The 10 Types of Saboteurs: Exploring How They Impact You

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Positive Intelligence" by Shirzad Chamine. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the ten types of Saboteurs? How do they sabotage your fulfillment and happiness in life?

In Positive Intelligence, Shirzad Chamine explores the concept of Saboteurs and their detrimental impact on our well-being. Chamine examines ten distinct types of Saboteurs to show readers how these antagonizing thoughts hinder personal growth and happiness.

Read on to learn about each of the ten types of Saboteurs, according to Chamine.

What Are the 10 Types of Saboteurs?

Do you ever feel like your brain is out to get you? Or do you find yourself unable to connect with others for reasons you can’t understand? You might find that increasing your positive intelligence helps with these difficulties. In Positive Intelligence, best-selling author and lecturer Shirzad Chamine describes the ten types of Saboteurs and how you can train your brain to overcome them. He explains that Saboteurs represent the antagonizing thoughts that are sabotaging your happiness and success. By learning to combat them, you can improve every aspect of your life.

Below, we’ll describe each type of Saboteur, according to Chamine’s book Positive Intelligence.

Critical Saboteurs

The first types of Saboteurs are characterized by a tendency to be overly critical and demand that we and others live up to their expectations. Let’s take a look at each in more detail.

#1. The Hyper-Achiever is driven to impress others with personal achievements in order to feel good about themselves. They’re more concerned with how others view them than with staying true to themselves, and they alter their behavior and identity based on what they believe others would value rather than what they themselves value. They can be competitive and often prioritize work over other areas of their lives. They often view their emotions as distractions from their work and, as a result, they neglect their emotions and have trouble opening up to others. Because they seem so outwardly successful, others often feel like they need to imitate their fixation on achievement in order to better themselves. 

#2. The Controller feels the need to control their circumstances and other people. They compete with or challenge others in order to connect with them and have trouble understanding why people respond poorly to this approach. They feel impatient and anxious when they can’t be in control of a situation and believe that others want them to be in control as well. They feel others won’t accomplish as much if left to their own devices, struggle with being told what to do, and push people past their limits. Others feel resentful and smothered by the Controller. 

#3. The Stickler is a perfectionist. They hold themselves to high standards of organization, work ethic, and doing things the “right” way. They’re highly critical of others who don’t meet these standards, but they’re also extremely sensitive to criticism from others. They have no tolerance for mistakes and are inflexible in their thinking and in their work. Others are likely to resent them because they seem self-righteous and impossible to please. 

Distractive Saboteurs

These next types of Saboteurs are particularly likely to try to distract you from your problems and negative emotions, making you seem distant and detached from others.

#4. The Restless Saboteur is pleasure-seeking and can’t be satisfied with what they currently have. They tend to multitask and have many projects going at once, but they’re easily distracted from these and need constant novelty in their lives. They have trouble contemplating their feelings and fear negative emotions and missing out. They use their pleasure-seeking to avoid living in the present and dealing with their feelings or problems. Other people can have trouble connecting with them because of their avoidance of these, and it can be difficult to keep up with their changing needs and interests. 

#5. The Avoider places a disproportionate focus on positivity in order to avoid negativity. They’re conflict avoidant and struggle to say no and maintain healthy boundaries. They choose to let problems fester rather than confront them, especially if confronting them may upset someone else. They work hard to create a peaceful balance in their life and are anxious about losing it. They suppress their negative emotions for the sake of keeping the peace. This can keep them from forming deep bonds with others, and others often feel they can’t trust the Avoider to be honest about their feelings. 

#6. The Hyper-Rational Saboteur relies on a purely objective and rational approach to every aspect of life. They view emotions as hindrances to productivity and objectivity, and they tend to be skeptical and argumentative. They’re often brilliant but arrogant, and they attach their value as a person to their intellect and objectivity. They’re frustrated by and disdainful of others’ emotions, and they often feel lonely and like no one can understand them. Their analytical approach to interpersonal relationships can cause them to have shallow relationships and intimidate others. 

Fearful Saboteurs

Some types of Saboteurs operate from a sense of fear of negativity and stress, which tends to sap their energy and causes them to fixate on their struggles and worries.

