Stephen Comments on Procrastination

Dragons-At-Work-Author-Stephen-JosephsDon’t Put Off Procrastinating, Procrastinate Right Now!

Chapter 11 is only one paragraph, but books could be written about the phenomenon it describes. Look in the self-help section of the book store, you’ll find hundreds of them.

Dan’s now on a diet, and strangely, he’s gaining weight. We’re told, “The moment he read his nutrition plan, even though he had just eaten, he felt hungry and deprived.”

This is the polarity response at work. Before I explain that term, here’s another example.

I just attended a meeting where a noted nutritionist gave a two hour lecture about diet, health, and the evils of eating sugar. Our group had been staying at a resort for three days, and at dinner each evening a platter of cookies and other sweets was served. In each of the first two nights, we consumed about half a platter. The night of the “evils of sugar” lecture, we ate two and half platters of sweets. Why?

The Polarity Response
The polarity response describes a familiar phenomenon. When (and because) we are told to do something, we do just the opposite. It’s as though we have a little oppositional voice inside us that takes over. When we hear a command or even a suggestion it says, “no, I won’t.”

Years ago I had a client who procrastinated. If he had a ten item To Do List, he’d only complete the first eight. Even if he had the whole afternoon to accomplish the last two items, at the end of the day they still weren’t done.

As an example, the ninth item on his to do list was to call Mr. Smith. He called and Mr. Smith’s secretary said he was away from his desk. My client said he’d call back in 15 minutes. But he never did call Mr. Smith.

As he told me the story I observed that he cocked his head to the left as though he were listening to something. I asked him to tell me what his experience was at the moment he put the phone down after talking to the secretary. He said, I say to myself, “At least I tried.” I asked, when you say that, who are you talking to?

Upon some reflection, he discovered he had two voices in his head. One, which sounded a lot like his mother, nagged, “You better call Mr. Smith!” And the other voice, the voice of the polarity response, refused to make the call.

My client had a perfect system for procrastination. The voice in his head that told him what to do next elicited an unconscious oppositional response, resulting in a stalemate. The trouble was the voice that told him what to do had good ideas, but because it sounded like his mother he refused to listen to it.

There are lots of ways to fix this. I gave this client the suggestion that the voice inside his head could change its tone to that of a friend and ally whose advice he could take or not at his pleasure. The result was that his procrastination dissolved and he became gleefully productive. I say gleefully because when that kind of inner conflict resolves, it frees up a lot of bound energy.

It’s amazing how clever we are at getting in our own way. We can be quite stubborn in our opposition to goals that we ourselves set. Doc Childre of HeartMath aptly refers to this phenomenon as the cellular pout.

At some point, we have to get clear of this and declare that the war with our parents (or whomever) is over.

So the tip for this week is to simply observe yourself and see where you persist in sabotaging your goals.

A great exercise:
Sit at your desk as your “oppositional self” and write your memoirs. Simply write nonstop for 20 minutes. Write in the present tense, and write continuously without editing yourself. If you do this for five days in a row you’ll be amazed at what your mind produces.

As journaling brings unconscious processes into the light, some people may uncover things that they want to explore in psychotherapy. That path can be quite valuable. For many people, journaling, simply as a way of getting clarity, lessens the automatic reflex of the polarity response.

Readers: Please let me know how it goes when you write your memoir. I’d love to hear from you.

As we progress further in the story, I will offer other techniques that even more thoroughly dissolve internal opposition to success and fulfillment.

Stay tuned.

Where have polarity response played a part in your life? Write a comment.