Saturday, August 27, 2011

Practical Theory to Resolve Procrastination

This article was written by a clinical psychologist who has been in private practice 27 years. It is one of a host of articles on procrastination, many of which should be on this blog. Please read the other articles to understand the basic terms of this one, specifically ambivalence and its relation to procrastination.
The trick with all forms of ambivalence is to make conscious the various out-of-awareness conflicts that gum up motivation and undermine behavior. Procrastination is not paying attention to something out of awareness, or making something be out of awareness that should be in focus, consciously.
The way you best do this is how you best master procrastination.
Some people just sit and listen to themselves, until the offending memory, association or blocked impulses surfaces. This is what I do whenever I'm ambivalent. Others are more deliberate in their search within. They meditate, or practice mindfulness, which is really not that complicated in theory, but hard for many to practice. Mindfulness is simply listening and watching your every thought, feeling, physical sensation and impulse, with an eye towards making all your internal activity fully conscious as you move through time.
When this occurs, associations to your experiences also surface, and
there is the link to what's in the back of your mind, causing the "pause." (Someone also said, this is also "pausing the cause."
Cute.) Regardless, the goal is to find the ambivalence, which is masked by anxiety. There is indecision somewhere in your mind, conscious or not, probably sponsored by the existence of some approach-avoidance or double approach-avoidance conflict. Your task is to examine yourself sufficiently to find this kernel, this hotbed of avoidance, suppression or repression.
When the source of the conflict is discovered, the anxiety shifts from one born of avoidance, to one born of having to deal with the conflict. Remember, ambivalence is a sign of indecision over some contesting ideas, values, feeling, memories or thoughts. By definition, it is not pleasant to have to deal with these "things," or else there would be no justification for suppressing or repressing them in the first place. Now, you have to deal with the forbidden, displaced, relegated material that caused you discomfort. The anxiety that emerges from this process is not that of hiding and having to discover the hidden material. The material is now in view, so now what do you do with it?
The answer is to be assertive; that is, to openly address the onflict, preferably by word first, not deed. The answer is to verbalize your conflict, whatever it is, whatever level at which it functions or whichever conflict it represents. The trick is to put words to your feelings and say them, out loud, expressing all the nuances of the ambivalence and resulting indecision.
Does this resolve the conflict? No. What it accomplishes is
changing your awareness from more suppressed or repressed to more open
and flowing. From the latter perspective, dealing with the underlying
dilemma is now possible, because it is no longer buried. But just
because it is in your awareness doesn't mean procrastination suddenly
disappears. You have to act on the feelings, thoughts, etc. in an overt manner, which was not possible before. In fact, because the hidden conflicts were not up front and in your face before, you were rendered incapable of dealing directly with them. Now, you can, but you still have to decide to do it. Usually, the pressure expressed by making such ambivalence conscious is sufficient motivation to deal with the issue.
It is not any more comfortable now that it is conscious than when it wasn't. Because you have a vocabulary to apply in expressing the conflicts (which seems to naturally follow when such items surface) externalizing them is more likely. This is when assertiveness seems to be most effective in resolving procrastination.
-Dr. Griggs

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