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Escaping self-destructive cycles.

Escape Self-Sabotage

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Stop Making The Same Mistakes

It’s easy to think that a self-destructive cycle is easy to avoid if you have no special will to self-destruction. However, the cycle is sneaky.

It’s sneaky because it can be passive, and/or omissions rather than actions, procrastinations rather than obvious acts of impulse, and so forth.

So, they’re often things that specifically aren’t there to see.

How to catch them

How often do you think “I wish I had [done xyz]” or “I wish I had [done yxz] sooner”?

Now, how often have you thought that about the same thing more than once? For example, “I should have kept up my exercise”.

For things like this, habit-trackers are a great way to, well, keep track of habits. If for example you planned to do a 10-minute exercise session daily but you’ve been postponing it since you got distracted on January the 2nd, then it’ll highlight that. See also:

How To Really Pick Up (And Keep!) Those Habits

Speaking of habits, this goes for other forms of procrastination, too. For example, if you are always slow to get medical check-ups, or renew your prescriptions, or get ready for some regularly-occurring thing in your schedule, then set a reminder in your preferred way (phone app, calendar on the wall, whatever) and when the appointed time arrives (to book the check-up, renew the prescription, do your taxes, whatever), do it on the day you set your reminder for, as a personal rule for you that you keep to, barring extreme calamity.

By “extreme calamity” we mean less “running late today” and more “house burned down”.

Digital traps

Bad habits can be insidious in other ways too, like getting sucked into social media scrolling (it is literally designed to do that to you; you are not immune modern programming hijacking evolutionary dopamine responses).

Setting a screentime limit (you can specify “just these apps” if you like) will help with this. On most devices, this feature includes a sticky notification in the notification bar, that’ll remind you “27 out of 30 minutes remaining” or whatever you set it for. That’ll remind you to do what you went there to do, instead of getting caught in the endless scroll (and if you went there to just browse, to do so briefly).

Here’s how to set that:

Instructions for iOS devices | Instructions for Android devices

Oh, and on the topic of social media? If you find yourself getting caught up in unproductive arguments on the Internet, try the three-response rule:

  1. You reply; they reply (no progress made)
  2. You reply; they reply (still no progress made)
  3. You reply; they reply (still yet no progress made)

You reply just one more time: “I have a personal rule that if I’m arguing on the Internet and no progress has been made after three replies, I don’t reply further—I find this is helpful to avoid a lot of time lost to pointless arguing that isn’t going anywhere. Best wishes.”

(and then stick to it, no matter how they try to provoke you; best is to just not look until at least the next day)

When “swept up in love” gets to one of those little whirlpools…

The same works in personal relationships, by the way. If for example you are arguing with a loved one and not making progress, it can be good if you both have a pre-arranged agreement that either of you can, up to once on any given day, invoke a “time-out” (e.g. 30 minutes, but you agree the time between you when you first make this standing policy) during which you will both keep out of the other’s way, and come back with a more productive head on (remembering that things go best when it’s you both vs the problem, rather than vs each other).

See also:

Seriously Useful Communication Skills: Conflict Resolution

What if the self-sabotaging cycle is active and apparent?

Well, that is less sneaky, but certainly no less serious, and sometimes moreso. An obvious example is drinking too much; this is often cyclical in nature. We wrote about this one previously:

How To Reduce Or Quit Alcohol

That article’s alcohol-specific, but the same advices go for other harmful activities, including other substance abuse (which in turn includes binge-eating), as well psychological addictions (such as gambling, for example).


If your destructive cycle is more of a rut you’ve got stuck in, a common advice is to change something, anything, to get out of the rut.

That can be very bad advice! Because sometimes the change you go for is absolutely not the change that was needed, and is rather just cracking under pressure and doing something impulsive.

Here’s one way to actively get out of a slump:

Behavioral Activation Against Depression & Anxiety

Note: you do not have to be depressed or anxious to do this. But the point is, it’s a tool you can use even if you are depressed and/or anxious, so it’s a good thing to try for getting out of most kinds of slumps.

And really finally, here’s a resource for, well, the title speaks for itself:

When You Know What You “Should” Do (But Knowing Isn’t The Problem)

Take care!

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