Ten Pounds of Shit in a Five Pound Bag?

Posted by Rex Alexander on Wed 20 Mar 24 in Acceptance, Addictions, Alcoholism, Compulsions, Perfectionism, Procrastination |

Q: The intense Mr. X writes about a pattern of trying to “put 10 pounds of shit into a five pound bag,” that is, making unrealistic plans, and then feeling frustrated,  and anxious about not accomplishing what he set out to do.  Sound familiar?




A: Hi Mr. X, all,

Long time no see!

In the 1970’s, a “priorities-driven” agenda, ala Lakein, was sufficient. These days, when one emergency replaces another emergency, which replaces another emergency,which prevents us from meeting deadlines looming like cutting blades on the threshing floor just ahead, creating meaningful priorities and sticking with them may be damned near impossible, and forcing ourselves to live up to impossible or unrealistic expectations generates anxiety, as you have discovered! In short, planning by priority may no longer be an effective strategy in the 21st Center. Check out David Allen “Getting Things Done” for some thoughts on that.

I am beginning to think that the root of what I have always thought of as my depression and anxiety may in fact be something more like adult ADD. If I had a nickel for all the god damned “How Organize Your Ass” books I have read, I could just relax on my yacht! Ah, my dear old yacht! :o{ I am also beginning to think that this ADD, or whatever it is, is driven by abnormal brain wave patterns. This in no way invalidates REBT, but it does point to the “engine” under and back, driving the distorted thinking, emoting and behaving. I’ll know more in several months after I have acquired some more experience with neurofeedback training.



Dare to be Average!”

is the title of chapter 14 in David Burns classic “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.”

It is one of most amazing and provocative chapter titles in all the annals of chaptrdom! Actually the long title is “Dare to be Average: Ways to overcome perfectionism,” a topic Dr. Burns addresses in all of his books as perfectionism is often folded into depression and anxiety and other mental health issues.

Rex gives 5 out of 5 hearts



One of the things I have been observing about my “procrastination” or ADD or whatever it is, is that if I have too many tasks written down in front of me to do, I am lost, especially if the tasks are complex or if they involve the need to acquire more information before I can get started. If too many are interdependent on other tasks, I get confused and feel stymied before I have even started. So, what often happens is that I end up with this huge list of things to do. They are all urgent in some way or another. I go down the list and avoid the tasks that seem unpleasant in some way, and pick off the easy ones. This is not necessarily a bad strategy sometimes, just to get some energy and feeling of movement. However, as a pattern, it is self-defeating as the list of tasks that I avoid grows longer and longer, less and less manageable, more and more unwieldy and top-heavy. Then I feel more and more anxious, frustrated and like a failure. Then discouraged and despairing, then depressed. REBT helps to clear away some of that mental and emotional clutter. However, without how actual progress in “getting things done” the pattern repeats sooner or later.



One part of the solution is training myself to observe the feeling of avoidance when I review the items on my to-do list, and when I feel that avoidance, to move toward that task rather than away from it. Not so easy to do! But once I get focused and “splashing around” in the task, it is fine. But if I allow the feeling of avoidance to dictate what I do and what I don’t do, it keeps me wandering around in a wilderness of confusion and frustration.

I am on a upswing the past couple of days, so I have a bit more clarity that I might have been able to bring to bear previously.

Warm regards,



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Originally posted 2019-01-05 21:41:42.

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1 Comment

  • charles+ says:

    You must do quite well if you think you may have some form of learning disability, Rex. Well done! I think you do brilliantly to be doing your tireless REBT promotional work ever since the Yahoo days if I’m honest! 
    I’ve found Windy Dryden’s book “Self-Discipline” from Sheldon Press in the UK to be quite good in this area. It’s one of his more comprehensive small books, too. It discusses some of the most common core beliefs promoting a lack of self-discipline. Unbeknown to myself, a very real and very profound cognitive dysfunction and post-exertional malaise (as the experts call it) was  driving some of my struggles to direct myself in the form of CFS/M.E. 
    An NHS CBT therapist also taught me the NLP “Chocolate Godiva” Pattern. Although this isn’t REBT, of course, it’s a visualisation process to associate positive, motivated and great feelings with tasks we find less tolerable – things we might avoid and have low frustration tolerance too. It’s worth adding that from an REBT perspective, however, there is no reason in the universe why we need to have good feelings or should feel motivated before we start at all. It helps, but there is no conditional reason why we must feel compelled to behaviour. From an eclectic perspective, the Godiva Chocolate Pattern has assisted me at times though, too. It’s another little thing in the toolbox! 

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