, successful life, overcoming challenges/obstacles/hardships, you do not try, strive, overcome, complete, do anything, because after all you are victim, and nothing will ever work out for you, right? You see what I’m getting at? If you have an internalized belief that “the world is against me” it manifests in your experience, so you cannot get the contrary.

 Now that we got that out of the way, what can be done to stop these damaging behaviors? When dealing with criticisms/judgement, firstly, ask yourself if you heard them before (from someone else), how many times, and if they are true. Once again, I will put it out there that the majority of what we heard about ourselves are lies/misinformation, and ignorance, whether it was done maliciously or unconsciously. If you determine that they are lies, the next step is to reverse them. If they are true, take the lesson they bring, and apply it (improve the weakness/liability), but don’t continue punishing yourself with it (berating, dwelling on it). Use positive affirmations for criticisms (negative beliefs about self, names, faults/weaknesses) all damaging toxic emotions. Positive affirmations reverse negative words/labels, internalized beliefs, affirm and expand the good; create new beliefs/thoughts/ideas about self and life. For an example, instead of saying “I’m a failure/loser” say “I am successful” or “I was born to win”. It doesn’t matter if you believe it, keep at it and will become a belief in the same manner an internalized belief develops from something untrue/damaging. To replace everything damaging, untrue, unhealthy, unproductive with uplifting, true and positive statements it takes practice and patience.

A very important  to mention to reversing emotional abuse/sabotage is forgiveness. Forgiveness of self, especially towards others and life.  To forgive means to give up, or stop feeling anger, blame, guilt, shame, resentment, and more, as a result of the past, (perceived) mistakes, or actions. If you are in the bondage of guilt and shame,  forgiveness is so beneficial to release you of the toxic effects. You can use positive affirmations in this healing process. writing in a journal , meditation, therapy can give you a different angle that can help you along. If you are holding rage, it is a must to forgive those who have done something to you (could be perceived as well), because if you do not, they have the power over you; your happiness/emotions/life. Forgiveness will clear your energies, and be replenished with more positive, uplifting ones, and as a result, a better life.

It takes time to notice that we are abusing ourselves, and even longer to reverse it. It is challenging, and frustrating, but worth the the work.Check out the next article : Developing Self: Acknowledging and Healing Physical Sabotage