I recently did a course with Shirzad Chamine who explains that growing up we are wired to protect ourselves from harm, whether physical or emotional. These survival tactics are useful in the beginning because we don’t have the understanding and experience to manage them pro-actively. As time goes by however these mental behaviors and coping skills turn into our Saboteurs, masquerading as friends but actually preventing us from growing and conquering our inhibitions and challenges.
These subconscious voices in our heads are hard-wired to protect us but do not acknowledge the fact that we are no longer little children who need these coping mechanisms. As adults, we are now in a position to understand the real threat and to choose how we would like to respond to it in any given situation.
Our biggest Saboteur is our Judge Saboteur- and we all have one. That is the voice in our inner world that tells us we are not good enough, or the world is a bad place, or our fellow man is evil and no good. These cognitive distortions might have protected us in the past from disappointments and hurt but now they are actually robbing us of meaningful connections and personal growth.
To ensure the survival of the Judge we have been programmed to believe certain lies that sustains our mental maps. Some of the lies the Judge Saboteur tell us include: Without me making you feel bad about negative outcomes you won’t do anything to change them. Without me pushing you, you will get lazy and complacent. Without me punishing you for mistakes, you will not learn from them and will keep on repeating them. Without you judging others, you will lose objectivity and not protect your self-interest. Without me scaring you about bad future outcomes, you will not work hard to prevent them.
The Judge is the master Saboteur and the original cause of much of our anxiety, distress, and suffering. It also is the cause of many relationship conflicts. All guilt, regret, shame and disappointment are from the Judge. Much of our anger and anxiety are instigated by the Judge. The judge punishes self for past mistakes or current shortcomings. It focuses on what is wrong with others rather than appreciating the good things about them. It gets into inferior/superior comparisons. The judge also focuses on the bad rather than seeing circumstances as a gift and opportunity.
On a scale of 1-10, how strong is your judge?
We have 3 primary motivations that form the foundation for our emotional survival needs:
Security: We have a need to feel in control of life’s anxieties and either push away or minimize them.
Independence: We want to set boundaries with others to feel that we can survive without them.
Acceptance: We want to be loved and accepted by others and we want to feel that other people think we are ok.
As a result, we have 3 ways of getting what we need in terms our emotional survival needs:
Avoid: We avoid people and circumstances that threaten our security independence and acceptance.
Assert: We take action that demands the fulfilment of our primary need for security, acceptance and independence.
Earn: We work hard to be accepted by other people. We believe that we can earn our independence and our own security.
There are 9 Saboteurs that complement the judge and support our emotional coping mechanisms. These are:
The Controller, The Hyper-Achiever and the Restless all fall under our Asserting Style.
The Stickler, The Pleaser and the Hyper-Vigilant all fall under our Earning style.
The Avoider, the Victim and the Hyper-Rational falls under our Avoiding Style.
The Avoider: Enneagram 9
The Avoider Saboteur hates pain and conflict. Difficult is not an option. The main lies that we tell ourselves are: We are doing others a favor by not sharing our thoughts and feelings.
No good comes from conflict. It is good to be flexible. Someone needs to be a peacemaker.
The impact however is that we don’t deal with stuff and don’t sort things out. Our relationships are kept superficial and others don’t trust us because they are not sure when negative information is being withheld. What is avoided doesn’t go away and ultimately blows up.
The Controller: Enneagram 8
We have a fear based need to take charge and be in control. We want to force others to bend to our will. This causes anxiety and impatience within us. The main lies the controller tells us are: Without me, you can’t get much done. You need to push people to get results. If I don’t control others they will control me. I am the only one that can get the job done.
The Controller does get temporary results, but at the cost of others feeling controlled, resentful, and unable to tap into their own greater capacities. The Controller causes a great deal of anxiety, since many things in work and life are ultimately not controllable.
The Hyper Achiever: Enneagram 3
We need constant performance and achievement for self-respect and self-validation. We are very focused on external success and often have workaholic tendencies and a loss of touch with deeper emotional and relationship needs. The main lies we tell ourselves are: Life is about achieving and producing results. Portraying a good image helps me achieve results. Feelings are just a distraction.
