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Normally if this was happening your inner selves would work this out fairly quickly and another opposite inner self would take over. We learn by our mistakes and the more times we make the same mistake the sooner we learn to avoid making that mistake (or avoid letting that inner self drive the bus) again.

This doesn’t seem to be  happening with RSDP. The ‘learn by your mistakes’ system has been shut down. The repeated behaviour pattern is more like an automatic response, a habit or an addiction. It is not the result of rational thinking or a conscious choice. The self-aware grown -up part has gone missing.

2. The self-defeating behaviour happens again and again

As a result, doing the same things, saying the same things, getting into the same situations, the same pattern is repeated over many years and usually gets worse. Examples:

(NOTE:  If you are doing something functional like standing up for your rights or setting good boundaries those are not self-defeating behaviours. Keep on doing them even if people threaten you with the loss of their ‘friendship’. They are not true friends.)

Repeated patterns can be totally unique for each of us who suffer from RSDP so this is by no means a complete list.

3. A seriously similar and unsatisfactory outcome each time

With RSDP when the same pattern is repeated the negative result gets repeated too. Whatever the pattern, each time it ends in loss, pain, grief, shame, guilt, extreme fear, sadness or a sense of defeat or all of the above. The similarity in negative results from different self-defeating events tells you this is a “repeated pattern” not just an unusual run of bad luck.  

4. Obvious risks or dangers seem to be Invisible or Blocked

The chances of a negative outcome that are obvious to other people are invisible to the RSDP victim. However afterwards when they are back facing the reality of another failure they may ask themselves “Why didn’t I stop it?”; “ Why did I sign that form?”; ”Why did I reject the offer of help’?"; “Why couldn’t I see that coming?”; “How could I not have noticed he was like that before I married him?”  

No matter how obvious the chances of those unsatisfactory outcomes may appear to others, the RSDP victim at first seems unable to recognise the dangers in advance. But as I explain below, this is actually the point at which they can start to release themselves from the pattern.  See the link to “What you can do about it” at the foot of this page.

5. Magical solutions that end up making things worse

Once trapped in an RSDP trance the victim often loses their sense of reality and begins fantasising about ‘magical’ or ‘super-powerful’ ways to get themselves back to a happy life. This is a part of the ‘self-induced trance’ referred to above.  Examples:

Belief in these magical solutions are then reinforced by back to front thinking.

6. Back to front thinking and Denial of Reality

In a self induced RSDP trance, black often seems white and South looks like North.  Even though they are heading in the wrong direction the RSDP victim is focused on the illusion of success. The person will often describe an imagined benefit, a ‘payoff’ as a very attractive outcome. Other people, friends or partners can see that the real result is either unlikely to happen or will result in more pain, a bigger loss or a new but worse problem. The RSDP victim will reject this. Example.

Freda’s credit card is almost always running at the maximum. But Freda desperately wants to get herself the latest model laptop. She explains to her friends that she has persuaded her bank to increase her credit card limit to $7000 because the new computer is a “good investment” and she will save the cost of upgrading and repairing her old computer. It could take Freda quite a while at 17% interest to clear the extra $2000 off her already overloaded credit card, if she manages to clear it at all. Her friends know she bought her ‘old’ computer just a year ago and that it doesn’t need repairing.

Her best friend Kerry suggests taking out a tax deductible business loan at a lower interest rate.  Oh No! explains Freda. That way I might not pay it off as quickly. The higher the interest the faster I will repay it.

Kerry also knows that Freda has over $7000 invested in shares, a legacy left to her by an Aunt. The shares are currently yielding an average of less than 5% pa. Kerry suggests to Freda that she sell her 5% pa shares and pay off her 17% pa credit card. Oh No! Explains Freda I could never do that. That’s my emergency fund.

7. Amplified feelings or over dramatic reaction to failure

When the RSDP ends in failure this is marked by highly emotional reactions or responses, including blaming other people, playing the tragic or crucified victim-martyr role (specially when there is an audience), heavy drinking or attempted suicide are examples.  Where you might ordinarily expect a milder sense of anger, pain, grief, shame, guilt, fear, loss or sadness you get an unusually strong reaction. The emotion is is being amplified by the RSDP.

