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Self-sabotage and being ruled by fear

Old 09-18-2013, 06:35 AM
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Self-sabotage and being ruled by fear

Its a month today since I left my XABF. In many many ways thing are a lot better. Life is calm (almost boring!) and I'm enjoying being able to do whatever I feel like.

I can't say I miss XABF, but I do sometimes feel quite lonely. I miss the human warmth of having someone else there for a hug or just the comfort of having someone else near you. It used to be a very painful thing for me that he was my source of comfort, warmth, hugs when I needed that physical safety, but much of the time he was the reason I needed that comfort. He was both tormentor and comforter. So I can't exactly miss that comfort, I just feel lonely without any comfort. Its the sort of non-threatening, but manly and engulfing physical comfort I miss and am craving, like the hugs I'd get from my Dad or Brother. They live at the other end of the country tho, so I can't get those too often. I've gone to a few extra AlAnon meetings when I've felt particularly lonely, just to have the comfort of other people around me. Its a poor substitute, but it helps none the less. Anyway, that's not really what I came to write about!

As I've mentioned before I'm really struggling to finish my PhD. I thought once all the drama was over with from leaving XABF I'd be much better able to concentrate and make progress, but that hasn't been the case. I'm still getting pitifully little done, I still find it hard to focus on it. I really think I am self-sabotaging here. There is no reason I shouldn't be making progress and I know I am perfectly capable of finishing, I'm so close!

I think I am letting fear get the better of me. I've had so much change generally over the last year with starting counselling and AlAnon and changed so much of my outlook and specifically with the massive changes from leaving XABF and moving house. When I finish my PhD I'll be moving countries, to somewhere I don't speak the language very well. Its something that fulfills many of my dreams - living in a foreign country, learning to speak a new language fluently, working at a world class institution on very interesting projects. It is an exciting idea. I will admit though that I was still with XABF when I applied for and got the job and, on top of it ticking my dream boxes, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get away from him, to have freedom and experience life.

All that being said, I'm terrified. Everything has just changed and I barely have a moment to catch my breath before everything is going to change again. And there is so much to organize! I'd just like some stable ground to gather myself before everything flips up again! So I think that's why I'm finding progressing with my PhD so hard, because finishing means facing yet more change. Yet not making progress brings me stress and frustration with myself, financial problems and more uncertainty. All of this is what I want! I want to finish my PhD, I want to move countries, but I'm paralysed by fear. And its so frustrating.

I understand that self-sabotage can be a common trait amongst ACoAs, I just don't know how to break it and time is ticking away, day by day of non-progress, which is not helping how I feel about myself or my motivation. My supervisor knows the basics of the situation I've been going through and I've got an extension until as I need it really, but the start date for the job is not so open ended, and neither is my bank account. I need to kick this into gear. I've always been a master at pulling things out the hat at the last minute, but this time its not happening, I truly feel paralysed.

So really after all that I'm looking for people's ES&H of how you dealt with self-sabotage and managed to move forward with the things you wanted, rather than letting fear hold you back. I really need some of that ES&H today!
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Old 09-18-2013, 06:53 AM
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I am a master at self-sabotage, but managed to get my PhD. I also went through a divorce during my grad program. What I had to do was clearly identify my goal: finish the PhD. It seemed overwhelming, so I then wrote down everything that needed to be done to complete. I then broke this down into small steps, steps as small as weekly or daily work. Each day there was something to do, even as simple as spending hours photocopying journal articles (showing my age here). Making sure everything was properly formatted was a huge task, so get a head start on that as well. The best piece of advice I received was being told that my professors are waiting for me to know I am ready and finished. They will always suggest another article, a weakness, a needed change...what they wanted from me was to declare it finished it that it was time to defend it. I did that and they just said OK and scheduled the defense.

