Self Defeating Behaviours: Perpetuating the cycle
I know that this behaviour is not good for me but why am I still doing it? The cycle of adopting self-defeating behaviours (SDB) is often perpetuated through another self defeating technique of ‘minimising the effects’. This involves rationalising the SDBs, i.e., defending your behaviour against any alternative healthier option. There are many minimising techniques including: making a joke of it, hiding from it (‘ostrich syndrome’ –sticking your head in the sand to not see it); self anaesthesia (numbing the pain either through drugs, alcohol and other external sources, or internally, i.e., depression, leaving you unable to ‘feel’ anything – neither sad nor happy); keeping busy (you believe that you are so busy that there is never enough time to ‘face’ up to it); ‘self made Messiah syndrome’ (you believe that you must not feel pleasure and should only be suffering, proving how good you are and that, for example, you deserve to go to heaven); ‘passing the buck’ (putting all responsibilities onto others, believing that you can do it better than anyone else could); and ‘there’s no point anyway’ syndrome (very common amongst teenagers where the nihilistic viewpoint of ‘we’re all going to die anyway’ comes in very handy to excuse putting in any effort to try anything).
The cycle of SDBs is perpetuated through a fear of change which involves making excuses and (unintentionally) ‘lying’ about such behaviours. A smoker, for example, will have many excuses up their sleeve, a common one being “I only smoke a few a day”. The smoker lies to everyone (including themselves) out of fear of change, fear of how they could possibly cope in life without smoking, fear of failure (i.e., failing to give up), and even the fear of successfully giving up (i.e., they might have to face many other challenges, change of friends, change of habits). Next week, I look at how we can help or change self defeating behaviours.
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- Baumeister, R.F. & Scher, S.J. (1988) Self-Defeating Behaviour Patterns Among Normal Individuals: Review and Analysis of Common Self-Destructive Tendencies. Psychological Bulletin, 104 (1), 3-22.
- Brownson, C., & Hartzler, B. (2000) Defeat Your Self-Defeating Behavior Understanding & Overcoming Harmful Patterns (T1 082). The clearing house for Structured/Thematic groups and Innovative programs. Texas, USA. Accessed 6/1/19. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=BAECD64A429CAC98207F80C0FE3868CF?doi=10.1.1.434.2963&rep=rep1&type=pdf