8. Feeling  ‘helpless’; ‘hopeless’; ‘not good enough’; ‘disempowered’; ‘stuck’; ‘frozen’; then flipping into anger

Similar feelings include a temporary sense of panic, feeling blocked, trapped or paralysed. However after a while these feelings are replaced by a highly energised counter reaction with such as anger. Many  RSDP patterns involve flipping between two very opposite energy states such as feeling disempowered one minute and and over revving the inner engine the next minute.  

9. Flipping between two extremely opposite responses

In this kind of repetitive pattern two strongly polarised (opposite view) inner selves fight over the “best” way to deal with a problem. The greater the polarity the more energy that each inner self will put into trying to take charge. When the apparently weaker one suddenly takes over from the apparently stronger one it is called a ‘flip’.  

Flipping is almost always accompanied by a great deal of emotional energy and most times the result is self-defeating. Often the flip is only temporary and when the original inner self regains control by a reverse flip there is another high energy release and more self-defeating behaviour. At that point the inner critic will inevitably get in on the act.  See link to polarised selves and polarised thinking and flipping at the foot of this page.

10. Repeatedly experiencing seriously negative energy from different people under different circumstances - the darker side or RSDP

There is a far more serious form of RSDP  where the kinds of problems I have been talking about (above) start to look relatively mild in comparison. It’s hard to accept that we could be setting up other people to undertake cruel, vicious, illegal or criminal attacks on us.

Yet, if this same kind of negative energy keeps recurring again and again over a long period perhaps it is time to acknowledge that something we are doing must in some way be helping to recreate this. It cannot be just bad luck, or just external forces. There has to be something inside us as well that encourages or invites people to treat us this way.  

A few examples:

This is such a serious issue that I feel it is wiser talk about it on a separate page The Darker side of RSDP.

The cause behind repetitive Patterns - It is really a kind of Self Induced Trance state or even an Addiction?

You may wonder why someone keeps repeating the same pattern. One of the that most helpful ways to understand an RSDP pattern is to recognise that the person has actually put themselves into a kind of self induced trance. The source of this repetitive trance state can usually be traced back to something very difficult that they couldn't deal with which happened regularly in the person's childhood. The pattern is automatic neither conscious nor self-aware.  

By the way repeating ordinary self-induced patterns are normal. Everybody has them, everybody gets themselves in and out of them several times every day. So don’t worry about the “repeated pattern” bit. Most of your repeated patterns work really well for you because you know you are doing them. (A sales representative gets into ‘selling pattern’, a counsellor goes into ‘counselling pattern, a student shifts to a “study hard” pattern at the end of the semester, all these are regular self induced patterns)  But an RSDP pattern is different. That’s the problem.

While they remain in their RSD Pattern the person has real difficulty seeing clearly the problems in what they're actually doing and so remain stuck in the pattern. It is no use pointing this out to them in a logical way at the time because (as well as stopping them seeing what is happening) their self-induced trance will also stop them hearing you.

This can help you understand that this apparent ‘choice’ of what they keep doing that is so self-defeating or self-limiting is not really a choice at all. Your understanding won’t help the RSDP victim while they are still in one of their trances, but when they come out of it this insight will be of enormous help.

How do you know when they have come out of their trance?  Easy. When they ask you questions like “Why on Earth did I do that?”

That’s a good time to refer them to “What you can do about it” at the foot of this page.

In the worst cases however, a person can be aware of their own RSDP pattern (usually only when they are not in it) and want to stop it but feel powerless to make the change. That’s an indication that the RSDP self-induced trance has reached the addictive stage. They have bonded with the pattern. As I explain in “What you can do about it” even this can be reversed but it takes more time and effort.

What can you do for a start ?

The person is unaware that they are in a self-induced trance. When they are in the trance they can’t see it.

But when they can see the trance they are not stuck in it

When they can see and name the trance it’s not in them

That is the first step. It’s a matter of growing their self awareness. Click on the link “What you can do about it” at the foot of this page to find out how to get to this stage.

Some very different causes can trigger Repeated Self Defeating Patterns


It may require some professional guidance using self-awareness processes like voice dialogue to discover which one is the most likely cause of RSDP in each case. People won’t get it by trying to think it through logically or analytically because neither the cause nor the reaction is logical. People can’t think logically while they are in a trance anyway!

If you feel that I can help identify the cause you can talk to me on the phone and I will try to help. I can also offer assistance for people who want to get themselves off their RSDP roller coaster.

