Why people self-sabotage their happiness…

self-sabotage happiness

Why do people self-sabotage their happiness…? Read on…

Confession time: For many years I used to be what I call an “enterpainer.” I loved to entertain friends with my pain, sharing amusing stories full of woes and miffed-ness.

One day I discovered a psychological concept which really woke me up—and motivated me to change my “enterpaining ways.” I’m excited to share this concept with you, because I believe it might motivate you as well.

The concept? “Masochistic equilibrium.”

When I first heard these words, I immediately wondered what they meant. I found out they represent a truly important psychological theory—one which clearly explains how and why sometimes a person’s comfort zone might actually be to stay in discomfort.

It’s like this: As a child you learned habits on love and happiness from your parents. If you learned that love comes with yelling and insults, then being in a relationship with too much peace and too many compliments might actually inspire anxiety. Snagging an abundance of joy might also trigger you to self-sabotage your happiness in order to maintain that “masochistic equilibrium” which you learned in your childhood. Or you might simply choose scenarios from the get-go which bring you lower levels of love and bliss.

Basically, you grew up in your childhood learning to feel comfy with only a certain level of happiness. Maybe you grew up used to eighty percent happiness. Or only seventy-five percent. Or seventeen percent. When this concentration shifts—even if it’s upwards—you will then start to feel twitchy, because this new zone feels so unfamiliar. As a result you might instinctively want to do something self-sabotaging, so you can shift your happiness concentration back down, down, down, down, down to your familiar zone—your “masochistic equilibrium.” Or, as mentioned above, you might simply choose situations right from the start which bring you a familiar level of pain, so as to match the “masochistic equilibrium” you grew up with.

How do you break free from the shackles of “masochistic equilibrium”?

You must one hundred percent accept that you do a lot of the goofier things you do because of negative childhood brainwashing—what I call “brain dirtying”—because your lens to the world gets dirtied with negative beliefs that you must wipe clean. Then, and only then, can you clearly see new paths to getting the life you desire and deserve.

One of the best ways to wipe your braindirtied lens clean is to seek alternate positive lessons in past pain. I call this possessing “pain-a-ramic” vision: You see the problems of your past with a full 180-degree positive perspective.

why you sabotage happinessHow?

A) Relax your mind. Breathe deeply. Enter a meditative state.

B) Dare to think about your most painful incidents.

C) Force yourself to answer the following: What is a positive and/or lucky way to learn from the past and thereby attain some gain in my pain? List five positive lessons—so you can start to forgive your past—and move forward in a more positive direction.

After you get done blaming your past for present pain, you must also accept some responsibility. After all, you’ve been an adult (or adult-ish) (and maybe even just plain ol’ doltish) for a while now. Although your troublemaking subconscious has gotten you into some painful relationships and challenging situations, the time has come for you to show your cerebrum who’s boss and stop allowing those painful misadventures.


A) Next time you’re tempted to settle for a pattern of pain, repeat the following mantra: “I am not my past behavior. I am not my past failures. I am not how others have at one time treated me. I am only who I think I am right now in this moment. I am only what I do right now in this moment.”

B) Find examples of consistently happy, loving couples, and truly happy people. Spend as much time as possible with them so you can start to shift your belief system to what “normal love” and “normal happiness” are. Over time, you will begin to view highly positive situations as examples for your new normal. The more you witness positive examples of love and joy, the more opportunity you will have to change your belief system about life—and thereby start to change your “masochistic equilibrium.”

C) Talk with any family members you feel that you can be open with about this concept. You’ll find that the more you can be honest about repressed feelings and share them, the less troublemaking your subconscious will need to be.

D) Recognize that you have triggers that remind you of past pain and might thereby create a downward spiral of negative thinking and behavior. Clear your life of these depressing triggers. For example, you might want to remove items from your home that your ex-spouse has given you.  Instead, get “trigger happy” and focus on positive triggers that remind you of all your happy relationships. For example, you might want to put up photos in your home that represent happy times, happy people, or happy philosophies you want to live by.

E) Finally, there’s an added sneaky reason why painful patterns form: a theory à la Carl Jung. He believed that our lives need meaning and purpose. If we don’t have meaning and purpose, we acquire a bad habit in order to create drama and excitement—so we feel like there’s something interesting and entertaining happening in our life—even if it’s a bad exciting thing.  Jung’s name for these patterns of “enterpaining” situations was “low-level spiritual quests.”

The good news:

You can more readily dump negative patterns of “low-level spiritual quests” by developing “high-level spiritual quests”—a driving positive force that drives you forward. For example, it’s easier to dump negative patterns in love (which give you drama and “enterpaining stories” to tell) , if you develop a  exciting hobby or passion-project to serve as your “high-level spiritual quest” (which then gives you excitement and happy entertaining stories to tell).

Personally, I discovered lots of reading and writing of books, which then filled my life with  far more entertaining things to talk about, and lessened my need for “enterpainment.”  However, “high-level spiritual quests” can show up in a variety of forms. You might consider taking up cycling, skydiving, painting, scuba diving, or international cooking. You might start training for a marathon. Or plan a trip to some place exotic.

Who knows? Maybe in the process you’ll meet an incredibly wonderful person (or people), and you’ll have some of your most entertaining stories ever told to share!

GET TOOLS TO STOP SELF-SABOTAGING HAPPINESS. Work with me 1-on-1 in my coaching program – via Skype or phone – anywhere in the world! Click for more info – and a 33% discount for a limited time!

