Category Archives: inner critic

An Early Gremlin

Recently I came across a representation of the Gremlin that I just had to share.

Falling Hare - Bob Clampett (7)

I was doing some family lineage research and found a real gem. My dad’s sister, Sody was married to Bob Clampett. He had an amazing career in both cartoons and puppetry. In the 1940’s he worked for Warner Bros. on the Merrie Melodies cartoons. He was responsible for many of the antics and wacky stuff those cartoons were known for. I found a documentary where my cousin, Ruth was one of the people being interviewed about his work (The Man from Wackyland: The Art of Bob Clamplett) , and there I was, enjoying the film when they start talking about this Bugs Bunny cartoon: “Falling Hare” (1943).

Here’s where it gets really interesting. “Falling Hare” is about Bugs’ encounter with a Gremlin in 1943. In today’s parlance, especially for we coaches, a Gremlin is that nagging, incessant Inner Critic voice we all have in our heads. It’s job, in my opinion, is to mess with us so that we don’t actually focus on what we want; to create so much havoc and chaos that we keep running in circles; to keep us doing “what we’ve always done, only harder”. In short the opposite of what our inner wisdom/intuitions gives us.  It’s main technique is to keep us so distracted that we just can’t focus, let alone get moving in any new or different direction.

This cartoon is a truly raucous representation of the Gremlin and the strife it can create. It takes Bugs Bunny from the in-charge cool rabbit that we know to exhaustion and near destruction.  As you watch it, see if you can’t recognize some elements of your Inner Critic in the ‘cute’ little Gremlin:

Frankly a big chunk of my work with clients is centered around identifying and circumventing the ever-present interference of the Gremlin.   The one in the cartoon is pretty easy to identify.  The ones in our heads are sneaky and have many disguises.  The best way to recognize them is by their “tone” — they always have one, and it’s always negative.

I hope you enjoy this little peek at my uncle’s work, and that it gives you more Gremlin fodder.


Shell Tain, The Untangler

How about a little help with dealing with your Gremlin? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Intuition – the small voice

We all struggle with two voices in our head. Figuring out which one to listen to, and how to tell the difference between the two is crucial. One is a loud critical voice with a ‘tone’. Called different things in different cultures, let’s just go with the “Inner Critic” here. I have written bunches about that voice, and no doubt will write more in the future.

shhhToday I want to talk about the other voice.  This is a softer, quieter voice.  The fact that it is quieter is part of the problem. You need at least a pocket of peace around you to hear this voice.  It’s your intuition, your inner wisdom, your future self, your connection to the divine.

With our stress-filled, hectic lives it’s a challenge to hear, let alone listen to your intuition — yet that is exactly what you need to do!

You must train your intuition — you must trust the small voice inside you which tells you exactly what to say, what to decide.” Ingrid Bergman

The first step in this training, is distinguishing — learning how to tell the difference between your intuition and your inner critic.

It’s actually both simple and amazingly difficult to do. Here’s the deal. Your intuition, inner wisdom never ever uses a ‘tone’ with you. You know what a ‘tone’ is right? It’s that emotional charge, that biting piece. The wagging finger, the scowl! Your inner critic has a ‘tone’, a big one. It’s critical, it’s full of you should, you must, you can’t possibly, and who do you think you are? Simply put, it’s judgmental and demeaning.

Your inner wisdom doesn’t use a ‘tone’, even when it’s warning you of something scary. It’s why Bergman referred to it as the ‘small voice’. It’s not big, loud, and brash. It’s subtle, and we might even say shy. And it’s oh so valuable!

Your intuition gives you truly great information. We all have had the experience of getting some great piece of information from our inner wisdom. We also have all had the experience of then discounting and ignoring that information. That just never works, does it? And by the way, that voice that had you discount your intuition was the Inner Critic voice.

Intuition just ‘plops’ into our heads. It doesn’t nag, or shout.  It shows up in quiet times — in times when we are not being pulled it multiple directions. Ever notice how you get great ideas in the shower. It’s because there’s not a lot going on in there. It’s just you and the water… ahhh.

If you want more connection with your inner wisdom, you just need to make space for it to connect with you. Try doing something repetitive, something that actually “bores” your brain. Gardening, knitting, cleaning, running — things that give you ‘quiet’ space. You’ll find thoughts — and dare I say messages — popping in!

Start with the fundamentals: listen for the tone, notice the small voice, choose which one you pay attention to. Notice that it’s both simple and difficult? Frankly it’s one of the reasons coaches are valuable to us! They help us make the distinction. I do a lot of that, helping people know which side they are listening to!

