Neither a Procrastinator Nor a Dawdler Be

Procrastination produces both emotional anguish and self-damaging inactionProcrastination is such a maddening trait that literary scribes have bestowed upon it an abundance of witty attention. William Shakespeare weighed in more than once, as in Henry VI, “Defer no time; delays have dangerous ends.” Here’s a list of 180 procrastination quotes, but reading them might be, well, to dawdle.

Procrastination produces both emotional anguish and self-damaging inaction. Interestingly, the main culprit in procrastination is largely unrecognized. Depth psychology, however, can penetrate our psyche to expose this culprit.

Before identifying the problem, here’s some background. We harbor in our psyche what psychoanalysis calls the unconscious ego. As the term obviously indicates, this part of our ego is unconscious. We also have a conscious ego that is plenty troublesome. This conscious ego is a pale shadow of our authentic self, and it tends to be thin-skinned and ridiculously petty. But our unconscious ego is even more of a nuisance. Its main effect is to render us passive, so that in certain situations we can quickly feel overwhelmed, helpless, confused, indecisive, and apathetic. Procrastination arises as a behavioral consequence of these negative emotions.

Our challenge is to become more conscious of this part of our psyche. We can start by giving it a name: inner passivity. In our psyche, the primary conflict is between inner aggression (as represented by our inner critic or superego) and inner passivity (as represented by our unconscious ego). These two conflicting aspects of our psyche are always butting heads, frequently producing inner voices or feelings that we repeat in our mind as if the words or feelings are our own. [Read more…]

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