#7. The Pleaser tries to gain the approval of others by helping or flattering them, and they put the needs of others ahead of their own needs. They’re typically not able to express their own needs clearly and try to meet them by expecting others to reciprocate their help—which then leads to feelings of resentment when they don’t receive such help. They fear being selfish or making others dislike them. Their fixation on helping others can cause them to burn out, and it can make others dependent on them. 

#8. The Hyper-Vigilant Saboteur feels constantly anxious about all the things that could go wrong and often overreacts when things do. They expect others to mess up, and they fear backlash when they themselves mess up. They often rely on rules and authority for a sense of security. Their constant vigilance can be exhausting for themselves and others, and the energy they could devote to achieving what they want in life is used up by their anxiety. 

#9. The Victim uses emotion and a sense of martyrdom to get attention from others. They respond to stress by sinking into negative emotions like depression and apathy. They feel misunderstood, burdened by misfortune, and dependent on their personal problems. While they crave connection, their emotional unpredictability and tendency to isolate push others away. Others feel guilty that they can’t seem to help the Victim. 

The Judge Saboteur

Coming in at number ten, The Judge is the most dominant type of all the Saboteurs. The Judge passes judgment on you, on others, and on your circumstances, finding faults in all of them—while also making you think you’re just being rational and trying to fix your or others’ flaws.

(Shortform note: Chamine identifies the Judge as the most dominant type of Saboteur for everyone, but he bases his claim on observations he’s made while coaching individuals and teams in a business context. Since this is a population with a common trait—a desire to perform better at work—it’s possible that these individuals are dominated by the Judge Saboteur but that other people are guided more by other Saboteurs.)

Self-judgment: The Judge tells you that you’re not good enough as you are, that your level of achievement determines if you’re worthy of love, and that if you allow yourself to be satisfied with who you are, you’ll stop improving and never be good enough. It tells you that you have to suffer to make yourself better and that happiness is just laziness.

Judgment of others: The Judge sets similarly unreachable standards for other people in your life. It causes you to fixate on the Saboteurs it sees in other people. When the other person picks up that you’re judging them, their Saboteur reacts poorly, which reinforces your Judge’s assessment of them and creates a harmful cycle. 

Judgment of your circumstances: The Judge also tells you that “You can only be happy when” some future event happens. In this way, it places a condition on your happiness—however, your happiness shouldn’t have a timetable and shouldn’t need to be dependent on your future circumstances. This Judge also moves the goalposts every time you get close to the thing that’s supposed to make you happy.

Exercise: Identify and Combat Your Saboteur

Chamine explains how different types of Saboteurs influence your thinking and negatively affect your happiness and success. Identify one Saboteur that you see in your own thinking and create a plan for overcoming it.

  1. First, consider the different types of Saboteurs and decide which one you see most often in your own thinking. If you feel you’re overly critical, you may be susceptible to the Controller or the Stickler. If you find yourself frequently distracted, you may be listening to the Avoider or the Restless Saboteur.
  2. Next, explore the way this Saboteur impacts your thinking. In what ways does it limit you? Think of one decision you’ve made or thought you’ve had recently that was a result of your Saboteur’s influence, and then think about what you would have done differently if your Sage had been in control.
  3. Finally, establish a plan for how to counteract that Saboteur the next time it tries to influence you. What do you think triggered that Saboteur? How can you employ your Sage’s powers to overcome its influence?
The 10 Types of Saboteurs: Exploring How They Impact You

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  • The ten ways your brain sabotages your happiness and success
  • How to train your brain to overcome its sabotaging behaviors
  • How to increase your level of positive intelligence with attentional exercises

Emily Kitazawa

Emily found her love of reading and writing at a young age, learning to enjoy these activities thanks to being taught them by her mom—Goodnight Moon will forever be a favorite. As a young adult, Emily graduated with her English degree, specializing in Creative Writing and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), from the University of Central Florida. She later earned her master’s degree in Higher Education from Pennsylvania State University. Emily loves reading fiction, especially modern Japanese, historical, crime, and philosophical fiction. Her personal writing is inspired by observations of people and nature.

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