The Red-Pill Test2 min read

There is a simple test to figure out if there is self-sabotage in you—the Red-Pill Test. For example, if I am working with somebody that wants to overcome anxiety, I might ask: 

Suppose I have a red pill here in my hand. Once you swallow it, you will never experience anxiety again. Will you take it?” 

When I use this test with my clients, some say, “YES, gimme that #@&*% pill!”—truthfully, wholeheartedly, and immediately. But other clients hesitate. Or they will say a “yes” with their mouth, while their body is telling a different story. Something in them relies on anxiety, usually because they believe anxiety protects them or somehow pushes them forward in life.

Take a moment now to ask yourself: “If there is a red pill that will give me right now what I want, will I take it?” Be very aware of what happens next.

  • Does the answer come immediately, or is it delayed? 
  • Is it a “Hell, yes!” or an “I guess so…”?
  • Does any part of your body contract or pull back?
  • Are you present and energized when you answer?

If a part of you doesn’t want the transformation you seek, and that part is not addressed carefully, then self-sabotage may keep you from moving forward wholeheartedly. Your path will be longer and harder than necessary.

In this case, there are the two things you need to do.

First, become aware of it. Take a moment to really see that part that resists your goal, to clarify the secondary gain—the benefits of you remaining as you are. What bad things may happen if you achieve your goal? What does that other part of you want? Is it afraid? Why?

Awareness is key here and can be developed through daily meditation, in journaling, or with the help of a trusted coach or a therapist. Sometimes a combination is best.

Second, resolve the inner conflict. This is not always straightforward, and it’s a big topic. The way of inner resolution will be unique for each person. It often requires external support, because we all have blind spots. It is one of the main reasons people come to me for self-discipline coaching—to integrate all aspects of their being so that they can move forward wholeheartedly.

There are two main methods to work out inner resistance or self-sabotage. Through a lot of self-reflection, awareness, and inner work, you need to either: (a) come to a point where you no longer need that secondary gain; or (b) fulfill it in a healthy way.

Becoming aware of the different aspects of yourself is self-knowledge. Bringing together these different aspects, so that you are more unified and whole, is self-mastery. This is the journey of a lifetime.

On another note, if you love the journey more than the destination itself, you may hesitate at the Red-Pill Test. That’s not self-sabotage, provided that you are moving toward your aspiration, and not procrastinating. It simply means that you are not in a hurry; you are taking your time and enjoying the scenery.

This article is a summary of key ideas taken from Chapter 6 of Mindful Self-Discipline. To dive deeper, get the book or audiobook.


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