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We’ve often heard that we can be our own worst enemies. During my spiritual journey, I’ve learned that most of the bad things that happened to me were due to my own wrong decisions. It was self-will that got me into trouble, and sometimes, I didn’t even learn from my mistakes. And after many years as a psychotherapist observing others, it seems to be a human condition. So often, people will use therapy as a sounding board or an outlet. That’s fine, but therapy is an inside job if they want a better life.

Most people want successful relationships, but that can’t happen if we continue to get in our own way. Looking at how someone hurts you is valid and must be addressed. However, if we can’t see our role in a relationship, we will remain stuck in self-made trenches.

If your relationships aren’t what you’d like them to be, an internal saboteur is likely keeping you stuck.

Three signs that you’re under the control of an internal saboteur:

# 1 Seeking Solutions and then Devaluing the Advice – There are many trusted sources besides acquaintances to seek guidance when feeling lost. One source is a trusted friend with expertise, but that person may only sometimes be objective. A professional, support group, mentor, or therapist can also be a reliable source.

Some people seek advice, receive sound solutions, and then dismiss them. For example, someone seeking financial advice will modify the plan and lose money. Another person might receive marital or family counseling and decide it wasn’t meaningful. Someone else might need help with career counseling and then disagree with the vocational test results. Another common sabotage strategy is to go to several people and receive different opinions, mirroring the existing confusion.

# 2 Running on Fear – This is the most common problem. People want solutions but don’t like the answers because facing the truth is too uncomfortable. This is very common with addictions. People have an image of addiction that isn’t accurate. Not every addict is wobbling around on the street with an empty booze bottle in hand. That very person didn’t start that way. Like any illness, there were signs and symptoms long before. Most addicts (substances, gambling, sex, food, electronics, spending, porn, sugar, codependency, etc.) are functioning members of society – or at least participate in some manner.

We sabotage ourselves when we refuse to face reality. People who won’t face the fact that they or their loved one has signs of addiction hurts everyone involved. The only solution is to choose love over fear. When we choose love, we dare to face the truth and do something constructive instead of sticking our heads in the sand or wishing the problem away. The problem must be identified and then addressed with love and kindness.

# 3 Refusal to Own Your Part in the Problem – People who are stuck usually have co-sponsors/enablers. Enablers buffer and rescue someone from facing the consequences of their bad choices. For example, “I can’t stop calling in sick for her, she’ll get fired,” “I had to give him money, he had no food,” “If I don’t pay her rent, she’ll be homeless,” “If I detach, he’ll die,” “If I address the affair, she might leave me,” “I don’t have the energy to deal with her reaction,” “I’m unhappy, but I’m afraid of the unknown.” In these situations, the enabler’s fears are fully exploited by the person they are enabling. Anger, guilt trips, acts of helplessness, threatening to leave, or even threatening suicide are tactics to manipulate the enabler. It’s a chess game that never ends.

The solution begins when we recognize how we contribute to a problem and stop doing it. For example, if you discontinue your part in a dysfunctional relationship and do it with love, the other person will have to change. It’s not guaranteed that things will turn out as you want, but at least there’s hope for a healthier outcome. And it’s a definite guarantee that you will have better mental health.

No one can be saved who doesn’t want to be helped. And if you’re unwilling to save yourself, how can you expect anyone else to? Scarlett O’Hara never thought twice about her abusive behavior until Rhett Butler told her he no longer gave “a damn.” Love was gone before she could see her role. Had he held her accountable and spoken his truth before he’d lost respect for her, there may have been hope. Instead, we tend to avoid confronting ourselves and others. Then, one day, it’s too late. The worst has happened.

It’s suitable for all of us to take inventory. How might you get in your own way, and what can you do? When something is too scary to face or change, try replacing that fear with love. Then, when the solution presents itself, give it a chance before sabotaging your success. When problems are addressed with love, your victory is usually a win for everyone involved.


Dr. Donna Marks has been an author, consultant, public speaker, and psychotherapist for over thirty years. She was licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in 1987 and then certified in Addiction, Gestalt Therapy, Hypnosis, Sex Therapy, and Psychoanalysis. She currently has a concierge psychotherapy practice in Palm Beach, Florida.
She has appeared on numerous podcasts and local television. She is the author of two books, Learn Grow Forgive – A Path to Spiritual Success, and Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Solution (revised), and winner of multiple book awards. Her next book, The Healing Moment: Seven Keys to Turn Messes into Miracles, will be released in 2023.

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