the P word


Oh, Procrastination. So ubiquitous. So simple yet so, not simple. Yet another article to address it, this one from the New York Times:

I liked this one because it reminds me of one of my favorite interventions. To back up: the best known, state-of-the-art treatment for most psychological symptoms is CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which was popularized in the 80s and 90s in response to the stream of consciousness, tell me about your mother, lay on a couch method that just hadn’t helped that many people.  It is so great because, as it turns out, there are things you can DO to change, rather than just wait for you or your therapist to have some revelation about your mother.  One great thing you can do is realize your cognitive distortions or dysfunctional thought patterns that set you up for failure, depression, self-loathing, all that fun stuff your brain automatically manufactures.  You can look up lists of cognitive distortions and get to work on how to replace them with more accurate and effective thoughts.  

One of the lesser known but important cognitive distortions is Emotional Reasoning, or assuming negative emotions reflect the way things really are.  For example, “I feel guilty. I must be a terrible person.” Or “I feel angry. This proves I am being treated unfairly.”  One of the best examples of Emotional Reasoning relates to procrastination and avoidance.  Such as, I feel overwhelmed by how much I have to do, so I guess I can’t do it.  I don’t feel like doing my work, so I will wait until I feel like doing it later.  I don’t feel like I can focus now, therefore I can’t focus now.  

One of the qualities of successful, satisfied people is doing what needs to be done and what you have deemed important to your overall life and goals, even when it’s not what you feel like doing.  And, as your mother has told you so many times before, the things you feel like doing feel especially great when you have gotten the other things out of the way.  See, moms don’t just cause our mental distress, they solve it! (Now if we would just listen to them).  

Two other very relevant, moderately psycho-babble terms that relate to procrastination are frustration toleranceand delay of gratification.  It’s what we aim to teach kids but can be the hardest things to actually teach our kids. We want to give them what they want, and we hate to see them suffer.  They hate it too, but some of it is good for them.  And some kids have a harder time with delaying gratification and tolerating frustration no matter what we set up for them.  It has to do with their nervous systems, temperaments, and subjective levels of distress they truly feel when frustrated, when confronted with negative emotions, and when tempted by impulses.  

So, procrastination is real. It’s probably why I found that article and am writing about it rather than attending to the other less desirable things on my list.  But I can rationalize it, since I feel like I am helping you and doing something good for the world, and that, obviously, makes me a good person!