The problem is that these Saboteurs become the invisible masters in your head, just like my Judge had. They pretend they are you, but they aren’t you.
That’s how you forget who you really are. A war is constantly raging inside your head between your Saboteurs and your original true self, whom I call your Sage.
These are based on entirely different regions of your brain. Your Saboteurs are based on the survival-brain region, which is made up mostly of the brain stem, limbic system and parts of the left brain.
Your Sage is based on the positive-intelligence brain, which is made up mostly of the middle prefrontal cortex, ACC insular cortex and parts of the right brain.
Here is a fascinating insight and clue to your happiness. Look at this: the survival-brain region and its Saboteurs are wired, are neurochemically wired to feel stress and unhappiness. They just can’t help themselves. If you want to feel consistently happier, you must learn to strengthen your Sage and weaken your Saboteurs.
It’s just a matter of neurochemical science. One of the things that I can guarantee you, based on my experience, is that you can achieve all the great wealth and success in the world and still feel deeply unhappy because of your Saboteurs.
I once ran a leadership development seminar for more than 100 CEOs and presidents who are all extremely successful and look perfectly happy on the outside.
I told them, “Look, I have coached too many successful CEOs and billionaires to be still fooled by your facade of confidence and happiness.” So I asked them to anonymously write on an index card one secret they never shared about how they really felt inside.
With their permission, I’d like to read some of those cards:
“I am terrified of failing as the leader of my business.”
“I am rarely at peace with myself.”
“I fear dying of an early age from overwork and stress.”
“I am feeling very sad and lonely, and the antidepressants I’m on don’t seem to be helping.”
“I battle with constantly ranking and judging everyone around me.”
“I have no idea how to truly connect with my only son.”
“My air of confidence is false.”
“I am self-destructive, and I don’t know why.”
“I don’t love myself very much.”
“I lack strength in resisting temptations and desires.”
“I often feel like I’m a fraud.”
“I worry my materialism is hurting my children.”
“I have been abusing drugs and alcohol to deal with stress.”
“I wish I could run away for one year – just be alone.”
And finally, “I’m afraid of ending up like my father, who is unloved and will die alone.”
This is the story of our lives, folks. I have worked with people ranging from these CEOs to people on the manufacturing floor without high school diplomas. Regardless of our level of wealth or success, these Saboteurs are still there, tormenting us.
I used to think I was particularly broken and screwed up. What a relief to discover that we are all screwed up by our Saboteurs.
So, who are these Saboteurs?
In my research, I have classified the Saboteurs based on their motivation for independence, acceptance or security and their style of assert, earn or avoid.
This grid shows the gang of 9 Saboteurs. They are: Controller, Hyper-Achiever, Restless, Stickler, Pleaser, Hyper-Vigilant, and Avoider, Victim, Hyper-Rational. What a cast of characters!
Everyone has the master Judge Saboteur in addition to at least one from this gang of nine.
Now, before you are able to weaken these Saboteurs, you need to be able to catch them in your head, red-handed. Imagine that you’re in the middle of an important project and have just learned that you’ve completely failed the midway milestones.
Here is how some of your Saboteurs in your head might be talking:
Judge: “Oh, I’m a loser, just a stupid loser. Everything will start crashing down now.”
Controller: “But my way’s always the right way. Someone else must have screwed up.”
Victim: “Oh, they did it to me again. Just watch. That next lightning will be striking right here!” Ow, that hurt.
Stickler: “I knew it! That report cover used the wrong shade of blue.”
Avoider: “Oh, there’s still plenty of time. I wonder where I should go for lunch.”
Hyper-Vigilant: That’s me tearing my hair out – if I still had any…
And so on with the other five Saboteurs.
Now, once you catch a Saboteur in your mind, what you want to do is just label that thought as “Saboteur” and let it go instead of trusting it or pursuing it.