The Roots of Procrastination

Note: This article is a draft of one of the chapters in my upcoming book: Hacking Reality

You're not the boss of me!

I love this picture of the little girl, arms crossed over her chest, glaring at an adult just off screen.  You can easily guess her thoughts: “You’re not the boss of me.”

I think a great deal of our procrastination comes from an inner child stuck in this attitude of defiant rebellion. They’re confusing us with their parent!

When I decide to get up half an hour early to meditate, or to stop eating wheat, or go to the gym, I’m making that decision from my grown-up, adult perspective.  It may be all about self-care and self-love, but essentially I’m stepping into a parental role with myself.

If I happened to grow up with a demanding, critical or domineering parent, there’s a good chance my well-intentioned decision will activate a whole posse of younger selves. I’m unknowingly invoking a total power struggle. One I’m likely to lose.

Other reasons for procrastination might involve feelings of deep inadequacy – instead of rebellion there’s an intense fear of exposure by the younger self. Failure is guaranteed, so why risk everyone finding out how worthless I am by trying something new?

There can also be a fear of losing one’s place in the family system – usually the black sheep. If I try and actually succeed somehow, I won’t fit in anymore and I’ll be abandoned or driven out. I know that probably sounds really weird – who wants to be the black sheep anyway?

But remember, we’re looking at a very young younger self being activated.  They don’t know who we are. They probably register our intentions somehow as coming from a parent or teacher.  If procrastination is a big problem in your life, exploring any childhood roots might be really helpful. Much more fruitful than doubling down on the old willpower or beating yourself up.

Here are a few simple questions to ask yourself:

  • Did I have an over-bearing parent?
  • Was there an endless to-do list of chores?
  • Was whatever I did just never good enough?
  • Did I have a perfect sibling who could do no wrong?
  • Was I forced to become a caretaker for a parent or my siblings?
  • Is there a humiliating failure or defeat I’ve just never gotten over?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, there’s almost certainly at least one younger self causing your procrastination. But please don’t hate them! They need your help. And helping them will set you free.

Try this: Make a short list of memories related to your answers above. Choose one to work on right now (yes, right now – this is about procrastination, right?). Choose the one that stands out, or that has the most emotional charge when you think about it.  And then rate that emotional charge. Not at the time it happened, but right now just remembering it.

On a scale of zero to ten, how much intensity do you have? And what is that intensity about? Is it embarrassment? Anger? Guilt? Some combination of feelings?  Whatever you’re feeling, do some good old EFT tapping on it and try to get the intensity level down for that memory. In fact, try to get it down to zero if you can.

And then do so for each of those memories on your list.  You may not be able to do all of them right at once, but perhaps 2 or 3 a day until they’re all discharged.  By then your procrastination may be a thing of the past!  Literally.

One last thing – when I checked back in with Grace a week later I was shocked!  She’d actually downloaded some algebra problems off the web and had been doing them for fun! 

Copyright Rob Nelson 2018