Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Procrastination and the Parent contract (Part 3)

In order to gain a more robust understanding of the Parent ego state contract one must eventually examine the phenomena of procrastination as the two are closely linked. It also highlights how humans can be self defeating even when they are quite aware of doing so.

Procrastination has its origins with some kind of Parent ego state ‘telling off’ by either the person them self or from some outside source. This moves the person from the Free Child to the Adapted Child ego state. The pathological procrastinator is the person who has forgotten what they want. They have become caught up in what others want them to do.

Motivational interview

As soon as one is told to do something that makes it harder for them to decide if they want to. As soon as one told to do something their Adapted Child ego state is being enlivened. Pressure is put on the person to go into that ego state which makes it harder for them to respond from the Free Child ego state or the Adult.

Pressure is put on the person to respond from CC or RC (which are both subsets of the Adapted Child ego state). In either instance they are not responding from a decision on what they want. That comes from an understanding of the FC need, then an Adult decision on that FC need.

P to AC transaction

This diagram shows how a Parent ego state directive moves the FC away and stimulates the AC in the personality.

The FC does not reject the the parental directive it simply does not listen to it. It is hard to respond from FC if someone else is repeatedly telling you what to do. Each time a Parent transaction is perceived the AC is more alert.

The problem for the procrastinator is he has lost sight of what he wants. His AC has been stroked so many times by the Parent transactions from self and others that the FC is lost. He has forgotten what his FC wants.

This is why the “telling” type of therapies can have trouble. The therapist that tells the client what to do negates the client being aware of their own Free Child need.

For example the therapist who says to the client; “Stop smoking marijuana”. The client is put into a position where it is harder for him to know if his FC wants to stop smoking. Then the Adult can not make a decision on what the FC need is. The therapist is pressuring him to respond from either CC or RC.

Woman & dog.

Long term behavioural change will happen when there is a FC want. The client may have even wanted to start giving up marijuana but if told to do so he will begin to loose sight of that. Regaining an understanding of one’s own FC is one central component to dealing with pathological procrastination.

The procrastination transaction.
All Parent contracts involve an internal transaction that forms the basis of procrastination.

Internal P transaction

As the client makes a Parent contract one knows there is an internal CP transaction inside telling the client he is bad. The client then will most likely respond from either CC or RC.

If they respond mainly from CC they will slowly descend into depression or a sense of low self worth. If one tells a child repeatedly that it is wrong or bad eventually the child will take it on and develop a low self esteem. This is particularly so for the child who does not fight back.

We are all born with one primary response to stress either fight, flight or freeze. The child who freezes is the most vulnerable as they will tend to take on the external criticism from a CC position. Those who have a basic sense of fight in their temperament will tend to respond from RC to parental directives. Thus we have the basis of the pathological procrastinator as shown by the procrastination transaction.

Procrastination transaction

The procrastination transaction is quite a simple. It involves a CP transaction to the Child ego state. This is responded to by the RC in a disguised way. It is not open rebellion against the Parent ego state. If that happens then procrastination cannot occur. Indeed this is another way to deal with procrastination. To bring the hidden rebellion out into the open.

The chronic procrastinator initially gives the perception of agreeing to the parental directive. Often they will be convinced of such a thing them self but underneath the RC has no intention of complying. Hence you end up with procrastination.

The woman brings work from the office home. She has to write a report which she plans to do after the evening meal. She is complying to a Parent ego state directive to work at home this evening to catch up at the office. She prepares well by putting her paperwork next to the computer ready to go. She then has dinner which tends to drag on with a long coffee and discussion with hubby afterwards.

L cook

Eventually she sits down at the computer, turns it on and realises she has to go to the restrooms. On the way back she makes herself a little snack and notices a magazine on the side board which she flicks through for a while. Eventually she gets back to the computer, is ready to go when she notices a new incoming message in her email. It is a long lost friend from high school who has found her on FaceBook and requested her as a friend. She immediately confirms the friend request and must chat with her as they were such good friends such along time ago. She goes onto Facebook and that is the next two hours gone. Finally at 11pm she quickly types half a page of the report before she has to go to bed feeling angry and frustrated with herself.

All along she gives the appearance of complying to the CP directive and all along the RC is sabotaging the plan making sure it is not going to happen or only happen in a half arsed form. These transactions can (and often do) go on endlessly for many years. Hence we end up with the pathological procrastinator.

1. Lost touch with what the FC wants
2. Tries to comply with the CP directive
3. Has an active underhanded RC which will not comply

Procrastination is the consequence of an internal Parent contract. In the example of the woman above she made a Parent contract with herself, “I should take the report home tonight and finish it so I can catch up at work”. She made this contract with herself and as we can see she has an active RC and thus considerable procrastination eventuated.



  1. Did I tell you about that report? Haha. It was like reading a day in the life of Linda.

    Honestly, being an adult is so onerous.

  2. Hi Linda,
    I thought you may think that but I wasn't wanting to portray that as I have no idea if you procrastinate or not. Its just that some of the photos you have are visually strong

    have a good holiday