Thursday, October 06, 2005

often, you can actually judge a book quite well from its cover. you just have to look at it for more than two seconds.

As reported here on JFW, I recently became quite annoyed with myself when I realized I was aimlessly browsing in a bookstore as a way of procrastinating on this talk I needed to work on, and I resolved that as punishment I would spend what I would have spent on other books to buy two books on procrastination instead. The second of these, The Tomorrow Trap by "Karen E. Peterson, Ph.D.". I basically bought because I liked the title, thought it had a nice drawing on the front, and I was by that point in a hurry and didn't want to continue procrastinating by, say, dallying to scrutinize prospective procrastination book purchases. When I took it off the shelf yesterday, I realized that a closer look of the cover would have revealed that it was probably not going to be a book I actually wanted to read.

The cover talked about resolving your "Procrastination-Protection Syndrome" and made it sound like it was going to be much about trying to solve a personal problem by figuring out what happened back in childhood that is its "root cause", which I think has been overwhelmingly demonstrated over the last hundred years to be generally a spectacularly unhelpful approach to personal problems, including (especially?) whatever problems genuinely are rooted in childhood experiences.

Anyway, then I started to read the prolegomenon:
Unlike other books that focus on mere behavioral change*, this book offers right-brain, emotional techniques--such as nondominant handwriting, indirect interviews, photohistory and the unique five-stage psychoautobiographical writing--for discovering and eradicating that "thing" in the back of our minds. That "thing" is a universal, unconscious sense of shame that is a normal part of the human condition.

This underlying shame, which can trigger procrastination, is usually rooted in the first few years of life--regardless of one's upbringing. Because our memories of these pre-verbal years are stored primarily in the right brain, we must utilize right-brain techniques to eliminate problems of procrastination.

In response to each of these normal, everyday childhood experiences, a droplet of unconscious shame is added to a gradually expanding pool that may resemble an irritating muddy puddle; a deep, dark lake; or a raging sea. This pool corresponds to our level of procrastination, which can be of low, mid- or high intensity...

These techniques are greater toward allowing individuals to break free from the past and embrace a new way of living, working, and believing. If I can do it--while simultaneously consquering premenstrual syndrome, depression and seasonal affective disorder (I'm bracing myself for menopause)--you can, too.

Care to come along for the ride?
Er, no, thanks. You can keep the $15.

* Me, I think that "mere behavior change" is hardly ever "mere," especially if you are talking about a change that is supposed to last more than a couple days. Plus, I think if you are interested in changing a behavior, focusing on behavior change sounds like about exactly the best place to start.


tina said...

"How was the other book?" she writes, thinking that she really should get back to work.

Gwen said...

That book makes me want to throw up.

Also, she shares WAY too much information.

And when I finally went and saw someone about my OCD a few years ago, know what he said? "Let's work on behavioral change. That's the fastest and most effective way to actually help you deal with this." He said that was a lot more useful than spending months or years just talking about the behaviors.

And due to this advice, I am now the stable, normal human being you all know and love.*

* Yes, you can laugh.

Anonymous said...

At least something serious to talk to you about.
I read some time ago the definition for procrastination. It is an attempt to cope with our emotional reactions.
Fear of failure or success, anger (against control) dislike of our job, depression, and yes seeking pleasure in another motive.
The signs of procrastination besides waiting until the last minute to do something?
Being reluctant to take risks or try something new, staying at home or in the same old job, getting sick when faced with an umpleasant job, avoiding decisions, blaming other or the situation (it is boring) for your unhappiness... Most of us procrastinate some.
But the solution is very simple; do the umpleasant task as soon as you can and get it over with, not prolonging our agony because we feel good about setting goals and declaring that we are going to change sometime.
(Research shown that 70% of New Years's resolutions are abandoned by February 1st.)
Also we can identfy the emotions asociated with the behavior, so you should identify your form of of procrastination and find a solution for your specific emotional reaction. Not an easy job but it is better than read those books.

Absolut said...

This is the problem with the "self-help" literature. There is so much crap out there that it detracts from the good stuff. I only buy self-help books ("Hi, my name is A, and I own some self-help books") based on recommendations. I have some friends who've read quite a bit of that literature (on certain topics) and can tell me what is total crap and what is actually useful. So I never go into a bookstore to browse this stuff. It would be too tempting to end up doing what you did and then getting all disappointed about it. Can you return the book?

As for procrastination, some argue that one cause of it is perfectionism, which is something you probably suffer from. I forget how the exact link/argument goes. It may be something about how if you are a perfectionist, your standards are unreasonably high. You know what amount of work it would require to achieve the perfect outcome, but of course there is never enough time to do perfect work, so you just keep putting off the task knowing deep down that you'll never be able to achieve the necessary perfection anyway. Or something like that (I think).