Self-Sabotage and the Writer

So here I am in the Anthropology Department, attemoting to get these thesis revisions done in time for re-submission in April.  This work is so unwieldy and frankly out of control.  I really have no idea how any sane examiner will let it pass.  I’m in the process of getting some feedback on how I’m doing with communicating ideas and responding to the examiner’s reports, and the issue of self-sabotage has come up in a big way.

I need to send the examiner’s reports to my feedback person, and what I find is that I have deleted them from my inbox…  gone!  Of all the things I could’ve deleted, this really doesn’t make any sense.  I certainly don’t remember doing it.  But because I have, there is going to be a delay in getting the feedback I need as I have to hunt for printed copies, scan, email blah blah blah.  And I really don’t have time to waste at this stage!  In order to have any chance of passing by the skin of my teeth, this thing needs to keep moving.  A clear case of self-sabotage is at work here!  Why do we do it?

Steven Pressfield, whose book ‘The War of Art‘ I’m reading at the moment, would put it down to Resistance, that shadowy, disinterested force that prevents us from doing our real work. Self-sabotage, and especially this unconcious self-sabotage, where it’s almost like you can attribute it to some external factor over which you have no control, is a manifestation of Resistance.  And it’s resistance that comes up as a result of being afraid of success.  Yes!  Fear of actually doing well at something for the right reasons.  He puts it like this,

“We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are.  More than our parents/children/teachers think we are.  We fear that we actually possess the talent  that our still, small voice tells us.  That we actually have the guts, the perseverance, the capacity.  We fear that we truly can steer our ship, plant our flag, reach our Promised Land.  We fear this because if it’s true, then we become estranged form all we know.  We pass through a membrane.  We become monsters and monstrous.” (2002:143)

Thinking of it this way, I wonder how else Resistance is manifesting here?  In seeking feedback, and making a big old obstacle that will take most of the morning to clear, am I putting off doing the Work?  Which is carrying on with re-writing Chpater3.  Yes, this evening, once the kids are asleep, I can get those reports together and email them, and get the feedback which will help to clarify how I’m getting on.  Feedback is important; vital.  But right now, I need to accept the block, deal with it later, and not allow my act of unconcious self-sabotage keep me one minute longer from the work I want to do.  Whether the thesis passes or fails; is a success or a failure.  This is my work.  So get on with it. 

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One thought on “Self-Sabotage and the Writer

  1. good one. made me think of what i am facing today. have my period and feeling very emotional, needy. this doesn’t translate into good communication with my loved one. i feel insecure and needy with him and then frustrated with myself. reading your post made me think about how i am resisting having the kind of relationship that i want, accepting that he loves and supports me as i am. i hold onto the insecurity like its some kind of safety blanket. it’s really a worn out rag…i wonder why we do this. what do i have to loose by opening to the possibility of what i really desire? why is it easier to tell myself i can’t have it?

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