Where low self-esteem is the primary feeling of the adult survivor, self- sabotage is the corresponding behavior pattern in the external world. Self- sabotage is any kind of conscious or unconscious behavior that undermines your successful functioning in the world. Self-sabotage may range from buying a "lemon" of a used car to losing one's checkbook to becoming involved with an alcoholic partner to engaging in life-threatening activities. You may allow yourself to be exploited by a boss or engage in physically harmful or potentially dangerous activities such as cutting yourself or engaging in unsafe sex. Typically, one's pattern of self-sabotage is closely related to one's personal issues and family history. Survivors who grew up in addictive families may self-sabotage by driving while drunk or getting caught with illegal drugs. Survivors from violent families may tend to get themselves beaten or injured. Survivors from wealthy families often find themselves losing money, getting swindled or making bad investments. Studies have shown that survivors of child sexual abuse are more likely to be assaulted as adults.

Self-sabotage is linked to the survivor's instinct to become re-victimized in a way that continues or replicates the past abuse. Sometimes the self-sabotage is not directed against the survivor, but rather against someone the survivor loves. For example, the adult survivor of family-perpetrated sexual abuse who is now a mother may be surprised to find that her daughter is being molested by her husband or a friend of the family. In this case, the self-sabotaging behavior is the mother's inability or failure to see what is happening and to protect her child.

Reversing self-sabotage begins with building awareness of everything you do in your daily existence that sacrifices your happiness, satisfaction and productivity. This will be discussed in more detail in Step Nine.

Go to journal questions for self-sabotage

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Survivor to Thriver, Page 47
© 2007 THE MORRIS CENTER, Revised 11/06