I don’t believe in laziness. I don’t believe that it exists. And my clients know this. Quite often it comes up: we are talking about why a client doesn’t do something beneficial for him or herself, or why he or she is procrastinating about something, and the client will say “I’m lazy.” And I will say “I don’t believe in laziness.” Clients who have been with me for a while know this routine and we both have a laugh.
But, seriously, I don’t believe in laziness. The purpose of psychotherapy is to get at the deeper, hidden meanings behind our actions. So our work only begins at what the client is calling laziness. From there, we need to uncover what is really going on for the client. A lot of times procrastination results because of fears a person has. If the person fears failure, not doing well, or rejection, waiting to the last minute to perform the task (write the paper or make the phone call) allows for a built in excuse: “Well, I didn’t put that much time into it. It was last minute.” In such cases, the client and I endeavor to understand the fears and underlying motivations and then to choose more effective ways to deal with them.
Sometimes what underlies a person’s “laziness” is fear of success. Some of my clients have come to understand how this fear, as much as that of failure, influences them. Perhaps by succeeding a person is moving past his or her family in terms of accomplishments, social status, prestige. And doing so may carry with it feelings of guilt or fears of being alone.
When a client says to me that he or she is lazy, I know that we have a journey ahead of us — one that usually illuminates more of the vast complexity of the human psyche. And that allows us to then see how to better proceed in life. Saying “I’m lazy” is not a lazy excuse.