The Nozers

January 22nd, 2008

Not to sound self-important, but I’ve discovered one of the most important components of the human psyche. It’s an element that is responsible for 90% of unrealized ambitions, 95% of unfinished novels, 82.3% of abandoned dreams, and 100% of people continuing to live in crappy apartments when they could find something better at a lower or equal price.

It’s called the Nozer. It’s the internal neocon that rejects all change. It has one and only one function, and that’s to say NO to anything that might change (read: improve) our lives.

It’s the Nozer that tells you that you can’t write that book, finish that chapter, paint that picture, stay on that diet, leave that wretched job, break out of that pitiful relationship, move to some place where the sun shines once in a while. I realized this morning that if I were tied to the stake and the wood was catching fire beneath me and someone came along with a knife to cut the ropes and said, “Let’s get you out of here,” the reaction of my Nozer would be, “Wait, wait, you know what it’s like here. Who knows what it’ll be like wherever he’s taking you?”

The Nozer is based entirely in fear. He or she (depending, obviously) clings to the status quo with tiny claws, screaming whenever the possibility of change looms. In some ways, the Nozer is more threatened when the change might be for the better, because it’s easier to imagine worse. We can all imagine worse: it’s just like now, but less so. Better, on the other hand, is truly alien territory. Who knows what it might be like of things got better? Maybe the whole concept of better is an elaborate trap to take us to a much worse version of worse.

It’s hard for me to realize that I harbor a mechanism that would be more comfortable with a bad chest x-ray than a three-book deal, but I do. And (here’s the intuitive leap) so do you. And I contend that learning how to deal with the Nozer is one of the most important things we can do in life, and that the process begins with realizing that it’s there.

So I’m embarking on a Nozer Management Program, and I’ll send you bulletins from time to time. Anyone who has a good idea about how to build a little cage around the Nozer and/or hold its tiny head under water whenever necessary is invited to send their me their thoughts, and I’ll recipocate with mine.

I’ll think of a campaign slogan later, but for the moment I’m imagining that I’m wearing a bright yellow button that saud BULLDOZER THE NOZER.

17 Responses to “The Nozers”

  1. Cynthia Mueller Says:

    So Guru Hallinan, do you see the NOZER as being beneficial at all? Wouldn’t it be the same protective device that keeps most of us from participating in base jumping, gator wrestling and lion taming sports? Maybe we just need to find and tame the little sucker.

    I can see you on the lecture circuit, promoting your wildly successful NOZER Management series. 1. Finding Your Inner Nozer, 2. Befriending Your NOZER, 3. Nourishing Your NOZER, and the ever popular, 4. Disciplining Your NOZER. DVDs sold separately.

  2. Greg Smith Says:

    I recognize that little bugger. I’ve been grappling with him for the last several weeks, years, and probably lifetimes. His proper name is Nozereebob and his personification can usually be found in places like the DMV and Post office where the first responers are poised to thwart any but the most mundane and strictly defined and sanctioned requests: forms and stamps.
    “Excuse me, but is it possible for me to…”
    “No, I”m sorry, it simply can’t be done. B’bye.”
    That, to me, is the outward manifestation of my own inner Nozer. Apparently it has an ego the size of Texas because it KNOWS that whatever my puny personality would like to achieve will undoubtedly come to naught.
    I expect Rowling was channeling the beastie when she created the dementors.
    I remember a line from Woodie Allen when he said, “life is devided into the horrible and miserable.”
    Nice, huh? a guy with Woodie’s success thinking life is a steaming pile of manuer with no chance of a pony in there somewhere.
    For me, one way of handling the onslaught of the nozer is to challenge his credentials. If he thinks that ultimately, the universe sucks (and there is no gravity) then he’d be saying he knows everything and has been everywhere. If he says that, I know he’s a big fat liar and he starts to lose his grip on me.
    I heard a line somewhere, “dont sweat the small stuff and, by the way, it’s all small stuff.” When I have the witt to remember that, I can often escape his grasp long enough to dare to follow my dreams.

