What exactly is a saboteur? I like to think of them in terms of computer programming. In order to conserve energy, our brain creates programs for much of what we do, and stores them in the subconscious. Think about it – if you had to consciously focus on tying your shoes or brushing your teeth or the myriad of other things we do without having to think about them, you’d be exhausted before breakfast. Depending on which studies you consult, we do about 90-95% of our operating out of our subconscious. So – we’re mostly on autopilot.
Back to the saboteurs – these are programs we’ve developed in response to stimuli that we were exposed to over and over again, most likely before the ages of 6 to 8 years old. They helped us get through childhood, even if we had an amazing childhood. Now, however, they are no longer serving us, they are sabotaging us, hence the name saboteur.
Let’s explore an example using the “Pleaser” saboteur. For whatever reason, I’ve noticed in my workshops and speaking engagements that many women have this little bugger in their collection of saboteurs – that’s the other thing – most of us have several different categories of saboteurs hanging out in our minds. Back to the Pleaser, let’s say, as a child in her early years, a little girl learned that when she took care of her dolls and played nice with others she got positive attention from her parents. Or perhaps she grew up in a dysfunctional household where she had to take care of a parent (due to drugs, alcohol, or some other dysfunction) or she observed her mother being a caregiver of others because the mom had a serious “Pleaser” saboteur. IN any of these scenarios, somehow the little girl developed the belief that if she took care of others’ needs before her own, she would be loved and appreciated. Thus a saboteur is born.
Fast forward, the little girl grows up and has repeated this behavior her entire life thus far. So this “Pleaser” program is deep within her psyche. As far as she knows, it’s simply a voice in her head that tells her even though she is sick and exhausted, she needs to get up and make dinner for her family (because they couldn’t do it for themselves) or some other similar behavior.
Because these saboteurs are so deeply embedded in our psyches, we can never fully rid ourselves of them. Rather, we need to treat them like a toddler – if you’ve ever spent time around a toddler, you know that you cannot use logic with them. When they start down the path of a tantrum, you either ignore them or distract them.
Before we do that though, we must first become aware of them. There is an amazing resource out there to do just that – Shrizad Chamine has written a book, Positive Intelligence, that identified 10 categories of saboteurs and gives you insight for becoming aware of your saboteurs and getting them to quiet down more. His website offers an assessment to determine your Positive Intelligence Quotient (PQ), which is the percentage of time your mind is serving you versus sabotaging you, as well as a saboteur assessment which identified which of the nine saboteurs you struggle with the most – stickler, pleaser, hyper-vigilant, restless, controller, avoider, hyper-achiever, victim, or hyper-rational. We all have the 10th saboteur, the judge.
Visit the resources page – I have links to all of these great self-discovery tools.