Self-Sabotage: When a Client's Issues Strikes a Chord Close to My Own

The Enneagram “Four” and the Roots of Self Sabotage

By Heather Step, BA (Hons) Psychology, Dip Childhood Montessori Education

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I’ve always known about the enneagram (a system of nine personalities) but never really considered using it with EFT until someone came along that very neatly fitted into one of these categories, and gave me a deeper understanding of my own issues!

This system is not just about understanding yourself, it is also about learning about others. A lot of unnecessary suffering is caused simply because we cannot see anyone’s point of view other than our own.

Futhermore, in becoming willing to explore our own personality, we will be closer to the place of the original connections with our planet, and not behind the protection of our neurosis.

Outlined here are the personalities. They are grouped into three categories of their dominant emotion:


Type 1: The Perfectionist.

Type 8: The Boss.

Type 9: The Mediator.


Type 2: The Giver.

Type 3: The Performer.

Type 4: The Tragic Romantic (this is the personality we are looking at). Attracted to the unavailable; the ideal is never here and now. Artistic, sensitive, focused on what is missing. Addicted to suffering. Dramatization of feelings.

Evolved Fours are creative and can help other people through their pain. They are committed to the intensity of life.


5. The Observer.

6. The Devil’s Advocate

7. The Epicure.

Now that I have revealed the types, you may investigate which you feel is closest to you. Alina Frank has a test here: http://www.tapyourpower.net/test.html

In working with these aspects of your personality you have two options: to dig further into what this personality means or learn how to detach from these neurosis and let them go. Ultimately it is probably best to do both.

I will now share with you an example of using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) with this personality system. Here we tried to work out why she was attracted to the suffering and also did letting go exercises (tapping the index finger) in order to detach from it. The reason I found this instance to be quite easy to identify was because this particular lady had the same personality as me (a Four). Already using EFT, she contacted me primary because of self-sabotage problems.

“I have very intense psychological reversals, and it really, really upsets me to think and know that I am working against myself so much. One of the rounds I did that I had a lot of release with was: Even though I choose to suffer for the rest of my life, I don't know why I would choose to suffer, and I am so scared that that exists inside of me, and I don’t know where along the way I picked that up or decided that, but I know I do feel that way. I really do want to heal, at least consciously, but I know that I have had my issues for quite some time and depend on them in some ways.”

I immediately knew that this was typical of a “Four;” the addiction to suffering and hurting oneself. And yes, these do serve some kind of purpose. I think in any personality we do come to depend on our “wounds” instead of looking to healing, which, in itself, can be pretty daunting when it involves changing our ways.

When I wrote to her about this she said:

“I definitely resonate with what you said about the tragic romantic...I have definitely felt that suffering is beautiful, and idealized it, but I feel like this has developed more so over time and that is something I kind of picked up somewhere or used as an excuse to make sense of the things I couldn't control or do.”

In the first session, after giving me some background information about events that had taken place, we began tapping on these reversals:

“Even though I’m having all these psychological reversals, I deeply and completely love and accept myself”

“Even though I seem to be sabotaging myself the whole time, I deeply and completely love and accept myself. And I realise that there is something inside of me that wants to stop myself being successful. I am just accepting myself where I am right now.”

“Even though it seems like such a mountain, because every time I take a few steps forward, I take some back, I still deeply and completely love and accept myself”

We also tapped on her vertigo and fear of falling off her horse in this session. We tapped that fear was something you could not get around; you had to go through, “feel the fear and do it anyway.” Other issues of loss (a common theme for Fours) emerged in her having to leave her country, and other losses, and we tapped on that too. I asked her just to tap on the loss of her dog, for starters.

I gave her the following phrases for homework:

Even though I've experienced all this loss - I deeply love and accept myself

Even though I lost my dog, I choose to remember the good times I had with him/her/name

Even though I feel stuck sabotaging myself, I choose to remember those times when I did take one step forward

Even though I am stuck in the past, on regrets, I'm choosing to live in the here and now.

Session Two brought the news of a death of man she was close to. Even though this terrible thing had happened, which brought up a lot of memories from the past, I tried to steer the focus on the present. (Fours tend to focus on the past and the future, on what is missing), so we tapped on gratitude for her mom, her friend and even her lecturer giving her support this week. We tapped on gratitude for the time she had had with this man.

“Even though quite a lot has happened this week, I’m so deeply grateful for my friend and my mom being there with lots of support, and I deeply love and accept myself for getting through all of this.”

She also brought up an issue about statements that her aunt had made about her in the past, and also negative declarations she had made. Again, we centred things in the present:

“Even though this event that happened in the past, when I made all these declarations, seems to have all this power over me, I deeply and completely love and accept myself. Even though those things happened, I’m choosing to take back my power. Even though I said all those things, I’m choosing to unsay them now. I’m choosing to replace them with different statements.”

“Even though I said that I was taking on all the fears so that I could be free, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.

Here we made a new statement: “Even though that’s what I said in the past, I’m choosing to release all my fears. I realise that fear does come along, but at that time I’m choosing to feel the fear and do it anyway.”

