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From family myth to self-sabotage

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Bad luck is part of life and so are making mistakes. However, if you have very normal desires, such as a happy relationship, nice work, harmony in your family and with friends, to lose or gain weight, and it doesn’t work, then it is good to think about self-sabotage. This mainly manifests itself in behavior and thoughts. Suppose you are on a diet, it works out nicely, until you go wild again on the whipped cream cake on Saturday. All the effort for nothing.

Or you have an important appointment and you oversleep. You finally have a nice date and then you spend the whole evening talking about your ex. End of story and romance! Deep down, you want a satisfying sexual relationship, but when your partner approaches you, you fail.A client of mine failed his pilot exam because he answered a question incorrectly, even though he knew the answer.

He couldn’t understand how he could have been so stupid. In addition, you have the self-sabotage thoughts that keep you from doing the things you should be doing to realize your desires. Somewhere in you there is a little voice that says, you cannot do that, you are not suitable for that, you will not succeed. You always fall for the wrong guys, so don’t make that date. This is where the inner critic speaks.

Positive thinking doesn’t work

The most common approach is to try to change your thinking. More than forty years ago, the American pastor Norman Vincent Paele wrote the book ‘The power of positive thinking’. More than 15 million copies have already been sold and ‘positive thinking’ has become a huge hype. It still is, despite compelling evidence that it doesn’t work. For people with low self-esteem, as most self-sabotagers have, it even backfires.

Practicing positive thinking encourages feelings of guilt and depression. By the way, there is a very nasty message behind the positive-thinking approach: just think differently and everything will work out on its own. The effect is that deep down you feel not taken seriously and even start to feel guilty.A young woman came to my practice. She was graduating and had to write a thesis for that.

It just didn’t work, no matter how everyone said to her ‘you can do it, come on’. That well-intentioned support only made her feel worse and eventually ended up in a depression. I asked her what would be so bad about not graduating. That turned things around, because for the first time she felt taken seriously. She started her thesis two weeks later and graduated six months later.

Not cum laude, but still… That turned things around, because for the first time she felt taken seriously. She started her thesis two weeks later and graduated six months later. Not cum laude, but still…That turned things around, because for the first time she felt taken seriously. She started her thesis two weeks later and graduated six months later. Not cum laude, but still…

Family system as a causefamily constellation

I work with family constellations and I also follow a systemic approach during my consultations. I always see a client as part of the system in which she or he functions. Within a system, thoughts and behavior can be very useful to maintain yourself. But in another situation, those thoughts and behavior may make no sense. As long as you see a person only as an isolated individual who shows self-sabotage in the here and now or suffers from an inner critic, then self-sabotage remains a strange and inexplicable phenomenon. Self-saboters are often not lacking in talent. Many single people are charming, good-looking and yet unable to find a partner. ‘‘Incomprehensible’, family members and friends often say or think.Those who work with family constellations know that the family in which you grow up as a system determines the way you live and how you function. If you always have negative thoughts about yourself and if failure has become chronic, it is worth checking whether the self-sabotage does not have its origin in the family system in which you grew up.

Myths for reassurance

Every family has its beliefs about how life works and how the members of that family are doing in life. Those beliefs are actually stories (myths) of reassurance. A few examples: If you were born for a dime, you will never become a quarter. The devil always shits in one heap. They are well-known beliefs with which especially poor people explained their fate and that helped to resign themselves to them.

That’s just how life works. And if you accept that, it gives you peace of mind. That is also the meaning of resignation. Also the idea that certain evil is a punishment from God, or that there is a curse on certain families, can belong to the stories of a family.I asked the man who failed his pilot exam how his family (he came from a family of simple farm workers) viewed studying and moving up.

He told me: “Studying in our family was not for our kind of people. ‘Us bin dom’ my mother always said.” But the positive myths can also have a disastrous effect. Also some examples of this: We Jansens were born to lead. Everything a De Groot touches turns to gold. We don’t marry below our means. And those apparently positive beliefs can also have a disastrous effect, because in every family there is an outsider who does not fit in the family story.

‘Us bin dom’ my mother always said.” But the positive myths can also have a disastrous effect.Also some examples of this: We Jansens were born to lead. Everything a De Groot touches turns to gold. We don’t marry below our means. And those apparently positive beliefs can also have a disastrous effect, because in every family there is an outsider who does not fit in the family story.

‘Us bin dom’ my mother always said.” But the positive myths can also have a disastrous effect. Also some examples of this: We Jansens were born to lead. Everything a De Groot touches turns to gold. We don’t marry below our means. And those apparently positive beliefs can also have a disastrous effect, because in every family there is an outsider who does not fit in the family story.

