The inner saboteur: the realisation that a part of you WANTS your own destruction

“You just called yourself a useless lump.”
I stopped mid-ramble as my therapist pointed this out to me.
“I did, didn’t I?” I laughed to myself.
“That sounds like that inner saboteur again,” he points out, gently. “Why is she talking?”
“Oh she does that a lot. I’m aware of when it’s her rather than me, though, I know that she’s talking crap.”
“And yet you still let yourself say it.”
“Well, because that part of me believes it, doesn’t it? It really thinks I’m useless. And ugly. And worthless. And that no one likes me. That I’m a useless lump.”

We spoke for a while longer about the inner saboteur. We’re calling it a ‘her’ now, I decided, since she’s a part of me. A little part. My therapist likes to imagine I carry her in my bag. That the rest of me is this kind, empathetic, wholesome person, and then she is this dark, twisted, bitter, malevolent part that spouts nothing but negativity and spite (almost exclusively directed inward, towards myself). We spoke again about how I set myself challenges to prove to myself that I’m useless, and that the inner saboteur pushes me to do this.

“You know me, I hate to fail,” I said, glancing out of the window. “So I hate the fact that I’m failing at work, that all I’ve ever had since I got there is ‘you’re not good enough’. I hate it. Consciously, it’s awful and I hate it.”
The therapist nods at me to continue.
“But this part, her… she’s positively jubilant. I can almost hear her crying ‘YES! Yes, you see?! You’re failing. You’re failing so hard. You’ve been to your doctor, you’ve got two therapists, you’re on these action plans and you STILL can’t do it. I bloody well KNEW you couldn’t. See? You’re useless. You fail at everything. You’re. Not. Good. Enough. She’s pretty mean, right?”
The therapist agrees. He pauses to think for a moment.

“What do you want to do with her?”
I must have given him a blank look, so he continued.
“Do you want to embrace or reject her? Be kind to her or cruel to her?”
I ponder this for a while. “Well, mean people normally need people to be nice, right? Being mean to mean people usually just makes them even worse.”
“I don’t know, she sounds like she actually enjoys misery and destruction. Maybe she’d hate it.”
“Well, in that case I have no idea. If that’s the case, surely she’ll just keep trying to cause me problems forever because that’s what she wants?”
“Have you ever talked to her?”
“Well now I’m going to sound crazy. But yes, sometimes. When I’m home by myself. The bigger, nicer part of me is sort of split further, into a quiet, submissive, shy side, and an assertive side that only comes out on rare occasions. That assertive one sometimes talks her into a corner. Challenges her, challenges her negativity and hatred.”

He doesn’t look at me like I’m crazy, but I still feel it. I wonder if I ought to try talking to her more. Figure out why she hates me so much. Figure out why she wants to suffer and fail. I wonder if I can even access her on demand like that, to get those kind of answers. I caught myself thinking that maybe she’s kept me in this job, and even in one of my particularly toxic relationships because she wants us to suffer. Because she thinks we deserve it.

What are you supposed to do when a part of you loves everything you hate, and wants nothing more than your own destruction?


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