Quiten Down: How to Shut Up your Gremlins.

”she was not at all happy that Blythe had allowed the gremlins to propigate…”

It’s almost a new year and I feel all prickly with happy anticipation. As my soulsister Jen Lemen always says, “Something hopeful this way comes.” To paraphrase Harry Met Sally, “She’s right, she’s right, I know she’s right”….and isn’t it about time?

So here’s what I think my soulsiblings: if we are going to build tribes, launch book projects, fill our portfolios, have babies, beackon the lovely, and just generally make space to get things born, we’d better get ready. And for me, the number one thing I need to do to get ready is to get my Gremlins to QUIET THE FUCK DOWN!

You probably need that too, right? What’s that you say? What are Gremlins? WHAT ARE GREMLINS?! Oh, you SO need to know this terminology. Sit down, sistah.

“Gremlin” is the term coined in Taming Your Gremlin by Rick Carson. It’s a way of describing the little voices in your head that tell you untrue things. This American Life did a great piece on Gremlins called The Devil In Me. In the second act Nancy Updike asks people what the little voice inside their heads is telling them. The answers are at turns tragic, stunning, and most of all, utterly familiar. Go ahead and have a listen. We’ll wait…

Are you back? Did you hear your own Gremlins in there? I know I did.

When my life coach, Jena Strong, first suggested that I started working with my Gremlins, I wanted to throw the book at her head. I couldn’t pin my Gremlins down long enough to find out if they had girl parts or boy parts; I couldn’t read their name tags; and doggonit, they were LEGION! My Gremlins? They were very, VERY noisy.

Then Jen suggested that I take all the voices in my head and make hash marks. In any given day how many times did my Gremlins say something nice to me, and how many times did they say something negative? I tried this. After 48 hours I did not have one single hash mark in the positive column. The negative column on the other hand was quite lively.

Jen said that since my Gremlins were so very busy, maybe I should build them somewhere to go after work. After all, they did have my best intentions at heart. They were trying to protect me – to keep me from doing anything scary, or potentially painful, or too awfully adventuresome. So maybe I should give them a nice shag carpet and, in the words of Jena “sit them down and pour them a stiff drink already.”

So I did. I made them a crash pad in the charming urban-decay style. Wall paper, gilt mirrors, and battery operated twinkly lights…I spared no expense. As I worked on this mansion for the little demons, my un-namable Gremlins began to take dimension and shape. They became less ethereal, and more manageable. Soon the legion was happily ensconced in a pretty little Gremlin dollhouse.

Now that I was a full five feet taller than they were, I felt empowered. I could totally kick their butts. Like Jen says, if they misbehave I could just send them to paperdoll Gitmo.

I rapidly discovered I was not at all pleased that Gremlin Blythe had allowed the other Gremlins to propagate, so I made her put everybody on a neat little leash. The next step was to let the Gremlins take ownership of their own messages, so they didn’t rattle around in my busy little mind. I’ve always adored those little slips of paper that come in fortune cookies, so I cut a whole stack of them and put them next to a tin in the Gremlin dollhouse. Here are just some of the messages that filled that tin up in the first few hours:

“Where you are is not good enough.”
“You never get enough done.”
“Your passions aren’t strong enough.”
“You can’t climb out of this confusion.”
“You never finish anything.”

Now, keep in mind that I have been writing, reading, and carrying around affirmations to counter these messages for weeks. But something about writing them down in their negative, shitty versions was totally empowering. Now they belonged not to me, but to this third person – the Gremlins. They weren’t mine to have and to hold, and they weren’t mine to carry. Now Blythe and her crew could tuck them away on their bookshelf and keep them dusted and alphabetized. Not. My. Problem.

I cannot tell you strongly enough how much of a breakthrough this has been for me. My noisy Gremlins are much quieter these days, and when they do start getting chatty I act like a staff writer from the Evening Post—I just make the report. The quote gets shorthaneded onto a slip of paper and tucked into their dollhouse. End of story.

Since the Gremlin Dollhouse had debuted on my shelf of shrines, it has captured several pairs of eyes. Catie has one now—a whole Gremlin village—and Mabes has worked up a version that looks a like a set from Skins. …What about you? Do you need a place to put the voices in your head? Do your naysaying demons need a crash pad? Start gathering images and items that seem Gremlin-ish to you, and see if you can make a place for that negative self talk to take a load off for awhile. This–this silly game of cut, color and paste–thiscould be your breakthrough for a brand New Year.

What are your Gremlin’s name? Do they have a favorite color/outfit/theme song? Let’s get in charge of these whippersnappers! Talk to us in the comments or send us a picture in our Gremlin Dollhouse Flickr group.

Rebecca Dallin December 28, 2008 at 4:46 pm

I love this. I think I may make mine for “trolls.” You are so cool. The box looks great.

Sue December 29, 2008 at 6:01 am

Haha! I have never seen more charming treatment of Gremlins before :) This is just gorgeous :)

rowena December 29, 2008 at 8:19 am

Flippin’ brilliant.

I just wrote about visualizing your demons in preparation for taking on the portfolio project, http://warriorgirl.blogspot.com/2008/12/preparing-way-for-new-journey.html
I said paint them out, but I love this so much more. It combines the idea of getting your demons to shut up with my obsession with houses/grids/boxes and tiny things.

Kristin T. December 29, 2008 at 8:33 am

I love the idea of a gremlin doll house, and your execution! What I like so much about your approach, is that rather than trying to force yourself to ignore the gremlins and pretend they don’t exist (which is the impossible task I’m inclined towards), you very much take them seriously, acknowledging their role in your life and putting them in their place. It’s so much more realistic and effective!

Susan December 29, 2008 at 11:57 am


Emme December 29, 2008 at 9:18 pm

Oh my goodness, Rachelle, will you be my new BFF? And all the other amazing women I’m meeting through all the inter-linked blogs out there? You are speaking my heart and soul, and I just found you…I’m in Seattle, and now you’re in Denmark! All the fears, the spiritual journey, the desires to find the creative spaces and my voice, and being honest about my stories, and writing, all whilst caring for the little ones, with time marching on, etc. etc. I’ll be reading and catching up with you a whole bunch in the coming days. Thank you for putting your heart out there for us to find! xoxo, your new soul-sistah, Emme

LissaL December 30, 2008 at 12:10 am

I love this idea & your “house of gremlins.” I have no idea what to choose for my gremlins, however I do have a box & that’s a start.

Tess December 31, 2008 at 5:54 am

Oh I think I feel a gremlin shelf coming on!
The happiest of new year’s to you, you wonderful Magpie, you!

Rachelle December 31, 2008 at 6:58 am

Hello soulsisters and a special shout out to new reader Emme of Seattle (home of my heart.)

I think good things are happening in the blogosphere around Gremlins, and Tribes and Healings. I’m launching a series of posts on how to build your Soultribe and other related topics. Stay tuned while we all pool our wisdom.


Jen Payne January 1, 2009 at 12:39 pm

My little gremlin house is taking shape in my imagination… Such a wonderful, clever idea.

Angela Raincatcher January 2, 2009 at 12:17 pm

I am in love with this idea! And so glad that I found your blog.

Lissa January 27, 2009 at 6:53 am

The box is partially decorated. I have 2 gremlins in it. ideas are coming, slowly but surely. My daughter, who is 11 (in middle school) has also joined me in this endeavor, which I think is pretty awesome.

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