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The self-destructive patterns which stay invisible (part one)

When the subject of self-harm is raised in my office during sessions, it goes far beyond its visible manifestations. If we examine this trend using the analogy of a deep cut, and explore what lies beyond the visible, we will recognize subtle and hidden patterns that undermine our mental health, relationships, and overall well-being. This struggle with self-destructive tendencies is difficult and bumpy. What are these less obvious destructive behaviors, and what would a more conscious path to exposing them look like?


Self-sabotaging thought patterns

An important player in the dynamics of self-destructive behavior is self-sabotaging thought patterns. Negative self-talk, constant self-criticism, and limiting beliefs can gradually undermine self-esteem and lead to feelings of inadequacy. Awareness of these internal dialogues is critical to breaking this cycle.

What they look like:

  1. Negative self-talk: constant self-criticism and use of phrases like "I'm worthless," "I can't do anything right," or "I always mess things up."

  2. Imposter Syndrome: Feeling deceived or believing that all accomplishments are simply the result of luck, not recognizing personal competence or skill.

  3. All-or-nothing thought pattern: Seeing things in black-and-white terms and thinking that if one little thing goes wrong, everything is a total failure.

  4. Self-doubt: Self-confidence: questioning one's own abilities and constantly overthinking decisions, leading to hesitation and indecision.

  5. Comparison: constantly comparing oneself to others and feeling inadequate or envious of their successes, leading to feelings of insecurity.

  6. Development of addictions: Use of substances (e.g., alcohol, drugs) or unhealthy behaviors (e.g., excessive eating) to cope with negative emotions or stress.

"I'm worthless!", "I can't do anything right!" or "I always mess things up!"

Avoidance and postponement

By avoiding challenges, conflicts or responsibilities, we deprive ourselves of opportunities for growth and learning. Procrastination can also lead to increased stress and decreased self-esteem over time. What could be behind these coping mechanisms?

  1. Exaggerating the potential outcomes of situations, imagining worst-case scenarios, and believing that things will inevitably go wrong.

  2. Getting stuck in repetitive thought patterns and overanalysing situations, which can create unnecessary stress and anxiety.

  3. Withdrawing from social contact and avoiding opportunities to socialise with others for fear of rejection or judgement.

  4. Withdrawal from opportunities that may lead to personal growth and development for fear of embarrassment or failure.


People-pleasing and codependency

Although it is important to consider the needs of others, seeking extreme approval from people can be a form of destructiveness. A tendency toward codependency can lead to neglecting one's own well-being in order to maintain relationships, even when they are toxic.

Examples of people-pleasing:

  1. A person who always puts the needs of others before their own. He constantly agrees to do favors for friends, family, and co-workers, even if it means sacrificing his own time and well-being.

  2. A person who feels uncomfortable expressing his true opinions and beliefs, so he often goes along with the group consensus to avoid conflict and gain approval.

A person who feels pressured to accept social invitations even when they feel exhausted or overwhelmed, out of fear that their decline may upset or disappoint others.

A person who suppresses his emotions and agrees with his partner's preferences, even if he really disagrees with them, to avoid arguments and keep the peace.

A person who worries about not being liked, so always seeks approval and validation from others, even for minor decisions.

Examples of codependency:

  1. Imagine a woman who is in a romantic relationship with an alcoholic partner. She takes on the responsibility of managing her partner's life, neglecting her own needs and well-being.

  2. A man who constantly excuses his friends' irresponsible behavior, covers for them, and enables their self-destructive habits.

  3. A man who is emotionally dependent on his brother/sister. He feels the need to constantly rescue them from their problems, even when it negatively affects his own life.

4. A daughter or son experiencing an overwhelming sense of responsibility for the happiness and well-being of their aging parents, while turning their backs on their own lives and desires.

5. A man who remains in a toxic friendship in which his friend often belittles and manipulates him. He fears that ending the friendship will make his friend even more emotionally unstable.


to be continued...


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