When you go shopping with your friends, do you pay for their groceries?
Maybe once in a while, but not all the time, right?
Sometimes we end up “paying for the groceries” for important people in our lives. And someone who doesn’t pay for the groceries themselves will not see their value as directly and immediately, as if they were paying for them – this is just human nature.
Briefly, self defeating behavior is powered by taking the wrong choices (“turning left instead of right”), which in turn is driven by mythical fears of taking the right choices (“turning right”).
For example, if you have a fear of being vulnerable, and addressing issues with your partner – and instead sweep them under the rug, problems and resentment are going to build up.
Or, as another example, if instead of discussing these problems or maybe seeing a therapist about them, you self-medicate with alcohol, liver-damage is going to occur – and maybe also social problems, problems at work, etc.
The SDB framework explains that negative things happen when we make the wrong choices consistently. Remember, we are making the wrong choices as self-ptotection – because we have irrational, mythical fears (based on real experiences!) which block us from taking the right choice.
A right choice, again, for example, would be to stop drinking to feel better, and instead to talk about your problems with a therapist, or your partner.
Since this right choice is blocked by the mythical fear (e.g. “partner will reject me / laugh about me / won’t hear me and it will hurt even more”) we will make the wrong choices.
These choices will have negative consequences – which are called “prices” in the SDB framework.
I have written a post about how this plays out in a dating situation here.
As someone who practices SDBs – for example drinking – you will be paying a lot of prices.
Partners paying the prices
But it’s not just you who will be paying the prices. Your close social circle, your romantic partners will also be paying prices, if they choose to stay with you.
For example, in the case of alcohol, your partner will have to deal with your hangovers, possibly irritable mood. Of course, there will be less money available to run the household, as alcohol is not exactly a cheap beverage. Also, in certain situations you won’t be reliable, might put the family at risk (drunk driving …), or might embarass your partner in a social group.
Let’s step away from the alcohol example for a while. Let’s discuss fearful avoidant attachment styles who won’t commit fully.
If you are in love with someone who has a fearful avoidant attachment style, but who keeps pushing you away when you come closer, you, as a partner, have a problem as well.
You are paying your fearful avoidant partner’s prices. So they are noticing even less, that their behavior is damaging.
You are picking up their grocery bill, while they are wasting those precious groceries.
Not having solid boundaries for other people’s prices (e.g. also abusive behavior – which again stems from mythical fears of being vulnerable – but the desire to be the bully, always “the stronger” party) will lead to you being stuck in the situation with them, and nothing changing. Because they are “rigidly” stuck in that behavior, that is until something happens – until they feel the pain keenly enough, so that the SDB finally snaps and they realize what they have been doing.
Precious life years wasted
I myself was paying the prices for a woman, N., who kept pushing me away and disengaging with me. In a way, that was a self defeating behavior on my own side, as well – to chase an emotionally unavailable woman. Five years “wasted” (I did get a lot of personal growth out of it).
In my case, I was finding excuses for her, kept engaging with her, instead of walking away from her for good.
Her behavior demands prices to be paid – disengagement from potential romantic partners. The behavior is probably DESIGNED to do this. If you keep persisting, and paying her prices – that is being emotionally distraught, and stressed, while keeping the distress away from her, she will STEP UP the behaviors, until they reach their designed goal, to push you away for good.
Humans are very clever at executing their subconscious programming, you see. It is like a target-seeking missile, until it’s goal is reached, it will keep operating.
And in all cases, these SDBs at their core are really innocent – they are born out of a need of self-protection. They are the result of toxic situations in the past, which this person has been in. Where their SDB (self-defeating behavior) has given them relief.
Imagine for example, that N. may have had a toxic relationship with her father, who might have been hypercritical, cold and possibly narcissistic. Wouldn’t it be a normal reaction for her to be withdrawing from him as much as possible? Not sharing personal details, so that the attack surface is decreased?
What used to work, is now punishing her and people around her. It is her problem to solve – maybe with the cooperation of a therapist. I sincerely hope that she gets to solve it, because I do really like her.
But I have stopped paying her prices for her. Nothing can be done from my side – acceptance of this would just lead to more suffering on my side. I have disengaged from her.
Employees and colleagues
Two other examples come to my mind, ex-employees who I had hired. As a manager / owner I have the luxury to be able to let people go, who show up with a heavy “price” burden on the company.
F. shared with me about how his car was scratched by colleagues, in retaliation. He was the only person I’ve let go after just three days of work with us. I realized that he was driven by the desire to have as much power as possible, power over other people. If he had to put other people down, be uncooperative, and to show that he was in some ways superior to other people, to achieve this feeling of power, he would do it.
He had persisted for ten years at the previous workplace, if I remember correctly, until a new guy showed up who didn’t put up with his way of controlling people. Who threatened him – so F. quit on his own.
Realizing that there would be constant friction with F – e.g. he wasn’t allowing my colleague S. to show him the ropes, was not following her instructions (as a display of his “superiority”), I did the right thing as a manager.
I stopped paying F.’s prices – and let him pay his prices himself. I let him go.
Maybe F. will realize that he is ostracizing himself. Maybe he won’t. Most likely it will take more iterations, or actually he will end up at a company where the boss has a harder time letting F. go – not because it wouldn’t be the right choice, but because he is afraid of and inexperienced in letting people go.
Does this story resonate with you? Maybe if you are in a toxic relationship, where your partner is putting you down? Do you continue to pay the prices of your partner? Where actually, their behavior should turn other people off and they should be ostracized in return?
This is another employee who had been with us for four months. She has been sick about 50 % of this time. Corona at the beginning – but a common cold later. And her performance in other areas was not up to our standards. While on sick leave, and with the company severely short on people & my colleague A. having to bear the brunt of the work, G. asked for two additional days of leave in advance.
In a certain way, G. was not taking responsibility for being part of the company, and contributing.
It’s not about power for her. Maybe it is about the fear of making mistakes, maybe the fear of asking questions / communicating / reflecting about other people’s needs.
In any case, I realize that I have an employee on my hands who is performing behind expectations – when she is present.
We are understaffed, but still – binding money into someone who effectively does not show up 100 %, even when she’s at work – would be paying her prices.
As a manager, I’ve got to make the right decisions for my company. And so you, as a manager of your life, have to take the right decisions for your life. Stop paying other people’s prices.
Toxic workplace? Toxic colleagues?
If you are an employee yourself, and have toxic colleagues, I recommend for you to stop paying their prices – do not cover for bullies, for example – and if the management won’t do anything about it, you unfortunately have a toxic workplace culture. Get out!
Stop wasting those life years paying other people’s prices, my friend. Set solid boundaries – maybe they will get it, maybe they won’t.
These prices are not yours to pay, they are theirs. And eventually, maybe, the price burden will be so high that they can’t close their eyes anymore and will start working with a therapist or in other ways. They will go sober and stop destroying their liver and their lifes. Then, they will be ready to be a possible partner for you.