Monday, July 11, 2005

The 11 Types of Gremlin Thinking

I promised to finish up the types of Gremlin thinking. I've been so busy this past week with going daily Monday through Friday on the radio show, that I've yet to fulfill that promise. So here you are... the 11 Types of Gremlin Thinking. I've put them all together to make them easier to read.

The 11 Types of Gremlin Thinking
Dr. John Schinnerer
Guide To Self

All of us struggle at times with negative thoughts. We?re human. Negative thoughts are second nature to us. However, it is within our power to control our thoughts. After all, we are the thinker of our own thoughts.

To get a hold of the thoughts in your head, slow down and pay attention to the thoughts that rush through your head. Journaling is a useful way to help keep track of your negative thoughts. Another suggestion is to merely count the number of times each day that you have a negative thought. This is a simple, gentle and powerful way to gradually draw your attention to your negative thinking, or Gremlins.

At first, many people feel like their thoughts are the equivalent of the freeway at rush hour and they can only see the inseparable blur of speeding cars. After observing their thoughts for awhile, they can slow down the speed of the cars so they can identify what type of car each one is. Eventually, you can turn your freeway of thoughts into a slow-moving country road. This is the point at which you have near complete control over your thoughts and you have only a few thoughts in your mind ? thoughts that you want to be there ? positive and supportive thoughts.

The good news is that we can learn to train our thoughts to slow down and to be more nurturing and supportive. You begin this process by identifying and challenging your negative thoughts. I like to refer to negative thoughts as Gremlins. This helps us to speak about them more safely, and it helps you to master personifying them so you can push them out of your head. When I have a negative thought, I like to picture it as a Gremlin, which looks to me like a goblin or a troll. When I notice a Gremlin thought, I envision shoving him out my ear. Think of it as making him walk the plank.

The Power of Visualization
Remember, your brain does NOT know the difference between the internal world and the external world. Once you grasp this idea, you will understand how powerful visualization is. Another visualization you can use is to imagine catching each negative thought and hitting it with a rubber stamped marked ?Cancelled? and then sweep it in the garbage can. BTW, it?s always good to have a garbage can in your head to dispose of negative or destructive thoughts.

What Gremlin Thinking Sounds Like
Yes, Gremlin thinking, negative thinking, occurs when your mind distorts incoming information to make you feel lousy and worthless. The really big red flags for Gremlin thoughts are ALWAYS, MUST, NEVER, OUGHT, and SHOULD. Gremlin thoughts sound like this:

Oh no!, I?ve screwed up again.
Why me?
I?m not good enough.
Nothing ever changes.
This always happens to me.
How can I be soooo stupid.
I should have done better.
I?ll never succeed.

Top Types of Gremlin Thinking

So here are the top types of Gremlins or negative thoughts:
1. Mind reading
2. Fortune telling
3. Always or never thinking
4. Guilt based thinking
5. All or nothing thinking
6. Focusing on the negative
7. Emotional reasoning
8. Self-righteous thinking
9. Labeling
10. Perfectionism and
11. Blaming.

Mind Reading
The mind reading GREMLIN occurs when you think you know that another person is thinking something bad about you, without any confirmation of this from that other person. Many of us think that 99% of what other people do or feel is a direct result of something we?ve done.
In truth, only 1% of what other people do or feel is directly related to something we?ve done. The other 99% is due to stuff going on in the other person?s life and has NOTHING to do with us.

For example, you come into work in the morning and see you?re boss looking angry. That look of anger may mean nothing more than she hit a lot of traffic on the way to work, or maybe had an argument with her spouse that morning, or had a flat tire. There are a million possibilities none of which involve you directly. You just don?t know. So don?t conclude that her angry look has something to do with you without some sort of justification. Just assume that your boss? anger, for example, has nothing to do with you 99% of the time.

Fortune Telling
The fortune telling GREMLIN predicts a negative outcome to a situation before it has taken place. To some extent, your mind creates self-fulfilling prophecies. Unconsciously predicting failure will often increase your chances of failing. For example, if you say, "I know I will screw up my big presentation," then you will likely not prepare enough or become very anxious during the presentation and your brain freezes and thus, you make a costly mistake during your presentation.

So how would people deal with such thinking?

First, recognize that you are thinking negatively. Then talk back to your Gremlin thinking. So for instance you could tell yourself, ?Ahh, my Gremlin is coming out. There you are, you little devil. That?s enough of you. Gremlin, you?re going into the garbage can.? And imagine sweeping the Gremlin into a garbage can in your mind. And, of course, put the lid on the can!
Next, replace the negative thought with a positive thought. So if you?re worrying about an upcoming presentation you might tell yourself, ?This presentation will be a great chance to practice my public speaking skills. The more presentations I do, the better I?ll become and the easier they?ll be to do.?

Always of Never Gremlin
The always or never Gremlin takes place whenever you think words such as always, never, every time, no one or everyone. These thoughts are absolutes. Absolutes are almost never correct! The always or never Gremlin can negatively change your behavior.

