Gremlin is the name given by Rick Carson to describe the image behind that voice we’ve all heard, especially as we’re on the cusp of a new challenge or change, that tells us we can’t, it’s too scary, we’re not good enough and “everyone” is about to figure us out. As Rick teaches, we never get rid of the gremlin(s) entirely, we just tame them. They rear their heads, we tame them. That’s how it goes. Many gremlins only come out at night – the middle of the night. Those are the nocturnal gremlins. Other gremlins are fine with daylight and, without a conscious invitation, accompany us throughout our day. The key word in that sentence is “conscious” because in some way we let them come along for the ride. Yes, it really is our choice whether they accompany us or not.
So, whether you’ve got the daytime, or nocturnal gremlin(s), or both, here are some strategies you might find useful:
Turn the monologue into a dialogue. The gremlin cannot be the only voice playing in your head. Talk with it! Have a conversation. Stand up to the gremlin with hard cold facts about your skills, talents, abilities, moments of resilience, past successes, etc. And when you do, have the last word. Your strong healthy self MUST have the last word.
Laugh. Once you get to know your gremlin(s) and start paying attention to when she is most vocal you’ll come to expect her. Don’t be surprised, just laugh! “Oh, it’s you again!” It could look like this: You’re trying to go to sleep so you’re ready for a big interview tomorrow morning and the gremlin takes over your brain: “this is a high powered company and you’re not really able to keep up at that level”, or you actually got the grant you were hoping for and the gremlin starts in with “you’ll never pull it off in the time frame you proposed and it’s going to look really bad to have to return that money.” On the cusp of exciting change and challenges, the gremlin gets super excited. So just laugh and say, “I was wondering when you were going to show up…”
Take a walk down memory lane. When the gremlin shows up with the message of “you can’t” take an inventory of the past 10 years or more when “you did” – when you were capable, when you took a risk and it worked out, when you tried something new and challenging and grew from it. And then when the gremlin shouts “you can’t” you can shout back, “I can!”
Word of Caution: Not all negative thoughts are voices of the gremlin. For example, if I was applying for a job that required strong budgetary skills and I started freaking out about how I was going to do in this position that would be a good thing. Because I’d have to think hard about a) is this the right job for me since I’m lousy with numbers and b) if everything else about the job was in line with my skills and passions then I need to think strategically about how I’ll manage for this weakness. So, the first step is always to first determine who’s talking? My responsible self or my gremlin? One of the best ways to figure that out is to use Byron Katie’s 4 questions.
If it’s my responsible self here’s how it could look:
1. Is that true? (That I’m lousy with numbers – yes)
2. Is that absolutely true? (Yes)
3. Who am I with that thought? (Realistic)
4. Who would I be without that thought? (Irresponsible)
Here’s how those 4 questions look when the gremlin has you hijacked. The initial thought would be like above: “this is a high powered company and I’m not really able to keep up at that level”
1. Is that true? (I think so – my current company is much smaller and doesn’t have as many high stake clients.)
2. Is that absolutely true? (Ah, no. Truthfully I am pretty bored in my current position and have gotten some pretty amazing feedback from bosses and clients about my work.)
3. Who am I with that thought? (Fearful, paralyzed, worried)
4. Who would I be without that thought? (Empowered, energized)
Just to finish Katie’s approach, after you’ve worked through the 4 questions, do a “turn-around” in other words flip the initial thought. So, instead of: this is a high powered company and I’m not really able to keep up at that level – say, this is a high powered company AND I’m totally ready to step up and be part of it AND yes, it’ll be scary but not impossible. (There goes that AND again.)
What other strategies have you discovered for managing your gremlin(s)?