The key, though, was to break it up into small steps so there was something to do each day but not get overwhelmed. Good luck! You will feel an enormous sense of freedom when you turn it in for the final time.
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Old 09-18-2013, 07:14 AM
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Thanks jazzfish, I really appreciate you sharing your ES&H. I have broken it down as small as it will go, set daily, even hourly, targets. 100 words an hour. Doesn't seem that hard does it? Its all there right in from of me, I know what I need to do... I'm just not doing it. I'm staring at it, half looking at it, avoiding it, pretending its not happening. My supervisor is pretty good with letting me know when things are 'good enough' to be submitted, he's not looking for perfect, but I am so far from that point it would be funny if it didn't feel like crap. I know I can do it, I've written part of it no problem, even got that bit published already, now I'm just being pathetic and trying to hide from everything I still need to do. It is both just as simple and not as simple as needing to just DO IT!!! But I can't seem to knock that into my head!
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Old 09-18-2013, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Wavy View Post
Thanks jazzfish, I really appreciate you sharing your ES&H. I have broken it down as small as it will go, set daily, even hourly, targets. 100 words an hour. Doesn't seem that hard does it? Its all there right in from of me, I know what I need to do... I'm just not doing it. I'm staring at it, half looking at it, avoiding it, pretending its not happening. My supervisor is pretty good with letting me know when things are 'good enough' to be submitted, he's not looking for perfect, but I am so far from that point it would be funny if it didn't feel like crap. I know I can do it, I've written part of it no problem, even got that bit published already, now I'm just being pathetic and trying to hide from everything I still need to do. It is both just as simple and not as simple as needing to just DO IT!!! But I can't seem to knock that into my head!
I have no experience with getting PHD's - LOL. I went to the school of hard knocks.

Would it be possible to go to your supervisor and explain your issues and get their input and/or advise? Not your issues with personal life, but with getting your PHD completed? Maybe they could add some insight or assistance with how to overcome your roadblocks?

I am with Jazzfish. I make and live by lists. I create lists for everything. Maybe instead of looking at the entire list of "to-be-done" only look at what needs to be done that hour or day instead of the overwhelming list of the total of the entire task? Make a list on Sunday for every day of the week. Then Monday morning only pull Monday's list and work on that list until complete (even if it takes all week)? That would show you progress no matter the pace.

Only suggestions - but getting a PHD is quite an accomplishment and you have my encouragement!

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Old 09-18-2013, 09:32 AM
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20 years from now, how are you going to feel when looking back and realizing you blew your dreams off?

Buckle down, drop the excuses, and go have the adventure of your life.

You are your only barrier here. So get our of your own way. Your life is waiting.

Enjoy it,
~T
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Old 09-18-2013, 09:37 AM
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Thanks Lyssy, I like lists too I guess the problem is not how to do it, but how to overcome the fear that's stopping me doing it. I know how to write a thesis, I've already written two (shorter ones) and written a substantial part of this one. I'm just stuck. I'm not moving forwards because part of me doesn't want to move forwards, however much the other parts are telling me its the only thing I need to be doing right now to get to where I want to go. The fear seems much more real than any of the other pressing issues for some reason and its winning and I HATE that. Fear doesn't get to stop me doing this. I've given up so many opportunities through fear and this is not going to be one of them, so why can't I make myself do it?! I'm letting myself down and doing myself a massive disservice and I can see it happening and I can't stop it! I know, objectively, I'm not (yet), but I feel like such a failure for not being able to push through this last bit
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Old 09-18-2013, 09:40 AM
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Thank Tuffgirl, I think our posts crossed! Yes I know 'just get on with it and stop sabotaging yourself' duh! If it was that easy I would have done that already! It is that simple and it is not.
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Old 09-18-2013, 09:47 AM
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Break up the goals into smaller goals. At 8:30 I will sit at the computer. Put a blocker on your browser of choice to block Facebook and Twitter and whatever time suckers you have. Set a timer for 20 minutes. Write, no excuses for 20 minutes, then take a ten minute break. Rinse and repeat.

Who are you accountable to? If your supervisor is too loosey goosey, get a writing partner and set deadlines for peer reviews together.

All that being said, I'm terrified. Everything has just changed and I barely have a moment to catch my breath before everything is going to change again. And there is so much to organize! I'd just like some stable ground to gather myself before everything flips up again! So I think that's why I'm finding progressing with my PhD so hard, because finishing means facing yet more change. Yet not making progress brings me stress and frustration with myself, financial problems and more uncertainty. All of this is what I want! I want to finish my PhD, I want to move countries, but I'm paralysed by fear. And its so frustrating.
For me, accepting that life was full of change, and accepting that change can be scary, and also that my feelings aren't facts was the three-prong thing that got me over my fears of, well, most things.
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Old 09-18-2013, 10:13 AM
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Wavy, the big part of how I get past the self-sabotage is recognizing or naming exactly what it is that I am afraid of -- I think you've done that, so good job!

After I do that, I must accept that whatever I fear might actually come to pass. The worst possible thing might actually happen. That is the hardest part and it doesn't always happen on a timeline. It's hard work in and of itself, this acceptance thing, and it's scary, but acceptance always brings peace and clarity in its immediate aftermath.

The good news is, you've done this kind of thing before. You just did it! You have proven yourself capable! So girl, you got this. I know you do.
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Old 09-18-2013, 12:12 PM
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Wavy-

I can't offer any advice, except to say that when I experienced this "lethargy" for lack of a better word it was a huge sticking point for me, and I felt like a failure.

