Skip to main content

Procrastination and Self-Sabotage: Rewriting the Scripts of Old Promises with IFS

By August 26, 2023Trauma Recovery
Procrastination and self-sabotage – they’re like that familiar song we keep hearing in our heads. No matter how hard we try to change the tune, we somehow find ourselves stuck in the same rhythm. It’s almost as if an invisible force is holding us back from being and doing our best.
We’ve all been there. Delaying important tasks, second-guessing our abilities, and tripping over our own shoelaces just before the finish line.
But have you ever paused to ask yourself why? Why do we engage in behaviours that seem to act like roadblocks on our path to progress and success?
The answer might lie in an unexpected place – the secret promises we’ve made to ourselves, often a long time ago.
In this blog post, I want to take you on a journey through the lens of the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model. Let’s explore the intricate landscape of procrastination and self-sabotage. Together, we will uncover a profound truth that has the potential to completely change your relationship with these familiar companions.
The truth, which is the key to unlocking a world of greater freedom and In-Powerment.

The Invisible Promises That Keep You Procrastinate and Self-Sabotage.

Allow me to share the story of my client, Aoife, who, like you, has struggled with these challenges and found a way to reclaim her freedom.

Aoife is a talented artist with dreams of sharing her work with the world. But every time she got close to finishing a project, she’d suddenly find a million other tasks to distract herself. The urge to tidy her workspace, respond to overlooked emails, or even reorganize her art supplies became overpowering. It was as if her artistic journey was repeatedly hijacked by an inexplicable urge to prioritize anything else but her art.

In IFS, we understand that all our parts, even those that seem to create a lot of mess in our lives, have the best intentions at their core. We know they were created to protect us, to shield us from pain that was too much to bear at a time when we were young and helpless. It was the same for Aoife’s procrastinating part.

When we asked this part who it is protecting, we came across a powerful memory from the time Aoife was about 6 years old.

It was a memory of a school art competition. Aoife had poured all her heart into making a painting and was really proud of herself. However, her art was met with harsh criticism from a teacher who went as far as questioning her talent in front of the whole school. You can easily imagine how extremely painful and embarrassing it was for Aoife. A seed of doubt was planted and took root. But also, a silent vow was made. Aoife promised herself to never again allow herself to be so vulnerable, so open to the sting of rejection and criticism.


Fast forward to the time Aoife came to see me as an adult in her 40s because she felt she could not stop sabotaging her artistic journey – the vow was still keeping strong.

So now, back to you.

Picture the young you. Think back to those pivotal moments in your past, the times when pain or vulnerability left you wounded. It’s in those moments that you might have made silent pacts with yourself, vowing to never allow that pain to seep through again. These promises were your way of coping, of ensuring that you’d never again experience the sting of rejection, disappointment, or failure.

The intentions are noble – to protect yourself from further hurt. Yet, with time, these promises unavoidably become invisible barriers, obstructing our freedom, growth and success.

The Power of Our Promises

These stories, like many others, highlight the power of the invisible promises we’ve made to protect ourselves. These promises are born from our past experiences – times when we felt vulnerable, hurt, or let down. In an effort to prevent those wounds from reopening, we unconsciously committed to avoiding situations that could trigger pain.

Knowing this, let’s look again at the way you might stand in your own way.

Is it possible that you procrastinate because deep down you believe that by delaying or avoiding a task, you are preventing potential failure, disappointment, or pain? That this behaviour serves as a mechanism to shield you from situations that trigger your past wounds?

Similarly, self-sabotage – can you trace it back to your internal promises?

It is possible that when you sabotage your own efforts, you’re essentially fulfilling the vow you made to yourself – to avoid any situation that could make you vulnerable. It can manifest as negative self-talk, setting unrealistic expectations, or undermining our own success. But over time, these patterns can become so ingrained that you barely notice the root cause and stay stuck in the cycle of disappointment and frustration.

To break free from the cycle of procrastination and self-sabotage, we need to acknowledge the origins of our self-protective promises.

Psychotherapy, and especially the IFS model, encourages us to explore these internal dynamics with curiosity and self-compassion. We create a safe space for all our parts to express their concerns and intentions. We bring back to safety our young vulnerable parts and help them release their pain. Through this dialogue, we begin to understand that these promises, once our lifelines, today are a relic of the past that holds us back. We start to realize that now, as capable adults, we are well able to cope with the emotions and challenges that once felt unbearable or devastating.

The Healing Journey To Transform Your Procrastination and Self-Sabotage Tendencies

Recognizing that procrastination and self-sabotage are rooted in self-protection is always eye-opening. It instantly changes how we view these tendencies and opens the door for healing and transformation.

As we untangle these patterns, we can replace the vows we made with more empowering and growth-oriented commitments. We can learn to navigate vulnerability with greater resilience and embrace the lessons that come with it.

The journey toward overcoming procrastination and self-sabotage is deeply personal. It’s about recognizing that the promises we made to protect ourselves no longer serve our best interests. By embracing self-compassion, understanding our internal dynamics, and fostering a new relationship with vulnerability, we can gradually break free from these patterns and step into a more empowered and fulfilling life.

But because we work through very vulnerable and sensitive parts of ourselves, most of us need a trained professional to hold the space for us. The healing journey is a deeply emotional journey, requiring courage and commitment – not an easy one to travel on your own.


So, my invitation to you is simple yet profound: let’s explore this journey together. Let’s peer into the inner landscape where the self-protecting promises were first whispered. Through the IFS lens, we can understand the intricate dance between protection and limitation, and in doing so, unleash a wave of transformation. You can befriend your procrastination and self-sabotage, recognize their roots, and ultimately, rewrite their scripts.

Remember, you have the capacity to create a path toward growth and self-discovery, no matter what your life story is. Together, we can unravel the ties that bind you and open the door to a life where procrastination and self-sabotage no longer call the shots. And once you reframe your relationship with these old dance partners, you’ll find that the song of your life becomes one of peace and empowerment, a beautiful melody of your true potential.

Ready to make the first step to unlock your own freedom and power?

Get my FREE mini-course – 3 Powerful Strategies to Overcome Childhood Toxic Stress & Trauma to Unlock Your Potential and Reclaim Your Life

Leave a Reply