A Story about Inner Gremlins and Three Ego States

A government advert tackling the issues of adult illiteracy was broadcast some time ago. The slogan was to get rid of your gremlins. In it, we see a man going to an adult education course to learn a basic skill. Behind him, we see a wretched creature telling him why he should not go. This sort of negative inner voice may inhabit people who feel shame about heir inability to read or write. But these are not the only negative messages such gremlins may issue to people.

Clinical Psychology of Ego States

Other negative messages might manifest themselves within a person if a woman thinks she is fat or if a man fears intimacy.

I thought the gremlin effectively portrayed such a negative force. I decided to write about these negative forces in my novel, The Shuttered Room. But firstly, I needed to conduct some research into the nature of these destructive inner voices within people.

Theory on Ego States

According to Freud’s structural model, we all have three psyches, or egos: the child, parent and the adult (id, ego and superego) see diagram. The child or id is just that -imprinted behaviors learned from childhood. In some people, the child ego might be unreasonable or demanding. The parent or ego exhibits behavior patterns and beliefs copied from a parent figure, which might be nurturing or caring.
Negative and Positive Ego States
Here are what a 'good' or 'bad inner id and ego might feature:
Positive child: spontaneous, curious, playful, creative, fun.
Negative child: tantrums, unreasonable, conniving, rebellious, bullying.
Positive parent: nurturing, caring, supportive, provider, helpful,
Negative parent: criticizing, patronizing, blaming.
And finally, the Adult: reasonable, logical, analytical, reflective
The adult (superego) is the highest conscious state of all, where the person exists in the here and now, and which the mind is at its most logical, analytical and autonomous. The gremlin cannot exist in the superego state, nor in a positive child or parent, only a destructive version of the latter two.

What Creates Destructive Human Relationships

An individual with negative early life experiences may nurture a gremlin, spouting destructive messages issued from a parent ego, such as, ‘you’ll never be any good,’ or ‘do as you are told!’ Or the child ego, which might issue messages such as, ‘You're such a boring stick in the mud! ’ These are the sort of messages an inner gremlin may give to a person. Psychological games are most likely to occur when people are in a destructive ego state.
My novel relates on three kidnappers who hold a woman in an upstairs room for a huge ransom. I began to wonder what sort of negative voice or ‘gremlin’ would lead these thugs into their life of crime. I have written a separate article on the different types of negative forces that take the form of psychological life games. Here, a fascinating book, Games People Play by Eric Berne takes a leap from Freud’s ego model.
Psychology of Human Relationships in Novels

Games People Play explains that people with negative early experiences may partake in a life game that exhibits a repeating pattern of behavior, the same payoff and a hidden motive. Such games may be fuelled by an inner gremlin from a destructive child or parent ego state. This inner force may spout a mantra or repeating message that may compel the person to do or say certain things.

Negative Force within Villains in Fiction
The hostage in my novel, Jessica spies upon her captors through a small hole she has cut in the bedroom floor. In her increasing cabin-fever, she dubs over what her captors might be thinking as they go about their business. Her monologues sound rather like the aforementioned negative messages from a damaged child or parent ego state. She starts to play games with her captors, ultimately to escape.
The trouble is, as her time held captive increases, she starts to hallucinate. And what she sees within her captors are what their nasty gremlins might look like.

The Inner Forces of Kidnappers

Rather than use the imagery of the government advert, I decided to create my own ‘gremlin’. This force could have been a parrot that sits on the shoulder squawking all day. But I decided the creature wouldn’t be warm-blooded or a mammal; (as warm-blooded creatures have a nurturing nature). Instead I made the creatures cold-blooded, reptilian, as they lack a higher brain. Without a highter brain, there can be no reasoning. This means the message issued is persistent and insistent, a mantra rather like a croak from a toad.

Bad Mantras within People

Jess refers to these creatures as The Toad. Such a label encapsulates all that is cold-blooded and unreasonable. In fact, Jess hallucinates all sorts of bizarre creatures that prate on at their hosts in a mantra fashion. Some do resemble a toad, but others may have spines, or a shell. These 'demons' possesses characteristics that has some correlation with what they are uttering to their companions. Is Jess mad? It would appear so, but there also appears to be a horrible logic with what she imagines.

Thriller about Human Behavior

As the story progresses, Jess begins to realize that she is not in fact observing her captors' inner demons from afar, but playing with them. The stakes are raised as she toys with these dangerous forces within her captors in a bid to escape.
As can be seen, I decided that my thriller would be no ordinary kidnap novel, but something rather unexpected. These inner demons within people would appear to possess a real force. Perhaps by using imagery, the nature of such demons can be explored. I wanted my novel to pose the question of what if we could separate the person from the demon? What would be the nature of the person then?
The answer might lie in the superego (the adult).
The Shuttered Room by Charles J Harwood
Copyright is asserted © 2012
Other themes relating to this novel
Extra articles

Games People Play, Eric Berne: New York: Grove Press (1964)
What is Transactional Analysis and how it is used in CENT: ABC of Counseling (viewed Feb 15 2013)
The Ego and the Id, On Metapsychology, Sigmund Freud: Penguin Freud Library (1991)
Id, Ego and Superego (Wikipedia viewed Feb 15 2013)

Image details: Fiend Pinning Down Thief's Back Tail-Piece (1797)
Woodcut by Thomas Bewick (1753-1828)
Sourced from History of British Birds
Wikimedia Commons (2013)
Diagram: CJ Harwood (2013)