See link at the foot of this page on how to Contact John Bligh Nutting

A. Controlling influence setting up the RSDP is a Negative core belief

This is such a common source of RSDP reactions that I have a separate website just to deal with this source alone. See link at the foot of this page to

Most of the typical RSDP are described as "F" reactions including fight and flight, but also many others particularly fold and freeze. See link at the foot of this page to “F” Reaction patterns

B. The RSDP is a hot-wired reaction to a "disowned" inner self in another person.

Whatever we have disowned from our own personality we will find ourselves either strongly attracted or more often strongly repelled by that same characteristic in someone else. Often the first sign is a heightened energy level around that person or something they are doing or saying. The stronger your over-reaction the greater the chance that it will be self-defeating for you.  

See links to the following pages. Disowning Explained and Primary and Disowned Selves and the Law of Energetic Balance at the foot of this page.


C. Getting enmeshed in a repetitive negative bonding pattern.

One of the things you notice about people with RSDP problems is that their partner often has a complimentary RSDP. Each pattern helps keep them (and their partner) both more firmly stuck in their repetitive patterns.  These dual RSDP bonds are called Negative Bonding patterns.

These patterns are so powerful and so complex (and so destructive and so repetitive) that I have devoted several pages to them on a number of my websites. Two people can get stuck over and over again in the same negative bonding pattern and appear be unable to get out of it. It’s like being bogged in quicksand. The more you struggle the deeper into the bog you get.

Keep in mind that if you and someone else are in a negative bonding pattern you are both deep in a special kind of self-induced trance. What each person is doing in their own self induced trance state is highly destructive to the other person and to the relationship. For more information see the links at the foot of this page to Negative bonding patterns

See also

D. An Inner Child is fearful of change, danger, loss or being blamed for doing something wrong

Some inner children scare more easily than others but all inner children can be traumatised by fear or extreme emotional pain whether this is connected to current events or past memories. The reaction will be to go into some kind of RSDP pattern but this may vary from very violent to frozen. A frozen reaction is still RSDP in fact it may use more energy than a obvious reaction. For more information see links at the foot of this page to Cannons, Crucifixes or Concrete.

Note: Inner children who are feeling fear are very poor shots. That may explain why they so often end up shooting themselves in the foot.


E. Controlling influence setting up the RSDP is an Inner Patriarch (in women) or an Inner Matriarch (in men)

These two are the hidden forces that drive up to 50% of RSDP patterns particularly those that involve regular destructive fighting between partners. This is such a big problem that I have made a separate website to help you deal with these two toxic inner characters and their endless bouts of destructive fighting. For full information and explanations about the Inner Matriarch and Patriarch see the  link at the foot of this page to I have added some additional notes on these characters at the foot of this page.

These two inner selves can be extremely powerful and play a major role setting up self-induced trances and RSDP. In particular they hold almost the opposite view to the usual protector selves about the inner child and un-parented vulnerability. Part of their nature is to encourage back to front thinking.

The Inner Patriarch at work

As Dr Sidra Stone explains in her book “The Shadow King”, an Inner Patriarch when it is active in a woman will tell her things like "It's a man's world really." or "Nobody will ever love you if fight too hard for what you want in life."  

A dialogue with the typical Inner Patriarch will reveal little or no concern at all for a her well-being as a woman or the vulnerability felt by her female inner child.

The  RSDP reaction to this as projected by that woman is often coming from the inner child herself, who recognises that the inner patriarch is out to do her harm. Unfortunately in most cases the woman is not aware of this and blames the nearest male for the way she is feeling.  She may also exhibit amplified fear of males in general even when this is not necessary .

Her way of blaming is usually coming from her inner matriarch, rather than from her aware grown-up side. When this happens the inner matriarch inside the male will feed on this and take the opportunity to criticise the male within whom she (his Inner Matriarch) lives and often punish the male’s unfortunate inner child within him as well.

F. The emotional age factor

Behind all these issues is a factor which affects every one of us myself included. All of our patterns, good and bad are related to our emotional age. Our emotional age has nothing to do with our calendar age. An individual aged 80 can have an emotional age of 14 years. Think about some of the people you know. Watching their behaviour what do you think their emotional age might be?

Emotional age is just a reflection of how much a person’s inner child is still in control of their life compared with how much their grown up self-aware side is ‘driving the bus’.

I will write more about this on other pages but the more a person is stuck in an RSDP pattern the more likely that rather than operating from their self aware grown-up state they are perhaps working at an emotional age of 12 years or less. Their inner child is still in charge, still dealing with many of their life issues. Their primary inner selves who help deal with these issues on a day to day basis may also be of a similar emotional age.

