What lasting action can you take to dissolve self-sabotage?
I’ve been discussing how to show up for our best self over these past few weeks, and I think it’s helpful to acknowledge how self-compassion and emotion regulation can effectively change your brain for the better. While it’s always important to recognize the feeling and impulse of self-sabotage when it comes up, regulating emotions requires a bit more focus and nuance.
Specifically, emotion regulation is an active attempt to influence what, when, and how we experience emotion. According to Stanford Professor of Psychology James J. Gross, Ph.D., and the November 2021 research paper, Assessing Emotion Regulation Ability for Negative and Positive Emotions: Psychometrics of the Perth Emotion Regulation Competency Inventory in United States Adults, we can, and do, regulate both positive and negative emotions. James Gross and his fellow researchers posit that this ability is “a cornerstone of adaptive psychological functioning.” And I believe that!
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, emotion regulation techniques are a powerful way to show up for your best self and change how you approach the world around you for the better. First, let’s look at some of the ways we can respond to stressful situations:
- Avoidance: avoiding a situation altogether (though this is only a short-term delay)
- Focus: noticing breath or another repetitive pattern
- Seeking support: contacting a close friend/family member or trusted support person.
- Smiling: forcing a smile, even by clamping a pen or pencil in your mouth, can stimulate the amygdala, releasing “feel good” neurotransmitters.
- Exercise (producing endorphins which are natural painkillers and aid in reducing stress)
More specifically, cognitive reappraisal and meditation have a lasting impact on our affective style. Read on to learn more about these two alternatives to self-sabotage.
The technique of cognitive reappraisal can alter the emotional impact of a situation by changing how you think about the situation. Not only can you use this strategy to lessen negative emotions, but reappraisal can also increase positive emotions. This is so important because it allows you to experience your feelings, including unavoidable and constructive negative feelings while increasing the psychological benefits of positive feelings long term as you become better at shifting your active thought process in stressful situations.
When we re-frame our thoughts about a situation, experience, or stimulus, we can experience a genuine and lasting change in our emotional response. Practicing cognitive reappraisal alters specific parts of the brain over time. We can change the intensity and duration of undesired emotions with conscious effort, creating space for new outlooks of our design.
Mindfulness meditation, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which focuses on the experience of thoughts, sensations, and emotions by simple observance, has been used in many neuroscientific studies of emotion regulation. Researchers find that:
- Long-term meditators are better able to accept their emotions.
- Short-term (8-week) MBSR training increased the functional connectivity between the amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, heightening the ability to regulate emotions over time.
By observing your unique self-sabotage signs and consciously shifting your focus toward your desired outlook, you can rewire your old programming and create an entirely new mindfulness domain for yourself.
A qualified coach can help you develop strategies and techniques that work best for you. If you’re ready to create lasting methods to counter your self-sabotage and create the life you want for yourself, I’d love to assist you on your journey. You can reach me here and on LinkedIn.