The past couple of weeks I have been working on an ebook just for the Empath and what it is like for the Empath to go on a conscious healing journey. Most of you are subscribed to my blog because you are that Empath, or you love that Empath. One trouble spot the Empath commonly encounters is self-sabotage. We have a hidden belief that we should not succeed—that our success causes others suffering, or that we will be punished if we succeed. At the same time, we have so many projects and dreams that we desperately long to pursue and manifest. We can become stuck in a double bind of longing to pursue our creative endeavors but being sure that we will fail somehow.
Where does this belief come from? As I discussed in my ebook, Empath as Archetype, many Empaths were raised by Fans (Type Six on the Enneagram.) If we were raised by an unhealthy Fan, we had to make sense of crazy-making behavior, which in turn heightened our senses, helping us to become Empathic and intuitive. However, because unhealthy Fans are motivated to distract themselves from their fears, Fans tend to act in ways that do not make sense. Fans, in an attempt to avoid consciously knowing their fear and anxiety, come up with rationalizations for their crazy-making behavior that feels off to the Empath. As a consequence, the Empath tries to make sense of the situation and creates a faulty belief.
I have been working with a client who was raised by a Fan who suffered from OCD. Her mother had to be in control so that she wouldn’t come into contact with overwhelming fear and anxiety. Whenever my client during childhood wanted to do something that her mother did not want her to do because it would make her feel anxious, her mother made sure that my client would fail in the attempt. Then her mother would blame my client for the failure, with the unconscious motivation to ensure that her daughter would not trigger her anxiety again.
As an example, when my client was twelve years old she, like many kids, wanted to make a batch of cookies all by herself. Her mother hated to have any one in the kitchen but herself. Having anyone else there making a mess, opening the refrigerator, dirtying the oven, caused her terrible anxiety. However, her mother, who knew full well that it was normal for a twelve year old to want to bake in the kitchen, could not give her daughter a real reason for saying no. (Of course, her mother could have said, “No, honey, your baking in the kitchen makes me too anxious. I know that is unreasonable, I’ll get some help as soon as I can with my fears,” but most unhealthy Fans cannot admit to being fearful. So, my client was allowed to make cookies. But in the background her mother made sure to sabotage her daughter’s cookies so the batch turned out so badly that she would never want to make another attempt.
The belief my client took away from this was, “I should have never wanted to bake cookies. I should have never had insisted. It’s because I wanted to do this so badly that it came out badly. This is my fault. Because I wanted this and made it happen, it came out all wrong.” Now, did her mother intend for her to pick up this belief system? Of course not. She just didn’t want her daughter in her kitchen. But, like most Fans, she couldn’t directly tell my client so.
Because her mother couldn’t be direct, her daughter made up a faulty belief to make sense of the situation. There is nothing unusual about kids wanting to make cookies. But her mother sabotaged her daughter’s cookie dough because her own need to ameliorate her anxiety motivated her more than her need to support and encourage her daughter’s independence. My client took away from that experience that not only was she a bad cook, but that she shouldn’t do what she longed to do. What my client should have taken away from it was that her mother was anxious and angry about letting her make the cookies. My client did not notice the sabotage—what child can fathom that their parent is setting them up for failure?
This is the terrible curse of having an unhealed wound—we have to attend to our wound and the twisted need that it creates in us at the expense of other people, even our children. This is why we must work hard and attend these unhealed patterns in ourselves so we don’t continue to hurt ourselves and others. But here is what my client took away from this interaction, which was reinforced by many interactions over childhood. She internalized the saboteur.
It is very common, in fact, it is the goal of parenting, for our children to internalize parts of us, so that those parts keep our children civilized and also inspire them to pursue their gifts. However, so many of us internalize not just the gifts, but the wounds. My client who wants to write novels, paint watercolor, learn how to hike through the backcountry, has this awful sabotuer always at the ready to smash whatever dream she longs for. If she gets on a roll, then she can be sure that she will create something to trip herself up. She no longer needs her mother to do it—she learned the lesson so well that she does it to herself. The more her Heart thinks it is fun, thinks it is expansive, thinks it’s a little risky, the harder the sabotage, the more she drags her feet, the more she blames herself for wanting to make that break out of what is really her mother’s rut into her own expansion.
It is to my client’s credit that she broke out anyway. During her teenagehood she had to be angry, demanding, and forceful to have the energy to overcome her mother’s fear and objections. It would be easy to continue to be angry at her mother, to blame her mother for her emotionally crippled state. However, it is important to realize that Fans become Fans because they feel so unsafe in the world. Her mother had good reason to feel unsafe—she was brought up in a family that didn’t have enough after war time, her natural mother died early, and she was raised in a family with several other children. Her mother, being a human being, was bound to come out wounded from those experiences.
This is simply an example of my client’s mother’s wounds passing to my client and setting up her own self-sabotage pattern. For my client to heal from this wound, it’s good to have the consciousness around where it came from, but more importantly it’s good to dismantle the belief system, get the soul retrieval done to bring back that part of her that wants to embrace life and have some crazy, out of the way, kind of fun; the soul retrieval returns the unwounded soul part that has never been sabotaged by her mother.
If you have a strong saboteur within you, and you are an Empath, take a look and see if your mother sounds like my client’s mother. The sabotage may not be as extreme as in this case, it may be more subtle and harder to pin point. Chances are that if you have a Fan as a mother, then you have a very strong saboteur. Realize that that voice inside of you comes from a weak and scared person who is not you! Realize that life doesn’t have to be boxed in like it has been—you can change this belief system and emerge ready to pursue your dreams.