G. Addictive cycles

RSDP certainly has many characteristics that are similar to addictive behaviour. And all addictive behaviour is repetitive and self-defeating. The connection is obvious. Effective ways of reducing RSDP are similar to the most effective ways of treating an addiction. See the link to “What you can do about it” at the foot of this page.

H. Replaying old childhood ‘tapes or DVDs’

Some repeated behaviour patterns include a sense of familiarity, a kind of replay of an old negative childhood experience. It almost seems as though the unpleasant experience is on a DVD ready to be replayed  again and again. The locality or setting may not be familiar but the words and actions and emotions can all echo the original event and trigger memories of the original negative outcome that went with it.

I. The influence of a “carried” emotion or a “carried” self.

Whenever you carry an emotion such as guilt, fear or shame when an emotion really belongs to someone else such as a parent it is a heavy load. One of the best ways of identifying a carried emotion is the amplified level of reaction. Often when you are triggered into a feeling the reaction is 5 to 10 times more than you’d expect.  So if you are feeling a bit of shame it gets added to your carried shame and you have what’s called a shame attack, If you feel mild fear it gets added to your carried fear and you have a panic attack. Carried  anger turns mild annoyance into a rage attack. Whatever it is you will find yourself unable to stop repeating the process over and over and the result will be self defeating each time. The link at the foot of this page will take you to a page where you can read more about carried selves.

J. Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD)  and other trauma related past events (PTSD)

Many PTSD reactions are seriously self-defeating. However the causes in these cases are so different that I would prefer not to link PTSD too closely with what I am saying here about RSDP.

Post-traumatic stress (PTSD) induced reactions are often referred to as "flashbacks". They are in some ways similar to but much more serious than replaying old childhood tales or DVDs.  These flashbacks typically involve actual reliving of the trauma and very high emotional reactions.

A psychotherapy process called EMDR is particularly effective in reducing the intensity of this kind of RSDP reaction. (Suggestion ...  Google “EMDR”)

See also NOTES on Developmental Trauma Disorder ( DTD)


As I  mentioned above,  your partner may also have his or her own repetitive patterns of self-destructive behaviour as well. And sometimes these interlock with yours!

See  What you can do about RSDP now

See The darker side of RSDP

RSDP Stories and Case Studies

For help with RSDP Contact John Bligh Nutting


See  polarised selves and polarised thinking and flipping .

See  Disowning Explained and Primary and Disowned Selves and the Law of Energetic Balance

See  “F” Reaction patterns

See  Cannons, Crucifixes or Concrete

For more information on Negative Bonding patterns see  Negative bonding patterns  


For more information on Negative Core Beliefs see

For more information on the Inner Matriarch and Inner Patriarch see the  Inner Patriarch and Inner Matriarch website (  

For more information on carried emotions  see  Carried selves  on this site and then perhaps the  Inner Patriarch and Inner Matriarch website (  

Regularly Repeated Patterns of Self Defeating (RSDP) or Self-sabotaging behaviour

What sets them up and what keeps them going

There are a number of signs that point to a Repeated Self Defeating behaviour Pattern (RSDP) whether it is within you or in somebody you know

All addictive behaviour is repetitive and self-defeating.

Repeated Self Defeating behaviour Patterns have many characteristics that are similar to addictive behaviour. The link seems too clear to ignore.

Effective ways of reducing RSDP are similar to the most effective ways of treating addictive behaviour.

Signs that point to a Repeated Self Defeating behaviour Pattern (RSDP) or self sabotage

1. The normal ‘learn by your mistakes’ mechanism has been replaced by an automatic ‘repeat the same mistake’ system

This is the first and perhaps the most obvious sign. Usually, people expect a successful outcome (some benefit or advantage) when they decide to say or do something. Most of our inner selves who developed when we were children have a couple of basic characteristics

* they specialise in just one particular way of fixing things (because from a child’s point of view they appear to work for us better than anything else)

* they repeat that same specific pattern of behaviour again and again (because from a child’s point of view it keeps on working)

I explain this in detail on other pages so I won’t go into here except to say that if a behaviour pattern works it’s sensible to repeat it. That’s pretty  normal.

With RSDP one or more inner selves seem to be stuck doing the repetition even though it isn’t working.  The result each time is seriously negative or unsatisfactory.