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Written by Karen Salmansohn (Founder)

Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.
  • helen

    Thank you for your article. It gives hope to those who get stuck or don’t know why they turn to the negative and poor me syndrome.

  • Helen

    Thank You! Very interesting Post

  • Joyce Marie Guy-Williams

    AWESOME!! thanks….=) SHARED

  • sarika

    Thanks Karen… this article is going to help me a lot…

  • Justin Green

    As if entering a meditative state is that easy

  • Martha Speer

    Need this in my life now . M

  • Sharon

    Very good read Karen… appreciate your forthrightness… to unravel this, and share! Thank you~

  • shyone

    This can also happen to women who have been in domestic violent relationships over an extended period of time. Good article !! Thanks

    • Tracy Marshall Hutchins

      I’m experiencing this myself, right now. Out of a horrible relationship, and in an amazing one now, but I get uneasy because it doesn’t feel familiar. I’m working on switching it off — reading this reminds me to keep busy when those thoughts seep in.

  • Bex

    I have just seen this & it’s great. Something I will be using that’s for sure. I love your essay’s. I have shared on my FB wall so others can benefit, thank you & Merry Christmas xx

    • notsalmon

      Thanks so much! Glad I could help.

  • Elias Tillery

    This is something I have discovered recently within myself and has been combined with friendships and personal relationship choices that have only increased the pain of a fouled or snared existence. The open discussion of these things is enlightening and helpful. Unfortunately real understanding comes from experiencing actually the subject of whatever it may be. The ministry of the Holy spirit somehow work even radically beyond our ability to make words or understand and I do rely on this person to (also called Counselor) intercede and give strength to build proper boundaries. Also Our God in Ultimate wisdom allows certain people to undergo incredible pain and life experiences in order to be a real physical manifestation of help to a world where people live and need help. I appreciate time you took to write this and Thank you for speaking into what some super snoots would call someone not worth your time; nobody is of any more worth than another. And if anyone were to defend the opposite, run. We cant help everyone and must maintain a form of protection for our children. A fallen world which I believe we live in is in the process of decay. however it still points to a Majestic and Holy Creator Who loves you and me and does provide a means for reconciliation unto him through respectful obedience and he pays the price by sacrificing His son to atone for our many troubles and inherited pains. Risen in power from the grave conquering death, He ascended to the Great Logos The I Am the father of creation and whispers in his ear interceding on our behalf the utterances which we cry out for in truth to him to save us from our troubles so that we may be able to love by making us loveable. He knows our hearts from afar! An added bonus to Love is understanding. But understanding or anything for that matter without love is about as lame as banging a pot where people are hoping for a peaceful retreat.
    God Help us!!….And Know that He does and is and will!!

  • Roberta Nettles

    This is what I’ve been looking for. It’s not going to be easy by any stretch of my imagination, but it will be do-able. Thanks! And it does make me happy! It’s also good to know that I am not the only one experiencing these things and that there is a way out.

  • Jamie

    You are right on. Thank-you.

  • This is an amazing read…thanks for sharing! Your creativity continues to inspire and I am happy to see you in my social feed!

  • Me

    I sent an email to a friend expressing how I felt about things she had done that had hurt my feelings. I have bouts of severe depression and was just recuperating from another when I did so. Her response was this article. I didn’t understand it so I asked my therapist. She thought it was a wonderful article and she printed it and shared with other clients. Her explanation to me was that when some people have to much happiness they do things to push people away. I didn’t and don’t understand too much happiness. I take all the happiness I can get, maybe I sucked the happiness out of my friend? Lol. To me happiness is like a drug. I can not get enough. Anyways, the phrase saying that I should choose good thoughts. Does that mean that if Im feeling hurt I should say to hell with it, I should only be having good thoughts, who cares if I’m hurt? Enterpaining? I rarely open up about my childhood, and normally only do so when others are sharing something similar. I now feel insulted if I’m thought of being enterpaining for doing so. I don’t like being in discomfort, if I am feeling hurt I try to be as open as possible to the other person, especially my kids, to explain my feelings and wanting to know theirs, incase I have hurt others. I also don’t blame my past for my present. My childhood was messed up, but a lot of damage was done by myself. I was missing my relationship with my friend, how it used to be, before being pushed away. Anyways her response after sending this has been nil. What should my good thought be about that?

  • Chippie

    I did the 12 steps with reference to my ex. He is a hardcore self sabotager and i got caught in the crossfire, but also put myself right smack into his chaos because it felt like home.I have been far away from him for one year. I saw a post somewhere that said “abstinence plus change equals recovery.” I am in recovery from my addiction to him. We need a chip for each year of abstinence 🙂

  • Storm Tiffany Nelson

    Is there any more info self help you can recommend on this

  • Lorraina Art

    Go to college! It will change your life, guaranteed. It did for me. 🙂

  • Janet

    Great read. Good concepts with a catchy twist. Have been actively practicing many of these thought remedies over 31 years and can vouch that they work! Found some new ideas too, for letting go of my childhood home. My home is now wherever I may be. <3

  • michelle nucci

    I also think that as you go thru life and have different relationships, eventually you learn on your own what’s how to accept love. It’s an awakening….some people get there on their own and some need help. It’s a process of painful realization. But worth it in the end when you can accept love and give it freely.

  • Nancy

    This is why I would refuse a date when I was in good shape and why I won’t drop the extra weight now. It keeps men at a comfortable distance. I’ve always known this on some level; but, damn if you didn’t just spell it out in exact terms…thank you. I will be turning 50 in May. It’s time to start living AGAIN! My ♡ knows when it hears truth. This is it. I am…Truly grateful,