OMG. Thank you God, Universe for me finding these books. I would love to say more and I will some time in the future but I wanted to say, THANK YOU for writing these books and of course for the web-site. I had an unhealthy FAN mother and older sister. I was the baby of the family by several years and was the emotional “scapegoat” for the whole family. Because I reacted and everyone else kept their mouths shut, I WAS THE PROBLEM. However, I have a pretty tough backbone and down deep a good sense of self. However, (again) I have been damamged because it (the family system) was so insane. Thus I have attracted many damaged individuals through out my life. I helped most at the expense of myself for a long time until I became pretty EMPTY. My gifts are more heightened lately and it was becoming very obvious that I needed to understand my role in the grand scheme of the Universe. I will write again but thank you for bringing me the validation for being ME which is something I have never had. (I am 56)
Love and blessings,
I’m so glad the books were so helpful to you! Isn’t it a relief to see how the Family System works? You were never the problem, just the scapegoat. I’m so glad you can now focus on your own healing. Then you’ll have the energy to create what you really want for yourself.
Omg ! Omg!
I have tears running down my face right now. Well, I just turned 33 last month, and I feel the very same way!! Crazy Scary! I have a four month old daughter by my babies father that keeps cheating. And it’s heightened everything… I need relief!
I’m so sorry you are having a hard time, especially when you have a baby to care for! I hope the essays and books will help you make more sense of your situation. Let me know if you have questions!
sending love and a big hug,
I dont know where to start. your info helps me figure out who i am. I have always felt like im living a dream. and one day im going to wake up. I lost my grandfather the day before my 12 birthday. He was my dad my rock my love. I know now he was my teacher. Cuz i have felt hollow or empty since hes been gone. and I think about him all the time. so i guess hes still getting me by. Things are just harder right now for me than normal. but it does give me peace, cuz i know others are out there!
This story brings up a lot for me. My grandmother was a Six. She was always very proper, and anxious. She mistrusted everyone and everything. Not being trusted by her was wounding to me, but I can understand where she was coming from so well now – partly because I really feel I have ended up living her. She was German, and she and my grandfather had lived through the utter destruction and betrayal of WWII. Her son had married my mother, who was already a good way into her pregnancy by someone else, and my grandparents ended up raising me, even though my mother and step-father divorced after just a year. So, not only was she a Six, whose entire world and view of the people around her had been crushed (she was neither an anti-semite, nor a nationalist); she was being asked to love a child whom she could lose at any instant (and she did) to a self-serving, manipulative brat, and over whose destiny she had no control. My grandfather was a Nine – a peacekeeper – who had grown physically somewhat disabled. He was a beautiful man, but I believe a disappointment to her in that he was not able to allay her fears. She had to take care of him to some degree. My grandfather sat, Buddha-like, at his desk all day, and kind of tuned her criticism and anxiety out.
My kitchen memory when I was 12 was that I wanted to make lunch. I decided I was going to make a casserole. My grandmother was extremely uncomfortable with me wanting to shut the door to the kitchen. I could hear her, literally, pacing the hallway outside. Occasionally I would call out, annoyed, that I could HEAR her out there, which she would take as a cue to zip open the sliding door and poke her nose in, frantically trying to peer past my shoulder. Both of us (to her credit) were kind of laughing about this, because it was plainly ridiculous. In the end, she really liked my casserole – it was such a proud moment for me. She asked me how I made it, and until she died, she would make it occasionally, just the same way that I had. I had (hard) earned a little bit of her trust that day. But of course it did not change her nature, and our relationship went through hard times.
The very toxic relationship with my narcissistic birth mother aside, I feel that I have ended up living both my grandmother and grandfather, with very little of me remaining except for a sense of suffering. I feel my grandmother in my judgment and mistrust of myself and others, and the anger that accompanies that; and my grandfather in my wanting to zone out, and eat to the point where I have taken on his physique and some things that mimic his physical ailments.
I am grateful for your book. Having been exposed to the Enneagram over 20 years ago, I knew I was a Four (wing 5) from the start, and have always appreciated the insights. But I was not able to put it together with my family dynamics. My mind is an incredible fog when I try to focus on what my wounds are. I know many of the ways in which I have acted them out. I recognize a lot of what you say in your book – practically everything that I have had done to me, I have also done. Reading your book has given me enough resolve to made an appointment with a shaman by the name of Karen in Portland this week, because I wanted to see someone in person. I am SO very suspicious and frightened of being conned. I am in constant interaction with myself, telling myself that I have to try because it feels like my only hope. I have done plenty on what you call the symbolic plain over the years, yet I have painted myself into a corner that there seems no way out of. I am afraid that seeing and trusting the wrong person may be the ultimate self-sabotage. I can only hope it is not.
Thank you for sharing some of your story with me. I am so glad you are seeing a shaman! I sense that a lot of what is going on with you is generational. I think that once your grandmother’s WWII experience is cleared out of your underworld you will feel much better, and the rest of the unraveling from family dynamics will be easier and wont’ feel like such a fog. I hope you keep me posted!
Thank you for your kind feedback on my books as well. I really appreciate it! And I’m so glad my writing has been so helpful to you. If you feel so inclined if you could leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads it really does help get the word out.
sending you hugs,