Listening more to you intuition — and much less to your inner critic — will absolutely change your life for the better! Really!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

How about a little help with shutting up the inner critic and hearing your inner wisdom? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Money’s Job

Most of us have an odd idea of what money’s job is.  We treat it as if it was a sentient being.  It’s amazing how much this abstract construct has become a force that we presume acts on its own.  We wait for money to give us signals before we act.  We blame money for our not being where we want to be in life.  We refuse to look at our money because we are sure that it will lecture us or shame us.  Money is doing its job, it’s just different than what we expect.

Many of us are waiting for something from money.  Some sign that we are okay or have “arriveMoney-Talksd”.  I’ve talked with people who feel that they can’t actually pursue the life they “really” want until they have somehow earned enough money to deserve it.  At the same time others feel that not having amassed “enough” money is a fatal character flaw that they must hide.   Others tend to spend what they don’t have.

These and other similar ideas come from not really understanding what money’s job is.  All money is doing trying to tell you what you are doing.  Money doesn’t tell you what you wish you were doing, it tells you what you are actually doing.  It has no judgement, it just reports and reflects.  As a matter of fact, it reflects very clearly.

Remember that old thing about “Try to pick up a pencil?”  It was one of those things I experienced in a Personal Growth training years ago.  You can’t actually “try”… you either pick it up or you don’t.   There is similar way that we “try” with money.  We want money to be there before we take a step or make a choice but money can’t do that.  All money does is show what we are up to.  So what it shows is that we are “trying” to have money do for us what we can’t do for ourselves.

There is more truth than we know in the “Do what you love, the money will follow,” statement, because that’s all the money can do.  It follows or reflects what you are doing.  It shows that you are waiting.  It shows that you are accepting things that are contrary to your dreams, hopes and desires. It shows whether or not you are doing “what you love.”

Okay, I can feel your inner critic voice rising up and saying, “That’s nuts, I can’t just ignore all the responsibilities I have!”  That’s absolutely true.  And is it at all possible that you could honor your responsibilities in a way that has you also honoring your dreams and desires?  What if you stop waiting for money to tell you when? What if you changed to you telling money, by how you use and earn it, what is truly important to you?   It’s your job after all, not money’s.  Money is doing its job.  It’s reflecting what you are really up to.  It will show you if you look.   Money isn’t designed to generate something on its own.  It’s designed to convert your energy into your wishes.  That’s what it’s doing.   If you want something different it’s up to you to change your actions, then money will reflect those changes.

If you’d like to explore this tangle give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Information Extremes

Around some things we say way too much, and around others not enough.  Sometimes we research and gather data like crazy, sometimes we just wing it. How we gather and process information is yet another place where we do that black/white, on/off, base 2 extreme thinking.  To paraphrase Dr. Phil, let’s take a look at how that’s actually working for us…

What’s really under this thing I’m calling Information Extremes seems to be something about assumptions.   We assume we already know everything we need to know.  We assume we can’t learn more.  We assume others already understand.

I really ran into this when I lived for two very long years in South Carolina.  Now in many ways, this was not the best place on earth for me.   It felt odd.  I didn’t understand the culture or how to maneuver through it.  One of the things that really made it hard was a perspective I named ‘Everybody Knows’.  It worked liked this.  No one felt the need to extremessupply details about places, events or many other things because ‘Everybody knows’.  When the newspaper has a head line that says ‘Fourth of July Fireworks at the Fort’ I actually have some questions.  Questions like which gate do you use, is there a fee, what time does it start, can you bring food, what are the rules of the event.  None of that information was available because ‘Everybody Knows’. Except of course those of us that don’t.  This phenomena extended to all sorts of things including directions to turn at the corner where the filling station was, the one that was torn down 30 years ago was.  It came from this community having done things the same way for many, many years.  Somehow, anyone naïve enough to move there was just supposed to tap into some strange collective unconscious to figure things out.  I know this happens in small towns all over the place, yet the city I was in was the state capital with a university and a large military presence, so I wasn’t by any means the only person who couldn’t qualify for the ‘Everybody Knows’ club.  As you can no doubt tell, I felt less than welcome.

This is a prime example of how we assume the yes/no logic will work.  Long ago in my initial coach training they talked about yes/no not really being a choice.  That really struck me.  Think about politics: are two options really enough?  Aren’t we settling there?  I find I frequently don’t actually get to vote for what I really want, but more for the option that I dislike the least.

It’s like when you are watching the courtroom scene on the telly.  How irritating is it that the person on the stand has to answer yes or no, with no explanation or elaboration allowed.  Creates a pretty narrow view doesn’t it?

