Drag Queen Rupaul has coined the term “Inner Saboteur” and I quite like it. This is the part of ourselves that is always looking at the negative, predicting worse case scenarios and generally lacking any kind of hope and/or self-empathy. Different schools of thought call it different things yet Inner Saboteur works best for me and my clients, as it describes this very fear-based part of us that comes with the human condition. It sabotages any kind of hope, happiness and success that is rightfully ours. While I can go on for centuries about the origins of the Inner Saboteur, let’s focus on how to leash that Kraken at any given time. Here are eight ways in which you can detect and deflect your Inner Saboteur:
1 - The volume of the voice in your head
The first step in solving any problem is identifying it; giving it a name and so on. The one salient feature I have noticed about the Inner Saboteur is that it never speaks in a soft and low tone. The Inner Saboteur speaks in a very loud tone of voice. The rate of this voice is very rapid. It always strikes fear and anxiety in you. Get familiar with how your Inner Saboteur sounds and feels and this will allow you to make the determination of whether this is fear - or your true self -talking.
2 - What are the words being used? Are they absolutes?
Pay attention to the actual vocabulary that the Inner Saboteur uses. It usually involves absolutes like “never” and “always.” The Inner Saboteur doesn’t know balance or midpoints. It only knows extremes. When your Inner Saboteur strikes, shift the words around. This could take on the form of you talking to yourself. An example would be:
“You’re going to be single for the rest of your life!” (Inner Saboteur)
“I am only single right now. I am taking the right steps to change that today.”
3 - How does it feel? Does it energise you or suck you dry?
I don’t know about you but when my Inner Saboteur strikes, I am drained of all energy. I don’t feel like doing anything. Other times, I am like a whirlwind of action, wanting to do something, anything, to get rid of this excess nervous energy. The other thing you may want to notice is where in your body does your Inner Saboteur strike? Do you get stomach aches or headaches? Once we recognise the physical symptoms of our Inner Saboteur, we can use the techniques to leash that bad boy up.
4 - What evidence does it have?
All of us have seen some sort of law drama on television. We all know what questioning a witness on the stand in court looks like. Well, now it’s time for you to be your own attorney and put your Inner Saboteur on the stand. Take what it’s saying and ask it pointed questions. Ask it to give you proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that what it is saying is true. Have it give you solid and concrete proof that what it is saying is true. You will find that it either does not have this evidence and/or it stretches/twists the truth.
5 - What would the exact opposite be?
A simple behavioural technique I teach my clients is to do the exact opposite of what the Inner Saboteur is telling you to do. Don’t give it that much thought. If your Inner Saboteur, for example, is telling you to go out and get drunk after an argument with your partner, decide to do something like have some tea with a friend. Usually, the Inner Saboteur will want you to do something in excess. Take a softer approach to manage whatever it is you are going through by doing the opposite. The opposite usually is a bigger delay of gratification than the Inner Saboteur’s option but it allows you to be the person you really want to be.
6 - What would a neutral thought look like?
Listen, if you get as annoyed with positive thinking people as I do, you may want to try this life hack. When the Inner Saboteur gives you the barrage of negative thoughts, why not come up with a neutral thought. This could take on the form of something as simple as “I am going to be single forever” to “I am single.” Not super empowering but it disempowers the Inner Saboteurs attack. Being neutral is very simple, basic and easy, plus it does not require much mental strain. It does require some level of vigilance to know when the attack is coming and make an active choice to combat it.
7 - Allow yourself to try on an opposite or neutral thought and see how that feels?
Think for a moment, now that you have engaged in either the opposite or neutral thought, get in the space of how it would feel if you were actually engaging in the opposite or neutral thought. What would be different? It’s like psychological daydreaming. You get to play out what something could feel like.
8 - Ask a trusted person in your network.
If all else fails, grab someone you really trust, someone you know will call you on your ‘issues,’ and tell them what the Inner Saboteur is saying to you. They will call it out and you can have a good laugh about it.