We've all had some variation of the following scenario: there's something immensely important to us looming ahead. We've prepared the best we can, made sure everything is in order, and then the day of the big whatever it is we oversleep, forget a major component, stay up too late the night before, etc. etc. We, for lack of a better phrase, f-ourselves over.
We can't seem to figure out why, after all of our hard work or desire for a positive result we managed to do something that ruins or at least thwarts our good intentions. This is because we are sabotaging ourselves. Archetypally we all have a bit of a saboteur inside of us that functions mainly to undermine our success and ensure our failure or at least our discontent in certain areas of our lives, primarily out of fear of change and fear of success.
Author Caroline Myss states that this archetype rests inside all human psyches because it relates to our ability to feel worthy in the world. We develop the saboteur archetype to manage anxiety about our own potential for greatness. The famous quote by Marianne Williamson sums up the energy of the saboteur nicely:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."
The saboteur functions in the human archetypal pattern to remind us of our weaknesses and keep us safe and grounded. The problem is very rarely does safe foster any kind of greatness. The Saboteur in us doesn't like change, and it show up at those moments in our lives when change is imminent.
We may pass on taking the new and exciting job offer because it pays a bit less. We may end a relationship and return to a familiar punishing one. We may decide to forego a great business partnership because we're more "comfortable" where we are. We may spend the money we set aside for a down payment . Then we look back and smack ourselves on the forehead and ask why we did that to ourselves.
We don't know what to expect, so we fall back into limiting patterns. We settle for the devil we know rather than the unknown.
We may subtly practice sabotaging ourselves by undermining our own worth. Women in particular will downplay accomplishments, talents and aptitudes out of a fear of being seen as arrogant. However, with each subtle undermining of your own aptitudes you devalue the power of self-esteem in yourself which has a cumulative effect. Before you know it the talent or aptitude becomes blunted by the force of your own inability to acknowledge your strength. We do this because we know on some level that with the acknowledgement of an aptitude or skill comes a responsibility to use it and many people would rather not rise to the occasion and risk failing.
Perhaps your Saboteur likes to intercept compliments and praise from others and downplay or minimize the compliment as a way of undermining your self esteem. This is another popular one with women, but one that many people practice out of a fear of not seeming humble or a desire to not appear narcissistic or prideful. Or maybe your Saboteur loves to sneak ice cream in the middle of a diet, or skip gym days when you've made a commitment to lose weight...
The Saboteur loves to flex its muscles in relationships, and many people can easily recognize the variety of relational sabotaging techniques. For example, some people prefer the fault-finding method (focus on a tiny detail or behavior about the other person that drives you crazy, blow it out of proportion and then break up with them over it).
Or how about the good ol, 'it's just not exciting enough' excuse, which typically comes up when people surpass the "honeymoon phase" of a relationship and begin to settle into a rhythm of comfortability and emotional realness without the passionate fantasy that accompanies a new relationship. Suddenly you're off to find the passionate fantasy again, leaving behind what could be a very real, intimate connection. The Saboteur strikes again.
Whatever the case the Saboteur seeks to shortchange us out of contentment. The distortion goes something like this: If I find happiness, someone/something will take it from me so rather than allow that to happen I'll just take it from myself before I get it.
Sometimes we can sabotage other people as well, fearing that their success or happiness will ruin the relationship or create some other undesirable relationship effect. I've seen parents unconsciously sabotage childen's successes out of a desire to protect them from disappointment.
Sometimes people sabotage other people out of envy, believing that since they can't have happiness other people shouldn't as well. Or because they believe they are somehow sparing the other person from embarrassment or eventual upset. Sometimes sabotaging someone else can really be the result of displacing your goals into the other person and thwarting them as a way of acting out our own low self-worth. People do it to loved one's all the time and don't even realize it.
The Saboteur needs to be recognized for it to be integrated. If we fall into the shadow aspect of the archetype we will end up sabotaging most major and minor decisions in our lives and then wonder why we are never satisfied. Those who are unaware of where their saboteur shows up will often project the energy onto someone else, claiming other people don't want them to be happy or don't want them to succeed. However, if they look more closely it is their own shadow saboteur that is thwarting their efforts (possibly through allowing people into their lives that undermine their self-esteem or goals).
An person with an un-integrated Saboteur archetype can begin to practice overtly self-destructive, addictive or self punishing behavior. When this happens the person falls into destructive patterns and begin to wholly forget their sense of self-worth and believe they deserve to be unhappy or despondent. They end up sabotaging themselves in such a way that they compromise their physical and emotional integrity.
Acknowledging the Saboteur requires us to take responsibility as we must be able to look at our failures and missed opportunities and find the ways we contributed to the situation. A few questions to ask yourself to begin working with the energy of the saboteur:
1.) In what areas of my life do I fear change?
2.) How have I thwarted my success in the past?
3.) Who have I blamed for my failures and how can I take responsibility for those apparent failures?
4.) What am I protecting myself or someone else from by sabotaging my success?
When we unearth the subtle power of the Saboteur we release it's hold on our lives and allow ourselves to be truly empowered and make decisions based on our highest desires and self worth rather than fear and complacency.