I have worked with a number of people , especially recently, who have said something like: “Every time I start to get happy or things are going right, I do or say something that sabotages my happiness, and life comes crashing down around me again. It is as if some part of me is afraid to be happy and it thinks that my feeling good is a signal that something bad is about to happen. Maybe it is trying to protect me?”
What makes us sabotage our happiness? For some people the trigger was a traumatic event. “Everything was good in my life and then I got hit by a truck. Literally. Nothing seemed to work for me after that.” “I was a happy go lucky kid, not a care in the world. My mom caught me swearing, sent me to my room, and my dad died that night. I thought it must be my fault. I’ve been unconsciously punishing myself ever since.” For lots of people it is a family belief—”Don’t let things get too good, better to be a pessimist and then you won’t be disappointed.” For others it is constantly being told as a child that you are too loud, too smart, too energetic, too much—the implication was “be less and we will like you better.” The consequences are that we live in fear, hyper-vigilant, accepting less rather than seeking more.
Whatever the cause, sabotage in us seems to stem from a conflict between inner parts of us. Both sides want to keep us safe from our fears, but they have very different strategies. The most common strategy is to curl up, close down, back off, shut the door, tighten up, preserve what we have, constrict, lower expectations, hunker down, soldier on, circle the wagons, put up the fists…those are just the first phrases that come to my mind. You know how that feels in your body.