I need discipline! (no, not that kind of discipline)
October 26, 2008 3:26 PM Subscribe
Help me re-develop personal discipline without tearing myself to pieces.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 167 users marked this as a favorite
I reached adulthood with all the typical cognitive screwups of someone who was once a 'gifted kid': unreasonably high standards, bad study and work habits, a tendency to procrastinate and a nagging sense that I was utterly failing to reach my potential. Yeah, me and half of Metafilter, I'm sure.
With cognitive behavioural therapy, I've worked through a lot of this. I've learned how to lower my standards to somewhere below the stratosphere, to stop punishing myself like an overbearing parent, to break up tasks into manageable chunks and to carefully manage the depression and anxiety which have haunted me through most of the past ten years. I'm a whole lot less highly-strung than I was, and I no longer have any attachment to the idea of being 'special'. I'm an ordinary adult and I just want to finish my degree and continue to progress in my career.
What I really need, though, is to learn a new method for self-discipline. CBT taught me that old way of disciplining myself was contributing to my depression.
My thought process used to go something like this:
I should do this difficult intellectual task -->
I'm reluctant to start this task because I'm afraid I be able won't do it perfectly -->
I'm a bad person for procrastinating on this task -->
I won't do anything fun until I've done this task, that'll motivate me to do it -->
I hate the world, there is no joy in my life; I never do anything fun -->
I don't deserve to do anything fun because I haven't done this difficult intellectual task -->
I'm miserable and anxious and I'm a bad person. -->
I should do this difficult intellectual task.
Rince, lather, repeat until suicidal.
So I learned not to 'beat myself up' when I fail to meet my own expectations. Some of those expectations really were unreasonable, so I'm glad I'm no longer bound by them. But I do still need self-discipline in my life; there are tasks I must do despite there being no immediate external consequence for not doing them. And although I'm no longer self-flagellating myself into depression about them, sometimes I just...don't do them. If I try to brute-force myself into doing them, that old thought process is still there, all too eager to take over and help me tear myself to pieces about it.
So, how do I develop the personal discipline to meet my own, mostly reasonable, expectations? Without 'punishing' or 'rewarding' myself in ways which remind me of that old thought process (and, to get all Freudian for a moment, of my parents).
How do I do that? How do you? Am I right in thinking it has something to do with personal integrity? Authenticity, perhaps?
Yes, I'll discuss this with my therapist. No, I'm not on meds, and that isn't going to change.