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312: Procrastination, Self-Sabotage, and How to Get Unstuck - Britt Frank

On Air with Ella - podcast episode 312

britt frank is on air with Ella

Listen here (and everywhere you get podcasts):

Why can't we THINK ourselves forward?

What is really going on when we procrastinate or self-sabotage?... What if our problem isn’t a lack of motivation?... What if the solution is something other than beating ourselves up or trying harder?

In her book THE SCIENCE OF STUCK, therapist and trauma specialist Britt Frank shares some good news: we are not lazy, crazy, or unmotivated.

We all experience stuckness in our lives—in our relationships, careers, our bodies, even addictions and more. We know we need to move forward, but don’t know how, and this can create a loop of self-doubt that goes nowhere.

But how do we make the leap between knowing what to do and actually doing?

Britt shares why we can’t think our way forward—and how to break through what’s holding us back in life, in love, in work and elsewhere.

In this episode:

  • Why don’t we do the things we know we’re supposed to?

  • Why can’t we think ourselves forward when we feel stuck?

  • Why are the words “lazy” and “unmotivated” completely false?

  • Momentum vs. motivation

  • Procrastination and self-sabotage and other fallacies that keep us stuck

  • The power of a "Micro-Yes"

  • The difference between accountability and shaming

  • Motivation and brain function - what actually works

  • Why do we need the parts of ourselves that we dislike?

Your brain is wired to keep you alive, not to keep you happy. - Britt Frank

Key Take Aways

1️⃣ Many people have trouble with the word “trauma.” They think if they haven’t experienced oppression, war, assault, or survived a natural disaster, they don’t “qualify” for trauma. Trauma is anything that exceeds our brain’s processing capacity. It is like how the stomach processes food: not everything we eat will cause indigestion, but everything has the capacity to cause indigestion. The same is true for our life experiences. Not everything is going to be traumatizing, but all of our experiences have the capacity to cause brain indigestion.

2️⃣ We can’t think ourselves forward. The part of our brain that is responsible for logic and reason is not the same part of our brain that creates panic and depression. If thinking our way out of stuck worked, we all would be good to go.

3️⃣ “Self-sabotage” is a myth that keeps us locked in shame. When we engage in what people call “self- sabotaging” behaviors, that is an effort by our internal system to protect us from perceived harm. The intention behind self-sabotage is to create safety— not to cause harm. All change — even positive change — involves loss, and our internal systems will stop at nothing to protect us from pain, including acting out with extreme behaviors. Self-sabotage would be more accurately called "Suboptimal Self-Protection."

4️⃣ Procrastination is a suboptimal form of self-protection. If we never start that workout program, go for that relationship, or launch that new business, we don’t have to worry about falling flat on our faces. The word “procrastinate” is problematic because it implies FAULT rather than describing FUNCTION. Procrastination is a form of survival physiology — it is NOT a character flaw.

5️⃣ Calling yourself “lazy” or “unmotivated” is completely false.

Our brains are ALWAYS motivated — they are either motivated to survive real or perceived threats or motivated to mobilize in a direction of OUR choosing. When we say, “I’m struggling with motivation,” what we REALLY mean is, “My brain is motivated by safety right now, and I want it to be motivated by something else.”

6️⃣ It is often the parts of ourselves we hate the most that are trying the hardest to protect us. When we get curious about our inner worlds, we discover that embedded in even our most destructive behaviors are gifts like creativity, grit and innovation. The more we try to ignore the parts of ourselves we don’t like, the harder they fight to be heard. Our “character flaws” are neither demons to be slain nor enemies to be conquered. They are the frightened cries of the children we used to be.

the science of stuck


Britt Frank, MSW, LSCSW, SEP is a clinician, educator and trauma specialist. She speaks and writes widely about the mental health myths that keep us stuck and stressed. Britt received her BA from Duke University and her MSW from the University of Kansas, where she later became an award-winning adjunct professor. She is a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner and trained in the Internal Family Systems therapeutic model. Britt was a primary therapist at a drug and alcohol treatment center, an inpatient therapist at a children’s psychiatric hospital, and now owns a private practice. You can find Britt on Instagram or on her website

Instagram: @brittfrank


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xxoo Ella


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