Helping those who can’t easily help themselves

If you see someone dragging themselves down, maybe help them to climb.  Photo by Mike Kotsch on Unsplash

Sooner or later, we bump into people who self-sabotage.  They don’t mean to do it, but they simply can’t help going round in the same circles, creating something good one minute, and destroying it the next.  Why this happens varies from person to person.  To an extent, we all do it.  But, in those locked in a pattern of self-sabotage, perhaps there are some common threads.


Success often brings attention.  Attention is not always welcome by individuals – if they are shy, it can bring fear and nervousness.  If they are weak in discipline, it can bring the challenge of responsibillity.  It seems counterintuitive that people can fear the very thing they often chase, but it seems to be the case.  Like a climber on a mountain, the higher one goes, the further there is to fall.


If someone cannot accept that they belong anywhere safe, happy or secure, then they can end up sabotaging that kind of environment shortly after achieving it.  This can happen in those whose childhoods lacked safety, happiness or security.  Again, it seems counterintuitive.

But if the unsafe, unhappy, and insecure was part of someone’s growing up, then ironically they can end up unconsciously seeking to recreate that familiar setting.  No sooner has life become settled, than they have to puncture the bubble.  If their history includes an insecure parent, who was always dragging them down in some way, then they can end up dragging themselves down in similar ways throughout their life.


Sometimes is doesn’t take fear of success, or feeling undeserving, to destroy personal success.  If a person has a tendency towards severe panic, then they can periodically hurt themselves with panic-related behaviour.  Panic responses tend to cause anxiety and aversion in friends and contacts.  They will try to help, but underlying the social context will be a general sense of bewilderment and confusion.  Panic does not go well together with peaceful coexistence.


Self-sabotage is a very tough nut to crack.  It can seem that petterns of self-sabotage are so ingrained that they are destined to repeat themselves time and time again.  It can seem that the person has a kind of death wish.  This isn’t usually true, but from the outside it can look that way.

Here are a few suggestions as to how one might help in a genuine and consistent manner:

  • Help the person welcome general success by offering support and encouragement every time there is even a small win.  It is a question of building confidence.  It will need a lot of encouragement if the fear runs deep.
  • It sounds silly, but saying ‘you deserve it’ when good things happen, can help counteract their feelings of being undeserving.  If you believe that people deserve good things, then it can be a perfectly consistent thing to say.
  • Learn to be immune to their panic.  Recognise the panic, name it if you wish, but learn not to let it get to you.  They need to be surrounded by peaceful people, and not fellow panickers.

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When faced with a self-sabotager:

  1. Try to be supportive and encouraging.
  2. Let them know they deserve good things.
  3. Acknowledge their panic, but stay peaceful yourself.