Categories | Cognitive Science
A Community Contribution by Jennifer George
My fellow procrastinators and I are well acquainted with the mental drama that goes on as we torture ourselves about that important task left undone. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that the thing we’re not doing signifies all sorts of icky emotions and unconscious ideas about ourselves and our lives.
In our more lucid moments, we can see that there really is nothing fundamentally different about playing GTA IV versus writing that paper that’s due tomorrow. Both activities involve synthesizing information, making decisions, and moving our hands and eyes to make the right things happen on our computer screen.
The real difference between the two is what Buddhists call “attachment” — the clinging, coveting emotions and beliefs we have about ourselves and the world, including pride, fear, and desire. In more modern terms, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy describes our habitual maladaptive thoughts as “cognitive distortions.” Both schools argue that examining our existing thought patterns and developing new, productive ones can help us reduce suffering and build more useful behaviors.
It may not be enlightenment, but next time you’re not doing something you’re supposed to, think about the attachments, emotions, and thoughts that are getting in your way. Remember that they are illusory and temporary, and try to squirm out of their grasp for a while.