By Daniel J. Benor, MD
Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.
– Pablo Picasso
Who has never set aside unpleasant, tedious or distasteful tasks, hoping that the need to address them might disappear, or that someone else would step forward to do the job? I can certainly look back on many times when I was inclined in this direction myself, both in my personal life and in my work as physician, psychotherapist, author and journal editor. Having a slight touch of ADHD made it that much easier to find distractions of every sort to take higher priorities than that job I knew would have to be done – but in which I simply did not relish investing my time.
The most common approach for managing pain of procrastination is to grit our teeth, bite the bullet and get on with it. Often, the threat of consequences for a failure to complete the task is the strongest motivation to finally take it on. And aaahhhhhh, the relief of competing it, putting it behind us and forgetting about it is yet another motivation.
Echhart Tolle would recommend simply staying in the present moment, which is no different from any other moment, and letting the tedious task become a part of our constant meditation on the Now. I must admit I find this distinctly easier to do with pleasant tasks, but managing pain of unpleasant ones is certainly a more rigorous training in Tolle’s meditative Now state.
TWR: Whole Health – Easily and Effectively® invites us to explore any present-moment issue that is painful and to ask, “What is my unconscious mind wanting me to know about this present moment? If I must attend to this task, why am I putting up a fuss about it?”
Digging below the surface
In managing pain or discomforts of any kind, the first step is to ask the pain or other symptom what it is wanting to tell us about our lives. It is the same with procrastination.
Here are some random samples from various people in my practice who asked their procrastination this question:
Twelve year-old ‘Billie’ found that her procrastination was helping her avoid assignments for her English teacher, who only responded to Billie’s spelling, grammar and handwriting. She ignored Billie’s pain-full stories of difficult experiences with her family, which was stressed by her mother having cancer. Billie found this incredibly distressing, but had no one to discuss this with.
‘Dorothy’ was a single mom with two children in elementary school, struggling to make ends meet on her secretarial salary plus irregular child support payments from her ex-husband. Though lonely, she found herself procrastinating in taking steps towards dating, which she had discussed in therapy. Her procrastination told her it was too dangerous to trust another man, after her very bitter battles over custody during her divorce.
‘Peter’ was an accountant who was nearly always late arriving at work and often late in completing tasks in his job. His procrastination told him he had let himself down in pursuing his accounting career, when his heart had been set on being a law officer. He had reluctantly conformed to his parents’ urgings but had never relinquished his original wish.
Once we identify the reasons behind the procrastination, it is much more likely we will be successful in dealing with it using TWR. Although we deal with thoughts about the issues, it is still the feelings that are the most productive focus in dealing with the thoughts.
Often, there are also related earlier-life issues, meta-issues and limiting beliefs that are associated with the issues raised by dialoguing with the procrastination. For instance,
Billie’s procrastination was really inviting help for more than just the school assignments issue. Her inner child was crying out for help in dealing with her grief and fears around her mother’s illness.
Dorothy’s procrastination was also sitting on unresolved feelings she had buried in childhood when her own parents had separated because her father had had an extramarital affair. Clearing with TWR is frequently more powerful when the earlier issues can be bundled and cleared with the current issues.
Peter, too, had childhood issues sitting in the same file drawer with his current dissatisfactions with his work. His mother had been very domineering, and neither his father nor Peter had ever been able to stand up to her and assert their own beliefs and needs. His mother had been afraid of the dangers involved in police work and couldn’t hear Peter’s wishes because of her own anxieties.
Installing positives to replace negatives
Besides clearing the issues identified during the explorations of the primary symptom of procrastination, TWR enables people to install positive feelings and cognitions to replace the negatives that they release. This markedly strengthens the effects of the TWR.
Billie installed positives relating to feeling OK despite her teacher’s insensitivity; knowing it was OK to let her mother know how much she was worried about her (after a family therapy discussion about these issues); and that her father was also willing to talk with her about her feelings (in this case, fears about her mother dying).
Peter installed positives about his being able to assert himself; about being different from his father; and about forgiving his mother for the ways she handled her anxieties.
As with any other symptoms, procrastination becomes a doorway into new personal insights and growth.
Your feedback on this article is welcomed.
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