Here’s the money piece to this.  We assume we don’t know, and never will.  We assume it’s too hard, too confusing, too scary…too extreme.  We pick feast or famine as a model.  If I’m scared of money and have avoided looking at it, I assume the only way out is to get a green eyeshade and analyzes every money transaction in great detail.

What about the middle?  What about choosing that?  What about taking steps to something new, learning and applying one new skill or tool at a time? What about just looking?  How about a dimmer switch.  I love those things.  I have options between all the light or no light.  I can have some, a little light, more light.  Every little piece of money information you choose to gather or learn about brings more light to the topic.

So when it comes to money, and choices about all sorts of things, forget the Information Extremes, say boo to Everybody Knows, and exchange the switch on the wall, and the one in your head, for a dial!



Dance Of The Monsters Under The Bed

For many people, their money stuff feels like those old monsters under the bed.  Remember those?

We were just sure there was something scary under there, and way too afraid to look.  Often we would ask one of our parents to check and see, and even then we still weren’t really sure that they had been banished from under the bed.monsters

The monsters under the bed and the bogeymen in the closets of old represented the unknown.  Something scary in the dark that danced around in our heads.  And that’s what our money fears do, isn’t it?  They dance and spin in our heads.  The very last thing we want to do is to actually look at them.

And the truth is, their only power is gained by our fear of looking at them.

Once people finally look under the bed, they find only dust bunnies.  Once you actually look at your money, you find history.  You find choices you have made.  And even more important, everyone I have ever known that has actually looked has found that it wasn’t nearly as bad as they feared it would be.

I’ve got a new client that seems to be struggling with that.  He’s been dancing up to working with me for months.  He made the commitment but is now dancing away.  He hasn’t completed the initial homework of answering questions about money, and he keeps stalling and moving the date to start.  What I make up is that he’s scared of what he’ll find.  Who knows what he makes up is under the bed.

Can you see how it is likely that it’s his little kid part that is keeping him from actually looking at his money?  He’s stuck spinning around in the fear.

Unfortunately, I can’t help him until he actually chooses to shine the flashlight under the bed.

I see him imagining all sorts of scary demons charging around, dancing and leaping.  As a matter of fact, it reminds me of a piece of music composed and performed by a friend of mine, Arthur Breur.  It’s aptly titled “The Dance of the Monsters Under the Bed”.  Give it a listen:  See if you can envision in this piece whatever is holding you back.  Is it the money gremlins?  Or is it perhaps the voice that says you aren’t good enough?   Maybe it’s a fear that someone will truly find out that you are not as adept as you pretend to be?

Whatever monsters are dancing under your bed, they are hoping you don’t actually shine a light down there and look.  You see, once they are in the light they become small, and inconsequential.

Trust yourself to be able to look at what’s scary and make other more effective choices.  Once you take that first step of looking, the other steps will fall right in line.



Here’s The Rub

I had an intriguing call with a client last week.  From the moment I heard her voice, I knew something was up.  She’s generally a positive person, but there was something going on.  Of course I asked her what it was.

She said she’d just gotten home from a massage.  Now that intrigued me, because, for me, a massage is a great thing.  It can have the effect of having emotion come up, just because I get so relaxed that I let it.  But usually I just feel relaxed and dreamy at the end of a massage.  I was curious.  What was going on?

rubTurns out that during her massage, the masseuse was regaling the client with the information from an article she had just read.  The article was all about the top ten stressors.  You know those things, right?  Death, marriage, divorce, moving, changing jobs, etc.

So there is my client: lying naked on a table, draped in a sheet, being massaged all while hearing all about the top things that can create giant stress.  Wow!

There are a bunch of things that are wrong with the picture.  The first is that it’s unprofessional of the masseuse to be chatting about anything during the massage.  Beyond that, it’s pretty disrespectful to the client.  It’s like the masseuse is absent-mindedly rubbing while thinking of other things.  And that may actually be the case.  But we don’t really want to know about that while we are on the table, now do we?

And now here’s the really important thing.  The crucial piece.  The client is settling for this.  She’s letting it go on.

Why?  Because that’s what we all do, and all too often.  We settle for less.  There can be a myriad of reasons why we do that.  Perhaps we are afraid of change.  Maybe we don’t want the hassle.  Sometimes we may feel embarrassed, or somehow rude if we ask for what we want.  And frequently, we may actually feel it’s all we deserve, that we somehow can’t have more or better.

