By: Marilyn L. Davis
What are Self-destructive Behaviors?
Self-destructive or self-defeating behaviors are any behaviors that you can realistically foresee giving you unwanted consequences. These are the behaviors that prevent you from actualizing your goals 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 the self’s projects.” When you look at the definitions, it’s clear that just giving up drugs and alcohol is not enough. We’ve got to work on these behaviors, too.
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.
That’s a rather academic way of saying, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.”
What’s at the Root of Your Self-destructive Behavior?
“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
Most people are aware that a relapse 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.
But These are Familiar!
We sometimes act, think, or feel a certain way because it’s how we’ve always acted or it’s part of the pattern of self-defeating behaviors. We engage in actions, 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 need to when you did show up for training. You thought you were entitled to miss practices because you arrogantly thought you were already the best player or cheerleader.
Then you assumed you were good enough that people would not comment on you being late. All those moves seemed easy at home and you falsely thought that you could follow the cheerleaders’ moves or instinctively know the gameplay 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 of seeing your friends in the stadium, and so you quit.
Are You Still Using Self-destructive Behaviors?
As you can see in the example, several attitudes, actions, and feelings were going on that created the missed opportunity and sabotaged the goal. However, it’s not just the adolescent’s self-defeating behaviors, although many patterns get started then because it usually as a teenager that we start making choices.
Continuing the patterns from adolescence, you adopt an attitude that people persecute you or continue to pose as victims. That you are right in your actions, it’s just that everyone else is against you. Because you’ve justified your actions and blamed others, your arrogance 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 blame someone or something else and lament your back luck. 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.
Common Self-destructive Behaviors, Thoughts, and Actions
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 yours.
Those are the most important for you to change.
Which of these behaviors, thoughts, or attitudes do you use? All of them mean you won’t be successful in your recovery even without a relapse.
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
6. Having predictable excuses
7. Making assumptions instead of asking for guidance
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 the Norm
Patterns of behavior that you have used for a long time have just become mechanical or habituated. In other words, it’s your routine. Those behaviors, thoughts, and feelings seem natural and comfortable, which 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?
4. Can you find your resources to help you change?
Getting Help for the Self-destructive Behaviors
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 and realize just how many resources for a change you do have.