The usual psychological line on self-sabotage is that it stems from self-hatred. When in the grip of the inner saboteur people forget to do crucial tasks, antagonise those who could help them, fail to defend themselves when wrongly accused, get drunk the night before an exam, fall over their own feet, etc etc. All of us at some time or another do something that we cannot believe afterwards. How was I so stupid, we say, slapping our foreheads as if to wake up the sleepy cortex that let us down so badly.

Even harder of course if we do this in public, like Prince Harry when he let people he had never met before into his hotel room when in the sin-pit of the world. A classic act of self-sabotage, especially as it occurred just after he had played the role of public darling so convincingly at the London Olympics.

The causes for this self-sabotaging self-hatred are potentially various, and depending on your perspective, can be laid at the door of insufficient love and appreciation in childhood; unreconciled trauma; difficult karma from previous lifetimes; not thinking positively enough.

But consider this: consider that the goals and relationships you have sabotaged were not the right goals and relationships for you in the first place. Consider that your inner saboteur might in fact be a helpful part of your being. Consider that the inner wrecking ball might actually be your greatest ally.

Consider that Prince Harry has understandably conflicting feelings about being a Prince, and that every now and then the part of him that doesn’t want anything to do with duty just has to let rip. Consider that the more conscious he was of this, and the more able he was to communicate this to the public, the less likely he would be to communicate it through acting out. The more conscious we are of our complexities and the fallout from our compromises the more content we are in our own skin.

Knowing what you really want to do with your life and who you really want to be with arise through dumb luck (good karma?), sudden inspiration (that you pay attention to), great mental clarity and rigorous self-knowledge. Usually a combination of all of the above. An unsentimental view of life and a resistance to conditioning help considerably.

Know thyself, the famous carving at the Temple of Apollo at the Oracle of Delphi, really is the crux of the matter. If you notice you are shooting yourself in the foot, ask yourself, do I really want this anyway? And if not, what do I want?

One of the other inscriptions at Delphi, much less frequently quoted, is Make a pledge and mischief is nigh. Perhaps life as a human is too various and perplexing to be going about making pledges and fixing on things too much. Sometimes I don’t know and I’m not sure are closer to the truth than absolutes and promises. We often think adulthood is about making firm decisions and commitments, but perhaps all that does is make life easier for tax authorities and the regularity of society. It might not be so great for the soul.

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