A couple of months ago I wrote a post on self-sabotage and I am doing a follow-up today because when it comes to lifestyle change, most people know what they should do. But what frustrates their efforts for self-improvement is that they often backtrack into old bad habits and they don’t know why, especially when confronted with serious health issues. So, hopefully this post will expand on the last one concerning this topic.
(I spend time on the psychology of wellness, whether in coaching sessions or in my speaking presentations because a big reason many people stay sick is that they continue to indulge in bad habits even when they know that by doing so they are preventing themselves from achieving an optimal recovery).
People in the helping professions often confront this issue. One of the major frustrations most of us encounter in our work is trying to help people who for various reasons do not appear to want help despite their problems. Medical doctors, chiropractors, naturopaths, social workers and others all confront ‘the inner saboteur’ that dwells in each person mostly embedded below the level of conscious awareness. I call this inner saboteur ‘Babalui’ (pronounced ‘Ba-ba-loo-ee’).
Perhaps a better understanding of how Babalui functions will help to identify and deal with the Babalui in each of us, and to move past the barriers to health and happiness placed in our path by Babalui. Babalui developed along with us during childhood as It assimilated the ways that our parents and other adults avoided pain, whether by avoiding truth, hiding in a bottle, or otherwise. Babalui learned how to negotiate around pain and unpleasantness in any possible way: Babalui and denial are twin souls.
Getting Sick to Avoid What You Don’t Like or Want
Let me share one of my experiences with Babalui. I remember often being sick as a child with the flu or a cold. I didn’t have to attend school when I was sick, nor did I have to do any homework. Everyone was extra nice to me. I was even allowed to drink more ginger ale and eat more ice cream if my throat was sore. I was given comic books to read. My Babalui has always remembered this in every detail.
Later on, during my first year of chiropractic college, a senior intern pointed out to me that every time I had a major exam to write, I developed the flu or a cold. Although I always forced myself to write the exams despite fevers or sniffles, I was often not in the best shape while doing them.
My immunity was down due to stress, but I also ate and drank things that would lower my immune system (lots of processed carbs). It dawned on me that some inner saboteur was trying to help me to escape from disagreeable situations, just as I had learned to do when I was a child: when stressed out, eat sugar. I was playing out my early emotional programming and escaping from unpleasantness in life by getting sick. When this realization came into my conscious awareness, this unhealthy pattern diminished considerably. I made sure I got more sleep, ate better and confronted the reasons for the stress during exams and even at other intense times.
Babalui’s Control Over You
Note that Babalui’s goal is threefold:
- To help you avoid an anticipated painful experience
- To stop you from feeling deprived
- To give you stress relief
You can probably think of circumstances in your life in which your Babalui tried to give you an ‘out’ by getting sick, or to entice you to eat one more chocolate when you felt sorry for yourself. It is my hope that by alerting you, dear reader, to behavior patterns your Babalui may have set up for you, these unhealthy patterns can diminish for you as well.
This doesn’t mean that our sicknesses, emotional pains and cravings aren’t real. They are indeed genuine. Babalui gives us what it thinks we really want — to be emotionally pacified, which is true. However, we need to let Babalui know that we can find contentment and and stress relief in more productive and healthy ways.
…always giving in to your personal Saboteur can be the first step that potentially leads to addictions of all kinds if your mind and body are susceptible.
How much control does Babalui have over your life? If you are not able to identify and fulfill your own deep yearnings and anxiety in positive ways, Babalui will help you achieve good feelings — but not in ways that have the best outcomes. If it feels good, Babalui wants to do it no matter what. Here’s the glitch though — always giving in to your personal Saboteur can be the first step that potentially leads to addictions of all kinds if your mind and body are susceptible.
Babalui is that little inner voice that speaks to you, saying things like, “Go ahead. Have that beer (or cigarette, piece of cake or candy bar). One won’t hurt!”
But that one can hurt if you can’t stop at one. If you’re addicted to chocolate, for instance, that one chocolate bar will lead to two or three or four. Babalui isn’t your enemy, though. It’s just been programmed to make sure you’re not feeling deprived, especially when you are under stress.