In some ways it was the bottom I needed to start feeling/acting better. That being stuck, feeling awful left me no place to go but up and forward.

The biggest help I got from all of it was talking to my therapist about it. I actually brought up procrastination as a topic at Al-Anon meetings etc. I don't know that I did it with loneliness, but I bet you could.

I am NOT saying that will help to get the PhD done, but I founds as I felt a little better, I did a little more and it snowballed on itself in a positive way.
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Old 09-18-2013, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Wavy View Post
Thank Tuffgirl, I think our posts crossed! Yes I know 'just get on with it and stop sabotaging yourself' duh! If it was that easy I would have done that already! It is that simple and it is not.
But it really is that simple.

I posted another thread today - titled we choose this life. So choose your life and go for it. Leave the past in the past. Don't carry your regrets around with you. Move forward, one step at a time. This is your choice, and the only thing you really can control.

With all due respect, Wavy, fear is simply an emotion. You are acting on it. Stop doing that and let it pass you over.

You only get this one shot at this life.
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Old 09-18-2013, 01:43 PM
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Look at what you HAVE accomplished for the moment, instead of what you haven't! You found the strength to work on you, to get out of an addictive relationship, to accept a new job. There were a 1000 reasons why you could have failed at any of those...but you didn't. So don't let fear stop you now.

I have let fear affect most of the decisions I made in my life up until this past year. I have regrets about opportunities I let slide, I know now I could have accomplished what I wanted to. Tuffgirl is dead on the money.....fear is only an emotion. I heard someone in an AlAnon meeting say that he finally realized his happiness was waiting for him on the other side of his fears. I never forgot that. The only way to get to where you want to be is to push through the fear....there is no way around it.

Do you exercise? Getting out for a good walk or hike will release endorphins that will help calm you. Make that daily list, be realistic about what you can get done in a day. Then DO what is on the list, don't procrastinate.

My counselor had me make a "worry" box and a "God" box when I was feeling overwhelmed. When I had a fear or a problem, I would ask myself "is this something I can solve today?" If not I would write it on a 3X5, date it, and put it in the worry box. Each week I would look at the cards from that week. If I still didn't have a solution, I would put it in the God box and give it to my HP. Took practice, but it helped me start to move forward.

In 5 years, you'll be 5 years older whether you finish school or not. Don't look back with regrets. There's a whole world full of people on this site, and in your AlAnon meetings, who are rooting for you. We can't wait to celebrate you finishing your PhD!!!
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:02 AM
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Thanks guys, you have at least cheered me up a bit I appreciate everyone's encouragement and know what you are all saying is true - that the only way is to do it despite the fear. Often for me it has been easier to give up the hope or possibility of something in the future to relieve the real discomforts I've felt at that time - sort of warped instant gratification I suppose. I don't want that to be the case this time.

Things are improving a little. I wrote something the last three days running. Not a lot, but a little is still better than the nothing I've been managing for months. It may take a while to ramp up to where I need to be but a start is a start I guess. Dad helped me make plan, which I am already falling behind on, which is one of the reasons I have avoided plans in the past, because I always run behind on them and then feel like they are taunting me for how far behind and rubbish I am LOL stupid really. I had a maths teacher in middle school that used to make fun of me in front of the whole class about how far behind I was in my work and I think that memory adds to my bad opinion of myself for being in this situation.

It is so frustrating because I'm standing in my own way, wanting to get out of my own way, but still kinda stopping myself. I'm sure at this point habit is also coming into play. The more I manage to write each day the easier it will get as I get into the rhythm of things again. The metaphor I have in my head is of me trying to push a big boulder (that I put there in the first place) and I'm trying really hard, but its just not budging, but once I get it rolling I'll be fine as long as I keep up the momentum. I'm hoping the last few days mean that its starting to move and I'll be on my way soon.
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:52 AM
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Thanks guys, you have at least cheered me up a bit I appreciate everyone's encouragement and know what you are all saying is true - that the only way is to do it despite the fear. Often for me it has been easier to give up the hope or possibility of something in the future to relieve the real discomforts I've felt at that time - sort of warped instant gratification I suppose. I don't want that to be the case this time.
It's okay to be uncomfortable. You can't makes changes and achieve goals without being uncomfortable some of the time.

The way I see it, you've traded the functional, healthy discomfort (challenging yourself, trying new thing) for the dysfunctional, unhealthy discomfort (staying dissatisfied, choosing not to act and regretting not acting).

