By: Marilyn L. Davis
“What really bugs Henry about Barry, he supposes, is Barry’s complacency. His inner assurance that there is no need to change his self-destructive behavior, let alone search for its roots. ~Stephen King, Dreamcatcher
What’s at the Root of Your Self-destructive Behavior?
Most people are aware that a relapse back to using drugs or alcohol will only complicate their lives, devastate their loved ones and cause them difficulty in achieving their various goals.
But how much effort have you put into learning about and discovering your other self-defeating behaviors? These can undermine and hinder your recovery and life goals, or produce the same negative or unwanted outcomes. Even when you quit using, if there is not a different behavior, you may still be hitting that proverbial brick wall.
Not using drugs and alcohol is just the beginning of the necessary changes in recovery. Other actions, thoughts, and attitudes hinder your recovery progress as well. Maybe it’s time to learn to find and change them.
What are Self-destructive Behaviors?
Self-destructive or self-defeating behaviors are any behaviors that you can realistically foresee giving you unwanted consequences, behaviors that prevent you from actualizing your goals or -, or guarantees that you will harm yourself in the end.
Baumeister and Scher describe “Self-defeating Behavior as the idea that sometimes people knowingly do things that will cause them to fail or bring them trouble. Defining self-defeating behaviors as, “any deliberate or intentional behavior that has clear or probable negative effects on the self or on the self’s projects.”
That’s a rather academic way of saying, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.”
We sometimes act, think or feel a certain way because it’s familiar or it’s part of the pattern of self-defeating behaviors. We engage in behaviors, thoughts, attitudes and feelings because they are familiar and for many, they don’t like the idea of changing, but still want different outcomes. Unfortunately, you won’t get different outcomes without different efforts.
When Did the Self-destructive Behaviors Start?
Sometimes we are not aware that our patterns of self-defeating behaviors started long before we became adults or started using. Remember playing football or being a cheerleader? These gave you exercise, a social network, and perhaps even some prestige at school.
However, both of these would have required that you practice, be on time for the practice, show up for the games, and give up sitting with your friends in the stadium.
Instead of doing the work required, you procrastinated and showed up late for practice, or didn’t put in as much effort as you needed to in practices. You thought you were entitled to miss practices because you arrogantly thought you were already the best player or cheerleader.
You assumed you were good enough that people would not comment on you being late. You falsely thought that you could just follow the moves of the cheerleaders or instinctively know a game play and be okay. This behavior demonstrated both your arrogance and conceit.
These actions and attitudes were not okay, and the coach put you on probation – either show improvement or be dropped from the team. You followed the notice to improve and were doing better until you got jealous seeing your friends in the stadium, and so you quit.
Are You Still Using Self-destructive Behaviors?
As you can see in the example, there are several attitudes, actions, and feelings going on that created the missed opportunity and sabotaged the goal. However, it’s not just the self-defeating behaviors of an adolescent, although many patterns get started then, because it usually as a teenager that we start making choices.
The mistakes that we make in our youth are unsurprising, however, not learning from them and changing the underlying reasons for the outcomes is astonishing.
Continuing the patterns from adolescence, you adopt an attitude that people persecute you or you continue to pose as a victim. That you are right in your actions, it’s just that everyone else is against you. Because you’ve justified your actions and blamed other, your arrogances continues.
Plus, you resent people telling you what, how, or when to do something. Arrogance may have cost you jobs, which may or may not cost you loss of income, or your family leaves decided to leave because they can’t take any more.
Now, your spouse packs up the children and moves out, creating more emotional difficulties. Instead of looking at your part in these events, you just blame someone or something else and lament your back luck.
Common Self-destructive Behaviors, Thoughts and Actions
This domino effect of bad things happening one right after the other is prolonged because you continue to use from character defects, negative aspects or Self-defeating Behaviors. Self-defeating Behavior patterns seem to create one negative outcome after another. When you’re ready to look at self-defeating behaviors, this list might help you find some of yours.
What are the common self-defeating behaviors that get less than favorable results? Here’s a list to get you started, however, each of us has our preferred ways, so if you don’t see yours, keep looking within and I’m sure you’ll find your personal ones. Those are the most important for you to change. Which of these creates chaos and disharmony in your life?
1. Always being right and arrogant about our opinions
2. Attracting the same type of hurtful personalities
3. Becoming a martyr or victim
4. Being careless or irresponsible
5. Blaming others for our choices
6. Having predictable excuses
7. Making assumptions instead of asking for guidance
8. Not being open to other people’s suggestions or ideas
9. Outright rejection of people’s advice or suggestions
11. Thinking we are unique in our situations, feelings, or action
The Self-destructive Patterns are Normal
Patterns of behavior that you have used for a long time has just become mechanical or habituated. In other words, it’s your normal. Those behaviors thoughts and feelings seem natural and comfortable, and that creates part of the problem even when you want to change.
Now that you’ve identified some of your self-destructive behaviors, ask yourself:
1. Do you have the motivation to change them?
2. Are you willing to be uncomfortable while changing?
3. What are your fears in changing?
4. Can you find your resources to help you change?
Ask people how they have changed their Self-destructive behaviors – most people like to talk about being successful. Where can you find these successful people?
1. Self-help meetings
2. A Sponsor or Accountability Partner
3. Online, in recovery chat rooms, FB pages, and such
When you look for the patterns of your particular Self-defeating Behaviors, you begin to see opportunities to do things differently as well and realize just how many resources for change you do have.
Writing, and Recovery Heals the Heart
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