Procrastinators Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from chronic procrastination.

Overcoming "fake helplessness"

In the 12-Step sense of Step One, I am powerless over my addiction.

However, in this message, I'm writing about something different.

In this message, I'm writing about "fake helplessness" and not actual "Step One Powerlessness".

In the past, I've felt "helpless" to change. I didn't feel that I was able to do the tasks that needed to be done. I doubted my capabilities and strengths.

I felt helpless – incapable of finding and performing at a career. I felt helpless – incapable of housekeeping. I felt helpless – incapable of finishing my university degree.

But, upon looking deeper, I see that this was NOT a self-esteem / self-doubt issue.

It was actually my emotional attitude about doing tasks.

I didn't think I could care for myself. So I whined and wept, and allowed others to take care of me.

I wasn't quite the stereotypical "helpless female" -- but as I look back, I must now admit that my attitude was something eerily similar to that. (Although I would have disagreed if you'd said that to me back then).

I realize now that it wasn't just "I don't think I can". I realize now that underneath all those outward feelings of helplessness were actually feelings of "I don't want to".

The helplessness I thought I felt … was actually just a "mask" …. It was my way to avoid responsibility for doing whatever tasks needed to be done.

I didn't want to admit to myself that I was actually just having a major case of the "I don't wannas". So I told myself I was helpless.

I allowed the feelings of helplessness to overcome me, as a way of avoiding responsibility.

Eventually, I began to believe my own rationalization of helplessness.  It was way easier to give in to the belief that I was helpless -- way easier than actually standing up and taking responsibility.

As a result of feeling helpless (or telling myself I was helpless) … I spent more than a year crying on the couch.

I also watched lots of mindless TV, especially soap operas, during this period. I sat on the couch, and cried while watching TV.

I wasn't even watching the TV as a typical "distraction behavior" to do fun things as a way of procrastinating on doing necessary tasks.

I was watching TV (usually sad emotional shows) to keep me company in my helplessness attitude.

To any outward observer who didn't know me, and learned I was on the couch crying for months, it might have appeared to be clinical depression. But I know now that it really wasn't.

Even my close friends knew I wasn't really depressed, because they were fully aware of the specific tasks I was avoiding. My friends tried to point this out, but I wasn't willing to listen.

It wasn't depression.  It was "demand resistance".  I was resistant to having to do what needed to be done. So I told myself I was helpless.

Poor forlorn little me.

This all occurred before I discovered the Twelve Steps.

I am grateful to the Twelve Steps concept in general. And I am grateful to the specific information on the Procrastinators Anonymous website about "demand resistance" and other causes of compulsive procrastination.

I now see that my "helplessness" was actually FAKE.

But my REAL "Step One Powerlessness" was powerlessness against the temptation to avoid responsibility.

Regarding Step Two:

One day, I realized that there are two parts to Step Two:

  • Coming to believe that there is some sort of Higher Power (or better judgment, or inspiration)
  • Believing that one can be restored to sanity

I have always believed in a "Higher Power".
But when I discovered the Twelve Steps, I came to believe I could be restored to sanity.

Once I believed I could be restored to "sane behavior patterns", I no longer felt my "fake helplessness".

And with Step Three, I began having WILLINGNESS to do the tasks that need doing, and the Demand Resistance started to lose its stranglehold over me.

From the Promises: "That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear." It really is starting to disappear. I have a long ways to go, but I have begun.

--- movingalong


a case of the "i dont wannas"

wonderful turn of phrase. That IS harder to admit, isnt it? To ourselves and others.

Oddly, i can relate, altho i've never been depressed for that long. But i do have periods in which i beat myself up and am very hard on myself for past failures, which i think is a reaction to the procrastination that's akin to what you went thru.

i also see the 2 parts of step 2. i, like you, already had come to know a Higher Power, and so it was easy for me also to start on step 2b, to believe that that Higher Power could change me.

Now i gotta get back to work.

fall down seven times, get up eight - japanese proverb

procrastinating with time mgmt tools:

Thank you so much for

Thank you so much for sharing this insight with us, movealong.  I was deeply moved and a lot of what you say applies to me also  and somehow, although I have known this inwardly for a long time, I have always forbidden my subconcience to let it come to the surface.  The big question that has been occupying me is why ???

After a lot of searching I came accross several articles (unfortunaely in German - could not find any equivalent in English) which seem to indicate that this has to do with the relationship between mother and child during the first 18 months.  I wonder if any of you know anything about this.

Thanks again, movealong.


P.S. Wouldn't call it "fake" helplessness though, that sounds horrily negative.  I tend to call it "acquired" helplessness.



If you can't move the mountain, move a few stones.

learned helplessness

is the developmental term. And gosh, coming to that realization is really frustrating! To think that we might be procrastinatorsa because our parents and siblings did not allow us to be frustrated, instead solving our problems for us is absoltely maddening! 


"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." - William Penn

I identify with this....

 I recognize elements of this in me as well. There are times when I felt like, if I got up off the couch to do it I would have to be responsible for the outcome of my actions. By not believing in myself I made it impossible for me to find out if I really was able to do something - and in the meantime, got a chance to play hookie on my responsibilities. It is a bit of a Cinderella complex I think: where the hell is my prince in shining armour? Why oh why do I have to have to deal with all of this crap? I know I am supposed to stand on my own two feet, I would be enormously pissed off if I anyone implied that I could not stand on my own two feet, but sometimes I secretly want to be taken care of so I don't have to face the responsibility of being grown up. I even see this right now: my spouse is out of work, I am out of work, I am living in my mother's house and I would love to just stay home and cook, go for walks, do simple caretaking things instead of facing the harsh economic reality of this world, which is currently very scary. I want my mother or my spouse to do it for me. Back to the womb. 


"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." - William Penn