In the second episode of the Rediscovering Self with Amrutam podcast, host Preethi Parthasarathy explores the theme “I procrastinate a LOT!” with Rhea Gandhi, a psychodynamic and person-centered therapist psychotherapist and chairperson of the Indian Chapter of the International Attachment Network. She is a queer-affirmative practitioner and visiting faculty at St. Xavier’s College’s Post Graduate Department of Psychology.
Why do we procrastinate?
Preethi poses the intriguing question to Rhea in the first segment of the episode: Why do we procrastinate? While to some of us it may seem like a usual bout of laziness, the rest of us may simply be averse to the idea of doing the task at hand. Rhea begins by asserting that procrastination is not to be confused with laziness given the complexities associated with the former. She says:
“I often interpret procrastination as 'unconscious resistance'. And I don't think resisting the task itself but perhaps the emotions that come with the task. We are trying to protect ourselves from negative emotions which is why we procrastinate unconsciously.”
Let us understand this with the help of an example: Say you have an exam coming up but you’re unable to study for it. It could be possible that you are not studying or are not able to study because of the fear of failure or because the stakes may be too high for you. You could also be afraid of acing the exam because that would mean giving up your very comfortable life. Such fears and similar emotions are keeping you from doing what you should be doing.
Understanding the mind and body connect
It is interesting to note that people do different things to procrastinate and may even be productive in other ways. Elaborating on the abovementioned example, you may begin to clean your room to avoid studying for your exam. Here you are certainly productive but your actions aren’t directed at the task that requires your attention. This is understood as the ‘displacement’ of your efforts. Procrastination essentially involves a disharmony between the mind and the actions.
“A lot of people think they can think their way into action, but what they fail to understand is that a lot of our actions are reliant on our emotions. You are more likely to behave in more harmonious things with your feelings than they are with your thoughts. So, what we need to think about is the underlying feeling behind why we are procrastinating.”
Rhea also explains how certain people work slowly which may be perceived as procrastinating when in reality a lot of psychological work is already being done by them in their minds. Here, Preethi asks about the techniques of differentiating between whether it is slow work or procrastination, to which Rhea says that the trick lies in simply being honest to yourself. “It is much harder than one can imagine.”
She believes asking questions to ourselves like What is this task associated with? What meaning am I assigning to it? What does it represent? can help understand the underlying reasons behind procrastination.
Answering complex questions
Highlighting the cultural aspect of shame as a method practiced by Indian parents to raise children, Rhea elucidates that it is one of the big reasons behind procrastinating is the shame associated with the task. You may procrastinate studying for your test because you are afraid of the shame of failure. Similarly, you may not approach a person you like because you fear the shame of rejection.
“When we procrastinate our minds become hyper-focused on the task itself, so it's a very tunnel-vision-like experience. If we try to expand it and try to get to the root of the feeling, we might be able to understand why we are avoiding the task in the first place. The way to look at it is not forward but backward – that why am I doing what am I doing.”
By now, we have all come to the agreeable conclusion that human beings are far from simple. We are complex creatures with our respective sets of emotions, values, thoughts, and beliefs. Rhea says, “Trying to simplify complicated things is how we get stuck because there are no simple answers to complex questions. Procrastination is not a simple question – there's a lot brewing underneath. It has become so normalized that we no longer value the experience it brings.”
Also read: Celebrating Self-Love with #AmrutamFamily!
On introspection and the importance of slowing down
While acknowledgment and acceptance are certainly important in addressing the issue of procrastination, Rhea sincerely believes that the first step is to slow down and ask yourself: What is going on?
In the final segment, Preethi asks how one can approach the issue of procrastination if it is interfering with the quality of your life to which Rhea says that therapy is extremely useful in addressing most things you struggle with on a psychological level. In keeping with this, she emphasizes that the constant hustle for productivity and the capitalistic mindset also largely contribute to making you feel disconnected from your work.
“Society doesn’t reward us for spending time with people; it doesn't reward us for spending time with ourselves. There is a lot of undoing and asking questions required: what am I doing? where am I headed? what are my goals?”
In their concluding remarks, both Preethi and Rhea throw light upon establishing a meaningful relationship with oneself and reaching out for help whenever you feel you need it.
Find a therapist
We hope this episode was helpful to you. If you are struggling with your mental health and wish to seek therapy, then here is a list of mental health professionals that you can reach out to. All you must do is filter out the professionals that fit your criteria and write an email to them introducing yourself and explaining briefly what you are going through and be a little patient with their responses. The right professional will reach out to you soon and we hope you have a meaningful journey of getting to know yourself and building self-awareness through therapy.
Team Amrutam sincerely wishes you all the best and lots of love.