Morita Therapy is a branch of clinical psychology which was created in Japan in the early 1900s by Dr. Shoma Morita. The central premise of Morita Therapy is that you can coexist with the feelings that can lead to procrastination, such as fear, anxiety, and perfectionism. It explains that you shouldn’t wait for these feelings to go away before acting, but that you should learn to act despite these feelings. That is, simply act and take your feelings along for the ride.
Everyone encounters feelings of fear and anxiety, particularly when taking on new challenges. Morita Therapy explains that when these feelings arise, people have a tendency to direct all of their attention toward the feeling, in order to try and find ways to avoid, understand, manage, work-through, or overcome the feeling. That is, their focus becomes centered on trying to alleviate the discomfort that’s being caused by what they’re feeling. This often leads to procrastination.
By putting all of your attention on what you’re feeling, you take your focus off of the actions that need to be taken in order to lead an effective and purposeful life. So, for example, feeling anxious when you need to do something that’s outside of your comfort zone is normal. But putting all of your attention on the fact that you’re anxious is not normal; in addition, it interferes with your ability to do what needs to be done. The two examples below will further illustrate this point:
1. John is getting ready to take the New York Bar exam so that he can join the prestigious law firm in which his father is a senior partner. He comes from a long line of lawyers and no one in his family has ever failed the exam. However, he keeps hearing horror stories of people who have had to take the exam two or three times before passing.
2. Ann is very ambitious and has already gotten several promotions in her company. A high-profile management position has opened up and she really wants it. It’s between her and two colleagues who have more experience than she does, but who haven’t shown her resourcefulness. She’s asked to give the Board of Directors a presentation on the changes she would make if she were offered the position, and she knows that this is her chance to seal the deal.
It’s no wonder that John and Ann feel anxious. Fear and anxiety are a natural response to the challenging situations that they’re facing. Therefore, there’s no need for them to try and change or “fix” what they’re feeling. However, there will be a problem if either of them fixates on the uncomfortable emotions that they’re experiencing and they proceed to act in an attempt to avoid these feelings.
There will be a problem if John spends all of his spare time at the gym, instead of studying for the exam, in an attempt to alleviate the fear and anxiety that he’s feeling. He won’t be adequately prepared for the exam, and he’ll probably fail. In Ann’s case, there will be a problem if she starts devoting her time to unimportant tasks around the office, instead of focusing on preparing for the presentation. If she leaves working on her presentation to the very last moment, she’ll probably do a poor job in front of the Board.
That is, the problem starts when John and Ann get trapped in an unhealthy self-focus and turn most of their attention to the uncomfortable emotions that they’re feeling, instead of focusing on what they need to do in order to achieve their goal or purpose. Morita Therapy teaches that you have to set goals and take the steps that are necessary in order to accomplish them, as you co-exist with any unpleasant feelings that may arise. Act in a way that will allow you to achieve your goals, regardless of how you may be feeling.