And that is settling, and that’s where the rub is.  When we settle, we diminish ourselves, and we sacrifice something that is important to us.  And doing the settling doesn’t actually help the other person either.  All it does is harm to ourselves.

There is a distinction to make here between settling and compromising.  A compromise is a negotiated agreement.  Settling is just giving yourself away.  Accepting less.  With nothing in return.

It was a new idea to the client that she could have actually asked the masseuse to stop talking.  It was a new idea that she could choose a massage person who didn’t chat through the ‘rub’.  Many of us, this client included, have been raised to be polite.  Some of us have been raised to not ‘make a fuss’, and even be as invisible as possible.  Acting from that perspective just creates a never ending circle of not honoring our own worth.

One of the ways you can see if this is there for you is to notice where you are paying for things that aren’t quite what you want.  Where are you settling?  And why?

Frequently, when we don’t settle it takes longer.  We may have to try a bunch of different massage people, we may have to shop around.  And that, in my opinion, it time well spent.

You’ll know if you are settling when something doesn’t ‘rub you the right way’.  At that point you actually are at a cross road.  Do you keep settling, or do you make a different choice?



Doing Demon

Here we are, all starting a New Year.  After the holidays, some time off, and some planning,  you are poised at the starting line, ready to run the race, right?  You are rested, you’ve got a plan.  This is it.  Ready.  Set.  Zoom.

demonOh, but wait a minute.  Let’s rewind a bit.  What was the value to your business and goals of that time off ?  Isn’t it odd how not directly thinking about your business actually seemed to help you come up with new ideas?  There is more to time off than getting your body rested.  It actually gives your brain some space to process all those complex plans and ideas you working on.

Our brains can only process so much at a time (6 – 8 things), and yet many, many things have more variables than that.  Things like your ‘plan’ for your business.

One of the ways I look at this is in making a distinction between the idea and the action.  If our ideas and actions don’t align, we get really wonky results.  If we just sit around and think, nothing happens.  And if we zoom around doing without clarity of purpose, weird things happen.  Things that are unexpected and probably not wanted.

You may feel like you’ve done all the contemplating and planning you need, and now all you have to do is zoom into action.  Unfortunately, it’s not a onetime thing.  We need to keep both the action and the ideas flowing.  We need to let them ‘inform’ each other.

You know, that silly balance thing!

One of the ironic things about the ideas part is that it needs more than sitting down and analyzing.  It needs processing time.  Part of processing time for your brain is sort of like taking it off line.  Letting it rest.  In actuality, it’s not resting when you are taking a walk, meditating, doing art, gardening, or even sleeping.  During those activities your brain is doing the deeper work on the complex stuff.

So, as you start the new year, decide what kind of race you want to run.  Or even if you want it to be a “race” at all.

My best suggestion is to actually plan and honor ‘down time’ in amongst all the doing.  Give yourself the time and space to catch up, slow down and restore.

Recognize that being a Doing Demon that never stops doing is just as detrimental as being a slothful couch potato that never starts doing.

Most aspects of business work better with consistency rather than huge swings.  Do your bookkeeping regularly instead of annually when you can’t remember what happened, and can’t find things.  Do you marketing consistently, not just when you don’t have clients.  Do your filing periodically, instead of in a big pile.  Do your work in balance with your rest and play.

Just maybe instead of Ready, Set, Zoom you might consider Plan, Take Action, Rest and Restore….repeat on a more periodic basis, say monthly instead of annually?



Tis’ the Season to be Stressed…fa, la, la, la, la…etcetera

The buying frenzy gets wackier every year.  I actually remember back in the dark ages when stores were closed on Thanksgiving…oh, wait a minute, that was last year, wasn’t it?…

Actually I do remember when the sales were after the holidays, and not before.

We all know, intellectually, that this retail extravaganza is driven by stores needing to get stressmore sales.  Many, many stores earn the bulk of their revenue over the holidays.  They want to capture your attention and your money.  Good for them.

However, not necessarily so good for you.

So what is good for you?  What are the parts of the season that fill your heart?  The parts that bring you joy?  The parts that your memories are built on? How about focusing on them?

What if you kept the things that work for you, and ditched the rest of it?  Oh no, wait, you can’t do that!  What about everyone else’s expectations?

Well, what about them?

What do you really want your family and loved ones to experience this holiday season?

It is upon us, we’re past Thanksgiving and into December.  The home stretch. Whether Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, not to mention the New Year, the race is on to get it all together.

How about we flip the process around this year?  Instead of the list of presents, and what to buy, let’s start with the dream.  What do you want the results of this holiday season to be?  What are the feelings you want to have, and what do you want to impart to others?

