“Pain is inevitable… Suffering is optional.” Buddhist Scripture Introduction
Self-defeating behaviour (maladaptive behaviour) is the idea that people knowingly respond to stimuli that will cause them to fail or bring them trouble. It is defined as “any deliberate or intentional behaviour that has clear, definitely or probably negative effects on the self or on the self’s projects” 1. Psychologists have examined various theories as to why humans sometimes behave in a self-destructive ways. One proposed theory that answers this question is the Freudian argument, which states “people have an innate death drive that impels them to pursue their own downfall and death”2. This argument also concludes that people do harm themselves deliberately, even though they sometimes are not conscious of this. “Self-defeating behaviours are especially common when people feel that others view them less favourably than the people desire”1 Psychologists have constructed three models that explain different types of self-defeating behaviours, which are “distinguished by their varying degrees of intentionality”1 Three Models of Self-Destructiveness
There are three models that represent self-defeating behaviours on the basis of “intentionality.”1 1. Primary self-destruction - This model includes those human beings who deliberately and intentionally hurt themselves. Those in this group, usually intentionally choose an action that they know will bring harm to them. For Example - masochism
2. The second conceptual model of self-defeating behaviour is called, “trade-off”1. This behaviour is done when a person knowingly makes a trade-off in a situation. It is when a person chooses a certain option that has some benefit but also has the potential to cause harm to the person as well. For Example - When a person chooses to take up smoking. In a trade-off, the smoking harm to the self is accepted as a necessary accompaniment to achieving some other goal. In this trade-off model, the individual has multiple goals and desires, but the situation sets two of them in opposition. One type of trade-off is known as, “self-handicapping”1. (e.g. – health) In the trade-off, people will deliberately choose to do something that they know will harm them, so that if they fail later they are able to blame their failure on the bad choice they previously made. 3. The third are the counterproductive strategies. Self-defeating behaviours in which “the person neither desires nor foresees the harm to self. In this instance a person is pursuing a desirable outcome but chooses a strategy or approach that backfires and produces the opposite of the desired result. Thus, the person is pursuing a positive goal, but the person’s method of pursuing is negative.”1 For Example - This type of behaviour is very common among young adults and usually results in some kind of “self-harmful outcomes”1. Reasons for Self-Defeating Behaviour
People are more likely to behave in a self-defeating or destructive manner when either there are threats made to their ego, or when they have low self-esteem. When a person has a low self-esteem, they are more likely to be susceptible to having depression, anxiety and, emotional distress, which are problems that are usually directly related to a less favourable self-appraisal. “Emotional stress has also had a link to self-defeating behaviour. Anecdotal observations have long suggested that highly distraught people are more likely than others to do self destructive things.”3 Also, self-regulation failure is yet another supposed cause of self-defeating behaviours. Our self-regulation is related mostly to one’s self-control. Self-regulation allows a person to prepare herself to a certain situation and adapt to that situation. With self-regulation a person can either make sure they succeed, or fail in a certain situation. “Self regulation is presumably one of the major...