For her homework I asked her to do alternate tapping on these phrases:

-releasing, letting go/ holding, gripping on

-(pieces) falling apart/ (all the parts of me) coming together in balance

In Session Three we talked about how she was attracting suffering, particularly in the past where there was a benefit to being sick (which involved getting back at her mom for moving and avoiding the social anxiety at school).

“Even though there seems to be a lot of benefits to being sick, I deeply and completely love and accept myself. I understand that was where I was back then; I just wanted to punish my mom. I just didn’t want to go to school. That was where I was back then, and I accept that.”

Top of head: “I was angry with my mom”

Top of eyebrow: “I wanted her to move me back”

Side of eye: “I didn’t like all the changes”

Under eye: “It was just one way that I could control the situation”

Under nose: “I was just protesting the move”

Chin: “I did not want to move”

Collarbone: “I was just so angry with my mother”

Under arm: “I wanted to show her”

Under breast: “And that’s the way I did it, by getting sick”

“Even though there was all this benefit of not going to school when I was sick, I deeply and completely love and accept myself. It was so hard to fit in, and I had a bit of social anxiety, but I accept those feelings that I had back then.”

“Even though there were all these benefits of getting sick, there was definitely a side effect. My body was suffering. It was protesting. It was getting out of balance. It was feeling weak and tired. And I’m going to change that. I’m choosing to change that.”

Top of head: “I am choosing to remember the benefits of health”

Top of eyebrow: “I don’t need to punish my mother anymore”

Side of eye: “I did that, and it’s over”

Under eye: “And I don’t need to skip school anymore”

Under nose: “I’m a different person now”

Chin:” I’m in control of my life”

Collarbone: “I’m in control of my body”

Under arm: “I’m listening to what my body’s trying to say to me”

Under breast: “I’m getting back into balance”


The most amazing conversation to come out of all of this however, which really made me look at myself, was the issue that she had to suffer in order to understand what others were going through in order to heal them. It may seem obvious to others, but for those inside this personality, to whom suffering is some kind of “higher calling” it was as if a light bulb had gone on to know that I didn’t have to suffer to help others, and that more importantly, how was I going to heal others if I could not heal myself?

 “Even though I know that I wanted to deeply understand suffering, and I seem to take it out on myself, I deeply and completely love and accept myself. I know why I wanted to do it. It was because I wanted to help people. But I didn’t see the effect on myself until I was so deeply into it.”

 “Even though I’m drawn to all this suffering, I am choosing to stop suffering. I am choosing health.”

“Even though I have this healing gift and I’m so drawn to learning more about how to heal people, and part of that seems to be that I want to go through what they’ve been through, I deeply and completely accept that decision that I made.”

Top of the head: “I just thought that was the way to go about it”

Top of eyebrow: “I wanted to suffer everything that they had been through”

Side of eye: “It just seemed the most authentic way to help them”

Under eye: “Just to be with them in their suffering”

Under nose: “Because I had suffered too”

Chin: “And continued to suffer”

Collarbone: “It just seemed right to me”

Under arm: “that I just wanted to carry on suffering to help others”

Under breast: “And I was just carrying on doing that”

“Even though I thought that suffering was going to help, I’m choosing to look at other ways to learn how to help people” – and then we tapped on other possibilities, such as reading books, going online, doing courses and talking to people.

We then did alternate tapping (which I’d learnt from Carol Look) where you alternate positive and negative phrases. This is in order to convince yourself of the positive by acknowledging the negative: suffering, difficulties, complicated vs. calm, peace, letting it be easy. (For the “letting it be easy” phrase I have to give credit to Rebecca Marina.)

We then tapped on the things she was excited about, in her plans for the future, in that even though we did not know how it was going to come together, we were trusting, in faith, that the universe would “line it up” for her. We also did more on her “vertigo” or balance problem, where she would choose to be healthy.

The sessions with this lady were very meaningful because they helped me take a hard look at myself and my own motives for being “sick” in certain situations, and how not healing was not helping anyone else, least of all me…

A while after these sessions I received the following feedback from this lady:

“Heather! Thank you again for everything. It felt amazing to open up and be so honest with you about everything right off the bat! I was able to tell you things I was never able to even confess to myself. :)

That being said, these sessions with you have been a blessing. It really clicked with me the other day how you said that we must accept and then ultimately, love, these seemingly negative parts of ourselves. Even when I would say the end phrase "I still deeply love and accept myself" I was still doing it with the underlying intention of "getting rid" of these aspects and changing them, because we are aware that is what happens once we do truly love and forgive ourselves (or more so it seems that our attention is just taken away from these things). But thanks to you, and your emphasizing acceptance of one's self, it finally clicked that no - we love ourselves even with these things, and we can even love these parts of ourselves as well.. What a relief that has been!"


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Author's Bio:

Heather Step has a certain personality suited to counseling, being a Four on the Enneagram Personality system– drawn to suffering people and having the capacity for compassion for what they are going through.

Her specialties are in the following areas:

-mind/body connection with regard to pain and physical problems, (http://healwithheather.com/body.htm)

-stress and how to handle it (http://healwithheather.com/stresstest.htm)

-infertility (having personal experience of this) (http://healwithheather.com/getpregnant.htm)

-children (being a Grade One teacher at a Montessori school and doing play therapy) (http://healwithheather.com/children.htm)

For more information you can also go to my website: www.healwithheather.com


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