The impact is that peace and happiness are fleeting and short lived in brief celebrations of achievement. Self-love is dependent on our success. We lose touch with deeper feelings, deeper self, and the ability to connect intimately with others.
The Hyper-Rational: Enneagram 5
We want to be able to rationalize everything. We display an intense and exclusive focus on the rational processing of everything, including relationships. People with this mindset comes across as cold, distant and intellectually arrogant. The main lies we tell ourselves is that the rational mind is the most important thing. It should be protected from the wasteful intrusion of people’s messy emotions and needs so it can focus on what needs to be achieved.
The impact is that it limits the depth and flexibility of relationships in work and life by analyzing rather than experiencing feelings. As a result less analytically minded people feel intimidated.
The Hyper-Vigilant: Enneagram 6
We want to protect ourselves from everything. We see all the dangers and risks in life and always think of what can go wrong. This saboteur does not allow us to rest.
The main lies we tell ourselves are: Life is full of dangers. If we don’t look out for them and ourselves, who will?
The impact is that this is a very hard way to live. Constant anxiety burns a great deal of energy that could have been used for something positive. We lose credibility due to the “Boy who cried wolf” phenomenon. Others begin to avoid us because of the intensity of the nervous energy that drains them.
The Pleaser: Enneagram 2
We want to gain acceptance and affection by helping, pleasing, rescuing, or flattering others. We lose sight of our own needs and become resentful as a result. The main lies we tell ourselves are that I don’t do this for myself. I help others selflessly and don’t expect anything in return. The world would be a better place if everyone did the same.
The impact is that we don’t take care of our own needs, whether financial or emotional. This lifestyle can lead to burn out and resentment. Others can develop dependence rather than learn to take care of themselves, and we feel obligated, guilty and manipulated.
The Restless: Enneagram 7
We constantly want greater excitement in the next activity or in constant busyness. We are rarely at peace or content with the current activity. We are not satisfied or grateful about what we have. The lies we tell ourselves are: Life is too short. It must be lived fully. I don’t want to miss out.
The impact is that we avoid a real and lasting focus on the issues and relationships that truly matter. Others have a difficult time keeping up with the frenzy and chaos and we are unable to build anything sustainable around it. It is an anxiety based escape from being present and experiencing each moment fully, which might include dealing with unpleasant things.
The Stickler: Enneagram 1
We need everything to be perfect. We have a strong need for self-control and self-restraint, and we are highly critical of self and others. We can be irritable, tense, opinionated and sarcastic.The lies we tell ourselves is that this is a personal obligation. It is up to me to fix whatever mess I encounter. Perfectionism is good, plus it makes me feel better about myself. There is usually a clear right way and a clear wrong way to do things. I know how things should be done and must do the right thing.
The impact is that it causes rigidity and reduces flexibility in dealing with change and other peoples styles and personalities. It is an ongoing source of stress, irritation and frustration. It causes resentment, self-doubt, anxiety and resignation in others, who feel continually criticized and resign themselves to the fact that no matter how hard they work, they will never please the Stickler.
The Victim: Enneagram 4
We are emotional and temperamental and try to gain attention and affection. We have an extreme focus on internal feelings, particularly painful ones- we possess a Martyr streak.
The lies we tell ourselves are that by acting this way, we at least get some of the love and attention we deserve. Sadness is a noble and sophisticated thing that shows exceptional depth, insight, and sensitivity.
The impact is that it often backfires when we push people away. Others feel frustrated, helpless, or guilty that they can’t put more than a temporary Band-Aid on the victim’s pain. Vitality is wasted through focus on internal processing and brooding.
Can you identify your top 3 saboteurs?
When we allow these Saboteurs (negative mental maps) to rule our lives we are forever in flight or fight mode. We live our lives in the past or the future and miss all the possibilities of the now. Our system is flooded with stress hormones that makes it very difficult for us to be creative or mindful. When Saboteurs are active we actually are run by our subconscious mind and our frontal cortex (our creative brain) is inactive and underutilized.
Once we have identified our 3 top Saboteurs and become aware of their lies and its impact, we can actually arrest them and change our emotional and mental state. We can mindfully refocus our attention and migrate from our amygdala brain- emotional brain, to our frontal cortex- the part of the brain geared towards problem solving.
