"Like it or not you are, indeed, in charge. And if that realization has not left you shaking in your boots, then you have not fully had it."
I have a confession to make. Before I picked up Taming Your Gremlin, I had never read a self-help book before. I was a total newbie to this genre, and had no idea what to expect. What struck me most about the book was its style. Carson writes in such a way that it feels like you are listening to him speak as opposed to reading his words on the page. I really enjoyed that the book was practical and concise, contained the right amount of humor to keep my interest and included compelling stories that made me smile or laugh out loud.
Now, let’s talk about Carson’s Gremlin, a metaphor for that inner critic that resides in our head, chatters in our ear, eats away our confidence and generally causes strife and distress in our lives. Carson argues that you will never fully remove the Gremlin from inside your head because it will never go away, but you can use some simple strategies to make its voice less powerful and less of an obstacle to achieving inner peace. Inner peace is not a concept I grasp quite as easily as others, but fulfillment, contentment and a general feeling of balance are equal and effective substitutes for me. This is meaty subject matter, but the content does not come off as heavy or weighty. It just makes good plain sense.
The Big Idea
Perhaps there is a glorious rainbow behind the trees in my forest
"As long as you operate out of habit, you will limit your ability to fully experience, appreciate, and enjoy your gift of life."
According to our author, the word habit not only invokes a less than positive meaning, it is just downright mind numbing and boring. Repetition for the sake of consistency, ease and continuation of sameness results in a reduction of awareness — awareness of one’s surroundings and reactions to these surroundings. Habit blocks choice and the elimination of choice takes the fun out of life. Before you can look to make a change and evaluate if you even want to change, you need to understand where you are and what it feels like to be here…in this moment. Soak in the experience and emotion. There is no immediate need to act, but there is a need to own your current state and take accountability for the choices you may or may not make. Fear and exhilaration are different sides of the same coin. As individuals we decide whether or not to take the adventurous route on this day or that day with no judgement about should or ought to.
Clouds in my coffee (Thank you, Carly Simon)
"I free myself not by trying to be free but by simply noticing how I am imprisoning myself in the very moment I am imprisoning myself."
Mmmmm….it took me a few minutes of thinking this through before I could really appreciate the sentiment. First off, there is no part of “simply noticing” that strikes me as simple. There is so much dialogue in our heads that blocks us from noticing what is immediately in front of us and filters out what is important for us to see or take in. The idea that I can’t force myself to simply notice or will it to happen frustrates the high achiever in me a little. However, I only need to remember one instance of racing around the supermarket like Wonder Woman, checking off tasks on my smart phone to be bowled over by the pure sense of warmth and awe when my 5 year old grabbed my hand and pointed in the direction of the lady bug he was fascinated by. There was pure, utter delight on his face. I didn’t need to intellectualize his joy, nor did I rationalize the importance of all the tasks on my list. In that instant, I recognized that I almost missed a moment that truly made me happy. Important to note, my Gremlin came out in full force immediately afterwards telling me that Wonder Woman would have planned for that experience.
To have a viable relationship with your Gremlin, try adopting the role of witness. Throw interpretation and evaluation out the window and simply notice. Let the actions wash over you and notice the effect it has on you. Simply notice. No judgement. From there, you can decide to do something different…if you choose.
Learning to love the dark
"Being in process is an attitude – an appreciation of this simple truth and of the reality that your life will be forever unfolding and your future always unknown. "
Sorry to spoil the book, but there is no end game. Your gremlin (inner critic) will never be silent all the time. At best, we can learn to coexist. Life is both positive and negative. What we can do is make an active choice to live in all these moments. Choose to be aware of your gremlin and aware of the impact his presence has on you. Don’t be surprised when he shows up unannounced and unwelcome. Your gremlin is part of you; so, you should expect that he will be along for the ride that you call your life. BUT this does not need to be a negative. It is in an adventure. Your lifelong relationship with your gremlin is an ongoing, moment to moment process. There will be fabulous days, but they won’t last forever. There will be really rotten days, but they won’t last forever either. In every moment, you can find adventure and chose to be really aware and change if you want to.
What I enjoyed most about the book was Carson’s approach. He did not present his ideas as doctrine or gospel. In fact, he encourages the reader to set the book aside if something does not make sense and revisit the idea on another day. In very simple terms, taming our inner critic is about absorbing what is going on around us and our reactions to this, being flexible to change and actively making choices.
One action the author discourages the reader from doing is actively engaging with his or her gremlin. As a relatively strong type A person, I would say (if I were to be completely honest) there are days when I feel very strong and would even consider competing with my gremlin. I want to prove him wrong, and doing so might bring me a sense of accomplishment. He might try and trick me and change his tactics, but one my good days, I think I am pretty darn clever too! Sometimes, I don’t really want a Zen change moment, I want to pummel my gremlin and shove him out of my way. How about you?