For example, I have a friend who asked her boss for a raise. She was turned down. She told herself that she would never get another raise. This GREMLIN prevented her from asking for another raise for nine months, despite the fact that she deserved it. You can counter this one by reminding yourself that ?always and never? are NEVER true. When you hear words like always or never running through your mind, imagine sweeping them into the garbage can and replace them with a positive thought.

Guilt-based Gremlins
Guilt-based Gremlins occur when we are overwhelmed by thoughts such as?

"I should have done...?
?I'm bad because?. ?
?I must do better at??
?I have to?. ?
?I ought to have??

The Guilt Gremlin brings to my mind a dictatorial parent figure shaking a finger at you. The key words to watch for are should, ought, have to, and must. These are tip-offs that you are dealing with guilt beatings. The result is that you often feel pressured, nervous, resentful and not good enough.

When you realize you are suffering from a guilt beating, take a step back, take a deep breath, and calmly look at the facts. Did I do something to deserve this feeling of guilt? Is there a constructive solution to the problem? Or is this guilt beating unnecessary? Don?t let your worries get the best of you, remember even Moses started out as a basket case.

All or Nothing Thinking
All or nothing thinking is similar to always or never thinking. Both types of thoughts ignore the subtler shades of gray in the world. All or nothing thinking occurs frequently when you are in a bad mood and view the world in absolutes ? black or white, good or bad, possible or impossible. The world is never as simple as either/or, it is filled with various grays. The world does not lend itself to such simple dichotomies. Our world is too complex for these thoughts to be true.
Some examples of all or nothing thinking include thoughts like ?I?m the worst father on the planet? and ?Nobody likes me? and ?If I do well on this presentation, then my boss will like me and give me a raise, but if I blow it then he?ll hate me and fire me.? Other examples include ?I hate myself. I?m all bad. There is no good in me? and ?I?m completely stupid? and ?I am 100% worthless.? None of these thoughts are true. Yet, if we don?t dispute and challenge them, we risk them becoming the truth.

All or nothing thinking is very, very rarely right. Ninety-nine percent of the time these thoughts are lies. Typically, these thoughts are fueled by negative emotions. When you notice all or nothing thinking, take a step back and look at what you are feeling. If you are feeling angry, sad, or ashamed, it?s a good bet your thought processes are lying to you.

Every time you become aware of such a thought, challenge it. Is it based on fact? Is it true? Is it rational? When you challenge such thoughts, you remove their power over you which enables you to live up to you potential rather than drown in your fear. When you find yourself in black and white thinking, remind yourself of all the shades of gray in between.

Focusing on the Negative
Focusing on the negative is the next Gremlin. It?s easy to focus on the negative. We?ve been trained most of our lives to look for mistakes, to look for areas where people don?t measure up.
This GREMLIN focuses entirely on the negative and filters out all of the positive. It?s like filtering out all of the light and seeing only the darkness. An example of this might occurs at your annual performance review at work. The boss has mostly good things to say about your job performance. However, he asks you to work on one thing such as getting to work on time. You focus on the 1 criticism and miss the 12 compliments. Shortly, you become convinced that your boss is out to get you and believe you will soon be fired. Again, this GREMLIN is deeply intertwined with how you are feeling. Negative feelings will greatly enhance the power of this GREMLIN. When you are sad or angry, it becomes difficult to see that there are potentially positive outcomes in current situations.

Instead, you want to train yourself to seek out the positive in every situation. Some people have asked me at this point, ?What if there is nothing positive in the situation?? My answer comes straight from Victor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor, who said, "Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms ?to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." Even in the worst situations that humanity has to offer, we still have control over our internal world. No one can ever take that away from you. So even in the worst circumstances, you still have control over your thoughts and feelings and you can make those positive.

Emotional Reasoning
Up next is the emotional reasoning Gremlin who creates problems when you believe your negative feelings to be true without questioning them. Just like thoughts, feelings can lie to you as well. Many of us believe our feelings are true without taking a closer look at them. This Gremlin makes you believe that your mood defines who you are. Emotional reasoning Gremlins can be identified because they usually begin with phrases such as ?I feel ?? such as ?I feel like I?m worthless,? ?I feel afraid,? ?I feel like nobody likes me,? and ?I feel like a failure.? Any time you have a strong negative feeling, challenge it as soon as you become aware of it. Is there any evidence to support the feeling? Or is it merely an irrational feeling? Are your feelings based on past events that no longer apply to the current situation?

Occasionally, negative feelings are there to serve as a protection from real dangers. However, in our current world, our emotions are more likely to overreact to perceived dangers than react appropriately to real dangers. Your job is to pay attention to your emotions, so you become skilled enough to tell the difference. Remember, he who angers you, controls you!

Labeling is another form of destructive thinking. Labeling sounds like this ?You are a? fill in the blank with a label such as democrat, republican, Christian, Muslim, old, young, businessman, smart, or dumb.? The philosopher Wittgenstein said, ?When you label me, you negate me.? Anytime you put a simplistic label on someone or something (including yourself), you reduce it to an oversimplified caricature of its real self. By labeling someone, you ignore and denigrate important parts that make up the whole of that individual. This is especially true of overly simplistic negative labels such as brat, idiot, dope, loser, etc. These labels are not only hurtful; they have a way of becoming reality. When you call yourself an idiot, you run the risk of it becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Your expectations of yourself go a long way in defining who you are and how your life plays out. This Gremlin ignores the degree of complexity that exists in the world. As William James said ?"The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitude."

