The Aversion to Happiness: Self-Sabotage
I am reading a book right now called The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, it’s about how when we are just on the cusp of getting what we want we often pull ourselves back down into where we were. Think about it, have you ever been on the verge of a great success only to find yourself struggling with problems or people that you thought had been resolved? The unconscious part of our mind fears change. It prefers to have a predictable life, even if it is a painful life.
This upsets and confuses me. I don’t understand why we have such an aversion to happiness. I don’t know why we are afraid of feeling loved, desired, or successful. You would think that we would move towards these feelings with reckless abandon. And yet, I see self-sabotage again and again, both in my clients and myself. For many, maintaining success can feel like a Sisyphean task. Just when we get close to the top of the mountain, everything comes crashing down. It seems as though our internal self, our small self wants to keep us down at any cost necessary.
Hendricks talks about four unconscious beliefs that hold us back. These are usually established in childhood, they come from messages, either direct or indirect, from our parents that teach us about what the world is like. The four barriers are as follows: feeling fundamentally flawed, feeling disloyal, believing that more success brings more burden, and outshining somebody else. You probably have some of these beliefs, notice your thoughts, feelings, and sensations as you read the next few paragraphs. If as your reading you feel a bit of charge or emotion you may have one of these installed deep within your unconscious.
The feeling of being fundamentally flawed is pervasive in Western culture. A lot of our culture depends on it. I was having a conversation with a friend about marketing, and he said “marketing is convincing somebody they have a problem and then selling them the solution.” There’s some truth to that, think about how many commercials are advertisements play on our deep insecurities. Look at how the beauty and fashion industries have damaged and brainwashed our women or how the rat race has imprisoned our workers. When we feel that deep down we are fundamentally flawed we cannot accept success when it comes. We believe that we do not deserve it or that we did not earn it. This can lead to us crumbling at the last moment, tripping on the finish line.
Another barrier is feeling as though we have abandoned the ones that we love or that we had betrayed our roots. This one comes from parents who are disapproving of the choices that we make or who do not understand them. This can lead to a deep-seated belief that we are straying from the pack. So, even if we are successful we feel as though we cannot get the approval of those who we care about the most. This belief can lead us to committing our whole lives to a career that drains us because we feel obligated to the herd mentality.
Sometimes we believe that if we are more successful we will have more responsibilities. While this is mostly true what we forget to realize is that we will be able to handle them. It is the very process of becoming successful that prepares us. And yet, many of us believe that we are not fit to lead or that others can do it better than us. This is the part of us that wants to stay small and that is afraid of taking risks were being rejected. This is the very part of us that needs us to succeed in order to feel strong. By staying small we are only imprisoning ourselves and reinforcing the belief that we are unworthy.
We sometimes get the message as children that our successes take away from the success of others. This could come from a sibling, parent, or friend; when our successes are met with jealousy or resentment we get the message that we are stealing the light from somebody else. Sometimes we are taught not to outshine those around us because it puts their own insecurities and inadequacies into focus. The sad state of affairs that this is actually true for many people, they are unable to tolerate success, even in others around them. I encourage you to build a community of people who want you to shine and are inspired every time you triumph.
So check in with yourself, are you holding any of these beliefs?
Did any of these ring true as you read through them?
And, do you find yourself messing up just as things are starting to get good?
You are not alone. This is a fundamentally human phenomena. The first step in breaking out of this prison is to notice when you are building the walls. Notice when you’re getting in your own way, sit with the feelings that come up, and move through them. Do not let your unconscious mind drag you back into the muck. You deserve all of your success and happiness.