February 16th, 2011
Beastie Boys. Your Negative Thoughts.
How many of you have heard voices in your head that tell you things that make you feel terrible about yourself, your business, your relationship? (you, hands raised. me, everything raised). In coaching we call those voices “saboteurs.” Simply, that which sabotages us. Those little buggers that come on in and try to mess us up, make us feel all bad about ourselves, get us thinking all crazy. You know, the ones that sound something like “oh…YOU could never do something that amazing,” or “who are YOU to teach anybody anything,” or “you’re not good enough,” or “you’ll never have what you want,” or even “you’re the most amazing person on the planet,” followed five minutes later by “you’re the most worthless human being to ever walk the earth.”
The voices in our heads run rampant all day long, and if we don’t know better, we listen to them and use them to base decisions off of. Have you ever felt like a crazy person whose head is going to explode with all the crazy thoughts swirling around? Yeah, me too. Often. That usually means your saboteurs are showing up. This post is all about some things you can do to try to handle these voices when they show up.
I wanna talk about some saboteur guidelines. First, I want to be clear that we shouldn’t strive to GET RID of these voices. To me, that isn’t the point. The voices are a part of us, and if we just try to erase them/pretend they aren’t there, they will just keep on showing up. Rather…we need to figure out a better management system for them when they do show up. Two, there are lots of different ways to handle your saboteurs. It’ll look different for everyone. So keep trying different things until you find something that works for you.
So here are some things to think about when your saboteurs show up.
1) You Are Not Your Thoughts
Ok…a little heavy for #1. I know. But this idea is fundamental in understanding how to deal with your saboteurs. Thoughts are just thoughts. That’s it. They’re not truths, they’re not realities. Think of them as made up stories. When you realize that you are not your thoughts, they have much less power over you. And also when you realize that your thoughts swing from “I’m AMAZING!” to “I’m SHIT! within the same hour, you see how silly the whole thing really is.
2) You Must Be Aware
None of this matters at all if you aren’t aware when your saboteurs are showing up. Meaning, you can’t handle the voices in your head if you don’t realize that they are in fact (outsider) voices. Usually, when saboteurs are showing up, your body does something consistent. Like your stomach will feel like it’s in knots. Or your chest will feel tight. Or your throat will close and you feel like you can’t breathe. The practice here is to simply PAY ATTENTION to what your body is doing (what it feels like) when those feelings show up.
3) Let Them Be There
I like to look at saboteurs like bratty two year olds. All they want is to get your attention. It’s like they’re saying “mom, MOM, MOOOOOOOM, MOMMMMMMMMMMMM, MOMMMMMY!!!!!!!” and the more you ignore them, the louder and more annoying they get. Usually, when I have a negative thought, or my body is feeling tense, my first reaction is to want to want it to go away. So I distract myself or literally tell it to go away. But that never works because then they just get louder. So the practice here is to let them speak. Just let them say what they want to say, realizing that they are just thoughts and not truths. And then you can say something like “huh…that’s interesting, my voices are telling me I’m a failure.” Once you interact with your saboteurs as though they are separate from yourself, observe them like a scientist (“very very interesting indeed”) and actually give them a voice, they have less of a hold on you. Try it.
4) Get Yourself Into Present Time
So often saboteurs live in FEAR territory. Meaning, they usually show up when we’re afraid of something. Afraid of failing, afraid our partner is going to leave us, afraid of never having the life we want, etc. And oftentimes, fear lives in the past (“this awful thing happened in the past and I’m certain it’s happening again right now”) or in the future (“I’ll never make as much money as I want,” “I’ll never be successful”). So it’s SO important to get yourself in present time when your saboteurs are showing up. There are tons of ways to do this: some people like to meditate, some people like to literally jump up an down to jar yourself into present time, some people like to snap a rubber band on their wrist to snap themselves out of it. My favorite one is to simply find yourself where you are. So look at the floor, and say “ok…floor…good.” Look at the tree outside and say “ok…tree…good.” Simply start looking at and paying attention to the things that are in your world right now, in this present moment. And keep going until you feel a sense of calmness wash over you.
