Self destructive behaviors are those that consistently end up causing suffering within the human condition. The drama queen, the rebel without a cause, the screeching diva, or the self absorbed, the drunk, drug, or gambling addicted, and/or the raging jerk comes to mind.
All of us have known people who cannot seem to gain enough self esteem, or feel accepted enough by others, so that they cannot learn the benefits of constructive behaviors. They typically have learned, sadly, that they only get attention by having a life that is a Hot Mess. What they interpret to be concern from others only comes to them if they live in constant chaos. The most tragic aspect about these kinds of behaviors is that eventually all support relationships achieve burn out, and others begin, often unconsciously, to avoid that person.
When the self destructive person senses rejection and this too is sometimes unconscious, they act out even more. Cheaters push the envelope of flirtations, addicts test how much they can tolerate and how much YOU can. It is a syndrome within which “crying wolf” is the only thing that ever won them love before, and it is the only tool they have. Their tool for human connection rapidly becomes worse than useless, and people are driven away.
All of us have “bad days.” All of us have lives wherein suffering happens. Yet, the emotionally healthy person has an over all sense of appreciation. They have a sense of resilience and self power and control, and a fall back support family when they need one. A self destructive person has what is best termed to be a background resentment of how unfair the Universe is to his or her plight. Addictions, messy relationships, acting out of all kinds, deteriorating health, criminals, and just plain cranky campers, are the result when people fear losing human connection.
This is not the only reason for self destructive behavior. Another aspect of it is that we live in a world which discourages honest and natural relationships. We are programmed to always feel inadequate by most media, and advertising. Sadly, our world largely operates on a non-natural system of building people up and knocking them down again.
We also are cut off, whether by choice, by industrialization, or by some of this inadequacy programming we live with, from the natural world. There is a sort of low level unhappiness we all are vaguely aware of when we realize we live amongst concrete and steel. We breath, wear, and eat out-gassing chemicals, live in polluted cities, eat unhealthy food, and we hear roaring engines, motors, shrill electronics daily. We seldom stroll through open meadows with butterflies everywhere. We even begin to think that such an ideal is new age, hippy dippy nonsense. You would love to spend the day by the lake, but you also don’t want to be a fanatical tree hugger. And who has time?
We are in a sense, collectively self destructive, and as is the case with the first person mentioned in the opening, we feel no other choice but to continue to live in cars and cubicles, consume and spew out contaminants, and we therefore have created an unnaturally self destructive civilization.
Is there a cure for self destructive behaviors? It depends upon the severity of the situation. With people who are homeless heroin addicts, more intervention is needed, than with a shy middle school child who just needs to recognize self worth. People who do things such as self mutilation and violence to others are in a different category than those of us who just have the background sense of non-belonging and inadequacy.
But, from an Ecopsychology stand-point there is much help for anyone, with any kind of self destructive personality. The answer is connection. Support from other humans will only come as the person realizes they have self worth, and are appreciated and part of the natural order of life. This is much easier said than done in a critically overpopulated and alienating world. But learning to pamper yourself with fresh air, clean water and natural environments teaches us that in Biology there is an ever reborn attraction toward life sustaining itself and you can tap into that sustenance.