In this article, I will teach you how you sabotage your happiness, what are the causes behind these behaviors and how to reach your full potential by taking control of your thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Being able to identify what stops you for living the life you always wanted is an important step in the process of healing and self-awareness.
Your ego is an invisible enemy that stops you from reaching your true potential in your happiness, relationships and career. Your ego starts forming in early childhood and has the role to protect you and to ensure your physical and emotional safety.
Your brain as a child is designed to recognize signs of danger in your environment and adjust accordingly so you can make it into adulthood.
Most people don’t recognize these defense mechanisms they’ve built unless there was a clear trauma or experience they can remember.
But even children that grew up in loving and healthy families could still encounter experiences were they felt the need to protect themselves by developing these defense mechanisms.
Examples of these situations can be: having another sibling you felt your parents favored over you, one of your close family members was sick, you felt less smart, fast, tall or beautiful than your peers or you had lower grades than them. Maybe there were times you felt betrayed or rejected by your friends, teachers or even family members.
Phobias are also developed in early childhood when you feel you cannot cope with certain aspects of your life and instead choose to protect yourself from the things that caused you fear or pain.
There are cases when as an adult, you experience a heartbreak, betrayal or rejection. However, in these cases, you realize when you are using these defense mechanisms to protect yourself from similar experiences and emotions.
So here it lays the big difference between painful experiences in childhood and in adulthood: your awareness of using a defense mechanism.
The main issue is that your ego listens to what you are telling it and acts accordingly. You need full awareness of the defense mechanisms you have built in childhood and understanding of what might have caused them in order to be able to let go of your ego and to reach your true potential .
As adults, you don’t need the defense mechanisms that you created to protect yourself anymore, but they become invisible inhabitants of your mind. The healing process is long and it involves awareness, commitment and acceptance.
Let’s analyze the behaviors that you might display as a way to protect yourself from painful experiences:
1. You become emotional and temperamental in order to gain attention and affection. You tend to withdraw or sulk if you are criticized and you become dramatic and temperamental. You have a tendency to give up on things that don’t go your way. If you repress your rage or negative emotions, you become depressed, anxious and drained. You tend to unconsciously push people away.
Potential causes: These behaviors can be associated with childhood experiences where you felt something is wrong with you as a consequence of not being accepted for who you were. As a result, you had to act up in order to gain some attention and affection from your parents or guardians.
2. You fell continuous extreme anxiety about what could go wrong. You are restless, doubting yourself, suspicious of others and can be very cynical.
Potential causes: These behaviors can be associated with early childhood experiences where you felt your source of safety (parents or guardians) were unreliable and unpredictable. Another potential cause for this behavior could be a painful unexpected event where you felt threatened or deeply hurt.
3. You feel you need to be in control of situations and people otherwise you experience anxiety and become critical and angry. You connect with others through competition, challenge and conflict. You can be intimidating and confrontational. You have a strong feeling that there is no grey area; you are either in control or out of control. You fear being controlled by others, so you take control.
Potential causes: These behaviors can be associated with early childhood experiences where you had to grow up fast and be on your own. It can also be associated with strong feelings of betrayal, rejection or getting hurt which lead you to the decision to never let yourself be vulnerable again.
4. You avoid difficult and unpleasant tasks and conflicts. You have difficulty saying no to others as a way to avoid conflict. You become passive-aggressive and avoid challenging people directly. You procrastinate a lot and find comfort in routines and habits. You suppress your anger and resettlement and rarely express it.
Potential causes: These behaviors can be associated with early childhood experience where you learned that complying to your parents’ needs and wishes brings happiness and peace, whereas expressing your true desires and emotions, creates conflict and tensions. Another potential cause can be growing in a high conflict family and learning not to add any more tension on top of the existing ones.
5. You are dependent on constant performance, achievement and self-validation. You are focused on external success, have a tendency to become a workaholic and lose touch with deep emotional and relationship needs. You cover well your insecurities and present a positive image to others. You are competitive, goal orientated and you tend to keep people at a safe distance. Your happiness is conditioned by your next success and you focus on external achievement.