For example, when your body says that it really needs quality carbohydrates like veggies, Babalui immediately speaks up and says, ‘chocolate bar.’ Your body wants water and Babalui suggests ‘beer.’ Your body needs sodium and Babalui prompts you to buy ‘salted pretzels.’ You want love and attention and Babalui commands ‘get sick!’
There are more self-empowering approaches to deal with emotional deprivation and stress.
One way to bounce Babalui out of the driver’s seat and to put yourself back in control is through consistent, conscious awareness of Its presence. Think of Babalui as a guide to help you discover and fulfill your real needs instead of using substitutes. Listen to your Babalui. If you deny or ignore It, you can be sure that you’ll be hearing from the Saboteur real soon!
Remember that Babalui exists in everyone to some degree. You can see It clearly in the addicted smoker, or in the alcoholic. You see Babalui in control of the heart surgery patient who knows better than to have beef steak and beer five times a week, but does so anyway.
You can even see the control Babalui exerts over someone when they hang on to the emotional pain of their divorce 10 years after the event. He or she may rehash every rotten thing his or her ex ever said or did, fully aware that although it may feel good in the moment to deprecate another, in the long run, this behavior proves to be unproductive. If that’s not bad enough, they eat or drink themselves into oblivion when Babalui justifies the behavior by making them believe that anyone who went through their experiences would do the same thing.
Such people share secondary gain factors in their behavior. They’re really seeking peace, love, happiness, and freedom from emotional pain — goals that we all seek. But they gain only harmful and temporary substitutes for the real thing if they don’t recognize their own Babalui.
Look for the Babalui in you. Try to recognize It’s blind or frightened appeal for love or solace in self-victimizing behavior. Recognize also that Babalui numbs your emotional suffering by substituting behavior that will be destructive to you in the long run, if you let It have control. Don’t you really, truly want to experience optimum health and lasting happiness? Don’t pass over this question too quickly. Think about your answer.
How to speak to Babalui
Once you’ve identified your own Babalui, you must learn how to talk to It effectively in order to short-circuit the negative behaviors It’s advocating. The first thing to realize is that Babalui’s pretty stupid — It doesn’t think, doesn’t rationalize — so it’s fairly easy to trick Babalui into submission. When Babalui tries to get you to do something you know is self-destructive, tell that little voice to be quiet and promise It whatever It needs to hear to make it subside. You’re not going to keep this promise, but it’s a healthy ploy — and it works.
Here’s an example of what I mean. Many years ago, I went to a blues club with some friends. The first thing that hit me when I walked through the door was the smell of beer and cigarettes (I used to smoke and drink way too much in my younger years and had stopped), but the thing that finished me off was the sight and smell of a corned-beef sandwich, a favorite of mine before I knew better.
Then Babalui piped in and said, “Don’t be such a health nut! You’ve been good for so many years — why don’t you have a beer? And a cigarette? One isn’t going to hurt. And nobody’s going to know.”
I replied, “Babalui, be quiet!” I said this in my head, of course. If you talk out loud to Babalui, people are going to think you’re a bit strange!
Then I promised Babalui that I’d party next Saturday night. And because Babalui is stupid, It said, “OK, next Saturday’s great!” and quieted down for the rest of the evening. Then next Saturday came along, and Babalui said to me, “Now’s the time to buy that pack of cigarettes, some beer, and that corned-beef sandwich!” Once again, I replied, “Babalui, be quiet! I’ll do it next Saturday…” And if you keep putting it off, eventually Babalui wears itself out (saying an outright ‘no’ to Babalui is not a good idea and is seldom effective).
It can be easier too if you put some emotional muscle and good reasons behind your decision not to indulge yourself beyond good common sense.
You must learn how to avoid the *’Sirens’ song’ that lures you into seemingly safe waters. Babalui is that Siren for you.
(*In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous and beautiful creatures, portrayed as femmes fatales who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island).
What has your experience been with Babalui? Comments are welcome below.
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