Sometimes monster conversations are serious and harrowing, and sometimes they’re LIKE THIS. Cuteness and hilarity ahead.
(See here to find out about all the members of my headcast who crop up in this post.)
I realised that despite the breakthrough with Dragon, I was still getting a lot of negative self-talk saying things like ‘I hate you in a million different ways!’ So my usual beloved tag-team went in to find out what kind of monster was behind that.
Big Sister: Hi, could I talk to the Negative Self-Talk Monster, please?
Monsters: There’s lots of us.
(And the lights come up on a sea of tiny beings. They look like Hattifatteners from the Moomins.)
Big Sister: Hmm, you look like Hattifatteners! So what’s that telling me? Hattifatteners look like ghosts… and they’re electric… and kind of expressionless… and scary… and ultimately harmless, right? So, Hattifatteners, what’s going on with you? What are you observing?
Monsters: (slight crackling noise)
Big Sister: Oh, right, Hattifatteners can’t talk. Could you appear in a form that does talk?
(Monsters turn into many tiny black fuzzballs.)
Monsters: (with no conviction, as if reading a script) Bleh. You suck. We hate you. Get better at everything.
Mr. H: Gonks! Yeah, GONKS! (Laughing… he loves it when the monsters look like gonks.)
Big Sister: You also look kind of like Tribbles. Tribbles proliferate like crazy and cause Tribble trouble. Is that what you do?
Monsters: (suddenly excited, bouncing and doing flips) Yeah! We proliferate! We cause Tribble trouble! (They start multiplying wildly, popping up like popcorn, piling on top of each other until the negotiators are in danger of getting buried.)
Mr. H: Whoa-whoa-whoa! Let’s keep the proliferating to a minimum till we’ve finished TALKING PLEASE!
(One last one defiantly plinks into existence and then the fuzz settles.)
Big Sister: You looked like you were having fun there.
Monsters: Yeah! We have fun!
Mr. H: Fun, huh? I was expecting a lot of things, but I wasn’t expecting fun. Most of the monsters I’ve met have been kind of grim and austere and b- well, not boring, nobody’s boring, but they have a boring life.
Monsters: We have fun slinging insults because it’s all we can do.
Mr. H: Why’s it all you can do?
Monsters: We don’t know! We’re just insult slingers!
Mr. H: Uh…
Big Sister: Is there someone behind all this? Is there like, a queen monster of this hive?
(An ENORMOUS GIGAGONK appears behind the horde.)
Mr. H: (stepping forward) Hi! Do you -
Gigagonk: BRRRRAAAAUUUUMMMM. (A booming blast of air and sound that sends him staggering back in shock.) HA! EVEN YOU WERE RUFFLED!
Mr. H: (brushing imaginary dust off his jacket) Heh. Shaken not stirred.
Mr. H: You know who you remind me of? The Great Oz. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!
(And sure enough, a curtain draws back, revealing a sheepish-looking little old man turning a handle to operate the beast.)
Mr. H: Hi, Oz. What’s up?
Oz: I’m from Omaha! I came here in a balloon!
Mr. H: Okay, I don’t need the plot of the Wizard of Oz. What are you observing?
Oz: You just outed me!
Mr. H: How are you feeling?
Mr. H: It’s okay, I’m safe. You’re safe. Wanna tell me a bit about what you do here?
Oz: Um… I wizard.
Mr. H: What do you do when you’re wizarding?
Oz: I say things in a loud voice.
Mr. H: What sort of things?
Oz: ‘I hate you, you’re awful, do better…’
Mr. H: Okay, why those sorts of things?
Oz: Oh, it’s what the people want.
Mr. H: What people?
Oz: Well, Eve, I suppose.
Mr. H: And why do you think she wants that?
Oz: I don’t know. All I do is give the people what they want. I’m a showman, you know.
Big Sister: It seems like you’re someone who feels small trying to hide behind a facade of being big and noisy. That suggests childhood stuff to me. Am I right?
Oz: I don’t know. I’m from Omaha.
