The Importance of Dry Mogwais and Thoughtful Boundaries

I don’t know if you know this but not only are gremlins what a lot of us call the critical inner voice, and not only was that what the Royal Air Force blamed for mysterious mechanical issues in WWII aircraft, but it’s also the name of a 1984 movie. Really!

Okay, you undoubtedly knew that. I honestly hadn’t spent a ton of time thinking about it beyond hoping no one confused my thoughts about those critical voices for some deep obsession with the movie.

And then a couple of weeks ago, in the midst of a sample coaching session, a fella went straight to the movie as a touchstone for his voices and blew my mind a little. He’s given his permission for me to share it with you.

A quick plot recap: A dad finds a strange, furry pet-thing called a mogwai in a strange, basement shop-thing. He’s told to never expose it to bright light, never feed it after midnight, and never get it wet. He gives it to his kid who hears the rules and is like weird but whatever so okay, takes the fuzz ball and names it Gizmo. Spoiler: Kid doesn’t follow the directions well and before you know it, Gizmo is hatching evil mogwais, the worst of which is named Spike. Chaos and hilarity ensue as the kid, his love interest, and Gizmo take on the ever-growing band of misfit mogwais.

Here’s how this fella broke it down for me:

Spike = his gremlin voice

Gizmo = his voice of inner wisdom

The rules = boundaries

If we’ve met in person, you know my laugh so you can just plug that in when he chose Spike and Gizmo as the names. They’re fun names with easy visuals from the movie. Great stuff.

And then we got to the rules. I’m learning boundaries. For most of my life, I had an unexamined belief that boundaries were prohibitive. I thought if I drew boundaries, people would like me less, would feel oppressed or pushed away, and that my loved ones would feel less cared for as I asserted my needs. Consequently, I would roll with whatever others wanted until I finally hit an internal wall which looks like, well, it ain’t pretty, folks. Think sleepy toddler fighting a nap but, you know, I’m an adult.

But the rules about Gizmo weren’t a punishment to Gizmo or his new kid pal. It wasn’t that the mystical Asian guy in the basement store-thing thought it would be a fun, random gag to convince the kid to never bathe his new pet. Instead, it was about everyone’s well-being.

When Gizmo gets wet, boils form on him that hatch the evil mogwais. When I don’t set and protect my boundaries, I turn into a 5-year-old in the cereal aisle crying over the box of Fluffy Marshmallow Unicorn Toots.

The mogwai rules were set to ensure (or try to ensure) everyone’s well-being. Boundaries, when set with thoughtfulness and intention, can ensure (or try to ensure) everyone’s well-being. They’re a way of saying, “I care about you and want our relationship to be the best it can be, and to be my best, I need…”

…plenty of sleep; quiet mornings; for you to text if you’ll be home late; for you to pay invoices on time; to hear your feedback in a timely manner; etc.

When we identify our own needs and communicate them proactively and clearly, we’re laying a meaningful foundation for our personal and professional relationships. We’re doing our best to head off the preventable frustrations, which gives us more energy for the creative work of relationships, and to deal with the unanticipated dust ups.

I mean, who knew that Spike would break into the pool at the YMCA?

So, thank you, sample session pal. Now, when I feel reluctant to set or protect my boundaries, I’ll think of fuzzy little Gizmo spawning sharp-toothed hell-raisers and remember that keeping him dry is best for everyone.