Inner Conflict: Weakening the Saboteur

Do you remember the old cartoons that depicted an angel and a devil on each of your shoulders?  Well it turns out that we have a Sage and a Saboteur in our brains. The saboteur is a ‘voice’ or thoughts and feelings that were adaptive in our early development and goes back to the time when we were being chased by Saber Tooth Tigers. It is an early warning ‘voice’ that may say early on in our lives: “Don’t even try to jump that fence because if you do, you will break your leg.” However, this ‘voice’ grows up with us and becomes our limiting beliefs voice. It begins to tell us, “you are not enough, you are a failure,” and “you will never amount to anything.”  Ever heard that voice? I certainly have, and I continue to hear it and listen to it.

The other ‘voice’ is that of the Sage. It tells us things like, “you are enough, it is possible” and “you can do it.”  It turns out that if we train ourselves to listen to this voice, our brain runs/functions much better. In fact studies have shown over 30-40% better! When we listen to this positive Sage ‘voice’, our brains are flooded with dopamine and serotonin – chemicals that immediately enhance our brains learning center – allowing us to think more quickly, creatively and solve problems better by seeing and creating new ways of doing things.

If you are like me, you hear the ‘voice’ of the saboteur more than the sage. If you are not hearing the saboteur, it means that you have not become aware of it or it is doing a great job of tricking you into believing that it is speaking the truth or helping you. The saboteur may have convinced you that without it’s advice you would make stupid choices or become lazy, but nothing is further from the truth. The saboteur ‘voice’ that says, “now, that was a stupid thing to do,” will continue that mantra over and over creating more sleeplessness and more anxiety. The Sage’s approach will say, “so you made a mistake, to err is human, and this mistake could be made into an opportunity depending on how you react to it.”

This is interesting but now what? How do I reduce the inner conflict and overcome my saboteur voice?

The key to weakening the saboteur voice is a three step process:

  1. Don’t fight the voice: this helps you recognize that it is there, instead of fighting it move on to step two.
  2. Observe and notice the saboteur thoughts and feelings when they arise, focus on exactly what they are and put them into words
  3. Finally, tag or label these thoughts or feelings every time you notice them. If you are in training against the saboteur – keep a journal or jot down a quick note when you notice the saboteur thoughts and feelings.

Take the Saboteur assessment online to learn how to expose your Saboteurs and overcome them!


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