By Carol Look
Procrastination is a common behavior we use to sabotage ourselves. The project never gets completed, the resume is always a work in progress, and our website remains half done – we never move forward. It is incredibly frustrating and often mysterious because the behavior of procrastination appears to go against what we are consciously wanting and telling others we desire (the better job, the updated website, more clients, the new relationship etc).
I often think procrastination is approached from the wrong angle. Sometimes coaches and counselors encourage procrastinators to talk it through. They give them tips on better time management, or advise that clients write a pro and con list. Unfortunately, the underlying problems, conflicts and feelings are being virtually ignored.
What if you treated procrastination as a temporary solution, rather than the problem?
I believe, and have witnessed in my clinical practice and workshops, that no one procrastinates unless there is a very good reason to do so! In other words, there is an obvious, although perhaps yet undetected, payoff for procrastinating.
Typically, I have witnessed 3 primary reasons my clients procrastinate:
(1) they are angry or resentful towards authority figures,
(2) procrastination has the enormous payoff of keeping a person feeling safe and under the radar of criticism, and
(3) procrastination is a socially acceptable or “legitimate” way to rebel.
I will outline several EFT rounds for each of these scenarios.
(1) Anger/Resentment Towards Authority Figures:
Think of an authority figure towards whom you feel angry. This could be a parent, teacher, therapist, coach, spiritual figure or anyone who has been in a leadership position with you. How angry do you feel towards him or her on the 0-10 point Level of intensity scale when you think of something negative or critical that they said to you or something they did they you perceived as unfair? (Obviously pick someone who triggers a charged emotion in you.)
When we are asked by others or feel the need to complete something because of the goals we have set, we often use our feelings about one of these past events as an excuse to procrastinate.
Karate Chop Point: Even though I’m angry at him for doing something that wasn’t fair, I deeply and completely love and accept myself anyway … Even though I feel resentful and angry towards him for doing something unfair when he was the boss, I accept who I am and how I feel about this … Even though I had no idea how angry I was at this person, I accept who I am and how I feel about all of this.
EYEBROW: I’m angry at him for doing something unfair.
SIDE OF EYE: I feel angry about being controlled.
UNDER EYE: I feel resentful towards that boss (coach, teacher, counselor).
NOSE: I have no idea how I ended up so angry.
CHIN: It was so unfair!
COLLARBONE: I resent authority figures.
UNDER ARM: I still feel angry at them and procrastinating feels good.
HEAD: I’m still angry at this authority figure.
EYEBROW: I still feel angry, but I see clearly now.
SIDE OF EYE: I’m willing to soften this anger a bit.
UNDER EYE: It was still unfair.
NOSE: I wonder why I’ve been taking it out on myself…
CHIN: I’ve been sabotaging myself to get back at him…
COLLARBONE: I appreciate how I felt back then and now.
UNDER ARM: I’m ready to move on from that struggle.
HEAD: I don’t need to hold onto this conflict anymore.
Measure the emotional charge you feel on this past event on the 0-10 point level of intensity scale to see if it has dropped since these rounds of tapping. Then keep tapping on the anger and resentment about this past event or towards a past authority figure until the original event no longer holds an emotional charge for you.
(2) Feeling Safe From Criticism
If you ask yourself “What is the downside of completing this project, finishing this resume, sending in the letter…” you will undoubtedly find a “good reason” for procrastinating. Remember, we are looking at procrastination as a solution to some problem, rather than THE problem itself.
- Does procrastinating help you stay safe from feeling exposed?
- Does it protect you from being criticized or judged?
- Does it keep you playing small?
- Does it keep you from standing out and being noticed?
Measure how afraid you would be if you completed your “project” and you actually sent it in, or gave it to a colleague to evaluate. How afraid/vulnerable/nervous are you on the 0-10 point scale?
Consider what happened the last time you completed a “project” and made it available for someone else to evaluate. I guarantee there is still a measure of hurt, humiliation, or rejection when you think of a past event. Measure this (and the feelings you have about what “they” said about you or the project) on the 0-10 point level of intensity scale, and then tap along with the following wording.
