She is an old, grumpy lady. She is cynical. She never creates but only criticizes. Her hobby is gossiping. She always sees what someone did wrong and doesn’t hesitate to point it out. She is worried about the wide range of subjects: the political situation in the world, the climate changes, the Chinese stock market and the way in which our neighbors are raising their kids. Her ultimate concerns, though, are: my future, money and what will people think. She watches closely and criticizes relentlessly my each and every action. It’s not that I haven’t tried, but she is extremely hard to please. She is always unhappy. That’s her job because she is… my inner gremlin. My inner critic. My Resistance, as Steven Pressfield names it.
When we spoke about good effects of silence in daily life, an idea of making your inner gremlin shut up provoked many questions. “It sounds awesome, but how can I actually do that?” people asked. And that is a very good question. The one that has many potential answers that may or may not work for you at the certain day. Everyone is different and every gremlin is different. Thus, there is no a one-size-fits-all solution.
However, there are two big truths that apply for each one of us. Listen carefully:
1. YOU ARE NOT YOUR GREMLIN.
…or your gremlin isn’t you. We are not our thoughts, but we tend to identify with them. Similarly, you and the gremlin are two separate entities. Don’t identify with gremlin and his words. Don’t trust him.
Instead, make his or her portrait, like I did at the beginning of this post. Personify gremlin: define gender, age, character, maybe even the name. It will help you differentiate.
After the separation comes another important thing to remember.
2. YOU ARE CREATIVE. YOUR GREMLIN ISN’T.
That’s the key difference between you two. Gremlin is created out of your repetitive thoughts, beliefs and patterns. He has only limited material to work with. You, on the other hand, possess a boundless creative potential. That is your main asset. That is how you can beat the gremlin.
Every morning I write a lists of 10 ideas to exercise my creative muscles. That’s how I came up with 10 creative strategies to make gremlin shut up. Observe it as an arsenal of weapons that you can throw at him or her. Not everything will work for everyone and certainly not every time. But it’s worth trying. Enjoy.
The strategy I mentioned in the post about silence does miracles for me. Like any other vain creature, gremlin likes to be acknowledged for his insight. He will talk and complain and explain. He will find proofs, reasons and real life examples. “You won’t succeed. It is too hard. Have you seen that more than 50% of small businesses fail within first year? Even bigger players struggle. Look at Blackberry… no, I told you. You won’t be able to do it. You just weren’t born in the right time and at the right place…”
Then you need to make one step backwards. Gremlin did an awesome job. He did some market research. He knows a few things about the economy. He deserves an acknowledgment: “Good insight, man. Thanks for sharing.” It will keep him satisfied, and you’ll be able to do brave and meaningful things undisturbed.
“Ignore” was one of the best buttons on Facebook. (Now it’s tweaked with some other options. “Delete friend request” or so, which is a shame.) In good old days, you essentially had two options on Facebook: do something (like, share, comment, accept) or IGNORE. Do you want to see an important update that we made for chat that you never use anyway? Ignore. Person X says he went to elementary school with you. Do you want to add the elementary school to your profile? Ignore. Megan Fox wans to be your friend. Ignore. (Scam profile.) The prince of Nigeria wants to give you million dollars. Ignore.
Ignoring is pure gold. Does it make you bad person? Ignorant? Hell no! Whatsoever, good portion of your success will be related to your ability to ignore nonsense and focus on what matters. Gremlin is in the first category. So next time when he starts his dirge or gossip, press “Ignore”. Do you know that Amy bought another pair of shoes and she still claims that she doesn’t have enough to make ends meet? Ignore. Do you know that world is in big crisis? Ignore. Are you even aware that your ideas are impossible? Ignore. “Shut up man, I have a work to do!”
3. WRITE EVERY GREMLIN’S WORD
You can use my beloved free writing. (Set the time on your stopwatch and write whatever comes across your mind, without any care of grammar, spelling or the quality of written.) Morning pages, as Julia Cameron defines them, are ideal kickstarter for your day. When you put the BS from your head onto a page, your mind becomes free to focus on what truly matters. Ideal way to make gremlin silent.
So the next time he starts, open a blank document and capture his words. It will surprise him. He might stop and continue after a while. Have a document handy so that you can keep on writing. There are a few benefits of this strategy. You will become aware of the exact BS gremlin is telling you. Having it written will open a new space in your mind. Finally, the gremlin will be scared and ashamed. And silent!
This strategy won’t work for everyone, but it’s interesting. Check out this Gretchen Rubin’s video. She speaks about 4 different categories of people, based on the way they respond internal and external rules. (And here is the post about it.)
If you are a rebel, you might want to operate with your gremlin in a rebellious way. For example: the gremlin says: “Man, you are never going to self-publish that book. That’s just too much work.” And you say: “Oh yeah? Too much work? Let me show you!” Challenge accepted! Make gremlin shut up by proving him wrong. Don’t argue, don’t discuss. Show him who is the boss.
5. WAIT AND LET IT PASS
Let’s try to implement a meditative process. During the meditation you sit in silence, focus on your breathing, observe the thoughts coming in and letting them go without attaching. Deepak Chopra compares your thoughts with the clouds in the blue sky. You just have to watch them passing. This idea can work for gremlin’s chatter as well.
