by Amanda Rosinski, M.A.
I have been working on a specific research paper for quite some time now, but I recently found myself avoiding the paper and feeling angry whenever I thought about working on the paper. Not only had I been avoiding the paper itself, but I was also avoiding the critical thoughts about why I was feeling and behaving this way. So this week, when I began thinking about how much I really need to get back to working on this paper, I realized that I had been thinking irrationally about the paper. My irrational beliefs about the paper were that this paper was way too hard for me to actually finish, and that it should be much easier to finish this paper. These inflexible and unhelpful beliefs led me to both avoid the task and feel angry about completing the task. These irrational beliefs are clearly hurting me, and not helping me. So how can I challenge them and start thinking more rationally about completing this paper?
First, I reminded myself that I have worked on difficult and challenging research papers before, and I have succeeded in writing the papers. So why is this time any different? Second, I imagined a friend in my position and myself as an outsider of the situation. If my friend was avoiding writing an important research paper and became angry when talking about it, I would remind her that she has overcome these types of challenges before and that she can seek out further support to finish the paper. I would remind her that it’s a challenging paper to write, but it’s not impossible. So why wouldn’t those reminders apply to my situation, too? After thinking critically about how to challenge my own irrational beliefs, it became clear that I was thinking very inflexibly about the event. This paper is hard, but I have written difficult papers before, and I can stand it and will survive this one as well. There’s no rule that this paper should be easy to write. I would prefer that it was easy, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. These beliefs are more flexible, and allowed me to feel annoyed about the paper but not angry, and also helped me to overcome my avoidance of opening up the document on my computer. If you find yourself stuck, whether it be for some work or school project, or exercising, or calling a family member, take a look at some of the unhelpful beliefs and unhealthy negative emotions that may be getting in your way. Try thinking about the issue differently, and you may just find you get results!