Big Sister: Okay, honey. I need to talk to Eve to find out more about this. Can you wait while I do that?
Big Sister: Thank you. (kisses him on the cheek)
Oz: (blushes) Oh! Madam!
Big Sister: Okay, Eve, can we talk about this? Is he right that you need to hear things like ‘I hate you, you’re awful, do better’?
Little Sister: Can I join in?
Big Sister: Yes, of course! This is really relevant to you.
Little Sister: I need him to say those things so I’ll behave better so then real people won’t say those things to me.
Oz: I’m real!
Big Sister: I know, honey.
Little Sister: I mean flesh and blood people.
Big Sister: (hand-on-heart sigh) Okay. And when he says those things, how do you feel?
Little Sister: Scared. Angry.
Big Sister: When you feel scared and angry, do you behave better?
Little Sister: No, I behave badly! Or I don’t do anything at all.
Big Sister: So what are you really needing?
Little Sister: To not be hated!
Big Sister: Remember, in NVC we don’t do a ‘don’t’. Can you say ‘to not be hated’ in a different way, so it’s a ‘do’ instead of a ‘don’t’?
Little Sister: To be loved!!
Big Sister: Yeah! (hugs her) Really big, really simple. How can we get Oz to help you with that?
Little Sister: I don’t know. You’re the big sister.
Big Sister: Okay, I’ll work it out. Thank you.
Little Sister: You’re welcome. (watches intently during the next bit)
Big Sister: Oz, thank you for waiting. Did you get all that?
Oz: Yes. No. Could you explain it again, please?
Big Sister: Okay. You came into being because Eve wanted protecting from hate. She wanted you to say hateful things to her so that she’d behave better so that flesh-and-blood people wouldn’t hate on her. The trouble is that when you say hateful things, she feels scared and angry and either behaves worse or does nothing. Not her fault, not your fault, you were both doing your best with the information you had.
Oz: Oh, no. I always knew I was a failure.
Big Sister: You’re not! You’re a very powerful ally. We just need to work out a better way for you to do your job so you can meet her real need, which is to be loved.
Oz: Oh, is that all? Well, that’s easy. (Turns handle. Gigagonk turns pink with sparkly antennae.)
Tribblegonks: (turning pink and bouncing up and down) We love you! You rock! Do more of that awesome thing! We’re having fun slinging love!
Big Sister: Wow, that WAS easy! Thank you!
Oz: (tipping hat) All I do is give the people what they want.
Me: Thank you, Oz!
Oz: You’re welcome, madam, miss, sir, whateveryouare. May I draw the curtain again now?
Big Sister: Sure.
(Oz retreats behind his curtain. Little Sister dives through the curtain and hugs his legs.)
Little Sister: Thank you, Oz! I love you!
(Oz looks deeply touched. This is the person he was really here to serve. All these years he’s received nothing for his service but fear and anger, and now he finally gets love. The old man and the little girl stand there hugging each other, both in tears.)
At the end of her conversation with Oz, Little Sister looked like Dorothy for a moment – a bit older than normal, in her blue and white checked summer school uniform and pigtails. When she came skipping back to me I said, ‘You grew up a bit,’ and she said, ‘Just for a moment,’ and transformed back to her normal self.
Just then we walked past a street sign that said, ‘Emerald Court’.
What I find interesting about this monster talk is that the monsters had so little emotional investment in what they were saying. Normally there’s a lot of passion and fear and DOOM in monster interactions, and a lot of ‘we have to keep saying this thing or the world will end.’ In this case, while Oz is clearly devoted to Little Sister, he’s not invested in what he’s saying. He’s a showman who just says whatever the people want to hear. This was a revelation - my negative self-talk feels so intensely real and hateful when it’s happening, and yet - it’s just a show?
As for the Tribblegonks, they’re even less invested in what they’re saying. I think that’s why they’re capable of having fun. They’re just copying Oz, they don’t mean anything by it. They’re a perfect image of how negative self-talk, well, proliferates, and you end up slinging mindless, meaningless hate-words at yourself just out of habit.
…But they’re so cute!