Consciousness Formation

Now the family myths are not always conscious and often not even talked about, but they are always present as a kind of undertone, in action and in communication. This often invisible and unspoken undercurrent has an enormous influence on the formation of children, especially in the first four years of life.

That goes without saying and father and mother don’t even have to say ‘that’s how we do it here at the Jansen family’. You get that with the spoon, we say, to indicate that no words are needed. We call this process the formation of conscience. Common developmental psychology calls conscience the ability to distinguish between good and evil.Bert Hellinger, the founder of the family constellations, goes further and sees the conscience as a kind of sense that tells whether you can belong or not.

A child who acts in accordance with the mores of the family has a sense of belonging and a good conscience. Whoever breaks the family rules or acts contrary to the family myths forfeits the right to belong and has a bad conscience. The most important aspiration of the child is to belong to the family, which is the basic security. A young child is always loyal to the mother and father, thus the system (family and relatives) in which it grows up.

That loyalty is there despite the circumstances, even children who are abused, sexually abused or neglected, show the same loyalty as children who grow up in happy circumstances. The myths and customs of the family have internalized a child around the age of four and largely direct their thinking, feeling and behaviour. In that process a child has no choices, it internalizes not only the positive, but also the negative patterns and beliefs.

They continue to influence your behavior and thinking for a lifetime, often at a subconscious level. Conscience is therefore certainly able to make the difference between good and evil, but within the group (family) to which you belong. ‘Thou shall not kill’ applies primarily to one’s own family or clan.For many people there is little objection to cutting down an ‘enemy’.

‘Thou shalt not kill’ applies in the first instance to one’s own family or clan. For many people there is little objection to cutting down an ‘enemy’. ‘Thou shalt not kill’ applies in the first instance to one’s own family or clan. For many people there is little objection to cutting down an ‘enemy’.

The elastic of the family ties

In the past, in the Netherlands until the 1950s, young adults lived on in the family tradition. They belonged to the same social class and associated with people of the same faith. Nowadays people mainly want to follow their own path, they want to avoid the mistakes of their parents. Making your own choices is also something that is encouraged by all of society.

That puts you in a dilemma, because loyalty to the family system is no longer self-evident, but you do continue to feel that urge. However, this is often completely unconscious. Many of my clients are stunned to discover that they are actually repeating patterns from the family system. Stef Bos sings it aptly in his song Papa.He wants to do everything differently, but in the end he has to admit it: ‘Daddy, I’m more and more like you’.

Clients who struggle with finding a partner often only have to ask ‘what was it like in the family with relationships and marriage?’ In the sixties of the last century there was an enormous urge for freedom. Many forms of self-development and individualized therapy emerged. However, this growth movement also had its limitations, because all those people who took the leap to freedom turned out to be tied to pieces of elastic.

The elastic of the family ties. Even today, in this age of individualism, those ties are stronger than we think. On an individual level, that power often manifests itself in the form of self-sabotage.It is not for nothing that family constellations are gaining in popularity. You can amputate a leg, your family never. It lives on in you whether you like it or not. Of course you can turn your back on the past and go your own way. ‘Eventually you will meet yourself again somewhere’, we say. So something else has to be done. Hellinger puts it succinctly in one of his books: ‘Whoever is aware of his destiny can detach himself from it.’

Survival Strategy in Disguise

self-sabotageThat’s no reason to do nothing, because then there will be no development. Then everyone in the family continues to see themselves as a victim of circumstances, fate or of the evil outside world. I see self-sabotage as a valuable starting point in therapy. The inner saboteur is the survival strategy of your family of origin in disguise. So it is not originally an enemy but a helper. Realize that everyone owes their existence to the family’s ability to survive. When you can see and experience that original sense of support, you can value and honor it. Only then will it be possible to make choices in freedom. That seems contradictory and is sometimes experienced as failure.

In my practice I often get people who long for a relationship, but at the same time have developed a pattern through which failure is pre-determined. For example, a client told me that she only wanted a partner who would admire her. In the conversation we had, it turned out that there were quite a few unmarried aunts in her family. She could still remember the statement of one of her aunts: ‘Men, they want the benefits but not the burdens.

My client stayed true to the family system by making absurdly high demands in love. That is a form of self-sabotage that we encounter very often. To get into a relationship, you have to open up and dare to fall in love spontaneously.Anyone looking for a partner with a schedule of requirements is doomed to fail. For example, a client told me that she only wanted a partner who would admire her.

In the conversation we had, it turned out that there were quite a few unmarried aunts in her family. She could still remember the statement of one of her aunts: ‘Men, they want the benefits but not the burdens.’ My client stayed true to the family system by making absurdly high demands in love. That is a form of self-sabotage that we encounter very often. To get into a relationship, you have to open up and dare to fall in love spontaneously.

