“…people’s sense of knowing is beyond their control and cannot be easily argued away. It’s a powerful pull for them to remain as they’ve always been, even when they are engaging in self-defeating behaviors.” – Robert Burton (As quoted in Insecure in Love)
As we develop our sense of self, over time, we create preferred behavior patterns. These behaviors become our “way” of being ourselves. If we like the labels associated with our chosen style of self – we are likely to continue repeating the patterns which feel safe because the patterns have become known as “me.”
Stacy is a girl, daughter, sister, partner, and mother. She is also described as warm, open, kind, intuitive, real, and serious-minded. There are many other lists I could make which would add to an understanding of her, but a listing of all attributes would be too long for this article.
The first list is an order of roles assumed by Stacy based on categories she occupies. She learned about being a daughter while she was one. The second list is made up of qualities she has chosen and cultivated. Learning which behaviors are associated with qualities she prefers becomes a repertoire of being.
Sometimes a dysfunctional behavior (such as worrying) becomes associated with the desired quality (serious-minded). If Stacy likes being serious-minded, she probably likes behaviors such as sincerity, purposefulness, and thoughtfulness. When we overuse a “good” behavior it may mutate into an undesired experience.
The combination of over-thinking plus being over-purposeful turns into worrying. This mutation of serious-mindedness is made up of two beneficial things which when overworked can become problematic for Stacy. She may find herself worrying all the time but not feeling more solid – which is what her thinking used to achieve.
Worrying is self-defeating. My grandmother used to say, “Worrying is like rocking in a rocking chair. You use up energy, but you don’t get anywhere.” Worry can take up time and energy. It can take over and become ruminating which may lead to a constant feeling of anxiety.
One Thing to Do: How are you self-defeating? Is the way you defeat yourself an extension of something which started out as a good or useful behavior? Dr. Gilmore and Dr. Fraleigh developed the Friendly Style Profile for personality assessment. Below is a small sample from the Friendly Syle Profile of the ways we move from a useful quality to an excessive version of that quality.
Routes to excess
Flexible slips into Inconsistent and then drops into Unreliable
Careful slips into Wary and then drops into Obsessive
Eager slips into Impatient then drops into Driven
Hopeful slips into Disillusioned and then drops into Despairing
Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.
Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.