The Crab Story: What Everyone Needs to Know About Sabotage & Resistance

Posted on Posted in Personal Growth, Resistance
Be the crab who escapes the bucket.
Be the crab who escapes the bucket.

Do you know how crabs act in their bucket?

Years ago, my personal trainer Lynn told me the answer. At the time, I had been strength training consistently and was improving. She asked if any of my friends had noticed yet. I told her no. This brought on a conversation about how difficult it is for people around you to support you when they themselves are struggling to commit to action.

Crabs in a wide, open bucket will stay in their bucket. If one crab tries to climb out, the other crabs pull him back down. If he continues to try to climb out, the other crabs may pull off one of his legs to keep him in the bucket.

Why wouldn’t the other crabs watch how the crab gets out, so they know how to get out, too? So they know it can be done? Rather, they are more interested in keeping everyone in the bucket.



The crab story reflects human nature. Other people  – family, friends, co-workers – will try to drag someone that’s succeeding down to their level. This may be done consciously or unconsciously. In my opinion, if someone is not actively supporting you, they are sabotaging you. They are trying to keep you in the bucket. I call this bucket “Mediocrity.”



I am linking this topic of sabotage with a passage from “The War of Art,” by Steven Pressfield. Pressfield’s book is about Resistance, an invisible energy we can all feel when we attempt something great, a “destructive force inside human nature that rises whenever we consider a tough, long-term course of action that might do for us or others something that’s actually good.” (from Robert McKee’s Forward to the book)

Pressfield says this:

“Resistance by definition is self-sabotage. But there’s a parallel peril that must also be guarded against: sabotage by others.

When a writer begins to overcome her Resistance — in other words, when she actually starts to write — she may find that those close to her begin acting strange. They may become moody or sullen, they may get sick; they may accuse the awakening writer of “changing,” of “not being the person she was.” The closer these people are to the awakening writer, the more bizarrely they will act and the more emotion they will put behind their actions.

They are trying to sabotage her.

The reason is that they are struggling, consciously or unconsciously, against their own Resistance. The awakening writer’s success becomes a reproach to them. If she can beat these demons, why can’t they?

Often couples or close friends, even entire families, will enter into tacit compacts whereby each individual pledges (unconsciously) to remain mired in the same slough in which she and all her cronies have become so comfortable. The highest treason a crab can commit is to make a leap for the rim of the bucket.

The awakening artist must be ruthless, not only with herself but with others. Once you make your break, you can’t turn around for your buddy who catches his trouser leg on the barbed wire. The best thing you can do for that friend (and he’d tell you this himself, if he really is your friend) is to get over the wall and keep motating.

The best and only thing that one artist can do for another is to serve as an example and an inspiration.”

pg. 19, The War of Art


Are you the artist? Are you trying to accomplish something? Trying to adopt a permanent, healthy lifestyle? Trying to drink less on the weekend, and work out in the evenings? Trying to launch an entrepreneurial venture or pursue a calling?

Not only will you have to deal with your own self-generated and self-perpetuated resistance, but you will likely deal with others’ sabotage against you. Again, people need not be malicious to create sabotage. It can be as simple as them seeing an improvement and not acknowledging it. It can be a guilt trip “you never come out with us anymore.” It can be them making you a triple layer peanut butter chocolate birthday cake, when you told them you wanted something light.

My message is not exactly that you should de-friend those people, but that you should do the following:

  • Acknowledge what is important to you. What is your goal? What do you want to accomplish?
  • Ask yourself why it is important to you. Make a commitment to follow through.
  • Acknowledge that there will be resistance and sabotage. Be ready to recognize all forms of resistance and sabotage.

As you continue on your path, you will gain more support and meet more like-minded people who will help you to stay on your path.

Once you become the crab who escapes the bucket, remember to support the other crabs who are itching to get out. 

I hope this has made you think about how you allow others to affect you. Please leave a comment or send me a message if this resonated with you.