Underlying the self-righteous Gremlin is frequently a deep-seated fear. It could be a fear of being unlovable, either by the person to whom you are speaking or God himself. Now obviously, God loves all of us. Yet, we may still have an irrational human fear that God can?t love someone ?like me.? And while I can tell you this isn?t true, that probably won?t carry much weight with your emotional mind. And this is where rock solid faith comes in. When you have 100% faith, you don?t think, you know that God loves you.

So how do you identify this Gremlin? The self-righteous Gremlin persuades you to think that other people should always act the way you think is proper. If they don?t act in this way, then the other person is wrong and should be punished.

For instance, you are at church and someone comes in without their own Bible. You always bring your own Bible. You are indignant and tell yourself that they must not be a good Christian and decide not to associate with them.

Remember, we were called to be witnesses, NOT lawyers, judges or executioners.

Perfectionistic Thinking
Next up is perfectionism, and the perfectionistic Gremlin creates a lot of pain. Nothing is ever good enough for this Gremlin. Let?s say you?re taking a test in graduate school. This Gremlin will want to focus on the 1 item you got wrong rather than the 99 items you got right! This Gremlin is never happy no matter how well you do. One mistake leads this Gremlin to conclude that you will never get it right.

What?s more, the perfectionistic Gremlin also holds other people to the same unrealistic expectations. This Gremlin will ensure that you are constantly unhappy and disappointed.
Understand that it takes a long time to be the person you want to be. Mistakes are part of that learning process.

Blaming Gremlin
We?ll wrap up with the Blaming Gremlin ? the one who likes to point the finger at everyone else. Many, many lives have been destroyed by the negative power of blame. Those individuals that excel at screwing up their own lives are experts at blaming other people for their troubles. Nothing is their fault. When something goes badly in their life, they can always find another person or external event on which to lay the blame. They don?t take ownership of their own problems and shortcomings.

Some examples of blame statements include phrases such as ?That wouldn?t have happened if you had?? and ?It?s not my fault that?? and ?Why didn?t you?? and so on. Their faulty reasoning runs something like this ?If you had just done something differently, I wouldn?t be in this mess. This mess is entirely your fault and I have take responsibility for it.?

When you assign blame to others, you effectively render yourself powerless. You have just taken your power to effect change and given it to someone else. That is a big mistake. Remember that you are responsible for what you do, no matter how you feel.

So the question is, how do you counter this type of thinking? My approach is to encourage clients to take personal responsibility for all their own mistakes, screw-ups and difficulties. You must cultivate an attitude of honest self-exploration. Mistakes are okay. They?re natural. They?re how we learn. All mistakes are merely disguised learning opportunities.

On the other hand, when we have a success or triumph, we encourage clients to give the credit to our higher power. In this manner, we stay humble, continue to work on our development and growth, and give away the credit for successful outcomes. You can also give the credit away to coworkers and those around you. Give away the credit. It?s free and it makes other people feel wonderfully important.

Ways to Challenge Gremlin Thinking
So let?s look at a couple of ways to counter some specific thoughts. For example, if you have a critical thought such as, ?I?ll never get this right.? You can challenge that thought with, ?No, that?s not true. I am smart. I am worthy. I will get this right.? If you never challenge your negative thoughts and simply "believe them," then Gremlins will insidiously infiltrate your entire brain and eventually ruin your life. Instead, visualize a can of anti-Gremlin spray to eliminate your negative thoughts, or picture the Gremlin Police to kick out the negative thoughts that are draining your mental energy. Sweep Gremlins into the garbage can in your mind and slam the lid shut on them. Or imagine your own way to deal with them.

Visualization is one of your most powerful tools here so you are only limited by your imagination.
The goal is to notice your thoughts, and then question them -- talk back to them. Once you question them, they begin to lose their power. As Norman Vincent Peale said, "Change your thoughts and you change the world."

The Snowball of Thought
It?s often helpful to imagine your thoughts as a snowball rolling down a large snow-covered mountain. At first, the snowball is the size of your fist, something you could easily pick up and control. However, as the snowball rolls down the hill, it picks up speed and grows exponentially. After a few yards, the snowball has increased in size to the point where you can no longer handle it by yourself. Given the right conditions, the snowball can grow to mammoth size and could cause damage to other people.

The snowball is exactly the same as our thoughts. Each thought starts out tiny and manageable. However, if you are not paying attention, the thought spirals out of control and quickly creates unwanted effects.

The most important thing in controlling negative thoughts is to challenge them. Don?t blindly accept them as truth. Confront them. Check to make sure they are founded on fact, not fiction.
George Lawrence-Ell, author of The Invisible Clock, said ?? an accurate definition of the self is impossible. You are more than you realize, more than you can define. And the more time you spend trying to nail down the definition, the less time you spend living right now. ... Your past is not your identity... You, living now, is your identity.? Put an end to you negative thinking and live in the present moment. You will be so glad when you finally learn how!


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