Writer’s Block: Self Sabotage

The Saboteur

Self sabotaging is a normal occurrence, at least when it’s occasional. We’ve all put our foot in our mouth every now and again. What I want to take a look at is the cycle of self sabotaging. Carl Jung found that we have archetypes in our psyche that affect our daily lives. One of them happens to be the Saboteur.

Believe it or not, the Saboteur is actually a survival mechanism. Think of it as the wise grandmother that keeps photo albums and gives you advice that will keep you safe. Only, sometimes, that advice is outdated, and those photos are your most painful memories. Now, it’s important to state that the wise grandmother has her moments where she knows what she’s talking about. Remember that time you burned your hand and you learned not to touch things that glowed red? Useful. She flips to certain photos every time you’re at risk, whether it’s physical, emotional, or mental.

The good news is, when you become aware of the Saboteur, you can control it.

How do you become aware of it? By becoming self aware. Take a look at your actions. Take a look at what you do when you’re stressed, afraid, angry, or uncomfortable. Your reactions are probably (and quite normally) unhealthy.

When I have to confront someone about something they did that hurt me, I usually have to give myself a pep talk before I can confront them. It wasn’t always this way. I used to shy away from confrontation, and as a result, I taught people how to treat me by walking over me, taking me for granted, and using me.

Your saboteur as a map.

Photo by Don Ross III

When you put a spot light on your saboteur, you see it for what it really is. Fear. Your Saboteur needs not be your enemy. That’s not what it’s there for. ot only does it highlight your fears, it highlights the underlying problem and connection: Your self asteem.

Characteristics of genuinely low self esteem

  • Social withdrawal
  • Anxiety and emotional turmoil
  • Lack of social skills and self confidence. Depression and/or bouts of sadness
  • Less social conformity
  • Eating disorders
  • Inability to accept compliments
  • An Inability to see yourself ‘squarely’ – to be fair to yourself
  • Accentuating the negative
  • Exaggerated concern over what you imagine other people think
  • Self neglect
  • Treating yourself badly but NOT other people
  • Worrying whether you have treated others badly
  • Reluctance to take on challenges
  • Reluctance to put yourself first or anywhere.
  • Reluctance to trust your own opinion
  • Expecting little out of life for yourself.

The list came from this article, written by Mark Tyrrell, which you should definitely read.

Once you pinpoint exactly which parts in your life seem to be on repeat or lacking change, you can start changing with a goal in mind. Create a road map to success, using the once scary Saboteur as the navigator.

Thank Granny for her love and support, but tell her to put her photos away and get ready for scrap-booking new memories. It’s time to head into uncharted territories.

How does this connect to writing?

Every writer experiences some self sabotage from our lovely Saboteur. Even the greatest of writers find themselves questioning their authority to write such pieces. To write at all.

I mean, we’ve spent hundreds of hours planning, writing, rewriting, drafting our drafts, and for what? Who will want to read it? It’s not even original. The language is off, the characters aren’t developed enough, the plot isn’t strong enough…the…the saboteur has struck again!

Just like the exercise that pinpointed areas in your life where the saboteur ruled, you’ll want to do exercises to pinpoint areas in your writing life where the saboteur rules. All those unfinished drafts, the love of writing but having no publication under your belt, that blog you never started, or that story you keep revising endlessly. These are all parts where the saboteur shows itself.

You’re afraid of failure. If you never finish, you can never be rejected. If you never start the blog, you’ll never have to worry about it going unread. If you never let the story be as is, after you’re 1000000 revision, you’ll never had a reader who will dislike it.

Failure and rejection are a normal part of life, including your writing life. Others will have the same ideas, same issues with their writing early on (and even later on), same fears. It’s okay to be afraid of them, but it’s not okay to give up because of them.

Pinpoint the areas, and use your saboteur as a road map.

How does your Saboteur lie to you? How does it hold you back in your writing life? Let me know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Writer’s Block: Self Sabotage

  1. Another well written piece and very descriptive too. Sometimes the saboteur can be a false guide, pointing and telling you to go here or go there and off you trot, to find he sent you in the wrong direction and keeps doing it. At those times, the saboteur is working through one of his alter-ego’s – Procrastination.


    1. Hi Jim,
      Yes, this is very true! The Saboteur has their reasons to point us in certain directions. We need this archetype as much as we need to breathe. I believe the Saboteur finds their home in the Limbic system. We should thank it for its help, listen to it when needed, and kindly decline to follow sometimes!


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