until you make  the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate - Carl Jung

an everyday moment:

I have a feeling that the Chloe Ting workouts during lockdown is a collective experience. This inspires my everyday example. As a middle-schooler in quarantine, I can remember exercising to Chloe Ting with a pool of fear in the pit of my stomach. Fear that I would be seen exercising by my family. I viscerally remember trying to do burpees as quietly as possible and I’m not even sure why. At that age and in that moment, I truly felt I could not exercise in front of my family or others without being judged or viewed as cringe.

I wished for the days where I had my own house and could do everything freely, out in the open. Because of this fear, I often exercised in a state of fear where I would constantly be looking to make sure no one was awake and MOST IMPORTANTLY, no one would stumble into my room to see me exercising (so horrifying, can you imagine). So why did I think that it would take something as big as getting my own house to feel less scared?

  • Because the mental effort to exercise would go from 100 to 0. Right now the mental effort was so great because exercising ‘publicly’ was not part of my ‘norm’. In my dream scenario, it was my norm - actually it was what I did like 90% of the time so the mental limitations to do this activity would be zero. I didn’t actually want to get a whole house, I just wanted to have no mental effort to exercise in the open.

a reflection:

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate - Carl Jung

The quote I want to unpack is slightly less mainstream but it is one of my favourite quotes of all time. And it is also one of the most philosophical, most unpractical quotes I know.

The title of this blog post does state ‘self-sabotage’ but first I want to unpack what Jung means by the unconscious vs the conscious. As it always does, clarity of this concept came to me during a long walk. In this evening walk, I saw a moderately obese man going on a run and sweating profusely. (so slay of him). THIS ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT APPLY TO THE MAN I SAW - but in the most practical example of self-sabotage, I constructed a very common situation where I saw him run and really push himself to the limit and then come back home and binge-eat pizza. This is a phenomenon I know exists because I’ve observed this pattern in my own life. So why would he binge-eat, why would he in lay terms ‘self sabotage’?

Let’s break it down:

Example: Man Running then Binge-Eating Pizza

Conscious Behaviour Unconscious Behaviour
Going for a run (for 40 minutes) Binge-eating pizza on the couch

Our unconscious beliefs are so deep-rooted (they are like the basic programming of a computer) that to behave accordingly to them takes zero mental effort. On the other hand, our conscious beliefs are so not deeply-rooted that they need to be repeated again and again, and behaving accordingly to them takes A LOT of mental effort.

So, the amount of mental effort the guy exerted to motivate himself to run for 40 minutes is a lot compared to the amount of mental effort he exerted to motivate himself to binge-eat pizza. He didn’t even need to motivate himself, it’s like he had to try and STOP himself from eating pizza (due to the unconscious belief that his natural state is to uncomfortably overindulge rather than to eat optimally).

Going for a run is a conscious behaviour that requires mental effort (in his case). Self-sabotage occurs when our unconscious self wants to restore this mental energy and will compensate for the amount of mental effort exerted by making us go into autopilot mode so that we build up greater reserves of energy.

So what do we do?

magic in the mundane:

We make the unconscious conscious and we make the conscious unconscious. Yes, that sounds more confusing than Jung 😅. But what we do is we minimise the mental effort that it takes for conscious behaviour to occur and we practise believing that there was no mental effort involved (because our ‘ideal’ self would actually do those things without mental effort)

Compare this guy to a long-distance runner. The long-distance runner is just going on autopilot by going for a run, so they do not feel the urge to binge-eat, they just normally eat their dinner.

Our unconscious beliefs and behaviours constitute what our ‘norm’ is - the baseline standard of all our identities. If the man identifies as obese, unfit and weak - then by consciously running he also unconsciously affirms that he is not fit. The mental strain from deviating from this unconscious identity by going for a run - he unconsciously understands that this behaviour is very extreme from his ‘norm’. Thus, he must relieve the mental strain by returning back to his norm - returning to his norm through binge-eating which is a familiar and comforting behaviour. So now, he needs to retrain his mind to believe that running is aligned with his identity (he is getting stronger and healthier, he is investing in his health) so that running becomes his ‘norm’ and it is a familiar and comforting behaviour.

Practical actions [Inspired by Atomic Habits by James Clear]:

  • Creating an identity to identify with (e.g. I am a runner etc.)
  • Joining a group of people whose norm is your desire norm (they unconsciously do it, you see that it is easy to unconsciously do it)
  • Basically repeating to yourself that the chosen activity requires no mental effort

fromtheheart mantras

  • Provide yourself the permission to have your desired behaviours as the norm without needing to go back to how things were before. This is why yoyo dieting occurs, this is why we often hit the ceiling after having a breakthrough. It requires convincing ourselves that this is the new norm, that we are deserving of the new norm (not even deserving but it’s our natural state)
  • Moments of self sabotage does not mean you’re doomed. May I use moments of self-sabotage as opportunities to see where and how I’m holding myself back and observe these moments with patience and kindness and the willingness to act differently at the next opportunity.
  • May I use moments of self sabotage not as another reason to berate myself or to affirm that I should be discouraged by life but as a reason to practise resilience and to affirm that I am one step further in my journey towards less self sabotage.
    • (analogy → If a drug addict had a relapse after a 5 month period of successfully not relying on drugs, they can either observe why the relapse occurred [what beliefs, what thoughts, what feelings, what circumstances may have triggered the craving for it or the belief that they will not be okay without drugs] and learn from this to strengthen their rehabilitation and strengthen their identity as not being a drug addict and being committed to their health. OR they can use this moment to disempower themselves, resign themselves to never getting over their drug addiction and continue to identify as a drug addict)

from, the heart <3

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