by Hannah Rowanwood
It’s rather ironic.
Here I was studying the A-H-A model of self-sabotage for my NLP Life Coaching certification and feeling… perhaps not smug exactly, but certainly pleased with myself for having left all of that attachment stuff behind me.
I spent some time easily identifying several attachment types that had defined me in the past. Martyr? Check. Numb? Check. People Pleaser? Yep, definite check. Next, I had fun identifying those that seemed to fit various people I know (funny how it’s always so much easier to identify patterns in others than in ourselves).
That evening, after baking a batch of cookies and eating half of them in one sitting (did I mention I had quit sugar?), I sat down to do some writing. Instead, I ended up watching another movie. I say another because I had watched one the evening before, breaking my personal discipline rule of one movie night per week.
Afterwards, feeling enormously guilty and disappointed in myself, I pushed aside those unpleasant feelings by playing solitaire on the laptop for an hour – another broken rule. Finally, I went upstairs to bed, feeling horrible, and tossed and turned for much of the night.
The next day, feeling tired and cranky from the post-cookie crash and lack of sleep, I moped about, delaying getting my studies underway. I puttered on with other meaningless tasks, grazing on cookies to get my energy levels back up, knowing full well that I should have been eating all those vegetables languishing in my fridge. I opened my laptop to write, but couldn’t seem to concentrate through the sugar fog, and instead spent the next two hours scrolling mindlessly through emails and blog posts.
All day I had the feeling of wanting something, but of not being able to identify what it was. That night, I lay awake in bed feeling… empty. Unsatisfied. Disappointed.
And then it dawned on me. An A-H-A moment. I was in the grips of self-sabotage, and hadn’t seen it! After an incredible period of self-discipline and the resulting wonderful personal growth, motivation and great health it created, I had begun to slide back into old habits of distracting, numbing, and procrastinating.
My mind’s dusty old attachment to feeling deprived had seen the wonderful progress I was making, had noticed the creeping feelings of fulfillment and satisfaction, had detected my growing sense of purpose, and didn’t like it one bit.
These new feelings, though wonderful, were unfamiliar territory, and awakened a sense of discomfort and longing for something more familiar, even if that something would have eventually prevented me from reaching my goals and attaining my dreams. In fact, especially because it would do just that.
An attachment to deprivation wants us to experience cravings, longings, guilt, dissatisfaction, emptiness, and lack of fulfillment. In my case, what better way to accomplish all of that than to sabotage myself from eating well & enjoying good health, completing my NLP program, finding my purpose, and generally feeling great about myself?
The good news is that as soon as I realized what was happening and was able to name the thing I was craving (feeling deprived), the energy behind the attachment immediately lost much of its strength. Simply bringing awareness to the self-sabotage pattern loosened the grip of the attachment, and allowed me to dissociate from it enough to be able to look at it objectively.
I can look back now and see how this pattern has woven through my life and my decisions, even determining the type of food I chose to indulge in! I see now that my struggle with sugar mirrors the deprivation attachment pattern perfectly; what other food is so perfectly suited to feeling guilty, unsatisfied, & wanting more?
These deep-rooted attachments, formed most commonly in childhood, can be so challenging to our personal growth precisely because they act behind the scenes, unconsciously driving our thoughts, feelings and behaviors in ways that sabotage our best intentions and loftiest dreams. But they can be identified and overcome with willingness, awareness and some keen investigative skills.
When looking to identify an unhealthy attachment in yourself or a client, don’t worry about trying to untangle and decipher all of the different behaviors or habits. Simply look for the end result of that familiar, unwanted (and usually unpleasant) feeling, and work your way back.
And maybe follow the cookie crumbs…