There are so many tricks and tips for this topic but I will stop here for now. Keep in mind that saboteurs usually show up when you’re bumping up against something really important or scary or big. Their main job is to keep you safe, keep you comfortable. So the fact that they are there is meaning that you are on the right track to doing something huge or having some big breakthrough. So…CONGRATS!
Thanks to my girl Stephanie Watanabe (.com) this is reminding me of one of my favorite Beastie Boys songs that says “listen all of ya’ll this is sabotage.” Listen. Enjoy.
Leave me a comment and tell me some of the stories your saboteurs tell you!
GREAT posting. Yes, saboteurs can be really powerful. Mine is French. He smokes those dark European cigarettes, wears a beret and a condescending smirk, is an art critic (or course) and has something nasty to say about almost everything. He’s charming in a witty asshole sort of way.
I wonder what yours looks like?
Ughhhhhh. Nasty nasty Pierre. Mine doesn’t always have a face, but sometimes sounds like a bitch from high school who is standing in the corner with her friends laughing and gossiping about me.
ok…genius…good!!! ;) Thank you for this!
Freakin’ LOVE that song! Been awhile since I heard it! Thanks!
Lazarus! I’m so glad the post helped. I use the “ok…whatever…good” ALL the time and it’s been so helpful for me. And a little Beastie in your day never hurts!! :-)
You really hit the nail on the head for this one, Salad. My meanie thoughts take form of a blonde stick insect with perfect skin. I’m constantly telling myself, “Katie, will ya get out of your head already?!” there’s only so much negative banter that I can put up with for one day. It always helps me to remember that my Ben likes brunettes better.
Yo girl…dude…right?!?!? Our sabbies are crazy asses and SO mean. It’s cool, though, that you’re aware that you’re in your head since that’s the first step to getting out of your head. Love you long time.
HAHAHA – “Okay, floor, good.” Sally you crack me up. Though I swear I looked right at my floor when I read that and said it to myself! Sneaky :P
Saboteurs be gone! I remember when we talked about some of these snazzy tactics. Thanks for the reminder, Sally! You totally rock.
YEAH GIRL!!!! I got lots of tricks up my sleeve, in addition to making you look where I tell you. “Wait! A monkey! Look outside!!!” Har har. Thanks for your eyeballs on my site lady. YOU totally rock.
AWESOME!! Great post + I love that you added some Beastie love up in there. Honestly, I couldn’t get their voices out of my head while reading it.
So maybe that means that my inner saboteur is named Mike D. …. :)
I think that’s the only logical explanation.
This is some awesome SHIZ! My dirty little friends have been occupying my brain all day, and in turn, the physical reaction (throat closing up, itchy skin, etc.) has been plaguing me all day. This is the perfect day to read a post like this, but again, you already knew that. xo Jen
Hahahha! Shiz. Love. I hear ya girl. First step is to be aware they’re there and it looks like you got that SHIZ handled. Keep on rockin wit cho bad self.
The beastie boys song is perfect, love it! My saboteurs use to rule my life, those bossy little bastards! They were my dictator for a good 20 years. Now I converse with them much more… “very interesting indeed!” :) Thanks for the tips Sally!
So helpful! Really needed this as I’m filling out my procrastination/fear list!!!! :) xo
HAHAHH!!! YEAH GIRL!!! (you and your lists…I LOVE it).
Classic Sally. Luv it!! I think I’m going to start calling my mental saboteurs The Beastie Boys. And then when I’ll picture them with the fake mustaches and wigs I’ll lighten up! :)
I’ve heard before that if you took what you said to yourself in your head, and imagined saying it to a friend, you would quickly realize how cruel and baseless it is. An exercise for perspective.
AHHHH! I LOVE that perspective exercise. You’re full of GREAT ideas Kelly! Wanna write something for my blog? :-)