SABOTEUR [sabuh-tur]; noun – a person who commits or practices sabotage

SABOTAGE [sabuh-tahzh, sab-uhtahzh]; verb – deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct (something)

One of the more interesting areas of psychology deals with differences in how people react to obstacles. As all of us are aware, some individuals demonstrate a tendency to look at obstacles as challenges to be mastered and overcome. These folks measure and strategize their efforts toward success. They then enact and execute their plans; adjusting strategies as conditions change. Other individuals may see those very same obstacles as insurmountable. These folks are likely to complain about the unfairness of the presence of obstacles. Worse, they relent to the power and might of the obstacles; choosing to not engage in efforts toward success. This demarcation of responses—approach or withdrawal; victory or defeat—also underlies success and failure probabilities for black Americans. After all, we are people too. And we’re subject to the very same human reactions to challenges.

But, in addition to the obstacles that people face from outside themselves, there can also exist obstacles within ourselves that serve to compromise our probabilities for success and failure. We all know of individuals who seem to trip over themselves. No matter how favorable conditions might be, they seem always to come up with negative results. They might not be actively engaged in applying for employment. Or they might find themselves engaged in criminal activities. Or they might just hang out all day awaiting some type of rescue from their social, living, and economic conditions. In essence, through their lack of engagement, they sabotage themselves. No doubt that obstacles still remain. But it is not The System and it is not The White Man alone that defeats them. They, and their like-minded supporters, enable defeat. Through empowering their obstacles, and through poor engagement, they defeat themselves. Sometimes, even before they try.

Fortunately, it is not very difficult to determine whether the tendency to self-sabotage or not is significant in your life. One need not make an appointment with a psychotherapist and pay way too much money to determine whether this exists in your life. One need only to look at those persons with who you surround yourself. Their presence in your life will tell the tale. 

Homework for today:

Make a list of your friends, buddies, homies, pod’ners, homegirls, whomever. Try to evaluate them objectively. Are they helping to contribute positively to your life? Are they supporting you as you try to clear your obstacles? Are they, at minimum, respecting your aspirations? If so, then keep them on the list. If not, then scratch them off the list; quick, fast, and in a hurry. Stop hanging with them and stop them from hanging onto you. Why do you keep them as friends? For what? Perhaps to have company as you watch your days, your opportunities, and your possibilities go by? And, tellingly, if you are unable or unwilling to eventually cross these non-contributors off your list, then:



Overcoming one’s tendency to self-sabotage is relatively easy. Just think NO!

NO to trifling folks in your life.

NO to lame-ass excuses.

NO to the system’s limitations.

NO to prejudice.

NO to discrimination.

NO to racism

NO to the legacy of slavery.

My life is wonderful because I just think NO. It really is that simple. I have learned not to accept weakness of character from them, from me, or from us. Period. Just as they are full of rationalizations and lies, so too are we. We must first accept that in many ways we are a large part of the problem. The way we think, how we see them, how we see obstacles, and how we see ourselves all contribute to our self-pity and self-defeat.

What they did in the past and what they do now doesn’t really matter at all. How we respond does. What matters greatly is what our ancestors did in the face of seemingly unconquerable obstacles. Accept the fact that black folks sacrificed and died so you could do a little better. That is their gift, and it is your legacy. You either choose to accept and honor the gift or not. Stop complaining. Do something about it! Stop wasting energy and time. The opportunity to move forward awaits.

Overcoming ourselves and/or one’s tendency to self-sabotage includes remembering to face forward and step, step, step. Isn’t it time for us to immerse our individual selves into the vision of our forebears? Isn’t it time to do what those who gave so much could not even dream of doing? Isn’t it time to remember where we are supposed to be going: away from The Struggle and toward The Advancement?

I’m ready? Are you?

If not, then perhaps the central question related to your lack of progress is:

Are you really disenfranchised or simply disinterested?

Well, that’s all the time we have for today. We’ll pick up again next week.

Until then:



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Dr. James Davison, Jr. is a licensed psychologist and university professor. He conducts a private practice in Seattle, Washington, and has appeared on several nationally-aired programs including The Phil Donahue Show, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and C-SPAN. Dr. Davison hails from Philadelphia, and is the author of several books – Prisoners Of Our Past and Sweet Release, and the upcoming Paid In Full – related to individuality and personal freedom for African-Americans.

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