*Please note: this post is long (and deep:)).
To make the best out of it,
it is advisable to read it slowly,
when you have some relaxed time. Enjoy!
When completing a long-procrastinated-wish, we confront the pain of loss. But it worth it!
Do you have some tasks or wishes you have delayed for a long time?
Want to help get them done?
Take some quiet time to read this post. It will be reveling.
Confronting the pain of loss may be more painful than keeping procrastinating
Did you ever feel surprisingly unhappy when you did complete something you have been procrastinating over for a while?
Maybe when you just sat down to check your credit card’s statements (and discovered you have been paying for something you meant to cancel long ago?)
Or when you finally reached out to an old friend with whom you had some misunderstanding?
A possible reason for this discomfort, exactly when we planned to feel relieved for overcoming procrastination is that at this exact moment, we also experience the pain of loss.
The loss created by this delay.
And it is this unconscious resistance to feel this pain that may cause us to procrastinate further.
We procrastinate or stagnate for many reasons. We may be feeling not capable of doing something, unclear about what to do, having fears to approach it. We may start doing something, but give up in the middle of it when we feel overwhelmed or helpless.
But there is another one somewhat undisclosed reason for procrastination; it is relevant mainly when there is something which got stagnated for a long time.
We keep putting it off to avoid confronting what we lost due to our procrastination (like money, time, etc.).
When we do complete a long-delayed task or fulfill an old desired wish,
there is this moment of ‘looking back’; we vividly see the lost time/money/opportunities from our new position, and it is painful.
It also happens with different low tendencies that we wish to let go of; even when we step out of depression.
Or with new habits, we want to adopt, or new ventures we want to take. When we succeed, we also feel the loss of not getting there earlier.
I call it the pain of loss, and what usually follows is grief.
The grief of wasted resources
After completing something or at least setting it into motion, we have got past our procrastination – no matter how difficult it was or how much guilt, shame or fear we experienced on the way, we can now call it DONE.
So, however challenging it was (and sometimes it is surprisingly easy),
we now know we can do it – because we did.
Now here comes the hard part:
we have to face the “OUCH…How come I didn’t do it before? feeling”.
The moment we step into the “new” or “done,” where things look better, we tend to judge the past differently than before – not being able to be in touch with the things which
were holding us in place; it may even seem stupid.
We face all the lost time, wasted money, the damage created; and it is painful.
There is this bitter taste of ‘If we could just turn back the wheel of time
and have done it sooner.’
Because we feel responsible for this loss (we have just witnessed it was in our capability to do it), this loss is more difficult to accept. Therefore, many times the satisfaction of completion is accompanied by pain and grief; and often they even overshadow the joy and turns our party-time (Hey! We just Did It!) gloomy instead.
This potential pain of loss and grief is not the most obvious thing that comes up when we think about procrastination, but it is undoubtedly influencing us unconsciously.
Many times we keep procrastinating a neglected task or resist letting go of an old
unwanted habit or creating a new good one because we try to avoid this pain of loss
and its subsequent grief.
Personal sharing for inspiration
In my own journey, I experienced one of the most intense expressions of this phenomenon.
For many years I had a compulsive eating behavior (it’s not a mistake – I don’t call it disorder, because I don’t like to call it this way; but it was the Full Monty of a compulsive eater). It started when I was 19 and lasted until age 35 – when it healed. It wasn’t always manifesting with the same intensity, and at times it was almost non-existent, but it was painful and colored my life in no small degree.
To make it clear, it wasn’t an obsessive caring for my weight (and I was never obese thanks to my proper metabolism); it was a compulsive behavior of uncontrolled binge eating that dominated many days (and nights) and caused me great suffering.
I had a long journey until it healed and all the phases of this process contributed to its ending, but the final stage took place when I used EFT (infinite gratitude to Gary Craig – the founder, see link at the end).
I will not share here how it unfolded (maybe in a different post one day), but just the piece which is relevant to our subject.
One day, in a session with my gifted EFT therapist (Ilana Weiler – see link at the end), I felt I was close to letting it go; it was crystal clear and very tangible – I felt I was able to step out of this tendency and live without it. But then, instantaneously, I felt this unbearable feeling of loss and grief; suddenly it looked so self-evident that I can let go, that I couldn’t bear the thought of all the suffering I had been going through for not doing it earlier. It felt like such a loss of time.
Now, it may be evident in this kind of situation (deeply ingrained tendencies) that I couldn’t do it before; Obviously, I had to go through a process.
But the thing that was so amazing and the reason I share it here is that I felt I was almost refusing to take this now-possible leap. Because I refused to experience this pain of loss. It was as if I was not willing to enter the door to my freedom, because I didn’t want to pass through the unavoidable grief-corridor. It was amazing and not just in retrospect.
Luckily I was conscious of it, and through the support of my therapist and my sincerity, I did enter that door. There was a time of mourning and grief, regret, and other painful feelings; but it passed. And today I am way past it.