Karate Chop Point: Even though the truth is I’m afraid I’ll be judged once I finish this project, I accept who I am and how I feel … Even though I’m convinced they’ll criticize me just like last time, I deeply and profoundly love and accept myself anyway … Even though I’m afraid of being visible and putting myself out there, I’ll never forget how it felt last time, I accept who I am and how I feel.
EYEBROW: I’m afraid to finish because I know they’ll criticize me.
SIDE OF EYE: I don’t want to finish this project, because I won’t be safe.
UNDER EYE: I feel safer when I procrastinate.
NOSE: I don’t want to be exposed to their criticism like I was last time.
CHIN: I remember how it felt, and I don’t want to feel that way again.
COLLARBONE: It feels better to stay safe and invisible.
UNDER ARM: I don’t want to become visible.
HEAD: I’m afraid I’ll get criticized, so I keep procrastinating.
EYEBROW: I still procrastinate for good reasons.
SIDE OF EYE: I don’t want to be exposed.
UNDER EYE: No wonder I won’t finish this project.
NOSE: What if they don’t like it?
CHIN: What if they don’t like me?
COLLARBONE: What if they find out I’m not any good?
UNDER ARM: I’m not ready to be judged.
HEAD: I feel better staying stuck.
Measure your level of intensity rating again to see if has dropped, and tap on more specific events connected to these emotions. Continue to tap and release the past event (what happened the “last time”) as well as the fear you feel when you imagine yourself finishing up the project now.
(3) Expressing Your Internal REBEL
And my favorite technique to clear procrastination is to address the internal rebel that is being acted out through this behavior of NOT doing something. If rebelling feels powerful, you need to address specific events and situations where you felt powerless. This will collapse or neutralize your “good reason” behind your procrastination behavior.
Think of a time that you were bossed around or told what to do and felt powerless about it. Rate the charge on this memory on the 0-10 point level of intensity scale.
Karate Chop Point: Even though I’m sick and tired of being told what to do, I deeply and completely love and accept myself anyway … Even though I refuse to do it on your schedule, I accept who I am and how I feel … Even though I need to rebel to feel powerful again, I deeply and profoundly love and accept who I am and how I feel.
EYEBROW: Stop telling me what to do.
SIDE OF EYE: I don’t want to do it your way.
UNDER EYE: I feel resentful, so leave me alone.
NOSE: I refuse to do it your way.
CHIN: I refuse to meet your deadline.
COLLARBONE: I won’t do it on time.
UNDER ARM: Leave me alone.
HEAD: I refuse to do what I need to do.
EYEBROW: I still don’t want to do what I’m supposed to do.
SIDE OF EYE: I feel like rebelling against everyone.
UNDER EYE: Don’t make me do it within the rules.
NOSE: I’m tired of playing by the rules.
CHIN: I want to rebel and feel powerful.
COLLARBONE: I choose to rebel freely.
UNDER ARM: I might find new ways to rebel without hurting myself.
HEAD: I am willing to consider finding new ingenious ways to rebel without procrastinating in my life.
Measure to see if your level of intensity rating dropped, and continue tapping on a specific event or memory.
Continue with more phrases that encourage finding new ways to rebel, so you don’t threaten this need inside of you. Remember, if you are rebelling, it is meeting an energetic and emotional need, even if you think it is foolish or counterproductive.
EYEBROW: I can procrastinate and rebel any time I want to!
SIDE OF EYE: I choose to be productive right now.
UNDER EYE: I can return to my rebellious behavior any time I wish.
NOSE: I have complete control over my behavior.
CHIN: I feel ready to move forward on this project.
COLLARBONE: If I change my mind, it’s up to me.
UNDER ARM: I am ready to move forward and it feels good.
HEAD: I feel relieved that I have my power back.
EYEBROW: I still want to procrastinate sometimes.
SIDE OF EYE: I’m taking my power back.
UNDER EYE: I can rebel any time I wish.
NOSE: I choose to make progress instead.
CHIN: I will rebel in new productive ways.
COLLARBONE: I appreciate who I am and how I got here.
UNDER ARM: I love what I’m doing and want to move forward.
HEAD: I appreciate who I am and all the feelings I resolved.
I highly recommend tapping along with these rounds repeatedly, and watching your productivity soar! Identify additional specific events that triggered your feeling of powerlessness and your need to rebel and collapse them one by one…