Gremlins (And How to Quash Them)

Discover how life coaches can use Rick Carson’s Gremlins technique to help tame the inner critic. Listen in as we share client examples that illustrate how!

The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring Lumia Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux, is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. Subscribe to get new episodes weekly!

How To Work With Your Client's Inner Critic

A major impediment to goal accomplishment and overall flourishing in life is our propensity toward self criticism. While we all experience some degree of unproductive chatter inside our heads, every person has a unique story behind what causes these feelings, and how they relate to them. 

Understanding the way feelings manifest is essential for life coaches. No matter what issue your client might be facing, unpleasant emotions will likely play a role.

Anxiety is a general term used to describe these "icky feels", but there are many different flavors:

  • Stress
  • Frenzy
  • Shame
  • Overwhelm
  • Fear
  • And so on!

One of the most pervasive sources of negative feelings comes from a person’s own inner critic. This is also known in psychology as the voice of the pseudo self.  

Helping our coaching clients observe and notice exactly what that voice sounds like is an important step in empowering them to gain control over their negative emotions. When a client can identify and recognize that critical voice, it allows them to step back from it. From this place of detached observation, they can then begin to develop strategies for putting it aside and moving on to something that is more important to focus on in a given moment.

Notice the language here, because it’s meaningful!

We’re learning how to set negative emotions aside, not suppress them. When we reject and suppress our negative emotions, they usually pop up in other ways. Not an effective long-term strategy for growth or enhanced life satisfaction!

So how do we "work with" the inner critic?

Externalization is a technique that coaches can use that calls upon the imagination in order to help a client connect with whatever thoughts and feelings are getting in the way of what they want to accomplish. Externalization can be defined as "taking something outside of its normal boundaries." 

Gremlin-Taming is a coaching technique that employs externalization. It is based on the work of Rick Carson, who wrote Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way.  

"Since at least the time of the Buddha, the 'Mind' has been recognized as the necessary ground of enlightenment, but also of all confusion and distress... Gremlin-taming is a most worthy ambition, and Rick Carson is a most worthy advocate and ally." - Jimmy Dale Gilmore; singer, songwriter, three-time Grammy Award nominee

How to Use the Gremlin Technique

The adaptation from Carson’s model that we teach Lumia Coaching students is simple: when you get smacked with a negative emotion, figure out where it comes from... then give it a face and a name.

For example, Noelle once had a client who was having a terrible time balancing her budget. She started to have anxiety attacks whenever it was time to pull out her receipts and see what she had spent. She described the task as “a monkey on her back.”

After introducing the gremlin technique, the client decided to call the negative feeling associated with her budget “Fred the Orangutan.”

Once you have named the emotional source, you can talk to it. The client in this scenario decided that she would tell Fred to go sit in a corner while she worked on her budget. As silly as this may sound, she generally felt much better after doing so! 

From a cognitive perspective, there is a big difference between internal talk that might say “I am having a hard time with the crushing shame of my finances,” and “Fred the Orangutan really sucks.”

When this topic came up in future coaching sessions, Noelle and her client were then able to talk about the client’s financial anxiety in more playful terms. Together, they were able to bring “Fred” down to a manageable size so the client could move forward.

For more examples of the Gremlin technique in action, give the podcast episode above a listen!

Want to Be A Coach?

One of our values at Lumia is that we dare to be different. Our life coaches ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and you’d like a partner in the process, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.

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