By Charles F. Glassman, MD – CoachMD


For me, the beginning of ninth grade was uncomfortable. I remember feeling out of sorts. It wasn't as though I was going to a new school, as the school I attended was for grades seven to twelve and I entered the year before as an eighth grader.  No, the discomfort came from a different place.

As school started, I kept drifting back to memories of the beginning of the summer. And the beginning really marked the end of the school year prior with the completion of the final testing period. That was such a great feeling. Even more great for me was going over my friend's house, sleeping over, and fishing at Miller's Pond'a small private pond that we got to by hiking a short distance through a thick wooded area. 

That memory was a distant one as I clutched my books and walked into school on a cool September morning, so different from the warmth of the June mornings and afternoons when we were fishing at Miller's pond. I could not get that out of my head. In fact, it followed me for the first month or two of ninth grade.  The result: I did very poorly, academically, in the first few weeks and I broke my wrist playing freshman football. In fact, the latter was most disturbing. Although, I was on the smaller side, I was always a fast runner and the freshman coach was giving me a chance to start as a running back. This was a recurrent theme for me. I recall while a counselor at summer camp, the counselors and some of the older campers would get together after lunch during rest hour and play softball. I loved this time. As the summer wound down, we scheduled the final game. I could not bring myself to playing because I did not want it to end. Something was going on in me, and now I have a better idea of what it was.

Self-sabotage comes in many shapes and sizes. However, its origin is always from the same place. Our built in protector –our primitive, automatic brain (AB) –instinctively, automatically and subconsciously, attempts to insulate us from danger, threat, or vulnerability. The only data to which it refers in order to figure out what will be dangerous exists in its memory banks, i.e. the past. Even if the memory is not a good one, it is still more familiar than the unknown of the future. Therefore, it responds by triggering us to fight or flee the future as it prompts us to latch onto the memories of the past.  After all, will I ever have as much fun as I did back then? Will I ever be able to play as well? Or, if one has bad memories, "will it be discovered that my childhood was dysfunctional?"

The majority of our fear and anxiety, hence stress, arises from the unknown of the future. Therefore, our AB either latches onto the past with its known outcomes, or tries to manipulate the future in an effort to make it known. That manipulation comes in the form of thoughts. What my AB did and still tries to get me to do is hold onto the past or conjure up what the future might be "good or bad" in order to protect me. This protection, when followed, predicatively leads to self-sabotage. That is, as we try to move forward (become healthy, fit, more positive, more successful) our AB causes us to fight or flee back into the familiarity of the past when we were less or more so.  Furthermore, our AB conjures up thoughts of what the future might look like, even though thoughts are merely speculation, or even fantasy.


Dr. Charles Glassman

Charles F. Glassman, MD, FACP - has practiced general internal medicine, for over 20 years.  Dr. Glassman specializes in personalized, patient focused care, with an emphasis on wellness and prevention. He approaches medicine in an integrative manner, looking carefully at all traditionally approved methods while recognizing the power of unconventional therapies. Dr. Glassman has repeatedly earned National and Regional Top Doctor and Patient Choice Awards. His new service, Coach MD blends the knowledge and experience of a caring medical doctor with the passion and guidance of a life coach.

He is the author of the critically acclaimed book Brain Drain, which helps explain and fix self-sabotage. It is the winner of the 2011 Independent Publisher's Award and 2011 Eric Hoffer Award as the best Self-Help and Health book, 2010 Pinnacle Book Award for best Self-Help Book, and 2009 LA Book Festival Best Spirituality Book.

To new subscribers on his website, he is now offering his free, new EBook, Destiny Diet. Weekly, Dr. Glassman hosts Medicine on the Cutting Edge, which gives a voice to pioneers in medical research and development. Dr. Glassman lives with his family in Rockland County, NY.
Dr. Charles GlassmanCoachMD Medical Advice ColumnEmotional and Social Well-being,Health,Seasons – Spring – Summer- Fall- Winter  By Charles F. Glassman, MD - CoachMD   For me, the beginning of ninth grade was uncomfortable. I remember feeling out of sorts. It wasn't as though I was going to a new school, as the school I attended...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids