You Always Have A Choice
Recently I was having a conversation with a colleague of mine. We were talking about the sometimes hard to catch and often (I don’t like to say always so let me clarify that ‘often’ in this case implies 99.987965999% of the time) hard to deal with phenomenon we’re affectionately referring to as the ‘Dick Gremlin’.
Yikes! What? Yes. The Dick Gremlin is a really challenging ‘way of being’ that some people take on when they feel stressed, confronted, or upset. It usually presents as a mean spirited jerk (or an a**hole) and it will definitely disrupt and kill off any connection and trust that exists in a relationship. People fronting the DG are usually oblivious (or have convinced themselves they don’t know about it) making it all the more challenging to deal with.
Of course some of you are nodding along right now because you know exactly what I’m talking about, you’ve clearly been a victim of the ‘DG’. For those of you that don’t really know what I’m talking about (or you’re pretending you don’t really know…) let’s go ahead and look at the basic DG profile and see what we can learn.
First let me clarify that the DG is not specific to any gender or age. Men, women, and children of all ages can front the Dick Gremlin. It’s a way of avoiding responsibility and protecting oneself from getting hurt – the old “I’ll hurt you before you hurt me” mentality. Let’s start with what the DG looks like in action.
- Mean, passive aggressive, or undermining comments that take the focus off of them and redirects it back on you. This can often be experienced by the ‘receiver’ as confusing and as a result leaves them question themselves.
- Stonewalling… you know… to block, stall, or resist intentionally.
- Acting clueless, as if they don’t know something that you know they know because you’ve actually/ definitely/ literally had a conversation about it.
Those are just a few examples of how the DG presents in real life and there are more idiosyncrasies for sure and those are the highlights.
I have to say it’s really easy here for me to go off on a tangent about how shitty this behaviour is and how hurtful it can be; jump on the Dick-Gremlin-make-wrong-bandwagon… however that would really just be me doing a different version of being a dick and that’s not what I’m committed to.
In life you always have a choice…
What I’d like to do in this post is talk about why people do this and some methods for shutting it down and getting back on track when the DG shows up.
So let’s talk about why someone would act this way.
Why do you think someone would act like that? I mean the clear result they get is some form of breakdown in the relationship. This seems like such a silly choice for a person to make right? The thing is, in the moment they’re not often conscious of what they’re doing. Those that are may recognize the behaviour and not know what else to do in the heat of the moment so they just keep going.
People who front the Dick Gremlin are scared.
It’s really that simple: gremlins (of all kinds) are created by us internally (that’s right we all have gremlins and we’re the only ones responsible for creating them) in an effort to keep us safe from perceived threats out there in the world because we’re big-chickens.
It’s true. We’re all just big chickens running around trying to protect our fragile hearts and psyches’ from getting battered and bruised by other big chickens running around out there. It sounds ludicrous but it’s basically true.
That’s nice. Now what?
Well… we’re basically left with two paths at this point: either you’re the big chicken who’s fronting the DG and you need to own up to it and deal or you’re the big chicken who’s confronted by the DG and you need to step up and deal. Let’s start with big chicken confronting the dick-ish behaviour.
If you find yourself in a situation where you think the person you’re speaking with has engaged their inner DG you’re really only left with a couple of options. Option 1 is to call it out and redirect the conversation. This option works really well if you’ve had a conversation about the DG previously, you know they are open to recognizing it in action, and stopping it’s impact in their life and relationships. That means having a conversation with your person ahead of time and talking about this concept of the DG when things aren’t heated is a solid idea that will set you both up for success.
If you’re dealing with a person who is not interested in transforming their inner DG and all it’s destructiveness into something more open and loving, then you’re left with Option 2 – which is to not engage and stop the conversation. Gremlins are not coachable, meaning you can’t have an authentic and meaningful conversation with them. Gremlins, no matter what their persona, how they behave, or why they were created in the first place, are a front and don’t have access to the wholehearted person you’re wanting to connect with.
I should also make a note here that gremlin busting is messy work… It is a rare case that a gremlin just surrenders and disappears – especially the first time they get called out. There are often layers to the gremlin armies that exist in our beings and they were created for a reason: to protect us!! So calling them out is often perceived as a call to arms for the gremlins. You have to stick it out with power and compassion if you want to breakthrough the barriers, especially when it gets uncomfortable.
A couple of things to keep in mind:
- You can’t work with a gremlin so if the gremlin won’t step aside, you’re better to end the conversation and try again another time.
- You can’t make the other person want to deal with and transform their inner dick so if they’re not willing to let go, you may need to have a different kind of tough conversation.
- It’s likely that this type of conversation with someone will activate your personal gremlin army, so make sure you’re being responsible for that too and taking a time out if your know-it-all, enabler, caretaker, victim, etc. gremlin shows up to the party.
Now… if you happen to be the big chicken fronting the inner DG… we need to talk. Come over here for a second and let’s chat… You can trust me.
I get it. I know. It’s really uncomfortable when people see you; see who you really are and see your defense mechanisms… And you know what? It’s ok. Stay with me here…
If you’re suffering from a case of the inner DG and you’re still reading this, I know you want to bust up the front and find a new way to deal with uncomfortable situations. Good on ya!! You know what else? You totally can bust up your inner DG and it’s a pretty straightforward process. Here goes:
Step One: Recognize It!
Once you admit you have an inner DG you have to get familiar enough with it to recognize it in the moment. Spend some time thinking about interactions you’ve had in the past where your DG shows up and make a list of all the behaviours it tends to use: does it undermine? Stonewall? Diminish or marginalize? Does it gaslight*?
(*Gaslight: To cause a person to doubt him/herself through the use of psychological manipulation.)
Be really honest with yourself about this… it’s the only way you’ll have any luck in shutting down the DG for good.
Step Two: Deal With It!
Just like other people can’t work with a gremlin, neither can you! Even if it’s your own gremlin! Gremlins cover up who you really are and what you really want. They block access to the things that really matter in your life! You can’t get around them, you can essentially only disappear them by shutting them down or turning them off; and that’s really hard to do on your own.
My recommendation is that you share your list of behaviours with the people who are usually impacted by it. Talk to them (at a time when the DG isn’t trying to run the show) and come up with a plan of attack for how you’ll handle it the next time the DG shows up. One of my favourite ways to handle this is to come up with a question or a phrase – kinda like a safe word – that both you and your person can use when the DG may be rearing it’s head.
This will be challenging for your person to confront your inner DG so you have to be responsible and really look to see if your DG is in action when you’re called on it. This will also be challenging for you to confront in the moment as your inner DG is there to protect you from perceived threats so if it’s activated it’s because you feel like you’re under attack. You’ll have to start recognizing what sorts of things trigger the DG to jump into the driver’s seat and deal with those things if you want to have any lasting change in this area.
One final thing I’ll mention is that gremlins can work in tandem with each other. This can be that you have a couple of gremlins internally that like to alternate between each other making it harder to pin them down and bust them up. This can also mean that your gremlins trigger your person’s gremlins and then you have one big gremlin party instead of an effective conversation or interaction. Gremlins are sneaky and subversive and the only way to be free of them is to get responsible for the fact you have them and get curious about why they were created in the first place.
If you’re wanting a little more than an article to help you deal with your gremlins, there’s a great book out there called “Taming Your Inner Gremlin” by Rick Carson that you can get at most bookstores or online. If you want to talk to an objective 3rd party about strategies to bust up your inner gremlins, I do free consultations – maybe it’s time we talked?
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