When I started my master’s degree course work in May 2008, I hadn’t been in an academic program for several decades. I dove in with the enthusiasm and determination born of pursuing education as a calling rather than an obligation. I finished my master’s course work in April 2011, passed my oral exam at the end of April 2011, and by the end of June 2011 had an accepted thesis proposal. My initial deadline for completion was November 2011. By January 2012 my thesis wasn’t even half done. While there were several legitimate reasons for this such as a heavy workload, mortgage issues, etc. The most significant and relevant issue was simple procrastination.

If you’ve ever had a similar experience you know what I mean when I say, there is nothing simple about procrastination, at least not what I experienced, which seemed to be deeply rooted within me. It appeared that nothing less than unearthing it would resolve it.

I worked diligently to resolve the block by utilizing Guided Imagery, a technique I learned in one of my master’s classes (Rossman, M. (1998) UPR Lecture Series-Mind Body Medicine). Having used the technique for other issues, I often had very profound results. With this technique, I made a connection with two memories involving my father when I was fourteen years old.

These two memories, which had been triggered many times before were somehow connected to the level of success I would allow into my life. As is my way, I created an affirmation to address it:

I am not my Father! I am not my Mother!
I am not here to complete their legacies, fix their unresolved issues, save or rescue them in any way.
I am my own. I make my own way in the world.

After saying the affirmation for a couple weeks, I could feel that something was working its way out and decided to enlist the aid of my therapist. In exploring these two memories, never having realized the connection between them, I made a discovery that changed everything.

One day when I was fourteen, I was following my father around as I often did, probably because I was struggling with my friends. It was spring and he was gardening. I was doing what I always did, hanging around, watching and playing. My father called to me as he had found a nest of baby birds, three little blue jay babies, barely hatched. I absolutely loved and adored nature and had a history of trying to rescue anything that needed rescuing. As I watched in horror, he knocked down the nest and killed the birds with a shovel. I remember running into the house, crying. My father never acknowledged what he did nor did he ever apologize.

A couple months later I was graduating from eighth grade. I had had constant issues in all areas of my life for the past several months, issues with the girls in my class, with my boyfriend, and I didn’t feel I had any support at home. I felt totally alone. At the graduation ceremony I was surprised to feel the elbow of the person next to me indicating my name had been called as recipient of the award for the “Best All Around Student.” My mother told me later that my father had been sitting there the whole time saying, “She’s going to get that award!” and I did. But I didn’t feel proud or happy to have the attention and approval of my father.

In the session with the therapist, I realized for the first time that I was angry with my father for killing the baby birds a couple months earlier and because I believed he thought the award I won made him look good by association. I realized now looking back at it 40 years later, that I was so angry that I had made a very unfortunate decision and that was: to do everything I could to avoid making him look good. “You just killed those baby birds in front of me, so I’m going to make sure I don’t give you what you want ever again.” This decision went immediately into unconsciousness until now.
Through High School and College I had a difficult time concentrating and I was unmotivated to try. I would mentally beat myself up because I knew I was capable of doing better, but continued to feel blocked.
I know now that as a result of the baby bird incident, I completely shut down. This defense mechanism helped protect me from knowledge I couldn’t bear at the time. The unspoken family rule modeled so well by my mother was to emotionally care for and support my father. No anger would ever be directed his way. So for almost 40 years, I protected him by keeping information, even from myself. My father has been gone for 28 years as of April 1, 2013. It took all these years for me to be ready to know this truth. In this session with the therapist, I was finally able to feel and experience my anger.

It was clear to me now that this unconscious decision made when I was fourteen was at the root of my procrastination. This huge discovery now freed me to make peace with what my father did and know that what he did was about him. I could now choose to succeed for my own sake. After that, the thesis flowed easily through me and I completed it and graduated by April 2012.

I know now that this block had been impeding my efforts at success for years. I’d like to say that this kind of release happens every time I discover a block, however I know that while awareness is the first step, it’s not the only step and in many cases other healing work may be required. However, I know today that whenever I’m procrastinating, it’s very likely I have tripped on some unconscious decision that served me well once upon a time, that once uncovered frees me to act and live more easily in the present.

Author's Bio: 

Jaqui Duvall, M.A., works as an author, trainer, and spiritual life coach and counselor to help people live authentically and genuinely through defining and connecting with their inner spirit. She develops and delivers workshops, leads mentoring groups and works with individuals to help them identify and express their inner spirit and live a life of consciousness and intention. Jaqui has a master’s degree in Consciousness Studies from the University of Philosophical Research and certificates in Empowerment Coaching and Training. http://www.TheEvolvingSelf.com.