Once you distance your self from gremlin, observe what she is telling you and let the words flow. Don’t think about them, don’t analyze them, don’t attach, wait for the storm to pass. You can do this many times a day. Whenever you notice gremlin starting, make a short break and let his words flow and leave your mind. Our inner chatter usually is not the problem. The problem occurs But when we attach to it emotionally and let it distract us, the problem occurs.
“What did you say? That I should lose some weight? That I’ll never find the right person for me? Ahahaha, hilarious man, you sound like a desperate housewife from a TV soap. You’re making me laugh. Stop for a while, will you? I have something important to work on.” This will totally embarrass gremlin and he will stop. You find his valuable input funny? Fine, you won’t get any more advice then! (Which is a good news.)
Of course, gremlin will forget and continue after a while, but the break will be longer. Another catch is that this idea is easier said than done. Maybe you cannot laugh as easily at everything he says. Maybe it hurts. Maybe it’s something you haven’t even examined yourself. Maybe it’s something you actually believe in. Something that scares you. It is an important clue: why can’t you laugh at his words? Process to the next step.
7. ASK: “IS IT TRUE?”
Write one sentence from the gremlin’s drama down. If possible, the one that really makes you feel angry, lost, powerless, bad in any way. Ask yourself: “Is this true?” Can you absolutely be sure? How do you know?
This is the wisdom from Byron Katie’s cuisine. She says that an unquestoned mind is the world of suffering. Powerful idea. We create scary Universes and live in fear. We believe in something just because it popped up into our mind. Question everything. Twice. Don’t get upset before you examine it. Steven Pressfield formulated it powerfully: “It’s one thing to lie to ourselves. However, it is completely another thing to believe in our own lies.”
8. THANK HIM/HER
Up to this point we mostly assumed that the gremlin is an evil force that has the purpose to prevent you from doing your best work. Nothing is black or white and the same goes here. Gremlin is not all that horrible. He has done some good things for you. He has prevented you from making fool of yourself quite a few times. He forced you to re-think and edit once again before hitting ‘Publish’. He reminded you to think before you leap. Gremlin is the part of the lizard brain, instinctive, fight-or-flight mind that provided us survival for ages. He needed to make sure that you don’t expose yourself too much and that you remain good, average member of your tribe. That’s what he knows, that’s what he does. Thank him for that.
“Dear gremlin, thank you for all the daily reminders. Thank you for making sure that I am not over-sharing publicly. Thank you for making me question the value of my work, editing it many times and improving it. Thank you for collecting all the relevant (and irrelevant) information for me. Thank you for being persistent. I appreciate your efforts.” Make a peace with your gremlin. War is depleting your energy. Gratitude is much better place to be.
9. ASK: “WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO PROTECT ME FROM?”
The next step. Ask gremlin what is he trying to protect you from. Some of the scary things are already mentioned: making fool of yourself and opposing to the tribe’s standards. (Gremlins are people pleasers.) When you start questioning your gremlin, you’ll see that he will also try to protect you from work, discomfort, disapproval, uncertainty, pain, difficult conversations, loneliness, silence. He will dissuade you from being different, from trying new things, from being criticized. It is your responsibility to dare greatly, knowing that valuable things are on the other side of discomfort, work, uncertainty and criticism. But gremlin does his job of protecting you.
I somehow see gremlin as a grandma. She wants you to eat well, finish the school, get married, come back to your home town, buy a house in the neighborhood, find a job in a post office, have 3 to 5 kids and come to lunch every Sunday. That’s what she knows and how she imagines an ideal life. She doesn’t see any point in being different and putting your creations out there. She wants you to be comfortable and do what everyone else does. And you? Come to lunch on Sunday, thank her, acknowledge, find out what she is trying to protect you from. Evaluate the risk. Over protected children grow up weak and confused. Don’t let this happen to you. When you start questioning, you’ll find out that these things are not as scary and even necessary for your growth.
Finally, debunk the gremlin. He is created from your beliefs, thoughts and experiences. Recognize them. Name them.
“I know you. You are my Resistance.”
“You are my low self-confidence from high school.”
“You are my father’s lack of approval.”
“You are my mom’s constant worry about what will people think.”
“You are my fear of unknown.”
“You are my pessimism.”
“You are not real. You are just my monkey mind.”
And poof! Gremlin is gone. This method requires some self knowledge and courage. Nightmare stops being a nightmare if you look it straight in the eyes. Try it.
These were my 10 creative ways to make your inner gremlin shut up. I hope at least a few of them resonated with you. Keep them in your arsenal and use when necessary. Warrior should never have a favorite weapon, so feel free to try different things. Make your priority to change your mind’s automatism and open up more space for creating. No one will do that for you.
Your turn. Who is your gremlin? Age, gender, name, personal traits? What is he/she telling you? Try one of the methods to make the gremlin silent out and let me know how it went in the comment section below.
If you know someone who struggles with gremlin of his own, please share this post with him or her.
P. S. Cookie of Wisdom: “If you hear a voice within you say: ‘You can not paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” Van Gogh ((Tweet this!))