Book Review: Taming Your Gremlin, by Rick Carson

Posted by on Nov 5, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

This slim volume could turn out to be a very handy guide if you are looking for a new way of working with what’s bugging you. It’s full of examples and little stories about Rick himself and people he has worked with.  Its style is light yet down to earth, and it’s illustrated with drawings that are both humorous and sardonic. In order to get the most benefit from it you should do the exercises, not just read it. It’s also full of potential journaling topics.

What’s a gremlin? Carson writes: “Your gremlin is the narrator in your head….He wants you to accept his interpretations as reality, and his goal, from moment to moment, day to day, is to squelch the natural, vibrant you within.” In contrast to the gremlin is the natural you. Carson sees the natural you as the real you, which is obscured by the gremlin, which will do all in its power to convince you that it is the real thing, rather than the natural you. In the beginning, most of us are enmeshed with our gremlins. Carson’s exercises are designed to take you from that state of enmeshment, to a state of differentiation. In other words, after a while, you will be able to identify when the gremlin is talking, and that will put you in a position to make your own choices, rather than the gremlin running you ragged.

This book meshes well with a mindfulness practice. One of the skills it emphasizes is simply noticing, Over and over Carson will ask you to practice the skill of simply noticing, that is, to use your awareness to facilitate change. Have you heard of the acceptance paradox? It states that change occurs when you can accept things as they are. This theme runs throughout the book, that staying with whatever is, in the present moment, puts you in a creative position, making it possible to live the life you choose to live.

This is a good book to use as an adjunct to therapy. It was written in such a way that you can work through it on your own, but one of the problems with books is that they are not interactive. There’s no one to talk to if you get stuck, which is no fun if you are going through the book in order to get unstuck! Your therapist can serve as a consultant and support person to help you over the more difficult spots.

Though Carson writes mostly about a single gremlin, in closing he tells us that gremlins morph over time and in different circumstances. This puts our focus in the right place – on practicing the method – rather than getting fixated on the character of the gremlin.

This book is not a flash in the pan. It’s in its third edition, having gone through several revisions since its initial publication in 1983. Looking at its on line reviews, apparently it’s not for everyone, but it’s quite useful for those who appreciate its appeal. It is not a perfect book – and it’s not intended to be. I believe its intent is to show the reader a method. Be prepared to spend some time with it, and see if it works for you. And come on in and talk with me about it.

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