I’m going to be focusing very much on the concepts of financial behaviours and one of the topics is about self sabotage and how to stop self sabotaging yourself financially.
Now there’s a big link between financial well being and our inner child, our inner worth, and how sometimes we can self sabotage our financial success because of how we feel and how we felt in the past. Many of us have certain beliefs and behaviours that are habits because we’ve done them for such a long time. For example, one of the self sabotaging beliefs that I held on to for many, many years was the feeling that I wasn’t deserving of wealth because actually I spent most of my teenage years and my twenties, when I first started earning my own money, living in my overdraft and living in debt. So when I actually came out of debt and I paid all of that off, it felt unfamiliar to me to have money in my account. And that pattern continued; I just found a new excuse to spend money, because when I attracted money, it felt unfamiliar to me because I’d spent so many years spending that money.
So the habits that we form around money are so important to understand because actually that supports our overall well being. Many of the thoughts that we have around money protect us. Many of the thoughts that we have are self sabotaging. It’s actually understanding which of those beliefs are self sabotaging and which of them are protecting you. So I’ve brought back a guest to the podcast – the wonderful Caroline Strawson who is a very good friend of mine.
In Caroline’s earlier interview back in series 2, we talked about her personal story and about how divorce became her superpower, and really she’s incredible: I could listen to Caroline literally all day long. Caroline’s journey was all about how she dealt with anxiety, depression, and self harm. She’d come out of a very narcissistic, abusive relationship and she now helps clients to bounce back and flourish after narcissistic abuse. She then goes on them to help to protect their inner child and actually, how we can really bring some science and therapy to how we feel about ourselves – re-parenting ourselves.
Today, Caroline is going to be talking to us about what is self sabotage. How do we self sabotage? And she’s going to talk us through her four step system in how we can actually start to bring some awareness and stop self sabotaging. Caroline Strawson is a multi award winning Rapid Transformational Therapist and EMDR Practitioner. She is also a number one best selling author of her book Divorce Became my Superpower.
So welcome to the podcast today, Caroline, Thank you so much for joining us today. We’re talking all about how to stop self sabotaging and how this relates to how we can actually self sabotage around our finances.
Hi, Catherine. Thank you so much for having me here.
I really want to get quite deep in this conversation about what exactly is self sabotage? Why does it actually happen and what things could we do potentially to bring some awareness to how maybe some of us are self sabotaging our own financial success. So first, Caroline, could you share with us a little bit about what self sabotaging actually looks like?
So self sabotage is really when you know you want to do something or you’re planning on doing something, or there’s a goal that you want to achieve – YOU, not anybody else, and this is the key here – you are the one that sabotages that. You are the one that stops yourself from achieving that, reaching that goal. It’s not about anybody else. We may tell ourselves it is down to somebody else and we’ll go into this with regards to how the brain works. But ultimately it’s our sense of self. It is us as an individual stopping ourselves for whatever reason from achieving or doing something.
It’s very similar to procrastination, really. You know, some people will say I’m procrastinating and not doing that. It’s the same sort of thing: that self sabotage, stopping yourself really from living your best life and achieving the things you deserve. And if you take two individuals, one may go on and achieve something and the other may not, and the other who doesn’t might blame somebody else, but actually it’s very often down to self sabotage. You are doing it to yourself.
That’s so interesting. Particularly when it comes to finances a lot of us go through this financial inertia and burying our heads in the sand because we don’t feel worthy enough. Let’s get stuck into that.
So how does the brain work? How does our subconscious beliefs and our conscious beliefs affect how we make decisions about whether we self sabotage or not?
Subconscious beliefs are around 90% of our belief system. So you imagine 10% is our conscious mind, and the rest is our subconscious and unconscious mind. When we’re born, of course, we don’t self sabotage. You know, if you’re a one year old baby and you get up to start walking and you fall down, you don’t just think that’s it. I’m not getting up again, you know? And you don’t walk ever again. Of course you don’t. You just keep doing it because you you believe that you can do that and you just keep getting up.
And what happens, is in our childhood, our parents or our caregivers, they’re basically the ones that give us our belief systems for who we become as adults. So I always say, between the ages of two and seven, we are in what we call a theta brainwave state. So imagine that child that you were between the ages of two and seven; imagine the back of your head open like a little computer filing system and your parents and your caregivers, are programming you, your belief systems, who you are going to become as an adult once those belief systems have formed. Then, as we go into teenage years, young adulthood, and beyond, we scan the world to reinforce those beliefs. If we have a belief system saying I’m not worthy, that was formed in childhood.
