Healing Procrastination

man sits in library hand in forehead thinking looking at laptop
by Dr. Margaret Paul

Are you a procrastinator? Are you ready to get unstuck?

Oscar was stuck in his life; the following issue he presented in our session was one example of how he was stuck:

“My parents are coming to visit tomorrow and, as has been my pattern, my house is a dirty mess. I usually spend the day before they arrive frantically cleaning, which I will do today, but this time I’d like to do it differently and not beat myself up and judge myself. How to get the tasks done with peace, joy, and compassion? It’s a challenge because I feel pressured and get angry with myself for letting things go.”

“Oscar, there must be a good reason that you keep your house a mess and then feel frantic when you need to clean it up. How old were you when you first started resisting things like cleaning up your room? And how old were you when you started to beat yourself up for letting things go?”

“I think I started resisting things when I was very young. I resisted getting toilet trained, and I resisted getting good grades. My mother was so controlling and invasive that I think I learned these ways of not being controlled by her.”

“So the part of you resisting is two or three?’

“Yes, that sounds right. And now that I think of it, my mom was very judgmental and I think I took over the job of judging myself when I started junior high school.”

“So you have an inner system with a young adolescent trying to control you with anger and judgment, like your mother did, and then a 2-3 year old not wanting to be controlled and resisting. As long as these parts of you are in charge, you are not going to be able to clean up with peace and joy. Is it just about cleaning up that you procrastinate, or do you do it with other issues?”

“I do it most of the time with everything.”

The Fear of Failure…

  • “What are you afraid of if you go ahead and do things?”
  • “I’m afraid of not doing them right. I’m so afraid of failure that I never do much.”
  • “What are you telling yourself about failure?”
  • “That if I fail everyone will know how inadequate I am.”
  • “So you keep yourself stuck in your life by trying to have control over getting yourself to do things right with your self-judgment, which creates resistance and the fear of failure. As long as your wounded adolescent is in charge, judging you, this pattern will continue.”

The Way Out of Procrastination

“Oscar, right now, please take a couple of deep breaths and breathe into your heart. I’d like you to imagine an older, wiser part of you, your Higher Self. Imagine that this wise part of you is very kind, loving and compassionate – the opposite of your ego wounded self. Imagine that you ask your adolescent to step back, and you ask this higher part of you to take over while you clean up your house. Ask him to clean the house through you. Can you imagine this?”

“Yes, I can. It seems like a relief because my little kid can’t do the cleaning and my adolescent doesn’t want to. When I imagine this older wiser part of me doing it, it seems easy.”

“Ask this higher part of you whether you are really inadequate if you don’t do it right or if you fail at something?”

“He says that I’m very smart and very adequate and that we all fail at times. That it doesn’t mean anything about me. Wow! Is that right?”

“Yes, failure is just a part of learning. But your wounded self tells you that failure defines you, which is keeping you stuck. If you clean your house or do anything else you really want to do, with your higher self in charge, rather than your adolescent, you will do it with joy, and you will get unstuck!”

To learn more about self-care see: Discovering Self-Love

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