Call it a saboteur, a gremlin, or a thinking trap. Call it resistance, or the voice in your head. Whatever name you’d like to give it, it’s something we’ve all likely encountered in one form or another.
Common forms include:
Judgment (toward self or others)
Logic or “Being Reasonable” - to a degree that doesn’t actually serve you
Feeling small, not good enough, not smart enough, not _____ enough (insert your adjective of choice).
Working With Resistance
Resistance can take many forms and serve many purposes. Sometimes, resistance is coming from deep within - and is our intuition’s way of telling us that something isn’t quite right.
Oftentimes, however, resistance is the way that our mind responds to the possibility of us stepping into our biggest, boldest, and most courageous selves. Oftentimes, resistance is the voice of the saboteur.
Step One: Notice and Name It.
The first step in working with the saboteur is to notice and name it. The saboteur can be so sneaky and so convincing, that often we think it’s the truth. Most often it’s not. So the first step is to recognize and name it. This could include:
Naming the saboteur: “this is the voice of the saboteur.”
Giving the saboteur a form, shape, or identity: “oh, this is just Judge Judy speaking.”
Visualizing the saboteur as something that is separate from you.
Step Two: Uncover What is True
Often there is some sliver of truth in what the saboteur is trying to tell us, but it gets buried amidst a whole lot of self-sabotaging beliefs and ideas. After we notice and name the saboteur, we can begin to uncover what, if any, parts of the ideas might be true, or have helpful wisdom for us to use.
We can do this by asking:
What is true? (and repeating this over and over again until we uncover what is)
Is it true?
Can I be absolutely certain that it’s true?
What would be different or possible if I let go of this belief?
What could it look like to let go of this belief?
Is this an upper limit problem? (Oftentimes, saboteurs appear when we have hit what Gay Hendricks calls an upper limit - a period where things are going incredibly well, where we are happy and successful - and our mind has a hard time being with all of this goodness, so it finds ways to secretly sabotage things).
Step Three: Develop a New Relationship with the Saboteur
Very rarely do our saboteurs go away suddenly, or entirely. They often have a way of sneaking up on us when we’re least expecting it - even when we think we’ve put them aside once and for all. As a result, it can be helpful to find a new way of engaging with our saboteurs when they do reappear. This may include:
Calling the saboteur by name when it appears. “Oh - don’t worry, it’s just Judge Judy trying to make an appearance again.”
Uncovering what job the saboteur is trying to do - and looking at how we might take responsibility for that job instead. For example, if your saboteur shows up in the form of jealousy toward the work or lives of others, could it be trying to nudge you to have confidence in your own work; to take that leap you’ve been wanting to take for awhile; or to finally own your unique genius and start showing your work to the world? Or, if your saboteur shows up in the form of striving, could it be a hint that it’s actually time for a pause?
Remember that we are humans and that saboteurs, gremlins, thinking traps, resistance, and whatever else we might want to call them are a normal part of the human experience. Have compassion. Remember that they are not the truth, that their presence will eventually pass, and that we can learn to work with them over time.