And let me tell you with these belief systems it doesn’t mean that if you have a belief not being worthy that you’ve had some major trauma in childhood. It absolutely can be that, but equally trauma is actually just overwhelm to your system. So if you have maybe a mum who goes out to work and doesn’t give you attention and a dad who’s emotionally unavailable, and that’s just a very broad example, that child might attach meaning to that that I’m not worthy cause they’re not there. Of course, as an adult you can look back and think my dad was unemotional because of his childhood, my Mum just had to work because of money. But you as the child attached meaning to that I’m not worthy. Then once we have that belief, as a teenager if, say, a boy doesn’t want to go out with you, you think it’s because I’m not worthy. Then as you get older maybe you don’t get that promotion at work because I’m not worthy. And emotion overrides logic every single time. So no matter how much consciously you think you are worthy, if that subconscious belief is still wired in from childhood that you’re not, that that will override every single situation for you.
That’s so interesting. I’ve been doing some research recently, into behavioural finance and one of the subjects is about how in the financial services profession we actually tend to use more of the logical side of the brain than we do the emotional side. And if 90% of our decisions are subconscious, which is driven by how we feel, then actually, as a financial services profession we need to be thinking about when we’re talking to clients about money; are we talking to clients from an emotional perspective, and a logical perspective. And actually, as we get older I understand that we operate much more from an emotional part of our brain than we do from the rational part of our brain.
And you imagine that how we operate is really – if you imagine that your body is like your dashboard and your dashboard comes from lots of different things. It comes from your genes, it comes from whether you’re a male or a female. It comes from your health and your past experiences. And it isn’t past experiences and events that make you feel the way you do, it’s the meaning you attached to that which again goes back to our belief systems. So unless we change part of our dashboard just as you said, from the emotional side. If you’re just working on that 10% from a financial perspective, if you are going to trigger then that emotion’s going to override that immediately anyway.
So yes, of course, it’s good to think logically. But a thought is just a thought, it’s the feelings around all of this that we need to work on. You don’t think anxiety. You don’t think anger. You feel it. So it’s about those somatic sensations within your body and they come from somewhere. We feel a certain way because that’s our emotional response to an event which comes from our meaning we have attached to that event: it’s all interlinked. If we’re only working on the logical aspect, but we’ve got a belief system of say not being worthy, that will override everything. So, for instance, going back to the original point about self sabotage, if we have that underlying belief of not being worthy and we want to go for that promotion at work we may self sabotage even going for that because the number one job of the brain is to protect us and to keep us safe. Sadly, it isn’t to keep us happy or wealthy. It is literally survival. It is to keep us safe.
With my clients, I often will talk about ‘is a lion about to eat you?’ Because very often we go into our nervous system as a means of protection. So very often actually, with self sabotage the same as procrastination, we get frustrated that we know we’re doing this to ourselves. But actually it’s learning to sit in kindness and compassion for ourselves and to think why am I sabotaging myself? What is it my brain thinks is more painful or dangerous if I did that vs staying where I am. When we start to sit in awareness of all of that and ask those questions to ourselves, we can start to get some answers. And very often it will go back to our childhood again and again.
I really want to stress, you know, I had a great childhood. When I look back on my childhood, I certainly don’t think I had a bad one at all. Yet my Mum was co-dependent and my dad was pretty emotionally unavailable. So they were great people doing the best that they could, but that left me with the belief system of not been good enough or not being worthy, and very much seeking external approval all the time from a co dependent perspective. So I didn’t have a bad childhood. Equally, I have many clients who have had horrific childhoods, and they’ve got a similar belief system. So it’s all about our own capacity and what we cope with, and that belief that’s formed.
I love the fact how you’ve just clarified that it’s not always about huge trauma. Trauma, as you said, could just be feeling overwhelmed about something.
That’s exactly what trauma is. It is overwhelm to your system. And that could be anything. That can be your parents getting a divorce as a child. It could just be your experience in school. If you imagine that your body is your capacity, and then you’re putting lots of other things in that, and you feel overwhelmed. That could be traumatic to you. And this is where I get really sad when I see people judging others and saying things like I wouldn’t have done it like that. Well, firstly, you don’t know that because you’re not walking their shoes and you don’t know what their capacity is because you don’t know what their past experiences are. Sadly society can be very quick to judge others with how they react to things. What may be a trauma to you may not be to somebody else. That doesn’t make it right or wrong. It’s all down to our own dashboard again and our past experiences.
Absolutely. And how does that present itself physically in the body?
How our nervous system works, we have something called the Polyvagal theory which is absolutely fascinating. I’ll only briefly touch upon it. This is all to do with how our body will react when we have a trigger or an event. So we have at the front part of our brain when we are normally operating and we’re nice and calm and logical, and then when we get a trigger, we move into the emotional part of our brain. We have the hippocampus there which is our memory centre, and amygdala which is our fear centre, which will then send a message all the way up to the brain stem into our autonomic nervous system to react in a certain way. A stress response, trauma response, fight, flight or freeze, which I’m sure everybody’s heard of.
