How to duel with self-sabotage to win


Written by Trish

We are what we think.

If we believe we don’t deserve love, money, fun, good health, happiness, peace… well guess what? We’ll unconsciously take steps to ensure that we don’t get these things.

We self-sabotage.

Carl Jung believed that we had archetypes which impact us from the collective conscious. The Saboteur archetype is one of the four primary “survival” archetypes that we all possess.

Can you picture your Saboteur?

Mine has a moustache that would belong on a guy name Salvador; black, thin and long, passed the chin with curves on the end. He has dark eyes to match his dark skin, which is partly covered by his dirty hat with a flamboyant feather. He is dressed in the style of the 1600s with a shortwaisted jerkin and red sash. He is always sitting, like he has found his favourite spot at the tavern and is going to sit there until he drinks himself to death. And he has this conniving look about him like he’s always scheming and planning to dishearten someone (usually me).

The other interesting thing about my Saboteur is he is a devout Christian and a martyr–you know–in a psychotic sorta way.

That’s how I first realized how sabotaging I could be; when I was put on a low-dose medication for psychosis and I was able to observe my thoughts.

I believed that god was the force in my life that giveth and taketh away. I also believed he was demanding and judging; he had given me mental illness to punish me for all the bad things I had done in my life, including not living up to his expectations as the person that was hand-chosen to save the world.

I was undeserving. Big time.

In my experience, people with mental health conditions and disorders feel they are the most undeserving of all. Our experience with self-sabotage is more frequent and detrimental, continuously undermining our self-worth.

Well it’s time.

Time to slowly draw your sword from its scabbard in just the right light (make sure you’re near a window on a sunny day) so the reflection of its magnificence burns into the eyes of your opponent, catching him off guard as you demand a duel in a steady, low voice.

Your opponent: your Saboteur.

This is not the start of a scene in a Quentin Tarantino movie. We are not fighting to the death through blood and gore at high-speed.

Instead picture Zorro who uses his mind and skill to outwit his opponents.

I have started to recognize the exercises and sparring I’ve been doing to reduce my efforts to sabotage.

And they’ve been working.

I am still in training and I hope my training helps yours.

Preliminary exercises: shift your perspective to that of self-acceptance.

As Einstein said you can’t solve a problem from the same level of consciousness; the way to shift is to surrender to who you are in this moment. View yourself as the person you are today without comparing or judging. You are not broken. You are just right as you are. You are deserving of love, approval, forgiveness, safety, happiness and peace. Give yourself permission to be who you are and to claim what you deserve.

Basic training: Observe your sabotaging thoughts and question their validity.

Practice being present with your mind when you feel unworthy. Whose voice do you imagine is behind these thoughts? What event(s) has led you to believe these thoughts? Are these thoughts absolutely true? Begin to break them down. Recognize the source and discredit it. Any thought that is unloving has not originated from your true self.

The duel: take action.

Go after that one thing you would love to do or stop doing. Visualize one step toward doing it or stopping it. Now do it.

You will experience a feeling of peace and happiness, angels singing in the background, and everything glowing…

Yeah right.

Even before you get started, you will be plagued by excuses, reasons to avoid you getting hurt, anxiety, feelings of being overwhelmed, thoughts of giving up, and memories of your decrepit Aunt telling you that you are a wicked, selfish child.

Hear and feel it all and yield to it (technique used: preliminary exercises towards self-acceptance). Resisting your thoughts and feelings is how you become paralyzed and stuck; backed into a corner by the Saboteur taunting you with his devious smile, threatening you with the tip of his sword.

So you yield and do the step anyway (technique used: outwitting-your-opponent Zorro style).

Afterwards you will feel a mixture of pleasure and pain, but probably more pain. You will think you have made a terrible mistake and you can’t handle what comes next. Again, hear and feel it all and yield until it ends. I promise you, it will end.

Until you take the next step.

This is how the duel is played out.

It has been my experience that eventually the Saboteur weakens. He begins to falter and that’s when you take the opportunity to make your moves more deliberate.

And if you take a step back and fall, keep your eyes on your opponent as you slowly get back up, brush yourself off, and resume your fighter’s stance.

Remind yourself how you have bared witness to the courage and stamina you possess to endure the hell of your mind; a hell that most people could not imagine.

My bets are on you.

Please leave a comment below sharing your experience with self-sabotage.


Cartoon credit: Trish Hurtubise


Trish HurtubiseHi. I’m Trish Hurtubise…the founder, curator and an editor for Mental Health Talk. I love serving those who are relegated to the shadows by society by giving them a platform to share their voice and be seen and heard… hence my passion for working with all the wonderful people who have shared their stories and wisdom on MHT.

You may view all posts by me here.

Much love to you.

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  • NB

    I think we all self-sabotage. Some maybe more to extreme then others and that is when we loss our selfworth. Good thoughts on how to deal with it Tricia.

    • Trish

      I agree with your thoughts NB. Thank you for leaving a comment and your feedback! xo

  • David T

    Thanks Tricia,
    This was very helpful. I have been finding all sorts of excuses lately to avoid writing a story I have been working on. I is amazing how quickly I am distracted from sitting down and letting the story come through me. I read your piece and it all made so much sense. I picture my saboteur as a pick pocket. A very bad pick pocket. He steals away my attention. He wants me to chase him, and I do. He takes me away from the things I want to do.
    So, similar to your Zorro, I must let him have what he has stolen. I will not chase him. I acknowledge he has distracted me and go back to work. He will return with the wallet so that he can steal it away again.
    Once again, I love the cartoon. I hope the next movie version of Zorro shows the hero struggling with his own feeling of self worth.

    • Trish

      Thank you David for you kind words!

      I love your version of your Saboteur–I could visualize him too–thank you for sharing it.

      Good luck with your writing!

  • Lynette Myers

    Thank you for sharing the above story about our Saboeur’s tactics! What really got to me is what you said about having the courage and stamina to live with the hell in your mind, then you can win this fight! Something like that was said to me in a book about 20 years ago about my addiction to unhealthy relationships with men and it turned me around as far as that problem went, but I’ve lived with desire to self-destruct for so long and not winning over it. I will take what you said and pick up mt sword now! Thanks again

    • Trish

      Thank you Lynette for sharing a bit of your struggle with your Saboteur. This is the first time I have read this article since I wrote it and I can honestly say that I still practice these techniques to this day and I have come a long way since then. I wish you much strength and courage in your battle and please do not hesitate to stop by again or email me to let me know how it is going.


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