Self Defeating Loop…

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    Andrew M

    Hey all
    I wanted to get a general idea of others out there, and if anyone has experienced something similar, and what helped them get through this and move forward.

    I currently live a very negative lifestyle, which goes around in a circle like this:

    1) I get depressed because I don’t have a particular thing in my life (could be one or more things like no girlfriend or any friends, job that I am not passionate about, overeating, overworking and so on…).
    2) I identify that I am depressed because of lack XXXXXXX, and say to myself “well I’m not going to change anything by moping around at home.” I then subsequently go out and make positive changes (e.g. googling healthy eating patterns, joining dating sites or going out to meet people).
    3) I find myself with a real possibility of achieving what I want in point #2, but the excuses start (e.g. “if I meet a girl she’ll find out that I’m not rich so she’ll be bored with me”). Also general anxiety goes through the roof. Anxiety gets to a point where I have to sabotage whatever I’m trying to achieve. Sometimes I don’t even know I’m starting the sabotage cycle again (e.g. find myself eating junk food again, without realising what I’m doing, or ignoring someone’s advances, then an hour later realising what I had just done, and blown my opportunity).
    4) I get even more depressed because I failed, the self-defeating thoughts start “this will never happen, look at your track record, you will fail”.
    5) Rinse and repeat from step #1.

    Upon a lot of reflection, I’m noticing that a lot of the self-sabotage comes from the real possibility of actually getting something I want out of life. Scary thought! As an example, one of my favourite relaxing activities is to read a book from my iPad at my local coffee shop. Generally I can sit there for hours and forget about the world around me, while I read away.

    A few weeks ago, someone recommended that I read a book about Mindfulness and Self Compassion. I had already been practicing mindfulness meditation for the last few weeks, so I thought “why not”. I’ll pop it on to the iPad and I’ll start reading it on my next trip to the coffee shop. It was amazing to notice that I could really only read about two sentence, before I became quite jittery and anxious. I was getting the urge to check my phone, or look around and people watch, or grab the newspaper sitting on the next table (something that doesn’t normally happen when I read books). I then thought I’d conduct a little experiment on myself, and opened up the other book I was currently reading (an autobiography on a motor racing driver). About 30 minutes went by where I sat and calmly read my book, without getting jittery. As soon as I opened up the book about mindfulness again, the nerves came back! I really think that subconsciously I knew that this book was going to help me, therefore it was setting off my “anxiety warning bells” telling me that this simply cannot happen! You cannot improve your life, and you must be self-defeating forever!

    I guess what I’m asking is, has anyone else been at this point where you try and help your self-sabotaging behaviours, but you can’t because you are stuck in some sort of self-sabotaging loop. If so, what helped for you? I’m really scared that I’m not going to get out of here…


    Hi Andrew M,

    YES! I don’t know if I can help you as I have the same sort of problem. But YES that is me, only without the emotional torment about it.

    Here’s what I concluded, at least for myself.

    We get depressed over our SHOULDS. I SHOULD have a job I feel PASSIONATE about. I SHOULD have a squad of FRIENDS. I SHOULD have a MISSION in LIFE!! Then I buy a new calendar and put in my GOALS for the year, month, week and/or day. Then I get down on myself because I didn’t write the Blog Posts for Fall for my Fans/”Fans”. Or I didn’t host a theme party and actually meet my new best friends. Or get my name in the paper. Etc.

    What if ~ what if…. It’s OK to get up, go to work, do what you have to do to live in this world, and sit and read books in the coffee shop. What if that’s what life’s really about ~ at least right now? I say cast all your SHOULDS out of your mind ~ just for now ~ and go and ENJOY reading in the coffee shop.

    It gives you pleasure, you are living within your nature, you are doing something you LOVE. If you want to add on to that, you can volunteer and go to events at the local library. See if you like it! That dovetails into your current purpose (getting lost in reading). You help or support people, events and the building… then you read your books!

    And P.S. Reading anything about Mindfulness, Compassion, Mysticism, Meditation, etc. is bound to be un-grounding. You have to really be grounded to read stuff like that and get anything out of them IMHO.



    • This reply was modified 8 years, 2 months ago by Inky.

