The Upper Limit Problem expresses itself by tripping the client up as he experiences success. When the client reaches his Upper Limit of how much pleasure he feels he is allowed to enjoy, he subconsciously sabotages himself and creates a problem in his life in order to prevent himself from breaking through his Upper Limit. For example, a client succeeds in closing a successful business deal that he had been working on and feels the pleasure of his success. That evening, instead of celebrating the success with his wife, he finds himself in a bitter argument with her. According to Hendricks, what happened was that at a certain point, he reached his Upper Limit of how much pleasure he allowed himself to feel, and at that point he subconsciously began an argument with his spouse in order to bring himself back down comfortably below his Upper Limit.
Self-sabotaging behaviors can manifest themselves in many ways when the client is trying to remain within his Upper Limit. These commonly include worrying, criticizing, blaming, deflecting compliments and positive energy, arguing, getting sick or hurt, hiding significant feelings, breaking agreements, and lying. All of these behaviors are forms of self-sabotage which the client subconsciously engages in to prevent himself from breaking free of his Upper Limit. (Hendricks, 2009, p.111)
Hendricks suggests several action steps in order to help the client break free of his Upper Limit problem and begin to live in the what he calls the “Zone of Genius.” This is when the client is at his peak level of enjoyment and fulfillment in his life and is not hindered by his Upper Limit and selfsabotaging behaviors. Hendricks suggests that the coach help the client identify which Upper Limiting behaviors he most commonly engages in. When the client notices himself engaging in the negative behavior, he should shift his attention to what the underlying issue is. He should make a point to realize that he has reached his Upper Limit and that is why he is sabotaging himself. At this point, the client should practice shifting his attention to the positive feelings that he was experiencing immediately prior to reaching his Upper Limit. Hendricks instructs the client to consciously allow the sensations of positivity, love, abundance, and success to fill his being. He should notice where in his body these feelings appear and how they manifest themselves. Paying close attention to these feelings allows the client to become more comfortable with them, and this increases his capacity for feeling goodness. Eventually, the client will find that he has broken free of his Upper Limit and no longer sabotages himself when things are going well. (p.112)
Hendricks’ theory is a useful method for the coach to assist the client in identifying how he is limiting himself. When the client understands that he sabotages himself because something good is happening in his life, he can practice accepting the abundance which he earned. He will understand that he may have created arguments, worry, and illness only in order to prevent himself from enjoying his successes. He can then begin to stretch his capacity for positivity in his life and begin to soar above the Upper Limit which held him back. (Hendricks, 2009)
Negative Thought Patterns
Often, clients engage in self-sabotaging behavior because of negative thought patterns and false beliefs about themselves. Hendricks outlines four fears and false beliefs which can become barriers to reaching success. Additionally, Brian Tracy, in his book, Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life, (2003) discusses several common misconceptions that clients may believe about themselves and how they can be overcome.
The four fears that Hendricks describes are misconceptions which the client developed in early childhood. These four items become barriers which, later in life, the client must surmount in order to allow himself to move past his Upper Limit and stop subconsciously sabotaging his success. The first barrier is the false belief that the client is inherently flawed or bad. When the client begins to enjoy success in his life, his subconscious tells him that he does not deserve the success because he is a flawed or bad person. He is then forced to sabotage his own success so he cannot reach his goal.
Related to this belief is the belief that the client’s best efforts may not be good enough, so it is therefore not worth it to try harder. The second fear which causes the client to sabotage himself and stay within his Upper Limit is the fear of “disloyalty and abandonment.” (Hendricks, 2009, p. 48) If the client’s success contradicts his family’s rules or values, he will feel guilty when trying to move beyond his Upper Limit and will subconsciously follow breakthroughs with self-sabotage. The third barrier to success is the fear that the client is a burden to his family and to society. This false belief can trigger the client to sabotage himself in order to prevent himself from succeeding and then feeling like a greater burden. The final barrier that Hendricks identifies is the fear of outshining a sibling or someone else from the client’s past. The client falsely believes that he may not achieve more than someone else because he will be responsible for someone else feeling badly. When facing these four fears, the client may achieve his goals but will sabotage himself and not allow himself to enjoy his successes. The solution to surmounting these negative thought patterns is to practice feeling positivity, as outlined above. (Hendricks, 2009) Tracy discusses several of the most commonly held negative beliefs which cause the client to sabotage himself. The first is the feeling of inadequacy and worthlessness. The client may believe that others are better than him, simply because others appear to be doing better than him. (Tracy, 2003, p.12) Another self-limiting belief is the belief that the client does not deserve to be successful. When he achieves success, he may feel like an imposter and engage in self-sabotaging behaviors in order to escape the feelings of guilt. (Tracy, 2003, p.14)
Tracy explains that positive thinking can help the client overcome his self-sabotaging behaviors. He claims that, according to the Law of Substitution, the mind can only hold one thought at a time. (Tracy, 2003 p.19) The coach can help the client identify his negative, self-limiting thought and then substitute in a positive, self-affirming thought. Tracy suggests that the client practice talking to himself positively and refuse to say anything about himself that he does not desire to be true. (Tracy, 2003, p.13)
By replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts, the client can begin to believe in himself more and believe that he can enjoy the successes he has earned. This stronger self-belief gives the client the opportunity to reach higher and achieve more. The more successful the client is, the less he will feel the need to sabotage himself. (Tracy, 2003)
Self-sabotage is one of the most difficult behaviors to understand. In many cases, the client himself does not understand why he is holding himself back from reaching his goals. It is imperative that the coach understand why self-sabotage occurs so that he can help the client understand his subconscious behaviors and begin to change them. Understanding the theories of the Resistance Syndrome, the Upper Limit Problem, and negative thought patterns is fundamental to the coach’s ability to help the client succeed.