Photo by CDC
It appears that viruses are a lot smarter than we might give them credit for. And they are remarkably singleminded: their whole lifecycle and survival strategy is focussed on making as many people ill as possible. A fascinating tactic they employ is one where they are able to manipulate the behaviour of their hosts in order to further their own interests. There is now evidence that people become measurably more social when they are first infected and most contagious and this significantly helps the virus achieve its goal of infecting as many people as possible.
They are cleverly good at taking advantage of the fact that humans are ecosystems, with millions of microorganisms, many of which live in our gut. We are vastly outnumbered by them - possibly as many as three times more than what we might consider to be our human selves. This vast collection of microbiota is largely made up of bacteria, fungi and even viruses that symbiotically help our bodies to function efficiently.
Viruses have a lot in common with our internal saboteur thoughts: they too are parasites and are acting in their own best interests and not ours. They often are so good at persuading us that they are our own thoughts that we assume they are. They are 100% focussed on winning now and have no interest in the long term, so they egg us on to do and say things that feel satisfying in the moment: lose our tempers, over eat, make a clever but barbed comment but they have no care, like all parasites, about the long term prospects of their hosts.
Saboteur thoughts come from the part of our brain that is less evolved (brainstem) that deals with self preservation and reacts at lighting speed to handle any perceived threats. It takes a short term view and is totally focussed on keeping us alive. Our saboteur thoughts are the strategies that we developed as small children that kept us safe when we were tiny and the world seemed very threatening even if we grew up in kind loving households. These childish rules of thumb - the ones that encourage us to say yes when we ought to say no or letting a desire for doing everything perfectly (or not at all) stops you getting anything done - are not fit for purpose in the adult lives we end up leading and they end up undermining us.
To break free of them, we need to recognised them as being good ideas who have outlived their sell by date who now reside in our minds and masquerade as our own thoughts which should be coming from our higher brain (neo cortex). Fortunately, like getting a vaccine, there is something you can do:
Want to know more about silencing your saboteurs? Take the saboteur assessment and then let's talk about how we can work together using the Positive Intelligence method to silence your saboteurs for good.
25 years experience in helping teams build user centred products and services, now helping digital colleagues learn how to bounce back better than before from the challenges life throws at us from time-to-time.