Our autonomic nervous system is split into two: sympathetic, which is our fight or flight. So we might get angry at somebody in a reaction because we’ve gone into that nervous system, or we might feel that we want to run away and that’s for fight or flight. And we also have this other part called the parasympathetic. A lot of people call this our rest and digest, and it is. But it’s also our freeze response. It’s where we’re going to shut down. And within our parasympathetic we have something called the vagus nerve, and the vagus nerve goes down the back of our brain stem and it splits into two. We have the ventral vagal, which is part of our socialisation, our connection, our flow. It’s where we feel safe. Safety is key here, because remember the number one job in the brain is to stay safe and survival. The dorsal aspect of our vagus nerve is in charge of our shut down.
We call it the wandering nerve, it’s a very big nerve and it goes all the way down to the abdomen. The dorsal aspect, the shutdown aspect goes all the way down into our gut. Then the front part of that, the ventral vagal is in charge of our facial expressions. So again, if you are a child who has been brought up in a household where maybe the parents didn’t give you lots of facial expressions or tone of voice, you don’t feel safe. So you end up being a lot in your nervous system of your fight, flight or freeze. These fight, flight, or freeze responses elicit these feelings in your body, and this is what I work on a lot with my clients. How do you feel in your body? Very often your shoulders go up. You might feel tension. You breathe differently. So imagine if you were going to go for that promotion at work and you start to feel something in your body. It’s really having that awareness that maybe, you’re really starting to go into a stress response of fight, flight or freeze. But actually what your brain is saying based on all your past experiences, it’s making a judgement in that moment of how it thinks you should behave to stay safe. So if you feel like you want to run away, it’s not because you’re being weak. It’s because your brain is saying, ‘Oh, the safest thing for you to do right now is run away because what if you go and you don’t get the job and then you feel unworthy and it takes you back to the deep pain you felt as that child of not being good enough?’
So all of the time your brain and body, that amazing machine, all it wants to do is to keep you safe. But that safety aspect can be skewed in the present because it’s based on experiences from your past and yes, as a child, you may have had to go into a trauma response in that moment, absolutely. But in the present moment, do you? It’s in questioning why am I feeling like this? And it’s having that awareness from that, because usually it’s only ever just trying to protect you and keep you safe from a bigger perceived pain based on your past experiences.
Wow, I think when you bring it to the physical science level, it makes sense, right?
So many people sit in self sabotaging and get angry at themselves or feel guilt and shame, but actually, if we think my body is just trying to protect me. But what is it trying to protect me from? Would that be so bad? Do I need things to heal my inner child to have a new starting point? Because we can change our subconscious beliefs.
Just because we have that doesn’t mean we have to have it forever. Yes, we can understand why as a child you may have thought that and created that subconsciously, but actually when we review that, should that be the belief now? But we have to change it at a cellular level.
You have a four step system for how do we actually go about changing those self sabotaging beliefs? Could you just share that with us?
Yeah. So it’s my care strategy to help people. So as individuals, we all have a certain capacity. It’s all about helping people expand that capacity so when other things happen in our life our capacity is bigger to be able to cope. So we don’t go into that overwhelm and we don’t go into a stress response because we can cope.
Then awareness is key to all of this; awareness about not just what is going on in your head, because that’s what a lot of people focus on, but also what you feel in your body. If we get that mind and body connection and recognise where we’re feeling all of this we can work on that. Regulation is really key to regulate our nervous system. How to self regulate and also co-regulation with other people, too. And it’s really important if you’ve got a partner or children and you’re feeling really disregulated, don’t be surprised if they start to try and match your regulation as well. So the more you can stay regulated, the more they will regulate with you.
And then finally, education. Just as I touched upon here things like the polyvagal theory when we have an understanding as to why – our body doesn’t want to stop us doing things. It doesn’t want us to not go for that job. What it wants to do is just keep us safe and protect us from a bigger perceived pain. So we need to get curious about why does it want to do that? What’s going on in my body? Because when we do that, we can really start to have some kindness and compassion to ourselves rather than that inner critic saying Don’t you go for that job. Don’t you do this, and really pile on that criticism which isn’t productive for us.
I love that you talked about how important awareness. One of the words I love to use around financial awareness is curiosity. Bringing some curiosity to what is your mind and your brain trying to protect you from? Identify where do you feel that in your body. For me if I feel overwhelmed, I always feel it in my throat, which actually, I had years and years of eating disorders, and I actually wonder for me whether the relationship between my voice and being heard, wanting to be heard, and wanting to be seen. And I think that awareness of where we store that is really important.