    Thanks for the thoughts. I think I’ve mustered enough hope to attack the next chapter.


  3. Jennifer Says:

    Tim, this was just what I needed to read this morning as I sit down with a huge mug of coffee on my “day off.” I laughed out loud at your definition of the nozer as an “internal neocon that rejects all change,” but then I said, “Ouch!” Sometimes I pet and cherish mine.

    Fear of the unknown is such a common problem, but it seems like the only people who actually get anywhere in their lives are able to identify that fear and turn it into something like adventure. The rest of us keep getting stuck in it.

    “Itโ€™s hard for me to realize that I harbor a mechanism that would be more comfortable with a bad chest x-ray than a three-book deal, but I do. And (hereโ€™s the intuitive leap) so do you.”

    When I read this bit, I realized how (especially lately) I’ve been expecting bad news/bad results. What an eye-opener!

  4. Lisa Kenney Says:

    I know that mode well, although lately my pendulum seems to have swung into the anything is possible and maybe I’ve overextended myself mode — which isn’t good either. If I were a manic-depressive, someone would be chasing me around with a butterfly net right now trying to hold me down and get me back on my meds ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Cynthia —

    Sorry to take so long to respond. I’m in Florida at a 3-day event called BOOKMANIA, and it’s fantastic, but it’s keeping me busy.

    One of the Nozer’s most effective tactics is camouflaging itself as common sense. People who jump out of planes or raise coral snakes for fun or do sumo with gators are short on common sense.

    Actually, they’re acting on an impulse created by another little-known mechanism of the brain, the Cantu, which is named for its discoverer, Dr, Ignacio Cantu of, um, Venezuela, and it is purely and simply one of those unaccountable coincidences that his name is pronounced just like “can too” in English. The Cantu is the part of the brain that says, yes, you can too write that novel, stop wearing slacks with expandable waistbands, run for president, jump off Mount Whitney using a pocket handkerchief as a parachute.

    The Cantu says “yes” to these things, and common sense and the Nozer say “no.” The way to figure out where the no is coming from is to ask yourself, “If I go ahead and do this, what’s the worst that can happen?” It the answer isn’t something along the lines of decapitation and/or a lifetime in a small cell with nine large guys named Bubba, it’s the Nozer, and flip him (or her) off, and go ahead and do it.

    I may write more about the Cantu later, depending on how the research develops. This is a very new area.

    And going on tour is a great idea. I could do three-day seminars called “A Life in Balance: Between the Nozer and the Cantu,” and charge a fortune. I’ll never have to write another sentence.

  6. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Lisa —

    We all (especially creative people) know the Nozer too well, but we too frequently, every one of us, allow him (or her) to drench us with cold water whenever we get out of line: start having ideas, begin projects, try something new, decide to change our lives.

    We all need to learn to nurture the Cantu (see above), keep our common sense healthy as a safeguard against TRULY crazy notions, and slap that little Nozer into shape.

    When my Cantu gets too chesty, I go into the kind of phase you’re experiencing now, and I take total advantage of it — I know it’s not going to last forever, so those are my 5,000-word days. (By the way, “manic” is what the Nozer calls it as a way of trying to prevent you from getting anything out of it.)

    Anything IS possible. Some of the possible things will kill you, which is what common sense is for, but I believe there’s virtually nothing we can conceive that we can’t accomplish. I really do.

  7. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Gosh, I wish there were some way to make these replies actually follow the posts to which they’re responding. Of course, there probably is, and all of you know how to do it and I don’t, and now you’re all laughing at me, and I KNEW I couldn’t blog, I KNEW I’d make a fool out of myself I KNEW —

    Oh, shut up.

    See, give the Nozer an inch and he’ll take your whole foot.