Anyone looking for a partner with a schedule of requirements is doomed to fail.For example, a client told me that she only wanted a partner who would admire her. In the conversation we had, it turned out that there were quite a few unmarried aunts in her family. She could still remember the statement of one of her aunts: ‘Men, they want the benefits but not the burdens.

My client stayed true to the family system by making absurdly high demands in love. That is a form of self-sabotage that we encounter very often. To get into a relationship, you have to open up and dare to fall in love spontaneously. Anyone looking for a partner with a schedule of requirements is doomed to fail. they want the benefits but not the burdens.’ My client stayed true to the family system by making absurdly high demands in love.That is a form of self-sabotage that we encounter very often.

To get into a relationship, you have to open up and dare to fall in love spontaneously. Anyone looking for a partner with a schedule of requirements is doomed to fail. they want the benefits but not the burdens.’ My client stayed true to the family system by making absurdly high demands in love. That is a form of self-sabotage that we encounter very often. To get into a relationship, you have to open up and dare to fall in love spontaneously. Anyone looking for a partner with a schedule of requirements is doomed to fail.

The first confrontation with self-sabotage arising from the family system does not always lead to a liberating insight.Many people suffer from a common saboteur ‘always knowing better than the others’. People I get in my practice are absolutely not stupid, have often read a lot and sometimes have done family constellations before.

Know everything better

Knowing better than the other is a tricky form of self-sabotage. People psychologize or philosophize a lot, so that in fact they lose connection with themselves and with their bodies. For example, you want to connect with your work, but it may be that there is an emotional blockage. You sabotage by not doing things, rushing them, or becoming passive.

The trick is not to look for an explanation in psychology or esotericism, but to reconnect with yourself, your body, your feelings and your family. Once you have a statement, then you’re done. What comes up in family constellations is almost always a surprise. A man complained about his father’s aloofness.

He felt a deep resentment towards his father.The constellation showed that there was a lot of violence between father and son in his family. His father did not want that and saw the only way to keep his distance. It took my client a lot of effort to really believe that his father had acted out of love.

Life, happiness and success

Success in life is closely related to the relationship you had with your mother and your father. The mother is essential in systemic thinking for taking life, happiness and success. She is the source of your existence. Many clients report that their relationship with their mother was not that great, that she died early, or that a sibling received much more attention. If you want to be successful in life, it is important to examine what drives you.

Does that really come from within yourself, or are you still looking for recognition from your parents? Your father is also very important, because he is the gateway to the outside world. How was his success and what was his attitude in life.Has he taught you discipline, given you stability and peace and supported you. Many people did not experience that as a child. If you had an authoritarian father, then there is a chance that you will behave like an eternal teenager.

So you actually repeat a kind of basic structure as it was formed in the first four years of your life. If you don’t gain insight into the system, those patterns keep repeating themselves. Now not every act of your parents has an origin in the family past. All parents make mistakes and children often have a greater resilience than we think.

Family Constellations

For several decades now, the family has ceased to be the sacred cornerstone of society. This has disadvantages, because many people feel uprooted. The old family ties no longer have the same charm as they used to and we often experience them as oppressive. On the other hand, there are also advantages, because the negative sides of family life can now also be discussed openly.

Fifty years ago it was not so obvious that child abuse, incest and domestic violence were exposed. Marrying below your means or to someone of another faith was a disgrace to the family and could lead to disinheritance or expulsion. Not to mention gays coming out of the closet. That just didn’t happen.In many cultures, the well-being of the individual is still subordinate to the honor of the family.

We live happily in a country and in a time where we can openly look at the positive and negative sides of our family. In the past, there was little or no talk about these negative sides. Many of my clients come in with a family secret that they are sometimes barely aware of. When a constellation shows reality, it is usually a huge relief for a client. Finally, the lifelong silence can be broken. Self-sabotage as loyalty to the family system is no longer necessary and family constellations are a fantastic tool to break free from that entanglement.

Many of my clients come in with a family secret that they are sometimes barely aware of.When a constellation shows reality, it is usually a huge relief for a client. Finally, the lifelong silence can be broken. Self-sabotage as loyalty to the family system is no longer necessary and family constellations are a fantastic tool for freeing yourself from that entanglement.

Many of my clients come in with a family secret that they are sometimes barely aware of. When a constellation shows reality, it is usually a huge relief for a client. Finally, the lifelong silence can be broken. Self-sabotage as loyalty to the family system is no longer necessary and family constellations are a fantastic tool for freeing yourself from that entanglement.

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