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Publisher: Thought Catalog Books
In everyday speech, the word ‘mountain’ is often used metaphorically to denote a difficult task or a challenge. Similarly, for Brianna Wiest, this word symbolizes the inner conflicts that prevent us from living the life we want. But as the famous song says - ‘’ain’t no mountain high enough,’’ - in other words, you can overcome any challenge if you have the will, proper skills, and knowledge. ‘’The Mountain Is You’’ offers just that - instructions that will help you discover what your mountain is and how you can get over it and achieve everything you dreamed of. So, get ready to learn how to reach your mountain’s peak and change yourself for the better.
Although today famous for his insightful work, Carl Jung did not like school as a child. One day, he fell on the ground and hit his head. One of his first feelings at that moment was happiness for having an opportunity not to go to school because of the injury. After this accident, Jung often experienced uncontrollable fainting spells. He later believed that he unconsciously developed this condition to escape classes where he felt uncomfortable and unhappy.
Like Jung, many people engage in self-sabotaging behavior. In fact, whenever you notice a gap between who you are and who you want to become, and your pain, resistance and discomfort don’t allow you to narrow it, you should know you are self-sabotaging yourself. Self-sabotage might seem like a product of self-hatred, low confidence or a lack of willpower. However, in reality, it is ’’simply the presence of an unconscious need that is being fulfilled by the self-sabotaging behavior.’’ As it is a result of traumatic events, unprocessed emotions, unmet needs and distorted self-image, it takes lots of work, in Wiest’s words, ‘’deep psychological excavation’’ to find healthier ways to meet our needs and overcome self-sabotage.
Why do we refuse to consciously meet our needs, and, hence, avoid self-sabotage? Wiest says we do this because we don’t believe we are capable of handling them. For instance, we sabotage our professional success because of our need to do something else, like creating art, which is less ambitious by society’s measures. We may also avoid experiencing our feelings by psychoanalyzing them or we sabotage our relationships because we really want to be alone and find ourselves.
So, self-sabotage is only a maladaptive coping mechanism that numbs our desires by giving us temporary relief. To change it into a healthy coping mechanism, we first need to realize what our unconscious desires are and how we can address them in a non-sabotaging and healthy way.
There are many reasons behind our self-sabotaging behavior. Sometimes, it comes from ‘’long and unexamined fears we have about the world and ourselves.’’ Those fears can be concrete - that you are unintelligent, unattractive, disliked, or more abstract, such as the fear that someone is violating your boundaries or that you will be caught or wrongly accused. Wiest says these abstract fears are usually representations of legitimate fears. Let’s say you are afraid of being a passenger in a car. In this case, your actual fear might be the loss of control or the idea that someone else is controlling your life. Perhaps the moving car represents your fear of moving forward. If you are unaware of the real issue, you will self-sabotage by fixing the problem on the surface by, for instance, trying not to be anxious while riding in the car.
We often sabotage ourselves because ‘’we have a negative association between achieving the goal we aspire to and being the kind of person who has or does that thing.’’ Take an individual struggling to become financially stable, but keep ruining every effort to get there as an example. They perhaps do it because they unconsciously associate money with corruption or selfishness. To stop sabotaging yourself in this manner, you need to break these negative associations and adopt new ideas that don’t hold you back from your ultimate potential.
Self-sabotage is often a product of unfamiliarity. Human beings feel comfortable with what they know and are used to - therefore, whenever they have a chance to experience the unknown, they feel resistance and fear they might lose control. To avoid discomfort, we do anything to protect ourselves from the unfamiliarity, even if that means ignoring our deepest needs.
Finally, self-sabotage can be a result of our limiting beliefs. As Wiest says, ‘’What you believe about your life is what you will make true about your life.’’ Maybe your salary is low because you believe deep down that you are incapable of earning more. Or, maybe you present yourself as anxious because you adopted anxiety and fear into your belief system about who you fundamentally are. In this case, healing would mean transforming your false and negative mindset into the one that actually serves you.
It is difficult to say what self-sabotage looks like because there are no universal unhealthy habits and behaviors - some are healthy for one person, while others are unhealthy for another. However, some behavioral patterns indicate a self-sabotage at work, and they usually ‘’relate to being aware that there’s a problem in your life, yet feeling the need to perpetuate it regardless.’’
Resistance is usually a sign you are in a cycle of self-sabotage. Of course, it doesn’t always refer to self-sabotage - it can be only your way of slowing down and making sure it is safe for you to get attached to something new. However, in other cases, resistance is a sign something isn’t quite right. Let’s say you get into a new amazing relationship but keep bailing on plans. Or you get an incredible idea for your business, but the resistance keeps preventing you from sitting down and working on it. The important thing to note is that if you are experiencing resistance, you should not force yourself to perform in the face of it since it will only intensify the feeling and strengthen the internal conflict and fear that holds you back in the first place. Instead, figure out what you want and why you want it. As Wiest says, ‘’Wanting is the entryway to showing up after resistance.’’
