While Sachin has dismissed the hundredth 100 as just another century, the Indian diaspora is keenly awaiting this one. And with the over zealous aspirations of 1.2 billion riding high on the bat of this young master, pressure is bound to build on him? Suddenly Sachin is out of form and the runs off the bat have abruptly dried up. In our opinion, we do not believe that the lack of form is at work here but certain certain self sabotaging behaviors are preventing him from achieving the much awaited milestone. In this article we explore the psychological impact of self sabotaging behaviour and how it emanates in daily walks of life.
Consider the following self-sabotaging behaviours which are commonly observed: Why do we wait till the last minute to leave for a place? Why are some people perpetually late for something important that they have really desired? Why do we remain employed in a company although we know we deserve and can get a better job? Why do we repeatedly get into an abusive relationship? We’ve all seen this in our friends and even, regrettably, in ourselves.
However bizarre as it may seem, we must derive some benefit from these problematic behaviours of ours. These problems may appear maladaptive on surface but if we give it a closer look, we will realize that in some way, we benefit from them. In other words, in some way we are protected by our problems. One can’t usually explain the “real” reasons for ones behavior because the reasons are outside of their conscious awareness. So although we may consciously strive for something, it is possible that our unconscious mind works in direct opposition to it, self-sabotaging our resolves leaving us frustrated and helpless.
This is precisely the reason why an obese person is unable to stick to the food diet regime. Maybe unconsciously becoming fitter would draw more attention from the opposite sex or make the person more successful than his loved one and thereby lose love of her spouse. Or getting into an abusive relationship is ones way to remain in agreement with the unconscious belief that one is not worthy of love. Or becoming more successful than ones parent will in some way unleash the wrath of the parent who may abandon them. These fears of abandonment or of a loved one getting angry are deeply rooted in one’s childhood experiences and are extremely anxiety provoking. They continue to strongly influence our current behavior unless we bring this conflict into consciousness to be worked on in therapy.
I was approached by a manager at a very senior level for marital counseling. The couple was batting infidelity in their marriage. While his outward behavior seemed very protective and caring towards his wife, his unwarranted affair had a devastating effect on his marriage. During sessions when I enquired about how the affair started and what the other woman meant to him, I was not surprised to hear that she meant nothing to him and that he himself couldn’t justify the need to get into this one night stand and risking his marriage. Worse still he made no effort to hide it from his wife and in fact seemed relieved when she got to know about it. This seemed to fit the bill of the maladaptive behavior perfectly and we looked for further clues on the possible benefits. As we explored the childhood and some of his current behaviours things crystalized further. He was a neglected child and grew up with a feeling of not worthy of love. This feeling remained entrenched in his unconscious although he gained good marks and then went on to become the most successful of all his siblings, taking care to help them settle in life and therefore much adored too. When he got married he started facing difficulties in developing intimacy with his. His wife found him very appropriate however lacking in demonstration of love and affection. She however was deeply in love with him and found his aloofness disturbing. This became an issue when she discovered that he had had a one night stand with a woman. What was disturbing her further was that he could not furbish any justifiable excuse nor did he even attempt to hide the truth from her. It was almost as if he wanted her to find out and thereby punish him by withdrawing her love. This was in line with his unconscious belief that he was not loveable and now he had proven to himself once again that he is not worthy of love.
Sachin Tendulkar too seems to be having this mal adaptive behavior which appears repetitive wherein he gets out just as he is touching his century or when there is tremendous pressure on him to perform. It’s almost as if, if he does meet with the expectations of the country then something terrible will befall on him. If he is successful then maybe he will be abandoned / not loved? Or worse still he will become somehow bigger and stronger than the father whose oedipal complex may still haunt him. It isn’t uncommon to be unable to perform at peak capacity or self-sabotage once life and career to tag the line of one’s unconscious oedipal fears of the opposite sex parent or the belief system of not being good enough/ not loveable/ not worthy of. Our actions are mainly governed by this unconscious dictum and efforts are made to keep it unconscious and seeking more and more proof through experiences that match these beliefs. It is kept unconscious precisely for this reason that it produces anxiety while conscious life experiences seem to fall in line magically with these beliefs.
Most people find the notion that all behavior, no matter how self-destructive, has an adaptive function difficult to grasp. So, how do you go about learning more about the advantages to maintaining your current (purportedly unwanted) situation? A first step is to examine the advantages to maintaining the status quo. To do this, ask yourself the following questions.
Describe a longstanding difficulty with which you have struggled. Describe the ways in which it is maladaptive. How does this difficulty hurt you or hold you back or make you unhappy? What is its impact on your relationships at work, at home, and socially? Ask yourself the following question:
1. Have you attempted to change this difficulty? If not, why not? If so, describe the nature of your efforts?
2. In what ways have your efforts been successful? If they have been unsuccessful, why?
3. In what ways have your efforts been thwarted? How were they sabotaged?
Most people never come to the stage of seeking out professional assistance because they are not aware that they are sabotaging themselves. Those that do seek help often wait until well into adulthood. In life, we all aspire to both conscious and unconscious goals, but often there are psychological barriers that we may cling to and be haunted by, which block our aspirations. Projected envy and terrors of the actual envy of others can block motivations to succeed, when dissociated and/or repressed primal rage intensify the intimidating power of projected hostility and envy, and of perceptions of others as rivalries in areas of competition. Desire can be blocked by oedipal level fears of rivalry and hostile completion, but more primitive and primal fears of abandonment can also be at play, when developmental arrests have taken place in the preoedipal years of separation-individuation and self-integration. How we address these psychological blocks in a clinical situation is critical to helping patients to overcome all their inhibitions and intimidations, as they attempt to motivate themselves to succeed in life.