Self-destructive behavior can be a conscious effort, but in many instances it’s driven by unconscious forces. Why would someone actively sabotage their life? Why would someone seek out unhealthy relationships? Why are you chronically late to work or short-tempered? There are actually quite a few explanations for self-sabotage.
Self-destructive behavior is seen as normal. For some people, self-destructive behavior has been happening for so long it feels normal. A common theme in therapy is assisting an individual in realizing how their way of living might be maladaptive. It’s not easy to change unhealthy behavioral or cognitive patterns, especially if there is some degree of benefit. Part of the therapeutic process is gaining awareness of the beneficial and/or harmful aspects of behavior.
Self-destructive behavior is beneficial. This might be a head scratcher, but sometimes there is a benefit to self-destructive behavior. Whether it is to elicit compassion, pity, or sympathy, self-destructive behavior can serve as a way to gain attention from others or a connection to someone. For some, any attention (even negative) is better than no attention, and there are plenty of people who are drawn to the emotionally wounded.
The fear of change. Change is uncomfortable and scary. Even if your behavior is self-destructive and unhealthy, if it has been your standard behavior, it’s comfortable and predictable. Comfort and predictability are highly valued, and in many cases, well-being and quality of life are compromised for comfort and control. Many people in unhealthy relationships are caught in a common conundrum: stay in a harmful, yet predictable, relationship or leave and be left with the unknown.
The fear of success. Self-destructive behaviors are typically associated with maladaptive, unhealthy experiences. After enough time, individuals can embrace a self-view of being inadequate and worthless. When failure is perceived as inevitable, even the idea of being successful is anxiety provoking. Shifting from a negativistic to an optimistic mindset is a challenge. Part of that challenge is letting go of a current identity and opening yourself to a new way of living. It can be an intimidating proposition but it's certainly doable.
Self-destructive behavior is common. If you find yourself wondering why the same bad thing continues to happen to you, partake in self-reflection and see if you can recognize patterns in your behaviors, relationships, and experiences.
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