When someone finds themselves going from one relationship to another or changing the business website again and again, instead of focusing on dealing with relationship issues or taking care of the client’s needs, it means they are self-sabotaging. Wiest calls this mechanism uprooting. ‘’In uprooting,’’ she says, ‘’you are not allowing yourself to blossom; you are only comfortable with the process of sprouting.’’ If you want to move yourself from being constantly in the beginning of the chapter, try to figure out what drives you away from each new thing you find. Then, get clear on what you want and then develop a plan on how you can thrive.
Finally, perfectionism can also be a sign of self-sabotage. It usually happens due to our fear of failing, being vulnerable, or not good enough. To resolve this, don’t focus on perfection but on progress. Simply said, don’t worry about failing - just keep showing up. ‘’If you don’t get started, you’ll never arrive,’’ Wiest warns.
If you want to transform your self-sabotage into self-mastery, not only do you need to detect why something is triggering your unhealthy behavior, but also to process emotional responses to those triggers. ‘’The problem is that we don’t know what to do with how we feel and therefore do not have all of the emotional processing skills that we need,’’ Wiest notes. Emotional processing includes detecting the response and figuring out what it tells you about the experience.
Anger is frequently connected with self-sabotaging behavior. We learned wrongly to resist it since it can be followed by aggression. The truth is, as long as we do not project onto someone else, anger is healthy because it encourages us to change and helps us see our limits and priorities more clearly.
Sadness is a natural emotional response to loss or disappointment. We often do not process it in the right way out of shame or the belief it is not appropriate to feel sad. There is nothing shameful about being sad - it is actually problematic when we do not allow ourselves to go through the natural phases of grief. Therefore, do not hesitate to cry, feel down or miss what you no longer have because sadness expression is one of the biggest signs of mental strength, according to Wiest.
Guilt is another emotional response to various triggers in our lives. It is usually a good sign if we feel guilty because it requires us to examine and correct our behavior toward others. Nevertheless, guilt can be more generalized and unrelated to any specific behavior. This usually happens when we carry this emotion from childhood and then project it onto circumstances that make us feel we are a burden to those around us.
Jealousy is also feeling connected with self-sabotage. Although it may seem it is a consequence of anger or judgment, jealousy is only a cover-up for sadness and dissatisfaction with ourselves. Think about it - when we are jealous, we are angry that others are allowing themselves to pursue their goals while we don’t. So, use your jealousy to identify your self-sabotaging behavior and find out where you want to be.
Once you understand that you are responsible for holding your life back, you will be on the way to transforming your self-sabotage into self-mastery and moving forward to the life you want. Perhaps this sounds impossible or challenging, but, if you commit yourself enough to work on your goal, the mountain in front of you will one day be so far behind you that you will barely be able to see it in the distance.
The first step to reaching the peak of your mountain is learning how to control your emotions instead of suppressing them. The person who suppresses their emotions does not have a true reaction to the situation or experience. They hope the emotion will go away or pretend it doesn't exist at all. Once you become more conscious about how you feel, you will be able to choose your reactions to those emotions - in other words, you won’t let the emotions guide your behavior and push you into developing inadequate coping mechanisms.
Transforming self-sabotage into self-mastery means finding your inner peace, which Wiest defines as ‘’the state of being connected to the deep internal knowing that everything is okay and always will be.’’ Inner peace is not something you need to create, but something you need to return to. Over time, we have moved away from its insightful perspective due to the mind’s fears and stressors.
Once you stop sabotaging yourself, you will be able to endure the discomfort and step into the unknown, and that is when you will find your inner peace. Another way to reach peace within you is to detach from worrying since it is ‘’chief among the coping mechanisms people use to distract themselves from what really matter.’’ When you worry, not only do you lose energy but you also unconsciously seek out situations in which your worrying mind will affirm itself.
The crucial step that will help you move away from the mountain you created and reach your inner peace is learning not to act on your feelings. Unlike many people believe, they are not predictions about the future events, but only a reflection of your current state of mind. As Wiest writes, ‘’They’re only here to inform you of where you are energetically and mentally and how you should respond to what happens around you.’’
Although Wiest’s explanations are often unclear and repetitive, in ‘’The Mountain Is You,’’ she offers inspirational insights and some practical advice that can help us deal with the problems we frequently face. In general, due to its topic, the book has the potential to be an excellent read but fails to realize it because of the writer's inability to adequately process the complex topic.
‘’The greatest act of self-love is to no longer accept a life you are unhappy with. It is to be able to state the problem plainly and in a straightforward manner.’’
Brianna is the bestselling author of the books 101 Essays The Will Change The Way You Think, The Mountain Is You, The Pivot Year, Salt Water, Ceremony, When You're Ready, This Is How You Heal, an... (Read more)
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