I also get in my own way. I had an argument with myself about work for two weeks over some new process which is ridiculous and causes a lot of extra work, and in the meantime, all this new work piled up behind me. It's true -- the work is dumb, and yes, I do resent having to do it. But oh, the shame I felt when my coworkers realized I wasn't toeing the line. The other day, I literally had a conversation with myself, "Florence, this is what it is now. Even if it's dumb and boring you have to do it. Shut up and do it." So I did, and it wasn't that bad.

Acceptance is the word of the day.
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Old 09-19-2013, 08:42 AM
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I've done this, in fact, once paralyzed for a year. There was nothing in my way but me.

Deer in headlights over your own life. Yep. BTDT.

Stare at the thesis. Go into a full panic mode. Ok, now what? It's still sitting there, waiting for you. Did it change? No. Does it judge you? No. Did the world stop spinning during the panic? No. Did anything change at all? No.
There. We've gone over what changes by freaking out. Nothing.

Ok, girl, back to work for you. Back into Uni homework crunching mode. No emotions need show up. This is a brain exercise in logic. Emotions--see ya later, I got work to do.
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Old 09-19-2013, 11:01 AM
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You're starting to write each day.....YAY!!!! Small steps are the first step.

Remember: Progress....not perfection.

YOU CAN DO THIS!
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Old 09-19-2013, 12:58 PM
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I was going to start a new thread about this, but after thinking about it, it might just fit in here as well. If not, oh well, I tried....

I've been struggling this week with something very different than what you shared - in a nutshell I have a sudden opportunity to do something completely selfish & a bit on the irresponsible side (fiscally speaking) and the decision of whether to seize the moment or whether to play it safe has me sorta paralyzed.

And I really didn't understand it - I acknowledge that yes, this is beyond self-care and definitely selfISH but also a once-this-lifetime chance to spend amazing quality time with DD one-on-one... the value of which utterly transcends the temporary financial pain. The cost is unplanned & unbudgeted, but not significant. I can't stop feeling like a complete tool for even considering it - but then swing around to feeling "justified" when I think that this wouldn't even be an issue if not for RAH's creating problems x, y, z, over the last few years.
.... I'm really turning a molehill into a mountain with this...

So why do I seem to NEED this justification? All that does is allow me to move forward in anger.... It's completely unfair to RAH at this point - it's the equivalence of holding a resentment until I'm good & ready to use it as ammo against him. Not cool. Not the way I live my life consciously. And on top of it, he totally supports me doing this. Then it hit me like lightning - of COURSE!

In my healing I have acknowledged that I do not deserve to be treated badly, but I haven't quite gotten far enough to feel deserving of the good either. I'm caught somewhere in the middle - and it occurs to me that taking this thought a step farther - feeling "deserving" is a hair off from feeling "worthy". This has happened every. single. time. that I am faced with a situation that allows me to indulge in something frivolous, no matter how big or small of a "thing" it is... and as soon as I can't "justify" it in my mind I start self-sabotaging & poor-me'ing all over the place. I can't seem to accept good things without strings attached (especially if they are indulgent) OR that sometimes things don't need to be rationalized - they just ARE. I don't have all of the pieces worked out just yet - it's really just coming together in my head since this morning, but I know it ties in to my FOO issues as an ACoA as well.....

Like I said - verrrry different situations, but it occurred to me that if your root fear is based at all around feelings of being deserving/worthy of the goal you are trying to achieve, maybe there's a common thread in there somewhere.
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Old 09-19-2013, 02:41 PM
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Oh Firesprite, how I can related.

I have been where Wavy has been, but I kind of feel stuck (for the last year) or so with what you are talking about.

Money stuff seems for me to be the surface layer of it....but it often how I realize I am in it.

I don't have any answers just to say you are not alone. Recovery for me recently has been odd. I stopped feeling "bad" a long time ago, but I so struggle to turn toward the joy, light, freedom and laughter. That is what I feel like I am working on right now.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 09-20-2013, 01:25 PM
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Hey Wavy....I'll offer my two cents, coming from my perspective and what I've been doing in my recovery lately --

I've been working on re-parenting. The child part of me has been very scared and uncared for for a very long time.

I'm finding myself a bit more productive and a bit less at the mercy of my internal fears. Feeling overwhelmed and/or alone in the world (starving for nurturing) makes me shut down, but this new approach is beginning to help. Beating that little kid inside into submission makes things worse. It is what I'm used to doing.

You might want to google on re-parenting and also re-parenting techniques/how to.

The book, Journey From Abandonment to Healing talks about it in a very helpful way, too.
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