My dog had been beaten. She had also been burned all over with a lighter.
That’s how I found her and how we began together.
With tons of training and love, she made leaps and strides over the first few years.
Until the day she had a setback.
A repairman’s pickup truck backfired on our street. Loud.
I ran outside because she had been lounging on the front porch. Now, she was nowhere to be found. I began running through my neighborhood.
I caught up to her about a mile from my house. She was running for her life with no regard for anything around her. It was a fear trance.
I shouted her name. She stopped. She turned and looked at me, panting and terrified. As I ran to her, I could see her come back into herself. She was shaking.
I didn’t say, “What the hell, dude? We’ve come so far! You keep getting triggered! What’s up with that head of yours?”
No. Here’s what I did instead…
With my arms tight around her, I said, “You’re Totally fine. And you’re totally safe. Let’s go home and begin again…”
This week, I got an email from someone asking about intention.
She wrote that she has a pattern of getting to a certain point in creating her vision. And right when things are going well, she’ll find a way to mess it up.
Her words: “I sabotage my success.”
And it struck me.
Sabotage is one of those words that comes with its own military units and artillery. It’s big and heavy. Sabotage says, “Don’t question me. I am scary.”
So it’s a challenge to see it clearly.
On the one level, I totally get the idea of messing things up right when they’re going well.
I get how scared you can feel when things are looking like they might just be working.
And I get that being scared can make you go Unconscious just to escape the uncomfortable feeling of fear.
And I get that going unconscious can mean anything from eating the entire cheesecake to endlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed to watching Netflix until 3am. Name your vice.
And I get that fear might make you do something dumb. Or do something mean. Or do dumb and mean things for six months until you’ve alienated pretty much everyone.
Until you find yourself back where you’re comfortable — in the land of Things-are-Awful-and-I’m-to-Blame.
A Pattern’s Just a Pattern. You’re Never Done.
It’s all just old patterning.
And here’s what to do about it:
The minute you realize you’ve gone unconscious, or when you catch yourself in the midst of that trance…
…what stops you from picking yourself up, looking around, dusting off, cleaning up, putting down the cheesecake, apologizing for the Stupid Things you said and, yes, starting again?
Because let’s be clear… that is the issue here.
Not the sabotage itself.
Because nothing is ever done until you decide it’s done. You have not failed until you decide not to get back up.
We all do stupid things and mess up and go unconscious. In Buddhism, it has a name: Unskillful. I love this. It simply means you didn’t have the skills yet.
(And as far as I know, Buddha never once used the phrase, “Wow, you totally fucked that one up.”)
The question is this:
How do you know you’ve ruined everything?
A word like “sabotage” requires that you give in to the belief that “all is lost.” Like you have your very own entertainment industry executive in your head who says, “You’ll never work in this town again!”
And the problem is not that he’s there.
The problem is you believe him.
Sabotage As Your Teacher
If you have a knack for sabotage, then guess what? This pattern is actually your greatest teacher.
And what it might be teaching you is persistence. Or commitment.
These are key here. You can either sit back and say, “Look how awful I am. I’ve done it again.”
Or you can say, “I’m learning to commit. So, today is another day. And with eyes wide open, I begin imperfectly.”
It will be painful. It will be uncomfortable. It will piss you off. And it will grow you in ways you can’t imagine.
I know from my own experience, it’s challenging to have an emotional temperament and go for your dreams. It’s so much easier to sit back and say that it’s all too hard, or that I’m not cut out for this.
But when you engage those voices, you only elongate the story, continue the trance.
Instead, take steps, and take them with openness.
(And for the love of all that is holy, stop using the word “sabotage.”)
Be Unbelievably Kind to Yourself
The opposite of the voices that say “All is lost!” is reminding yourself that all has never been lost. And remember how far you’ve come in your process. Monitor how you talk to yourself. Stop and correct any self-punishment. It only serves to keep the pattern alive.
In your story, you have the opportunity to be the one who is kind and the one who persists in knowing that you’re never going to give up on yourself or your life. Whenever you shift into that unconscious mode, just gently walk yourself back home and start from there.
Do that for yourself constantly.
And then do it again.
This is how we break the pattern of sabotage.
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