Vulnerability and The Gremlin
Exercise for Couples Counselling Individual Sessions (Part 2 of 3 Step Package)
In the individual sessions, we look at how the parties are bringing in behaviours which sabotage the relationship. This may be Anger, Resentment, Anxieties, Mistrust etc.
When we are having conflict in or relationships, it is common to have certain thoughts and phrases in our minds which are counterproductive. These phrases often repeat. They are often generalisations, exaggerations, black and white thinking or negative mantras etcetera, which we have learned growing up. We may have adopted the fighting styles of our parents – in particular one parent. We may be playing out the Shakespearean drama of our parents or past partners in some sort of workshop with our current partner.
This is how we try to heal conflict of the past. We have some things unresolved and we trust our partners enough to reveal them and try to heal them. But then we fail. We have released a demon in the household and our relationship is deteriorating fast. How did it happen? Interestingly, it is not events themselves which cause upset, but our reactions to them. It is the ‘monkey chatter’ of our Internal Critic also known as the Gremlin, Top Dog or Ego.
Top Dog and Under Dog
Imagine if you will, the classic, movie scene where Donald Duck has a Devil on one shoulder and the Angel on the other. Naturally, Donald gets into trouble by listening to the Devil. It does not go well, he is easily angered and consequently he pays for it. And the Angel just shakes his head.
Our Ego Monkey Chatter, Gremlin or Top Dog is connected to our reptilian Fight or Flight nervous system response. More often than not, it chooses anger as a demonstration of it’s childish, egocentric thinking; like some toddler having a tantrum. It is the culmination of our lifetime of shameful events, dislike of vulnerability, low self-esteem and self-judgement rolled into a cartoon character. It divides, it judges, it holds grievances, it does not share, it keeps score and it is super competitive. It is the voice of everything bad that has ever happened to us – with a smattering of Mum and Dad and that school teacher that once washed our mouth out with soap. (Yes, that happened to me.)
When our partners challenge us by complaining, or asking for their needs to be met when we are not capable of responding, this voice pops up out of nowhere and starts turning them into the enemy. Gone are all the nice loving things that they have ever done for us and all we can see is their faults. We get defensive, aggressive and we may stonewall or avoid. But here is the thing, instead of taking a time-out, we keep going and make things much worse. We do not give our partners the benefit of the doubt or read between the lines, nor do we correct ourselves, or our behaviour. We do not reframe what we are saying or change our tone. In fact, we get pretty righteous! Gone are all the strategies we learned in Couple’s Counselling, the Love Languages book we were reading or that educational Youtube video.
Why? Because we forgot that our monkey chatter Gremlin is 99% fearful rubbish, exaggeration and childhood resentments.
We have to know that. We have to argue with the Gremlin and ask it for it’s evidence!
And yes we can argue with the Gremlin. This is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – 101.
Here is some examples of Gremlin talk:
‘He never listens!’
‘She doesn’t understand me.’
‘Relationships are too hard.’
‘He doesn’t respect me.’
‘Here we go again!’
‘She’s always on at me.’
‘I have to do everything!’
‘I can’t do this anymore.’
‘She treats me like an idiot.’
‘She is never happy.’
‘I’m not appreciated.’
“They never want sex anymore.’
If you love your partner and still fancy them, try Couples Therapy: 3 Step Package.
This package starts with an intense diagnostic (2 hours) to unpack the issues from each person’s perspective. We look for evidence of the four horsemen (Gottman) This is followed by two confidential one on one session (1 hour each) - where we what look at what each party is bringing into the relationship which may be counterproductive. This is followed by an intense communication workshop (2 hours) of Active Listening – an amazing skill set everyone should learn.
In the one on one session, I may use a combination of Narrative Therapy and Art Therapy. The client gets to externalise their Gremlin onto paper and then talk about the strategies the Gremlin uses to mess things up. By looking at the problem as the problem, and not the person as the problem, therapist and clients can figure out ways to outwit the Gremlin to tone down or remove it’s troublesome repertoire.
This is not to say that individual counselling for some childhood issues is not warranted outside of couples counselling. It might be. But this is sometimes enough to help each person see that their behaviours and responses are fully responsible for escalating the conflict. It takes two to tango. (*However, if one person has anger issues, then they need to do some counselling work independently.)
When we come back to the intensive couples communication exercise (Active Listening – Carl Rogers) the couple should be feeling more hopeful and united. The topics for the exercise tend to be unresolved topics (Circular arguments) or talking about feelings related to an event or disappointment etc. Due to the nature of Active Listening, clients are coached along the way and nothing can become heated or escalate. Each person has a turn to resolve one issue. Then we review what has been the most helpful for each person and decide whether further sessions are needed.
If you have any questions about couples counselling, please see the website information and recommended reading under the Couples Counselling tab or you can text me for a call-back: https://www.ghitaandersen.com/couples-counselling.html
Here are the methods we use:
The Ghita Therapy Combination consists of the Best of the Best - Worldwide:
Ghita Therapy Blog: April 6th 2023
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Founder of Ghita Therapy - Ghita Andersen (B.Soc.Sci: Psych & Coun; Grad Cert FDR, Hypnosis Cert.) is a professionally trained Psychotherapist, Couples Counsellor, Hypnotherapist and a Federally Accredited Family Dispute Mediator (FDRP).
- Family Mediation
- Anger Management
- Time Line Therapy