But I Don’t Wanna!

It’s a familiar scene. I have the morning off and I find myself standing in my room, contemplating my To Do list. I’m well rested. I’ve had my breakfast and a cup of tea and I’m ready for the day. I see all the options for action written out before me- paperwork to catch up on, calls to return, masks to sew, paintings to start. Some of these tasks are more time-sensitive than others; some are important self-care or work tasks, while others are purely for fun. So many options to choose from! And what do I do? Absolutely nothing.

What is it? What’s getting in my way? I’m rested and ready to go, and yet… I don’t go? I feel no motivation to pick a task and start, not even an inclination towards any task at all.

So what do I feel? I close my eyes and ask again, “what am I feeling right now?” I notice a pulling sensation in my neck, like I’m trying to turn my head away. I notice a rigidity in my chest, a stiffness that is impeding my capacity to take a full breath. I notice that my hips and legs are inclined to curl up under me and take a seat. I notice a desire to take out my phone and scroll. I notice a tension in my jaw and pursed lips.

Aha! I know this feeling! I have the urge to avoid! My body is trying to get away from everything in front of me and distract myself mindlessly on the internet. It’s a funny feeling, because I’m even avoiding tasks I’ve been looking forward to all week!

Then I realize, whether or not these tasks are fun, my mind sees a long To Do list and starts to feel overwhelmed pretty quickly. I feel anxious and skeptical that I can accomplish any, if not all of them in the time I have. The stress I’m feeling makes sense; time is precious and there are several things to do. But is acting on this anxiety and urge to avoid going to be effective in meeting my goals? Nope! In fact, by avoiding I’ll only be growing the anxiety more and more.

So what to do? “Ugh, nothing! Don’t do anything!” says the willful part of me, dedicated to avoiding these feelings at all costs.

I see that willfulness and the fear of confronting my many To Do’s, so I do an emotional 180 with the help of opposite action. Opposite action is handy when an emotion doesn’t fit the facts, or when acting on it wouldn’t be effective. Using this skill requires acting opposite all the way. That means avoiding avoiding, approaching the tasks I’m afraid of, and adopting a posture of confidence and security. So first,  I turn up the corners of my mouth in a Half Smile and my mood automatically lifts, everything feels the slightest bit lighter. I can see my urge to avoid for what it is- an urge, not an order. I laugh a little bit! It’s as if my avoidance urge is a Dementor and I just cast a Riddikulus spell on it! Now it’s powerless and I can take charge.

I pick up my sewing machine and get to work.

But I Don't Wanna!

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