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  • Writer's pictureLaura Kae

Sabotage: why I cannot handle success

There are some weird facts in my life I hate to realize. One is every time I have started succeeding in a career, I immediately change careers. Still I can remember my conversation with God during each change. Sometimes it was a decision His Spirit was “allowing” in my life. Sometimes it was one His Spirit was “requesting”. Then there was the time I moved 3,000 miles and destroyed my life entirely from a temporal standpoint in order to get my relationship with God back to where it belonged. Hearing His Spirit when I was so deep in addiction was impossible, but I can only assume He was entirely in favor of me doing whatever it took to return Him to first place in my life.

Nearly all the decisions I made to leave success were made while I was consulting my Leader. Thankfully He is very understanding of my weakness.

So what about me makes it impossible for me to tolerate feelings of success?

I asked my psychologist this question last week in our session. Apparently there is a scientific answer for it. The brains of victims of chronic trauma do not know how to metabolize the feeling that feels like success, so it creates anxiety and we sabotage to relieve the anxiety. Fortunately because of neuroplasticity the old brain can be taught new tricks.

I found the information oddly comforting. I have started to be much kinder to my mental and emotional experience of life since learning about what is wrong with the way the neurons in my brain work. I have started to think of it as a process of physical healing. The same as I would a broken arm. Yes, it sucks. I am maimed now, but I am in consultation with someone who knows how to help the wound heal and the healing is progressing nicely. This way of thinking has relieved me of the guilt I used to feel about all the reactions I would have to my “safe” environment, which did not feel at all safe.

Sabotage has recently returned to my life in the same pattern. I am not about to explode, but I have noticed a building anxiety with success.

I recently started a new job with a new boss who loves to give me positive feedback. Every time I receive a compliment via email or phone (I work from home), I feel anxiety. I can feel myself pushing back. After the first incident, I ended up pacing my apartment and praying as I worked through the anxiety such positive feedback produced.

Then there are all the other areas of my life I need to face this in. How is Celebrate Recovery going? Really, really well. How is your own recovery going? Really, really well. How is writing going? Really, really well. How are your relationships? Better than ever before. How is counseling? Life changing.

God has me cornered. My brain is going to have to make good use of its neuroplasticity and develop new pathways.

My counseling homework for this week was the practical side of the scientific explanation. What are the reasons I am sabotaging? I know one of them is I feel like success means pressure. If you know I am capable of a “successful” life, will you hold me accountable to have one? What if I cannot maintain it? What if everything just looks good and it really isn’t? I am afraid of being built up to be torn down. What if all compliments are people building me up, so they can kick me where it really counts when they get the first opportunity? Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.

I gave that answer to my counselor. Yes, that is one reason; but she thought there were more.

As I left, I had a passing revelation. “Oh, the last time I had a similar job I was living in addiction.” Oh, that got her attention and seemed to be really relevant. We were at the door parting ways.

But I think had we had time she would have pressed me further. What else?

In any case, I have continued to do my homework. I am looking at the notes from my quiet time with God this morning. Two things stand out to me. First, “[Life] is starting to feel really good – especially about Celebrate Recovery.” I know I am feeling anxious because I am experiencing so much joy and happiness. I actually get anxious in the evening if I have been happy and joyful all day. I can notice it even without the scientific explanation I gave you earlier.

There is a second thing. If I am “successful”, it means coming out of the closet in all my relationships in life. My writing is hardly something from which I can hide. In a world of social media, the world can see no matter what pseudonyms I would decide to use. A hundred years ago, it was easy to hide; but not today.

Success in healing and life means facing the reality that I will be fully known.

I will have no control of whether I will be fully known and fully loved or fully known and fully condemned. One of the definitions of condemnation is extreme disgust. People may fully know me and be filled with extreme disgust. As I write this, I realize I am equally scared of being emotionally vulnerable regarding my personality as I am my sexuality.

Neuroplasticity aside, I am going to need to stand on the Rock. Firmly on the Rock. Yes, a mighty storm rages around me; but I am going to keep my eyes on Jesus. Doing this will keep me from sabotage. I think. I believe. I know.

Do you sabotage your growth? Do you have a part of your life where every time it starts to feel too good, you quickly quit?


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