Over the last several weeks, I’ve introduced you to a powerful framework called Positive Intelligence™. It can help you overcome self-sabotage, develop the Mental Fitness you need to exercise more choice over you life and feel more in control, and strengthen your Sage and Self-Command muscles to overcome your Saboteur Interceptor muscle. (Plus, I’m convinced Positive Intelligence could be the answer to a major flaw in coaching.) 

Today, I want to take a deep-dive into the nuances of the Saboteur. As it turns out, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all Saboteur for all of us. There are, in fact, 10 different Saboteurs that show up in each of our lives in different ways and to differing degrees, depending on how we’re uniquely wired. 

Understanding the details of the Saboteur(s) at work in your own inner life will help you recognize their power, develop Sage power defenses against them, and overcome self-sabotage.

The 10 Saboteurs


The Judge is self-critical and often finds fault with both their circumstances and those around them. Much of our shame, anger, self-loathing, guilt, and anxiety can be traced back to the Judge. When we feel unworthy, paranoid, disappointed, unlovable, or incompetent, we can be sure that that’s the Judge doing the talking. Perhaps worst of all is that the Judge would love nothing more than to convince us that we need negative judgment — and that we’d somehow be lazy, unaccomplished loafers without it.


The Victim is prone to drama and has a very bad temper. It has a tendency to withdraw and isolate, insisting, “nobody understands me” and “I AM my feelings.” The Victim makes you ruminate and obsess over negative feelings and loves to see you feeling low. If you’re feeling depressed, unworthy, angry, or abandoned, the Victim is the culprit. What’s worse, the Victim wins when it convinces you that being volatile and self-loathing is the only way you can be lovable.


The Hyper-Vigilant would love nothing more than to trust others, but suspicions and cynicism get in the way. It’s perpetually in fight-or-flight mode and is exceedingly sensitive to danger signals. The Hyper-Vigilant finds comfort and security in procedures, institutions, rules, and authority. As far as the Hyper-Vigilant is concerned, it’s a hard-knock life, and the world is out to get us, so we have to stay vigilant.


The Pleaser is — you guessed it — a people-pleaser with an acute need to be liked and reassured. It can be a bit of a walking contradiction: it feels selfish expressing its own feelings, yet it can’t stand when others don’t recognize what the Pleaser has done for them. Resentment is a common trait of the Pleaser, as is self-sabotage (it often jeopardizes its own needs).


The Hyper-Achiever has an undeniable competitive streak. Image and status are paramount. The Hyper-Achiever wants to be the best at everything, so if that’s not possible, it won’t even bother making an attempt. The Hyper-Achiever is a performer — and adept at getting things done effectively and efficiently without emotion. Its sense of self is inextricably tied up with success, fear, intimacy, and vulnerability.


The Hyper-Rational has a mind that can move a million miles an hour. It’s intellectual and expresses its feelings through ideas. It’s arrogant, skeptical, and cynical. It has a tendency to daydream or “zone out.” According to the Hyper-Rational, most others are messy, irrational, less-than thinkers. Less-analytical types are an easy target for the Hyper-Rational’s intimidation and intellectual arrogance. 


The Stickler is perfectionistic and punctual. It is highly sensitive to criticism but has no problem at all doling it out to others. The Stickler can be intense and opinionated — right is right, and wrong is wrong. It’s irritable, sarcastic, and unforgiving when it comes to mistakes. The Stickler possesses a strong impulse to take control, fix messes, and fix them in the correct way.


The Controller needs to run the show. It is competitive and intimidating and has no problem being confrontational. Some would call it downright pushy. Yet, it still finds it surprising when others are wounded by its words or actions. If the Controller can’t be in control, it feels unmoored and extremely anxious. Things must go their way. To the Controller, nothing sounds more awful than being controlled by something or someone else.


The Avoider has a tendency to be compliant; it has a hard time saying “no,” even when they want to. It avoids conflict at all costs since conflict might risk broken relationships and separation from others. To the Avoider, conflict avoidance is a means to peacemaking; it’s “being flexible.” The Avoider procrastinates, thinking “If I let it go, it’ll take care of itself.” It loses itself in habit and routines, and it prefers never to rock the boat.


The Restless seeks excitement and constant stimulation, so it likes to stay busy. It prefers to escape unpleasant feelings as quickly as possible and is easily distracted. It’s scattered, impatient, and restless with an acute sense of FOMO (fear of missing out). The Restless avoids authentic, lasting relationships and often churns up anxiety in others.

Do you see yourself in one or more of these Saboteurs? Good news: you can develop your Sage muscle and tap into what are known as the 5 Sage Powers to help manage and overcome your Saboteurs (more on the Sage Powers in my next post!).

I’m fortunate to be a trained Positive Intelligence workshop facilitator. And I’m thrilled by the opportunity to bring this important work to life in the lives of others. If you would like to explore Positive Intelligence further, let me know; I’d love to connect.


Positive Intelligence™ is trademarked by Shirzad Chamine

Photo by Taylor Deas-Melesh on Unsplash