I experienced this many times – with both small things and more profound issues. And I must say I am getting much better in accepting this mourning period and can even see the beauty in it. More and more, it helps me grow and evolve when I embrace it. It allows me to see how I can cope differently next time in the most vivid way.
Examples from my " clients’ lab" (all fake names)
I owe a lot to my clients for trusting me to help them with their procrastinated things. Over the years, our work was like a little lab, in which we could get to know the nature of procrastination and find creative solutions for it. I witnessed this pain of loss and grief in many different situations. Here are some examples.
Gale was anxious about many online-acquires she made. She did it to comfort herself when in stress, but she knew she neither needed these things, nor she had the money to spend.
We sat together, digging in her mailbox to find the links and cancel the buys. We did an excellent job and were able to cancel most of them.
Although she was happy for it, she was also feeling bad for the wasted money (some deals were too late to cancel); the time wasted on buying them; the hours spent with me – instead of doing other things together. She felt stupid.
So we allowed this feeling for a while, but I shared with her that in my view – she was wise: it was not such a wrong way to cope with what she confronted back then, and she did invite me to help her when she was ready to cancel and realized she couldn’t do it alone.
We ended the day with a sense of joy and even laughed about it.
We also canceled subscriptions to newsletters which were tempting her to buy; she decided that in case the urge to purchase reappears again, she will allow herself one acquire a month; and will print out the details so it can easily be canceled later if she regrets.
Sarah was a long-time client of mine. After we had made her house organized, she still invited me regularly for paperwork.
There was one piece of paper – that looked like a letter from someone – that kept popping out when we sorted the papers. Each time we got to it, and I asked Sarah what this was and what are we to do with it, she replied we should leave it.
It was evident that it made her nervous.
I respect my clients’ wishes, but my job is also to encourage them to move forward, and I usually feel when it is the right time. So one day when we “met” this letter again I asked her to tell me what it was. It turned out that it was a letter from an old friend that offered her help after she came to know that Sarah was in trouble; my client did not answer that letter, and it has been two years.
We took care of it that day; she wrote a letter explaining why she hadn’t replied (feeling so overwhelmed with this generosity, finding it hard to accept); Sarah apologized for the long delay and just told her friend that she appreciates and loves her.
She felt SO relieved that day as she carried a lot of guilt for not responding all that time. The pain of loss came along too; she couldn’t believe that she let herself live with that guilt for so long, acknowledging how energy-consuming it was (she remembered it many times over the years). Sarah did allow herself both feeling the pain and a smile and said she would try to remember how easy it was to share her feeling with others (me and the friend) – for the sake of coping better next time.
I have so many more examples, but I think you got the point.
If I were an illustrator, I would probably illustrate the faces of people when they reach this point of relief mixed with pain – you will immediately see it.
OK, got it - but what can I do with it?
First of all, we need to know that the pain of loss may arise and be willing to give ourselves a short mourning period. Why? Because if we are aware of it and prepared, there is less of a chance we will unconsciously continue procrastinating to avoid it. It doesn’t mean that it will be easy, but the known is usually more manageable.
Second, we need to cultivate the intention to forgive ourselves; the intention to let go of self-criticism for not ‘doing it’ so far or self-blame for the potential loss. Remember you may think you could do it earlier – but the fact is you didn’t so it doesn’t matter. And you can’t know for sure anyway. Again, if we know in advance that this is our intention, it may encourage and motivate us to leap.
Third, accepting that feeling both pain and exhilaration is not contradictory.
We have to give room to both the grief and the praise.
Trying to ignore the grief; or even worse: beating ourselves up for feeling bad instead of proud, will not work. It is OK to let the pain be for a while,
not giving it too much energy or fuel, just feeling it, allowing it to express itself.
Nodding ‘hello,’ but go on with the ‘It’s Done’ Party.
It is essential to praise ourselves for doing it now – research shows that self-praise is
a much more efficient aid for change.
An Extra benefit we get from allowing the mourning period and adding self-forgiveness is that it creates the right environment for learning.
If we are not busy with judging ourselves (which is a form of escaping change)
and instead we’re relaxed and soft inside, we are in the right space to learn something
about ourselves, recognize how we can do it differently next time and create the right intention for any desired change.
What about you?
By writing this post, I aspire to inspire us taking a step from A to Be while feeling we CAN. So I encourage you to take action; to touch these neglected places in your wish-list.
It worth it!
Can you think about examples of your own?
Try to think of a task you have been procrastinating for a long time.
What are the feelings that come up first?
What about choosing one neglected thing?
It can be from your existing list or even a procrastinated intention to make one!
It can also be a tiny little thing.
Now go ahead and do it. I know you can.
Do and share below to get others’ praise too!
Be well and forgiving,
P.S. If you want to learn my best method for improving our Doing (in a loving way),
you can read about it here.
Link to Gary Craig’s Website:
Link to Ilana Weiler’s Website:
http://www.positive-eft.com/ – In Hebrew
She works on Skype in English too, so here is her Facebook Page