Procrastination is caused by emotions
How an emotion can cause problems is something you can probably understand. How unconscious emotions cause deep systemic and lasting problems is a bit more difficult to understand. Have you ever asked yourself what causes procrastination? It may seem far fetched, but procrastination is caused by emotions.
Emotions versus States
Most of our daily lives we do not ‘suffer’ from big emotions like fear, anger, sadness. And if we do (especially if it lasts) we know that we suffer from some kind of emotional imbalance. Most experiences we have are not expressed in emotions but in states. A state is your way of being in the moment. For example you could feel ‘open’, ‘connected’, ‘curious’ and so on. No big emotions here but just states of mind. And as you register your day to day life you will notice that your state fluctuates throughout your day.
Procrastination as an emotional state
Procrastination is the state people experience when they need to do a task at hand, but they postpone the actual doing of that task. It is a very common problem to procrastinate. And sometimes, with very big consequences. Some people do in the end perform the task at hand but at the very last moment. As if they need the pressure of a time constrain to finally do that what needs to be done. Stress is a very common consequence of procrastination. This is easy to understand. Because when you know you need to do a task and postpone that all the time till you have no other option because you are running out of time, stress seems a logical experience.
Now a lot has been written about what could cause procrastination and those causes lead to probable ‘solutions’ to this problem. Procrastination can be caused by poor planning skills, a lack of motivation, some form of attention deficit, learning disability and so on. I learned through the years that most of these ‘causes’ were difficult to solve. Not because when you procrastinate you do not want to change your behavior. The solutions for these causes just don’t seem to do the trick.
I have worked with quite a few students that have this particular problem. A lot of students tell me they experience this typical behavior. A test is coming up and a certain amount of time of preparation is essential to be able to make the test. They know that, and understand the urgency of this deadline. However every day when the notion comes up to go and study for the test, some other more appealing thing comes up. Things like: playing video games; hanging out with friends; watching Netflix; smoke some pot or any other thing that seems more appealing than studying. And even though the deadline draws nearer. With all consequence in sight, picking up a study book just does not seem to make the priority list. Even though they know the consequence can be high…
Working with a student on procrastination
I worked with a physics student who is bright and self-aware, but he managed to get almost kicked out of university. Because he managed to exceed every timetable the school had set for him. He did not do his tests on time and managed to get a second change most of the times. When that second chance came along, he still managed to just do just the bear minimum. With the consequence that he almost failed every test. He also had to apply for scholarship and he also postponed that to that last moment. Now this had been going on for some years until I got an email from him saying: “you got to help me, I am going to be kicked out of school”. As this seemed like an urgent situation, we planned a first appointment within days of that email.
“It’s a nightmare”, he said when he walked in the door. “I normally do my studying in the library, but it’s closed, and I have to work in my student flat, it’s just a nightmare.”
We talked for a while about what was going on for him and he recalled many situations where he just “missed the strength to start studying”. “I feel so much frustration, why can’t I succeed?”
“When you feel all that, what are you predicting that’s is going to happen?”, I ask him. “That I won’t make it and I have to give up”. That awareness of the unconscious prediction he is making about his own experience changed the look on his face. He started to recall many experiences of the past where he just couldn’t put his mind to it. I could tell he was getting anxious. I asked him: “when you feel that emotion, what do you experience?” “A huge mountain in front of me, I just want to run away.”
Emotion and inner landscape
“How big is that mountain?” I replied. His hands reach up to the ceiling, “it is huge, no way around it and it is dark.”
“Let’s do a little experiment, just imagine you have a remote control in your hand, and this has only one function, it can turn the darkness of the mountain in front of you into brightness.” “Are you up for that?”
“Yeah I am willing to give that a try.” A couple of minutes pass and he starts to relax. “The mountain is brighter, but what’s is funny if that the mountain seems to shrink at the same time.”
“What difference would it make for you if the mountain remains like this when you have a deadline for something?”
“My whole life would be different!” “I would feel no frustration anymore and could actually be productive.”
“Would you want to give that a try for the next two weeks?”
“Sure” he says. As he walks out of the door, he stops and says: “I cannot believe, what I am feeling in my body right now, I feel content with myself as if I am free., and what is stranger I cannot feel the frustration anymore.”
Unconscious predictions create our unconscious emotions
Unconscious emotions arise from the unconscious predictions we make, all of this is outside our conscious awareness. The only thing you notice is the end state this creates: procrastination!
Are you having problems getting things done, or do you experience to much stress when you need to get something done? Do you want to learn about how you can work with unconscious emotions? Contact me for a coaching session or the new training that is coming up.