Let's start by talking about the Gremlin...the Gremlin is that voice inside you that says "you shouldn’t try that" or "you aren’t good at that." Gremlin says "don’t waste your money" and "you’ll never finish it or be good enough." Gremlin can even be that automatic voice that says, "oh I am always clumsy." You have begun to channel your Gremlin voice when you speak for it, "I can’t", "won’t" or "shouldn’t." You know what the Gremlin voice says, but how do you learn to speak its language so you can respond and set it on the right path?
You know what happens if you try to shut the Gremlin up, it pops up somewhere else. Whack-a-mole in action. I often suggest to my students to imagine they have a remote control and hit the mute button when the Gremlin starts to speak, just like muting a bad commercial. The long-term solution is to understand Gremlin speak so you can get it to play nice.
What is the Gremlin voice really trying to say? Believe it or not, it wants to protect you. It is part of your lizard brain that tells you not to venture out there because the dragons will slay you. Stay safe and you won’t have to feel, see or be hurt. Really, the Gremlin is your biggest protector, but it hasn’t grown up. It is still trying to protect a toddler. So, when you learn to speak its language you can help it mature and learn new ways to communicate.
The Gremlin’s language is fear. Fear is the biggest motivator to keep you in line.
Here are Four Forms of Fear and what they are really trying to tell you:
#1: Fear of Failure
If you succeed, I mean really succeed and even maybe win an award or a write up in the news; then you are destined to failure, because how can you keep up this impossible level of accomplishment? This is more about fear of success, but it plays out and translates the same. Do you really want to follow this path? If you succeed at it, you are then expected to repeat the act that you succeeded at. You cooked a great meal, painted a wonderful painting or landed a fabulous job. Now you must rinse and repeat. What if you don’t want to paint again, your next meal is a flop, or you decide the dream job is not what you thought. Then everyone will be disappointed and see you as a failure. You will be hurt.
Translation: This is about commitment. If you are not certain that you want to accomplish task A, B or C, then your Gremlin will speak to you in this fear language and persuade you not to even try. Why do this when you will be hurt?
Remedy: The language to use with the Gremlin is simple alternatives. You may let the Gremlin know that you are learning to paint, and you will improve with each lesson. Your goal is simply to learn. Let the Gremlin know that you are trying the job on a trial basis. Give the Gremlin a timeline with steps. Let the Gremlin know that you can always return to the safety of the cave, but you want to venture out and look around and you will keep them updated. When the Gremlin learns to trust your wandering, you will be able to venture farther and become more daring. This is like training a dragon.
#2: Fear of Completion
This particular fear talk is related to the first fear. If you begin something you are expected to finish it. If the fear keeps you from completing it then you escape the fear of failure. Another version is the Gremlin telling you that you never finish anything. It becomes self-fulfilling. The result is you begin but do not finish it or you never even try to begin.
Translation: The gremlin keeps you from judgement because you have a million excuses why you couldn’t complete the project.
Remedy: Pick one small project and let the Gremlin know that this project will not take you out of your comfort zone. When I first got sober and I wanted to change my old habits of not finishing things, I decided on a project that was simple enough that the Gremlin didn’t get upset. I made a goal to keep my sock drawer organized. I was able to do this in a short period of time and no one had to know. The Gremlin was ok with this. This small project led to more small goals and I built on it from there. Pretty soon the Gremlin was not even bothering with this fear anymore.
#3 Fear of Judgement
Oh, we all have this one and we are usually our worst judges. Will I be good enough, will someone like me, will I be rejected? You will be hurt. It isn’t safe out there. Keep low and no one will bother you. Look at what everyone else is doing. You can see on their social media how successful they are. You can’t compete.
Translation: You may not measure up to what others are doing and they will hurt you. Stay here with me and I will protect you. You don’t need to answer that call for art, you will only be devastated when you don’t get accepted.
Remedy: Tell the Gremlin that you really appreciate their concern and that you know they are simply trying to protect you but you are ready to widen your res