Who let the dog out? A little bit about German procrastination

Here’s a German expression:

‘Den inneren Schweinehund überwinden” = to overcome the inner swinedog.

Not only does this expression make me laugh, I think it is also satisfyingly suitable.

The swinedog metaphor is used often reproachfully to describe lack of will and/or discipline, which stops a person from doing a task, which is either ethical or sensible.

The actual name swinedog, was used in boar hunting in the early 19th Century, it then became a rude insult, often heard in British WW2 films, but nowadays nobody refers to it in any other way but the expression above.

That feeling that there’s an alter ego inside me, with a bad attitude, sluggish and slothful, yet oddly compelling, since I can sometimes spend quite a long time with it.

We can reason with ourselves that of course X should be done by the end of the day at the latest. (Make ‘X’ your own. Here a few of my favourites: tax return, funding application, in-tray filing, renew insurance policy, change phone provider). That X probably won’t take that long either, and if only X wouldn’t be in the way, we would be on top of the world, but despite knowing all of this, we rather just talk about X and let it sit there and wallow in our murky conscience. It sneaks in, gets bigger, lingers for supper and stays for the night, keeps reminding us of its presence, for me it often comes with a physical sensation, somewhere in the stomach region.

And YET it seems sometimes take a massive effort to shift it, that swinedog! (it works in English as well, you can pull your face into an appropriate grimace to say it with loathing).

The expression talks about ‘overcoming’ which suggests that it is not a personal decision of wanting but self discipline which is required. The expression also implies that we’ve all got one, and the flaw lies in giving in to the dog.

Once you’ve given in to that pull, does it really satisfy you? Or is there a bitter taste that remains, because actually laziness has prevailed. So how successful is that strategy? The satisfaction often comes with overcoming it, or rather actually achieving what we needed to get done.

How can we make that battle shorter, and even better, more enjoyable?

Maybe by giving it a name, we can change our relationship with our inner swinedog and accept that it is there, and through that make the relationship less torturous.

Go on then, Lassie, time for walkies!