Day 8. The Spoiler
Its Motivations: To keep you ‘safe’ in your comfort zone.
The Fear It's Driven By: If you believe in your happiness or something good happening to you, it will feel even worse when something goes wrong or you are rejected.
Underlying Beliefs: Things always go wrong so what’s the point in enjoying it? It’s not safe to be happy. The rejection / disappointment hurt so much that it’s best not to run the risk of going back there.
Look Out For: Someone in your life who is a cynic, pessimist, who feels as if they’ve had a run of bad luck. A parent who suffered with depression or other issues where you got into the habit of feeling guilty about anything good. A parent or someone in your family who has a habit of causing havoc any time anything good happens in your life. A pattern of not being allowed to enjoy special occasions, to enjoy achievements, or good times. A big trauma or loss that you haven’t recovered from.
If you find it hard to be happy or find that things that you feel that you technically ‘should’ be looking forward to or enjoying, are shrouded in negativity, anxiety, worry and even panic, The Spoiler inner critic has taken up residence in your head. As the tape has been playing for some time, while on one hand it has protected you from being vulnerable and been of consolation through a tough time, that same tape does not distinguish between past and present. The Spoiler sees the possibility of rejection and disappointment as being the same thing as it actually happening, making it (and you) sensitive not just to things going badly but things going well. It doesn't see life as a series of ups and downs (so if you go down you will come back up) and just focuses on, It will go down.
It fundamentally fears that if it and you allow you to be happy, that should something go wrong (one of life’s inevitable bumps) that you will not be able to cope that well. It doesn’t trust that you’ve evolved and it on some level represents where you have judged you in the past for struggling emotionally with a situation. The Spoiler thinks that it is fair to base your self-esteem on how well it (and you) think it coped with a past pain. It fears that asking for help opens you up to judgment and rejection.
The Spoiler doesn't know how to be happy. It doesn’t give permission to happy feelings or it makes sure they’re only there for a limited time. The Spoiler acts as if happiness is a finite resource that you’re not deserving of. The Spoiler doesn’t want you to move on lest you forget about the past pain so it just accentuates the past pain by ruining happy moments in your life.
The messages that you've picked up along the way that form and feed The Spoiler are influenced by a series of experiences that you’ve inferred as being a permanent statement of the future. If you had a parent/caregiver or someone significant in your life who even if it wasn’t their intention, rained on your parade or who you felt guilty about feeling happy, that has lodged itself as pattern of suspicion about happy feelings or doing good things in your life.
You don’t trust happiness. It’s seen as something that can be taken away so you’re primed for something to go wrong and sometimes you try to speed up the process.
Feeling good about you for any extended period of time is outside of your comfort zone. It’s possible that when you’ve experienced good things that outer critics (or outer spoilers) have questioned your judgment or been very doom and gloom, or that after being hurt badly, it took you some time to recover and you may have even gone through a period of depression and you internalised this experience as being flaw in you that now limits your opportunities for happiness. Outer critics may also have been critical of the way in which they think that you handled the experience and so in showing a lack of empathy for you, you in turn through your spoiler inner critic show a lack of empathy for you. You remember the past event(s), partly because The Spoiler keeps reminding you and partly because you keep reminding you of how bad it felt when you were hurt and The Spoiler is a mechanism for protecting you from vulnerability.
Each time something good happens in your life, you find ways to turn down the heat. It’s as if you’re afraid of overcooking it.
It’s also a confidence issue because even though you have characteristics, talents, experience, accomplishments and achievements, you don’t internalise these and you keep doubting you. You have bursts of confidence where you’re connected with who you are or who you could be and then you find ways to pull you back and to limit your progress, likely through procrastination.
One of the side effects of having The Spoiler chipping in its two cents is that you are going to unwittingly choose romantic partners that cater to the self-fulfilling prophecy.
Likely to be quick out the gate, maybe willing to try to "break down your walls", possibly saying all sorts of stuff to convince you or giving you the impression that they're different with you, feeling as if a 'person like him/her' is giving you the time of day is at once validating and at the same time, because you're putting them on a pedestal and likely being critical of you and being a pleaser in subtle and not so subtle ways, it can feel as if you have a ticking time bomb in your hands. You may be blinded to what is imbalanced about the relationship or some of their less attractive qualities and so when things go wrong, you blame you for it, assuming that it must be your flaws behind the problems. You might also find that you veer between going out with super optimistic and super pessimistic people, each stressing you from opposite ends of the spectrum - one where you feel as if you're too miserable (and that there must be something wrong with them) and one where you now keep trying to make them happy so that you can feel happy and instead you feel dragged down.
Work may be a source of stress for you where you may be coasting or hiding your light under a bushel - you might know what you're capable of or what you want to be doing but each time you take two steps forward, something holds you back (your inner critic). Job hunting can be highly stressful and The Spoiler ensures that you feel as if you're a fraud even when you do do well that any promotions, achievements etc, are seen as fluke - Imposter Syndrome strikes again.
The Spoiler inner critic often has a series of destructive habits around it like calling up exes and hooking up when you've done well somewhere else, not showing up, picking fights with people, looking for validation with toxic folk and more - they're all designed to keep you in the safe zone of being anxious or feeling annoyed and critical of you.
JOURNALING: Do you identify with The Spoiler experience? Write about the ways in which this habit has manifested itself in your life - locate your specific habits of thinking and behaviour. Is there anyone from your past that has influenced The Spoiler's tape and if so, who are they and what did they teach you about life? What were the reasoning habits that you used to explain their behaviour and outlook that have then been used to explain your own? Can you see how different your lives are? Are you afraid that you're turning out like them and if so, what is it that you need to do to break that pattern? Is that concern even realistic? Are you worried about being disloyal by choosing a different path? If so, examine these feelings.
If this tape stems from past painful experiences that you found it difficult to recover from, what is the future pain that it thinks that it's trying to spare you from? Do you think that it's fair and reasonable to base your self-esteem on how you responded to a past situation? Is there a way that you could look at this past experience with your compassionate goggles on? If you did experience depression and are still feeling ashamed about it, use Unsent Letters to explore your feelings about mental health and who from the experience or the past is influencing your perception of you. If you are understanding of others but not compassionate to you, what is it that makes you different? What is it that you need to forgive you for? Are you recognising how you have grown but also how you have been through something incredibly tough and used courage to navigate your way out of? Explore what you think your spoiler is keeping you safe from but also look at the costs of listening.
Don't forget to use the Resources to help you to work through feelings that come up - the Releasing Exercise is ideal for homing in on memories associated with not being perfect being a problem. Unsent Letters are ideal for distinguishing you from others, forgiving you and using compassionate enquiry to think about what you can do next.