The Problem of Procrastination

In our fast-paced society that prizes productivity and efficiency, procrastination is clearly a problem that can sabotage career and advancement. In a world preoccupied with high stress and low self-esteem, procrastination can be a serious issue contributing to more frequent physical illness as well mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. And even in Christian circles, procrastination can be a spiritual snare, for procrastination in repentance and the keeping of God’s commandments can destroy our very souls. Even though failing to follow through and complete an intended task until the … [Read more...]

Strategies for Dealing with Impulsivity

Our lived experience tells us that today impulsivity can be a disorder that affects many people of all ages in a sundry of situations with a variety of objects that are the focus of pathological impulsivity. The object of the impulse in the mind of the impulsive—such as delicious food, a glass of alcohol, the slot machine, or the search for images on the internet—can become so overpoweringly tempting that the impulsive throw caution to the wind, time after time, and sabotage their own lives. Psychologists and therapists have confirmed the nature and extent of the problem.  We know that “just … [Read more...]

Overcoming Impulse Through Relaxation and the Prayer

In a previous post, I wrote about our innate double-mindedness and how those two minds are often at war with each other when it comes to addictive attractions. At the time of temptation, the rational mind finds itself hijacked by a hyperactive impulsive system that grabs our inner steering wheel driving us down the road of impulsive behavior. For the impulsive, there are certain triggers that are experienced through anyone of their five senses (or even memories of those sense impressions) that excite them and propel them toward the impulsive behavior. Focusing on those triggers or even … [Read more...]

Impulsivity: Just Say No or Just Say Yes

In the early 1980’s, First Lady Nancy Reagan kicked off a signature campaign against drug use in the United States. She called it the “Just Say No” to drugs.  The phrase was memorable, catchy, and seemed to be the essence of simplicity itself.   After years of failure in the presidential sponsored “war on drugs”, many believed that the First Lady had found something that just might work. Decades later, we know that the “Just Say No” campaign didn’t work.  In fact, some may argue that it had the opposite effect, especially in urban areas like New York City where the crack epidemic was about to … [Read more...]

Impulsivity and Self-control: The Problem of Being of Two Minds

The Apostle James once wrote, “a double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). That being of two minds, or more literally of two souls (δίψυχος), creates an instability of the will that makes the task of overcoming impulsivity especially challenging. Part of us is utterly persuaded that addictive behavior is bad for us and part of us is completely convinced that it is good for us, and the self is at a loss to explain its actions, for as Saint Paul once put it, “The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:19). Commenting on this passage, … [Read more...]

Using Your Mind to Rise Above Impulses

It has often been said that executive functioning is part of that which makes us uniquely human, separating us from the animal kingdom and allowing for freedom, creativity, and complex problem solving. It is executive functioning that helps us manage time, pay attention, plan, organize, remember details, and use experience as a guide for future action. But when impulsivity takes over, all these gifts inherent in executive functioning seem to vanish and the frontal lobe activity responsible for executive functioning appears to shut down almost completely. Impulsive behavior undercuts … [Read more...]

Impulsivity, our Relationship with God, and the Problem of Self-control

It is hard not to admire someone with self-control. It’s a virtue that emboldens the brave to face any foe and often prevail. The ancient Greek historian Thucydides recounting the exploits of the legendary heroes in the Peloponnesian war once remarked, “self-control is the chief element in self-respect and self-respect is the chief element in courage.” And certainly, the impulsive lack self-control, and with it self-respect and courage to face their problems as well. The vital question is whether the impulsive can gain self-control when they need it most. With our own best efforts, that … [Read more...]

Impulsivity and Asceticism

Daniel Akst in his 2011 book on self-control wrote, “Exercising self-restraint can be depleting, yet it can also be ennobling.” The ennobling quality of self-restraint is something the fathers knew quite well. The Greek word for self-control, ἐγκράτεια, means continence, temperance, or sobriety by containing, rather than releasing through impulsivity, whatever passes through one’s mind. Saint Basil the Great in his letter to Ourvikio, refers to self-control as “denial of the body and confession to God…, to yearn for nothing, to not be stirred to passion by what the eye sees and the ear hears.” … [Read more...]

Temptations and Impulsivity

Oscar Wilde famously wrote, “I can resist anything except temptation.” His humor underlines an important truth in the exploration of impulsivity. Impulsivity is not normally operative in all aspects of one’s behavior. In some areas of life, even impulsive people may demonstrate behavior that is commendably regulated and self-controlled. After all, we witness the impulsive gambler who is otherwise industrious in his work and family life or the one given over to drink who is kind and generous with others. In their research, Eli Tsukayama and Angela Lee Duckworth argue that common examples of … [Read more...]

Impulsivity, Addiction, and the Passions

It should come as no surprise to those familiar with individuals struggling with addiction that impulsivity is a core issue. In technical terms, there is a certain fundamental correlation between addiction and impulsivity. People who are impulsive are more vulnerable to developing addictive behavior, because they give little regard to adverse consequences (Impulse Control Disorders and Co-Occurring Disorders, Potenza, p. 51) or to be more precise, they prefer immediate reinforcers to delayed ones, instant gratification to long-term satisfaction. Being impulsive means acting without … [Read more...]