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Taming Your Inner Gremlin

mind & meaning Oct 01, 2022

As complex beings, a duality exists inside each and every human: we have a pure and true side, as well as a darker side that is constantly trying to diminish our vibrance.

Rick Carson, our guest in Episode 107 of The MINDSet Game® podcast, refers to this darker side as a “gremlin” – a part of us that must be acknowledged in order to lead happy, fulfilled lives.

As a practicing psychotherapist with nearly five decades of experience, a personal and executive coach, and a consultant to businesses, nonprofit organizations, and U.S. government agencies, Rick also wrote the book – quite literally – on gremlin taming. His seminal work, “Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way,” has been a best seller since its publication in 1984 and has been translated into numerous languages. In this week’s episode, Rick discusses the concept of our inner gremlins and shares some techniques for conquering the negative voices and tendencies that lurk within each of us.


Noticing your gremlin

According to Rick, taming your gremlin begins with simply paying attention to it – noticing not only what’s happening within and around you, but also what’s going through your mind at the very moment that it’s happening. While this level of attention takes practice, Rick says that it will enable you to start witnessing the concepts and beliefs you have about yourself and the habits and behaviors that emerge from them. In particular, try to pay attention to which of these are no longer serving you and observe the physical sensations that accompany them. At this stage, the goal is not to try and free yourself from these limiting beliefs and behaviors that come from your gremlin – rather, simply work on paying attention to when they are occurring.


The importance of breathing

Rick says that your breathing functions not only as a regulator, but also an indicator of what’s happening in your mind and body. For instance, when you are feeling anxious or experiencing some type of physical or emotional pain, you may notice that your breathing becomes shallow and you feel tension in your body. While this is a natural part of your fight-or-flight response, noticing these sensations and choosing to release them, rather than clinging to them, can determine how long you experience the anguish.

Rick notes that we often tend to “create horror movies in our minds,” imagining worst-case scenarios, beating ourselves up, clinging to regrets or resentments, or trapping ourselves in certain concepts of who we are and how the world works. When these horror movies are starting to play out, he suggests paying attention to your thoughts, breathing, and other physical sensations and accentuating them. This will help you realize that you are the one responsible for creating these uncomfortable feelings, which may trigger what Rick calls the “Zen Theory of Change” – a natural correction that can ultimately help you free yourself from the misery associated with your gremlin.


In addition to your breathing, Rick says that one of the most important parts of your body to pay attention to is your skin, which serves as a highly sensitive barrier between everything that happens within you and the rest of the world. According to Rick, becoming hyper-aware of the surface of your skin and how it separates you from everything around you can help you gain a sense of clarity that will enable you to love better, think more clearly, and develop greater respect for other people’s experiences.


“I free myself not by trying to be free, but by simply noticing how I am imprisoning myself

in the very moment I am imprisoning myself”

― Rick Carson, Taming Your Gremlin


Through these techniques and other steps in Rick’s gremlin-taming method, you will find that your life essentially becomes a living meditation in which you gain gentle control over your awareness and turn your attention back to home base – the here and now – several times throughout the day. To learn more, visit Rick’s website at

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