    Dear Andrew M.:

    Clever way of writing…

    What I am getting from your post is that there is a little scared Andrew inside of you and that little Andrew will not be ignored! You can’t by pass this scared little boy in you, the scared little boy that you are. The big, adult, sensible Andrew think he can: here is the right thing for me to do: join this dating site, eat healthful food… but no, scared little Andrew is still scared.

    You are not get out of the circle you described so well unless you get on your knees, figuratively speaking, get into eye contact with the little boy Andrew, look at him with compassion, let him know you are with him every step of the way, take his hand in yours and start walking, slowly, taking breaks to get down to his eye level again, take as many breaks as he needs. That will be a slow walk but speeding it up without little Andrew will get you endlessly in the loop, never getting THERE, where you want to get.

    You are scared. Every one of us is scared. And every one of us needs to be comforted. The little scared Andrew wants the suffering for him to end, so he grabs junk food without you even noticing… the thing IS, you haven’t been noticing him. You need to attend to him gently, patiently, the whole time until he is strong enough, not so scared and not so alone.

    It looks like self sabotaging but really, it is about being scared.

    Insight into what scares Andrew so much.. and skills of attending to and comforting him.



    More: I was thinking: if the little Andrew needs to be attended to, to be paid attention to, why was he so afraid when you were reading about Mindfulness (paying attention) in the coffee shop. Imagine parents taking their child to a therapist so to pay attention to the child. As they sit there in front of the therapist, the mother sheds some tears and the father looks morose, nodding his head, looking down. Then the therapist looks at the child and asks with a frown: “we are here to find out what is wrong with you.” The child is not going to like going back to that kind of attention. Or when a parent takes the child to a room and says: I want to talk to you about…. and the parent, in attempting to discuss with the child the child’s feelings, seems very uncomfortable. The child gets the feeling that his feelings themselves, or any problem he may experience is a great inconvenience to the parent. So the child is not going to be comforted with such attention.

    So when I mention you paying the child in you attention, I mean the compassionate, CALM and gentle kind of attention, the kind that will make the child seek more of it.

    Also, you may pay attention to what you eat, so that you don’t overeat or eat junk food. But if that attention is, again, the anxious kind of attention, it is not the kind of attention the child needs. Neither does the child (inside) needs the beating up (NO!NO!NO! Do NOT EAT THAT!) kind of attention. Again, the child in you needs the gentle, calm, patient and reliable attention.


    Andrew M

    Thank you guys, I guess deep down I knew I was scared, but about why I have no idea. I probably have a bit of reflection to do on that.


    Dear Andrew:

    You wrote in your original post: “general anxiety goes through the roof….” Anxiety is ongoing FEAR. Fear is a very difficult emotion to be mindful of. We don’t want to feel it and we don’t want to be aware we are feeling it. Yet every one of us is afraid and every one of us has to find a (better) way to live with fear.

    Post anytime on this thread. Your original post is written so well, showing your organized, intelligent thinking. Please continue…



    Hello Andrew M,
    Anxiety has become such a modern state of mind, because we’ve become such mental creatures. To use Inky’s term, we’ve become ungrounded, detached from our bodies and what they’re telling us, detached from our inner voice and what it’s saying, detached from our deepest feelings and fears – because our minds are taking over our thoughts completely.

    Have you tried unplugging and trying to experience events as they happen to you? Try to set your mind and thoughts aside? I know it’s easier said than done, but simple exercises to become more present, where you can actually get in touch with your body, and / or nature really help. For ex., volunteering at a farm, going to the beach by yourself (if you’re in warm place in December), or working with animals, etc.

    Andrew M

    Hi Saiisha

    Yes I have tried a few things to become more present. I give an example, I love going to the beach, but when I lay on the sand and try to “unwind”, I really feel and irresistible urge to check my phone, emails and social media. I find I get quite jittery if I cant do this (check my phone).


    You may be feeling withdrawal symptoms, Andrew M? 🙂 We’re addicted to our phones and emails and social media after all! Even so, I think the more you practice unplugging, the more you’ll get used to it, and the more it will help your anxiety levels.

    Also, the other things I suggested – to volunteer for a cause that you’d like to support, or working with animals or on a farm – might help you forget about your phone for a while, because you’re not alone with itchy thumbs? But it’s gotta be something you’re interested in!

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