• You may be doing things that prevent you from succeeding in life, or 'self-sabotage'
• There is no need to pay witch doctors to fix problems yet you can fix them yourself
From time to time, we find ourselves in situations that tempt us into believing that witchcraft is real. The diagnosis gains greater credibility whenever we see a person suffering a continuous run of bad luck.
Do you keep getting in trouble with your bosses and workmates? Have you stagnated at work because you can't keep deadlines and are, therefore, regarded as unreliable? Is alcohol ruining your marriage? Do you have difficulties sustaining romantic relationships? Do you regularly find yourself in police cells for one reason or another?
These are the kinds of situations driving a significant number of Kenyans to exotic locations in Zanzibar, Tanga, Mwanza, Malindi and Kitui in search of spiritual interventions from "waganga" (witch doctors).
There's no hard data on how many Kenyans seek the services of witch doctors. The fact that the services are advertised widely shows there is demand.
Meanwhile, the religiously inclined attribute their bad luck to ancestral sins, that is, someone in the family lineage committed a sin so bad that today's generation is suffering from the transgression.
The concept of generational sins is mentioned in the Biblical Old Testament. Ancient Israelites were warned that the wrongs of the fathers are visited upon the sons and daughters unto the third and fourth generations.
Life is full of ups and downs, and misfortunes are part of human existence. However, if your life is unravelling, you should start thinking about your choices. You may be knowingly or unknowingly doing things that prevent you from succeeding in life. Psychologists call it "self-sabotage".
"Self-sabotage happens when your actions or thoughts hold you back from accomplishing what you want," Zamfira Parincu, a contributor at the Berkeley Well-Being Institute, says. In essence, self-sabotage means you are blocking your own path. You are bewitching yourself!
"Sometimes, you do this without even realising it because often, self-sabotage can show up as subtle patterns, such as procrastination or fear of failure," Zamfira says.
Signs of self-sabotage include not taking responsibility for one's actions (blaming others) and procrastination (delays in starting something). Negative self-talk and easily giving up are additional signs. People who engage in self-sabotage may be aware of their behaviour, for example, by lamenting how they are always late to finish tasks or how they are unable to commit to anything.
Social withdrawal has been described by experts as self-sabotaging because isolation worsens depression instead of relieving it. Unhealthy behaviours, such as excessive alcohol consumption, drug abuse and promiscuity are more examples of self-sabotage.
In some persons, self-sabotage is not so obvious. Whenever a romantic relationship shows signs of getting serious, they create distance between themselves and their lovers. When the romantic partner walks away, such individuals lament about being unlucky with romance but fail to acknowledge their role in the break-up.
Book author Alaina Levine describes self-sabotage as a series of self-defeating actions. "It could be something simple, such as knowing you need to study for an exam and not doing so. It can involve sharing something with another person that your gut tells you is not a good idea," she describes in the journal, Science. Levine emphasises that, unlike depression, self-sabotage is not a mental health problem.
According to Psychology Today magazine, common types of self-sabotage involve procrastination, perfectionism, relationships, work, finances, time and change. A perfectionist who wants to complete a task flawlessly may dismiss incremental improvements when making even a little progress would actually help accomplish their goals.
Procrastination means waiting till the last minute to complete an important task. Some people argue that they are not motivated to study or work unless there's time pressure and that they get their best work done very close to a deadline. Indeed, succeeding under such conditions gives one a sense of accomplishment and a belief that starting early is a waste of time.
Sooner or later, there will be a day when an external factor, such as an electricity blackout, will destroy your last-minute strategy. Besides, by constantly rushing at the last minute, you will not discover the possibility of doing a better job by starting earlier.
Perhaps you are a single person wondering why you keep getting into relationships with dysfunctional partners. If so, you are sabotaging your chances of happiness with persons you are not compatible with. The Personal Growth and Development Centre (PGDC) says you may be subconsciously attracting partners who are a negative reminder of your childhood.
For instance, if you attract abusive partners, your relationships will always be based on fear. Consequently, your potential mate will continuously evoke the negative emotions from your childhood, which could be a hindrance to your self-worth. You could lose your identity and begin to believe that abusive behaviour is acceptable.
"When you consciously choose men or women who are emotionally unstable, you are only going to make your life miserable," PGDC advises. "If someone is emotionally, physically or financially unstable, they are unable to provide the security you need to complement you within the relationship."
How does one emerge from a lifestyle of self-sabotage? The first step is to take responsibility for your actions. Break the cycle of self-sabotage by identifying the situations that make you blame other people.
Design your life with the knowledge that you are not perfect. For example, use your mobile phone's electronic calendar to remind you of important tasks. Don't be afraid of accepting a lucrative job or a difficult project because you feel you are not perfect. If you decline that job, the person who will take it won't be perfect either.
Prioritise important tasks. One of the tactics of self-sabotage is to get busy with less important work at the expense of critical responsibilities. For example, arriving late at a job interview because you decided to do the laundry instead of leaving your house early. Or choosing to rearrange the living room instead of completing an important class assignment. Recognise whenever you are tempted to get into such behaviour.
Self-sabotage is a result of habits cultivated over many years. To overcome self-sabotage, one should recognise and stop retrogressive habits. No need paying witch doctors for something you can do yourself!