By doing this on a daily basis our Saboteur Neuro pathways become weaker and our Creative neuro pathways become stronger and stronger. We not only change our thinking this way but we also change our core identity and destiny because we see ourselves, the world and our potential and purpose in a different light.
Our creative mind, also called our Sage, offers a new approach to life. Instead of punishing you and stressing you out, this part of yourself shows self-love, self-compassion and empathy towards self and others. Because we feel better about ourselves we are in a learning state and curiosity becomes our driver. We are able to see things from different angles and make better choices on how we want to respond rather than react to a potential threat or challenge. The Sage helps you come up with creative solutions for how you could do better next time and your PQ brain regions are activated to develop new, positive and creative Neuro pathways.
Both your Sage and Saboteurs may lead you to success but via different pathways.
The Saboteurs push you into action and success through anger, regret, fear, guilt, anxiety, shame obligation etc.
The Sage pulls you into action through compassion, curiosity, creativity, the joy of self-expression, a desire to contribute and create meaning and the excitement of action.
Would you rather be pushed or pulled?
Don’t fall for the Saboteurs lies, they are not your friends and you don’t need them. The Sage will always offer a better way.
So how do you strengthen your Sage and weaken your Saboteurs?
The Sage mindset is about accepting what is, rather than denying, rejecting, or resenting what is. The Sage accepts every outcome and experience as an opportunity and gift. The Sage is not passive, it uses its five great powers to turn a challenge into an opportunity.
In order to help you access your Sage, it is helpful to ask yourself to identify 3 scenarios where your supposedly bad situation could turn into a gift and opportunity. You don’t always have to actively turn a bad situation into a gift, but identifying that a gift could exist is important.
Your other option is to just let it go and put it behind you without any residue of regret, distress or guilt. Once you trust that you have the choice to change your perspective it is easier to choose to just let it go.
We can’t control or choose much of what happens in work and in life but we can decide on the impact these events will have on us by choosing how to respond. Let your Sage do the choosing.
The 5 Sage powers that we can develop and grow are: Empathize, Explore, Innovate, Navigate and Activate.
Once we identify that our Saboteur is active the first thing to do is become mindful. Focus on something you can touch, see, smell, taste or hear for between 2 and 5 minutes just to calm your emotional state. In that time, you have to completely shift your focus on something else and breathe. Breathing is very helpful and also helps to calm the Amygdala and bring our nervous system into balance. Once we have achieved this you simply ask yourself some questions that will activate the problem solving and creative part of your brain.
When you want to use the Empathize Power it is helpful to visualize yourself or the person that triggered you as a small child, before life happens, and our Saboteurs took over. Everybody is a victim of their own Saboteurs and once you understand this it is easier to empathize with yourself and others. A good question to ask is: What contributed to this person’s being? What if I am the only person that can reach this person and help set them free? We need to use our Empathize Power when strong feelings are involved and emotional reserves are running low.
Our Explore Power is helpful when we need to discover more about what is going on before deciding or acting. We need to visualize ourselves as an explorer or Anthropologist, curious and fascinated by what is going on. Once we understand that the event is not about us but about the other person or persons, we can relax and observe. Once we are able to identify the motive it is easier to deal with the actual problem.
We use our Innovate Power when we need to think outside the box. The obvious or existing ideas don’t suffice. A good question to ask when we are accessing our innovative brain is to say “Yes,… and…” Brainstorming is all about looking at all options and opportunities without blocking them out because they do not seem realistic in the beginning. The more options we have the better choices we can make.
We use our Navigation Power when we need to find alignment with deeper value, purpose and meaning. We want to play the long game rather than having a quick fix. The technique you can use is to reflect on what the outcomes would look like in an imagined the future. We call it ‘flash forward”. Making decisions with the end in mind is always best. Counting the cost before we build the house.
Our Activate Power is used when we need to take action without Saboteur interference. The strategy here is to pre-empt the Saboteurs. When we are in Sage mode it is easier to identify how the Saboteurs would try to get in the way of our action. Once we know how “the lie” operates we can intercept, label, discredit these thoughts as they happen.
What is one area of your work or life where you could use some fresh and creative new perspective? Play the “Yes… and…” game by writing idea after idea nonstop for ten minutes without any evaluation along the way and then sit back and review all that creativity on the page.