Sunday, June 21, 2009

book review: Taming Your Gremlin

"You're too fat."
"You're stupid."
"You're a failure."
"You'll never get a job."
"You'll always be single."
"You're such a waste."

Any of that sound familiar? If so, you're human. (If not, congratulations!!)

I don't know about you, but the little voice inside my head can be so cruel sometimes that it's a miracle I can drag my ass out of bed in the morning and make it through a day. It judges me at every turn, telling me what "everybody" knows (that clearly, I don't) and gives me "helpful" pointers about how I should live my life.

Rick Carson, in his wonderful book, Taming Your Gremlin, calls this little voice the gremlin, and he offers useful tips for how to turn down its volume, and keep your head cleaner, clearer and more focused on who you really are.

The major tools he offers are these: Simply Noticing, Choosing and Playing with Options, and Being in Process.

Simply Noticing
It's as simple as it sounds. "Simply Noticing... is what happens when you experience the natural you and your surroundings without input from your gremlin." You can notice your body, the physical world, or the fact that you're paying attention to neither and are lost in the world inside your mind. This tool will help alert you to the presence (and "contributions") of your gremlin and can help you identify the voice that isn't yours. It also grounds you in the present, and reminds you that unless it's real (e.g. noticeable), it's probably fantasy.

Choosing and Playing with Options
Once you've simply noticed how irritating your gremlin can be, Carson offers five different options to play with to turn down the gremlin's volume. Since one of thes has been particularly useful to me in the last couple of weeks, I'll share more about it.

Breathe and Fully Experience. "If, instead of listening to your gremlin, you will simply breathe, feel your emotions, and give them lots of space in your body, you will notice that these emotions are no more than simple energy, and to experience energy is to feel vibrant and alive. ... The only time that emotions become dangerous is when we habitually bottle them up or discharge them impulsively without respect for other living things."

I met someone recently, (yes, a guy) and let me tell you, my life has been full of supercharged emotions and overwhelming gremlin chatter. (Let's just say that if my gremlin were communicating via cellphone, my bill would be in the thousands-of-dollars range.) Instead of freaking out, though, and taking foolish action to make my crazy feelings go away, I've been working to give them lots of space in my body and my life. More breathing, less doing/talking/thinking/judging/etc. It's been a major change, and one I can't recommend enough.

Carson shares additional tools, too, including changing just to show yourself and the world that you can do it, or speaking the words of your gremlin outloud, just to hear how absurd (or evil, or whatever) they are. All are useful (if you ask me).

Being in Process
"Being in process," says Carson, "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. ... Seeing yourself as in process will help you increase your level of simple moment-to-moment contentment and your appreciation of your very own gift of life."

This section of the book reminded me that there is no endgame, no finish line, no "being done" with change. That my gremlin will never fully disappear (even if I do manage to turn down the volume on him every now and then), but using the tools I have, I can create more happiness and peace for myself at every step along the way.

This book has been so helpful to me, I'm offering a two-night book group/workshop on it! July 7th and July 21st, I'll be gathering people in my office for a couple of hours to talk about what we learned, what we practiced, what resonated most with us, and how we can continue to use these tools to enrich our lives even more. If you're interested in joining, pick up a copy of the book, and drop me an email so I can share all the details!

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