    Anyway, this is a reply to Greg and Jennifer, way up there at the top of the page (SEE???? I told you that you couldn’t do it!!!) and, Greg, you’re absolutely right, the Nozer’s full name is Nozereebob, although it was originally Nozereerobert, and he changed it to make it fit on a marquee. And you’re also right about the Post Office, the DMV, and Dementors. The Nozer spirit is also enshrined in the hallways of the federal government’s nation’s energy czars, whose Nozers refuse to allow them to think for any longer than one-twenty-third of a second about alternative energy sources. And congratulations on getting back to the chapter. In the long run, it’s the only thing that matters.

    Jennifer — First, you’ve discovered on your own what top-level brain researchers have just begun to figure out, which is that a cup of coffee really screws the Nozers up. Here’s a discovery so new it hasn’t even been published in “The Lancet” yet: Nozers are the only entities on the planet that think coffee smells bad.

    And I’m going to borrow your words, to wit: “Fear of the unknown is such a common problem, but it seems like the only people who actually get anywhere in their lives are able to identify that fear and turn it into something like adventure.”

    That’s exactly and precisely what I would have said if I could have said it.

  8. Cynthia Mueller Says:

    Tim said: “…flip him (or her) off, and go ahead and do it.”

    Sigh…I’m trying to type my next installment without the use middle finger of my left hand as it appears to be busy keeping the Nozer at bay… I fear I may miss the Monday posting deadline.

  9. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Try the mental middle finger.

    Or else, use the ancient six-step Nozer ‘Dozer ritual.

    1. Brew a pot of strong coffee.

    2. As the coffee drips, beam the potential energy from the caffeine straight to your Cantu.

    3. Drink coffee.

    4. Drink more coffee.

    5. Now close your eyes for two minutes. If you can do it, drink more coffee.

    6. When your eyes are so wide open it’s a challenge to blink, start writing.

    While writing, strongly visualize that upraised middle finger so you can offer it to the Nozer whenever the opportunity arises.

  10. Steve Wylder Says:

    For non-coffee-drinkers like me, Pepsi has come out with Diet Pepsi Max, which has extra caffeine and ginseng. Unfortunately its effects on the stomach lining are about the same, or worse, than coffee’s. By the way, I’m not a Nozer, as I don’t think coffee smells bad. It just tastes bad.

    When, in younger days, I was prowling around the University of Iowa library, and found a copy of Gelett Burgess’s “Are You a Bromide?
    The Sulphitic Theory Expounded and Exemplified According to the Most Recent Researches into the Psychology of Boredom Including Many Well-Known Bromidioms Now in Use.” (It’s now available online through Project Gutenberg.) The Nozer seems to prey on sulphites (essentially creative types), attempting to turn us into bromides, or at least into stifled sulphites. The Nozerian Theory certainly expands the Sulphitic Theory.

  11. Cynthia Mueller Says:


  12. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Okay, Cynthia — You win the award for funniest comment ever. I read that to my wife out loud and the two of us laughed till we cried, especially because that’s just the way I sound to her around eleven each morning. In fact, I’m laughing again now as I read the part about your contacts.


  13. Jennifer Says:

    Tim, not sure what platform your blog is based on, but I use Blogger and I often wish they would allow people to respond to a particular comment instead of only allowing a single-threaded list of comments. It makes it hard to talk to people that way.

    Coffee is the elixer of life for me. Okay, so I exaggerate, but not by much.

    Fascinating about the Cantu. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Jennifer — I’m on WordPress, and I have zero complaints. A few people wrote to say that their e-mail addressed hadn’t been stripped out, but that’s remedied when I approve the comment, so nobody’s e-mail address actually ever goes online.

    And I have to disagree with you: coffee is not the elixir of life. Coffee is life.

    Re: the Cantu, I’m thinking of starting a private, for-profit religion that would allow people to transform their lives (for a fee, of course) through creative manipulation of the Nozer and the Cantu.

  15. Jennifer Says:

    Tim, you’ll have to let us know when you’ll be promoting your new religion on “Oprah.” ๐Ÿ™‚

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