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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Disturbing Over Gremlins


As a child, I thoroughly enjoyed the film Gremlins (1984). In particular, I was amused by the malicious behavior of antagonists which appeared to be small, green, reptilian monsters called “gremlins.” Summarizing the film’s plot, one source suggests:


When Billy Peltzer is given a small creature called a Mogwai by his father, he is unaware of the carnage he is about to encounter. There is a huge responsibility in looking after Gizmo as there are certain rules which must be followed. The Mogwai must be kept away from bright light, never made wet and never, ever be fed after midnight. When an accident occurs involving Gizmo and water, the next evolution stage of the Mogwai appears, and it isn’t nice at all.


In common parlance, a gremlin may be defined as an imaginary mischievous sprite regarded as responsible for an unexplained problem or fault, especially a mechanical or electronic one. In Gremlins, the tiny monsters terrorize people with their reckless behavior and I enjoyed seeing them face the consequences of their actions.


With the release of a sequel film Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), the audience was introduced to the first female gremlin whose name was Greta. Describing this antagonist, one source states that “although at first just a standard gremlin, after drinking a hormone modification serum she was given female characteristics.”


One could interpret the allegorical significance of Greta’s character in terms of transwomen. However, the current blogpost draws no such comparison. Nevertheless, one sees fit to at least address the implied messaging about Greta’s character and trans identity issues.


At any rate, the focus of the current post relates to the definitional standard of what a gremlin is and how it induces mechanical (psychological and physiological) problems through use of irrational beliefs which run amok regarding oneself, others, and life in general.


From a Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) perspective, people self-disturb when using unhelpful beliefs in such a manner. These unaccommodating assumptions produce unpleasant consequences in the form of emotional, bodily sensation, and behavioral responses (mechanical problems, of sorts).


Whereas the original plot of Gremlins allegorically used a mogwai that can represent one’s healthy beliefs (e.g., I shouldn’t cross the street without looking for oncoming traffic), a gremlin is the product of a self-disturbing and unhealthy belief (e.g., I must be admired by everyone).


Admittedly subjective in nature, what one determines as good, bad, right, wrong, healthy, unhealthy, or otherwise is unique to the particular interests and goals of the individual. As an example, I’ve concluded that it’s healthy for me to consume animal products and you may consider my choice to be unhealthy.


Nevertheless, self-disturbance is the product of a gremlin one uses—whether unhelpful, unfavorable, unhealthy, unproductive, or otherwise. When we disturb over gremlins, we remain personally responsible and accountable for the mischievous consequences of the beliefs we maintain.


And just as our beliefs yield consequences, the consequences of our emotions, bodily sensations, and behavior may also lead to additional consequences. As an example, in one scene regarding Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Greta sexually assaults a man to whom she’s attracted.


Using this theatrical example, one imagines the female gremlin likely believed, “Others must accept romantic gestures of my affection.” This assumption is a form of demandingness that uses a should, must, or ought-type belief to drive Greta’s behavior.


One obvious logical flaw associated with this unhelpful belief is that it operates according to the premise that Greta’s conditions for the world are superior to the requirements of others. Suppose the man upon whom Greta thrust herself had an opposing condition.


Perhaps the man believed, “A small, green, reptilian monster shouldn’t force herself on me without my consent.” Is Greta’s rigid expectation of higher value than the man’s belief? Might there be real-world consequences to the self-disturbed consequences of sexually assaulting someone?


Regarding this instance of competing conditions, is one’s own autonomy of greater importance than what another being demands of an individual? If you believe otherwise, play that logical premise through to its reasonable conclusion.


If Greta’s irrational demand to be accepted by others is more important than the demand of others not to endue nonconsensual sexual assault, would you advocate this principle in your own life? If so, I hope you never encounter a sexually aroused gremlin.


The case for REBT practice outlined herein is one of unconditional acceptance. We can—without unreasonable conditions, expectations, or demands—accept that we have no control and little influence over a great many things in life.


As such, we can keep from unhelpfully disturbing ourselves with mischievous gremlins which manifest in the form of automatic irrational beliefs. Just as an accident occurred in Gremlins, whereby Gizmo got wet and out popped maniacal gremlins, a similar cause and effect relationship exists with the belief-consequence (B-C) connection.


Providing a final illustrative example of how this B-C connection of self-disturbance functions, consider celebrity X who receives a dramatic makeover. She opts for rhinoplasty, a brow lift, Botox injections, lip and cheek filler, false lashes, fake fingernails, breast augmentation, makeup, hair extensions, and other modifications to her appearance.


Perhaps the gremlin celebrity X uses is, “People must accept my new look.” However, when met by other individuals who maintain competing conditions which they believe are of superior value, celebrity X is mocked mercilessly online. After all, her new look resembles Greta.


Is it the mockery of client X’s significantly modified appearance that results in the consequence of impoverished mood, disgust, sorrow, nervous energy, and inconsolable crying? No, because in this case there is no action-consequence (A-C) connection.


It’s the gremlin (belief) celebrity X uses that leads to the unpleasant reaction (consequence) regrinding how others respond to an appearance they consider repulsive, thus forming a B-C connection. This is in accordance with the ABC model of REBT.


Although it may be tempting to subscribe to an A-C connection chain of events, celebrity X can take personal ownership of her reaction to the behavior of other people. Therefore, she can alter the consequences of her beliefs by dealing with gremlins in an appropriate manner.


After all, celebrity X isn’t entitled to adulation of the public. There is no universal law demanding that others must consider her modified look worthy of praise.


She isn’t automatically afforded a judgement-free pass from remarks by other people any more than I am for the poor quality of blogposts I put out into the world. Using REBT, celebrity X can practice unconditional self-, other-, and life-acceptance.


Therefore, she can unconditionally accept herself as someone who won’t necessarily be appealing to all people. Furthermore, celebrity X can unconditionally accept that others may dislike her appearance and that life won’t always be accommodating to her demands.


Thankfully, Gremlins and its sequel were works of fiction. In reality, you don’t have to allow yourself to be disturbed over the gremlins you use. For that reason, you can keep a mogwai away from bright light and water, and never feed it after midnight by disputing the unhelpful beliefs you maintain about yourself, others, and life in general.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




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