80% of disease is caused by stress. Too much cortisol. And you saying about your throat, that is where our ventral vagal part of our nerve goes. So again, there’s lots of things you can do to tone that aspect. We want to live in ventral vagal as much as we can, and that’s where we feel safe. That’s what we want to live in. Often when I do EMDR sessions with my clients, I will actually get them to shout. Because that’s a block almost for you of not, like you just said, having that voice in that moment. So I get people to shout out, what would you have said out loud if you could? So we’re almost finishing a cycle that may have got started, and you’re really releasing all of that.
And again there are exercises you could do to tone that ventral vagal nerve. Things like humming, gargling, singing is a really good. When you’re feeling like this, logically and rationally you know you can go for that job Interview, it’s when we’re operating in that emotional part of our brain that we start to be a bit skewed because that’s come from our past experience, and it’s like a filing cabinet. It’s almost like something happens in the present, and then our filing system in our brain goes there are all the things that have happened so this is how I need to react in this moment to keep me safe.
It’s so common in so many of my clients. They will feel it in their shoulders and in their neck or in their throat because they feel like in certain times of their life they didn’t have a voice and it’s remained stuck there. So it’s about releasing that because as the years go on, we don’t want that to progress to disease and illness.
This is a really interesting concept for me because if we’ve always felt like that around money, because maybe our parents have said that rich people are greedy or money doesn’t grow on trees. The likelihood is that pattern of belief came from their parents. And actually, that pattern of belief has potentially existed all the way back through the generations. Those beliefs actually may not have even been created by you. They may have actually been created through the generations. So I think that one of the benefits of bringing awareness to how you’re self sabotaging is then about challenging those beliefs to see which are protecting you and which ones are self sabotaging.
Absolutely. And you’re absolutely right. But so many people, when they feel something around it, they will turn and they will run away from it. They don’t want to deal with it. So, like you say, it’s having that awareness that the initial starting point is kindness and compassion to yourself, because if you have that for yourself as a starting point then you are able to sit in feeling like that, knowing that it’s okay to sit in feeling like that, to get curious, to explore that. Understand those reasons. It’s getting curious about that, because if it’s stopping you living the life that logically you know you deserve, then we need to start looking.
There’s no difference between you and somebody else who is living the life that you know you can have. You can do that. It’s only you stopping you.
And judgement comes in a lot here as well I think because we often compare ourselves to other people and asking why they’re deserving to have it but I’m not. That’s the time when we’re just self sabotaging.
Caroline you mentioned EMDR and Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT). Could you just very briefly tell us what’s the difference is between RTT and EMDR.
EMDR stands for eye movement, desensitisation and reprocessing, and it uses bi-lateral stimulation basically to help remove stuck trauma that is held in the body. So things like anxiety, when you feel something in your body where it’s stopping you from living your life, EMDR helps release that. But it basically time stamps things that have happened to you in your past into the past. Because very often, when you have a trigger in the present, it elicits these feelings in your body as if you were back in those certain events and obviously that might stop you from sleeping. It might stop you from achieving the things you want. EMDR is very much about releasing stuck trauma held in the body to time stamp in the hippocampus and the emotional part of our brain into the past, so you can then think of these things without feeling them in your body.
RTT is working on the belief systems around all of that. So if you have a belief, say of not being worthy, as an adult and you know it’s sabotaging you then RTT is a form of psychotherapy, hypnosis, NLP and CBT. And it’s a long session; about 2.5 hour session. But it gets right to the root cause of where did that belief start in a child’s feelings and re parenting that. And it’s sort of getting your own recording to rewire your brain of a new belief. So if it was, I’m not worthy, we are then moving to I am worthy. It’s very bespoke and it’s really getting to the root cause of why you feel that.
EMDR helps release that stuck trauma held in the body, and RTT helps upgrade that subconscious belief, and both of them together are like dynamite. Then your starting point is yes, I went through all of this but I can think of it without feeling unsafe anymore. Because you’re safe in the present moment. And I’m now coming from a place of I understand why I might have not thought I was, but now I know obviously I am worthy, but I don’t just think it in that logically, I feel it. I know it as well.
Wow, that is such a powerful method. If anyone wants to find out more about how they can connect with you, Caroline, what would be the best way to connect with you?
Drop me a message on Facebook on my business page, or email me firstname.lastname@example.org, or head to my website.
How to stop self sabotaging
What I would take away from this is that bringing just some awareness to how you’re feeling, what’s behind that emotion and that feeling, Where you storing that in your body?
Just bringing that initial awareness and curiosity could just be the start of actually thinking – is this belief true? Is it Is it really true? And it could be start of knowing how to stop self sabotaging yourself financially. You know that you are as worthy as anybody else to have financial success even if you’ve never had it before. So just bringing some awareness to that is hugely powerful.
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