“Do not put off your work until tomorrow and the day after.” – Hesiod, Greece, 800 B.C.
We have all been there – Facebook beckons, the couch looks lonely, or the television seems to feel neglected. As humans, it is natural to want to engage in activities that will provide us with instant gratification, rather than waiting for a distant payoff. Sloth wins.
However, psychologically, “sloth” is far more sinister than what medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas described as “sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good… [it] is evil in its effect, if it so oppresses man as to draw him away entirely from good deeds.”
In fact, researchers are now discovering an indisputable connection between procrastination and mood. Dr. Fuschsia Sirois of Bishops University in Quebec has stated that “[a] lot of literature says that [procrastinators] have higher levels of depression, anxiety, etcetera.”
But, Dr. Sirois adds: “It’s not just about being driven purely by pleasure seeking but about avoiding negative emotions.”
I see this all of the time with divorce; people attempting to avoid the negative emotions associated with the long, sometimes grueling process by procrastinating. Some common phrases include:
“Now is just not the right time; I’ll wait until next year when work calms down.”
“Our children are still in high school; I’ll wait until they leave the house.”
“Taxes this, taxes that. Taxes.”
Yes, despite all the explanations, I often see prospective clients come in with new resolve following the new year. But, by the end of February, their enthusiasm fizzles, and they settle in to old routines and habits.
And it is only natural. Our brains are literally wired to avoid negative emotions because, in at their most primal level, they signal a threat to our survival. That is where the procrastination rears its ugly head.
But those considering divorce or separation need to realize that this chronic procrastination breeds even further negative feelings, that are oftentimes more severe and longer lasting than ripping off the proverbial Band-Aid. I can only assume these feelings are exacerbated when one is stuck in an abusive or otherwise unpleasant situation.
Several weeks ago, Robert Epstein posted a blog entitled Only You Can Decide When and How to Proceed in Divorce. At the same time, however, it is important not to allow our inner sloths dictate our lives and our futures.
Next is Wrath.
Eliana T. Baer is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and a member of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Eliana practices in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton, New Jersey office and focuses her state-wide practice on representing clients on issues relating to divorce, equitable distribution, support, custody, adoption, domestic violence, premarital agreements and Appellate Practice. You can reach Eliana at (609) 895-3344, or firstname.lastname@example.org.