Potential causes: These behaviors can be associated with early childhood experiences where the validation from parents was either absent or conditional. You have felt that you are only loved and accepted if you obey rules, achieve results or have food manner, rather than unconditionally.
6. You are a perfectionist and you need order and organization in order to feel happy. You are highly critical of self and others, but also highly sensitive to criticism. You are punctual and methodical and hate mistakes. You are very sensitive of others’ sloppiness and laziness and you are rigid when it comes to others’ different styles.
Potential causes: These behaviors can be associated with a fear of being judged by others by trying to be perfect. In early childhood, you might have earned acceptance and attention from demanding or emotionally distant parents by trying to be perfect as a way to gain their love.
7. You are restless, in search of excitement, activities and you are constantly busy. You always seek to stay busy, have many tasks and plans to accomplish. You don’t seek comfort or safety, but rather excitement and variety. You fear missing out and you believe that life should be fully lived.
Potential causes: These behaviors can be associated with early childhood experiences where parents were not nurturing and loving. The way to escape from these painful feelings and anxiety was the constant seek of self-nurturing and pleasure.
8. You are focusing on the rational part of experiences in life. You can be perceived as distant, cold and arrogant. You don’t let many people in and prefer to keep your distance. You have an intense and active mind and you have many passions and ideas. You value knowledge, understanding and insight. You get frustrated with others being emotional but you feel alone and not understood .
Potential causes: These behaviors can be associated with a chaotic environment in early childhood. Conflict between parents or family members was unbearable, so you have created a surviving strategy where your rational mind and intellectual superiority gave you a sense of safety and security.
9. You are a people’s pleaser. You help, please, or rescue others as an unconscious way to gain acceptance. You tend to lose sight of your own needs and as a result, become resentful. You have a strong need to be liked by others and to be reassured about their affection. You find it difficult to express your own needs and desires, but you feel resentful for being taken for granted.
Potential causes: These behaviors can be associated with early childhood experiences when you earn your acceptance by helping others i.e taking care of a younger sibling. You develop this defense mechanism based on an assumption that you must give love and help others in order to receive any acceptance and love, feeling worthy only when the love is earned.
10. You find faults in yourself and others, focusing on what is wrong with other people. You lack appreciation, you are anxious and angry. You have deep feelings of regret, shame and blame. You believe you and others need to be punished for mistakes and you prepare yourself for the worst outcome so you won’t get disappointed.
Potential causes: In the past, you might have had experiences that negatively impacted your mental and physical health. They were unexpected and took you by surprise, so you developed a strategy to reduce these circumstances in the future: you have learned how to expect the worst. This defense mechanism has nothing to do with your early childhood experiences, but with your life experiences. It is one of the most harmful defense mechanisms as it stops you from believing in yourself and others, being the source of resentment, anger and anxiety.
How to stop sabotaging our happiness
In order to challenge your ego and reach your true potential it is essential to recognize the defense mechanisms that you are using the most in your life. Notice and accept them as they come into your life.
Don’t get angry with your ego, this way you will only fuel it to produce more negative thoughts and emotions. Observe your negative thoughts as a third person and detach yourself from the emotions it creates.
Once you recognize them, be aware that what you think and feel in that moment it is not your true self, but the ego you have created throughout your life.
Talk about your ego as a third person living inside you that has the primarily focus to stop you from reaching your true potential. This way, your ego loses power and credibility over you.
Develop mindfulness techniques (concentrating on your breath, sounds and physical sensations in your body) in order to help you stay true to yourself and quieten your ego. Learn more about the benefits of mindfulness here.
I hope this article helped you understand how you can sabotage your happiness, what are the causes of the defense mechanisms you’ve created and how to reach your true potential by learning how to let go of the ego and take control over your life.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more that happy to answer them.
All the best,
(Accredited Counsellors, Coaches, Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapists)
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