The Subtle Yet Insidious Power of Procrastination
Part 1: The Primal Parent of Procrastination
“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
― Douglas Adams
Here I sit at my keyboard with the cursor blinking. On my face is an utterly blank stare as I look into the screen. Blink. Blink. My only hope is for a little morsel of an idea, a sentence, or at least a word to coalesce from the vapid wasteland that is my morning brain.
My article is due by noon and I am fresh out of any excuses to justify putting it off any longer.
I immediately regret my steadfast campaign of procrastination, seeing it for what it is; A fool’s errand that I have somehow used to convince myself as the only true way to snake charm my creativity to the surface.
Hopefully, I say to myself with a brush of anxiety, the words will come. Words that will become sentences. Sentences that will culminate into some semblance of meaning.
I look at the clock and see time marching against me. The cursor is blinking. Shit.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
— Han Solo
This can’t be how I tackle every project can it? All the pain, consternation and fear that it comes along with? Is this me?
What I needed was a new way of thinking. A way of combating my own fears and trepidation; to not be a victim of my deadline induced anxieties.
What I needed was to know my enemy.
The Primal Parent of Procrastination
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
— Sun Tzu
Long ago, when our early ancestors were traipsing along the plains of the Serengeti in search of their next meal predators lurked everywhere. We had to keep vigilant and on our toes because we looked as delicious to them as they did to us.
Fight or flight is the common term we hear when referring to our primal survival instincts. It’s comes from a place that Sigmund Freud, the famed Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis called the “Id.” Early humans functioned almost exclusively using the Id.
The Id is that constant force prevalent in all sentient beings that lusts for survival. I am thirsty so I will drink. I am hungry so I will eat. I am horny so I will have sex. It’s that part of you that is purely primal in its declaration of what it wants. The Id lies at the center of every decision you make to live.
By these simple standards your Id thinks of itself as fairly successful.
For me, the Id also works its way into my need for self-expression. It is something I need. It can be be the want to dig into the recesses of my mind and uncover hidden caverns of emotional truth, or something mundane as writing an instructional manual on the glorious new features of a software application.
Your Id is what makes a desire a compulsion. To you, it’s not a question of if you will sing, if you will paint or if you will write. It’s that you need to, so you will. You must do it. If you don’t, that is the canary in the coalmine that troubled waters loom ahead. Depression is just another bought of procrastination away.
So if the Id is in control then why against all capacity for rational thought would we not do the thing that our Id declares as needed for our very psychological survival? Because the Id just knows what it needs. It is only a rider on the back of the real horse in this race.
The Ego is defined as the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.
The Ego is the artifice in which we have built up the image of self that we have created. This is where we run into trouble. It is at the heart of the beast for the reasons we procrastinate.
One could say that the Ego is built using all of the bullshit we have been telling ourselves since we were born. “I’m not good at math.”, “I never get jealous”, “I am not ever going to succeed.” You get the idea. Notice the heavy use of “I”?
The Ego is the wolf that you feed, and we often feed it with a heavy stream of negativity. The Ego is what tells us “I can’t”, “I’m not good enough”, “I am not talented.”
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil — he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you — and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Our Ego comes fully-loaded with professional grade industrial strength tools that are perfect for creating procrastination.
Perfectionism? Ego has a tool for that. The pressure of society and their expectations of you? Got it. Think you were born lazy? Check. A crushing fear of being humiliated? Double check.