Start with your intentions, your dreams, your desires.  Then, and only then, create a plan to have those happen.

See if you can’t interrupt the frenzy of shopping, baking, wrapping and entertaining before it really grabs hold, and get both clear and purposeful about in which direction you are going to go.

You absolutely have the ability to create the holiday season you want…truly.  It takes aligning your intentions and actions.  What are your dreams?  What would be truly wonderful?  Once you have clearly identified that for yourself, make sure that all your actions both reflect and align with it.

Create a theme or ‘mission statement’ for this holiday season.  Make a declaration.  Here are some ideas:

          This year we will feel closer and more loved.

          This year the holidays will be fun.

          This year the gifts will be meaningful.

You get the idea.  Just make one simple declaration and let that declaration light the way.  Don’t commit to ANYTHING that doesn’t align with your declaration.  Don’t spend time, energy or money in ways that don’t enhance and enrich your declaration.

The fundamental issue is that if we want things to be different, then we actually have to change both our intentions (dreams, desires, ideas) and our actions, at the same time!  How about letting at least a piece of that be your holiday present to yourself, and those you love?



I Am Woman, Hear Me Cajole

Remember when this is what we looked like at work?  Pearls, bracelets, skirts, pumps, even suits.  Times have changed, thank goodness.  Yet I wonder….

I notice that there are some throw backs to those days.  Some behaviors that linger long cajolepast when the skirts were replaced by slacks.  In those days we had to be careful in our language and how direct we were.  Many of us learned to make the boss think something was his idea, instead of ours.  We assuaged and cajoled.  Some of that still lingers.

And here’s the deal.  If we, as women, don’t notice and change this perspective no one else will.  I’ve caught myself many times ‘suggesting’ instead of ‘requesting’.  Hinting instead of asking.

         “Gee, the trash looks really full, maybe it should go out?”


          “Would you please take the trash out?”

Hmmm.  We know there is a stigma of women who are direct or assertive being ‘bitchy’.  My point is, if we ask for what we want is that ‘bitchy’?  I don’t think so, I think it’s clearer.  Maybe the other person doesn’t get our suggestion or hint.  Maybe they just think it’s information.  It certainly sounds more like information than a request.

And here’s the deal.  If we, as women, don’t notice and change this perspective no one else will.  It’s all about continuums.  One end of the spectrum is so effusive no one knows what is going on; the opposite end is a staccato demand.

Let’s find a middle.  Let’s make requests, let’s ask.  Let’s give the other person a better chance of meeting our needs, and most of all, let’s equalize the playing field in more ways than our attire.



Insanity and the Ant

I witnessed this really fascinating example of the Definition of Insanity last weekend.  You know, the Albert Einstein definition: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

pyrexIt involved a one cup glass Pyrex measure, and a tiny black ant.  I’ve been plagued with those little buggers lately.  Sometimes just a few, once a gang in the sugar bowl (which now has packets of sugar) and once ganged up under the table on a scrap of something.  Based on their assault on mostly my kitchen I am less than tolerant of them.

So there I was.  My measuring cup sitting empty on the cutting board, and here comes Adam Ant sauntering along.  So I set the cup on top of him.

Now’s where things got interesting.  Although it appeared that the cup was flat there was a little concave space at the bottom of the Pyrex.  Just big enough for him to wander around in, but solid so there was no way out.

He started out by boomeranging around the circle.  From my point of view, I couldn’t see the edge he was running into, I don’t know if he could.  He kept trying.  Here, then there, then over there.  It was pretty random.  He didn’t try going all the way around to see if there was a hole or gap.  He just kept trying to bounce out.  And then he seemed to freak out a bit.  Ran in a little tiny circle of his own.  That seemed to stun him so he just stopped for a bit.  It seemed like he was almost calm.

A moment later he started the whole routine again, only this time the wacko part came sooner and the calm part lasted a bit longer.

I wondered if he would give up in some way.  Would he just rest until he either ran out of air or was rescued?  Or would he keep doing what hadn’t been working?

The truth was neither.  He actually offed himself.  He just couldn’t believe it, I guess.  He ran into the edge and squished himself in the tiny curve like he could push his way through.  It didn’t work and he squished himself to death.

I know it’s a gruesome tale.  And yet it’s a parable.

How often do we do this, over and over and over again?  Run around with no real plan, just bouncing off the invisible walls?  Freaking out?  Resting a bit? And then doing it over again in the exact same way again?

Let’s all decide to be smarter than the tiny black ant…how’s that for an idea?