Release Your Inner Child…Into the Wilderness

In my evidently endless weight-loss odyssey, I recently went to a hypnotist. I was skeptical, because why should hypnotism work in the face of everything that has not? But even if it didn’t make me thin, maybe it would give me a brief period of coasting. 

You may remember the Inner Child movement of the 80s and 90s: The child that you were is still a child within. In other words, you think you grew up, but in fact a spawn inside of you is using your body as host. And this child never feels safe. I remember the first therapist I went to years ago explaining this concept. Rather than taking comfort, I felt immediate alarm. I wanted the goddam thing out of me, I didn’t care about paternity. I asked, trying to keep composed, if there was any possibility of its popping out of my chest. She suggested I see a different therapist.

Therapy in those days was centered on beating huge cartoonish pillows with a foam bat until your heart was beating at a noxious pace, while you screamed your hatred for the seventh grade PE teacher who had mocked your attempt at a chin-up. Anger Work, as it was called. Not once during those years of pillow-pummeling did the various therapists offer any feedback or insights, not even “You’re sweating!” or “Don’t strain!” They just watched as I sweated and strained, supposedly getting out the anger. I’m not a terribly assertive person so I never questioned the lack of breadth in this treatment plan.

Thus was I unhappily surprised by the hypnotist—in 2018—announcing that my inner-child was actually still gestating. I was hoping he himself was in a hypnotic state as he said those words, but his eyes were wide open, and he repeated them. He smiled in a way that presumed I would be pleased.

“Your inner-child is very active, playful, funny, jubilant, special, happy. In fact, I believe it’s a little girl.”

“I'm female on the inside?”

He gave me a maternal frown as he said, “Sarcasm is sideways anger.”

“I’m not being sarcastic,” I said, and I wasn’t. Actually, I would love to have any female traits at all to counteract the ravages of aging and testosterone. No one believes me anymore that there was a time I used to be mistaken for female with my long 70s hair and pretty face. All they’ve ever seen of me is the giant thumb I’ve become.

The hypnotist shook his head like I was being a naughty little girl. “The session is over. Think about what I’ve said. With an open mind.”

I tried. I opened my mind, and was happy for a bit, picturing a blonde, ringlet-headed doll of a girl picking petals off a daisy. But cynicism kept sneaking in and the little girl would say things like, “When I grow up, I=m going to have a hairy body, a bad temper, and enormous bowel movements. He loves me...”

Probably the truth was that even though decades had gone by, I had still managed to find a  hypnotist crazier than any of my previous therapists. However, since my faith is deeply rooted in superstition, I couldn’t stop wondering about the slim possibility that his theory was right. What if I do have a child inside?

And then, on Halloween night, she appeared.

If she felt unsafe, it took the form of the interrogative.

“What are you going to do with me when you go to work?” she asked. “Is the office a safe environment for children? Are you planning to leave me home alone? If so, do you have any idea how much those abandonment issues are going to cost you someday?

 “And what if I catch a cold?” she continued. “How are you going to explain to your boss that you have to stay home with your child when he knows you’re explicitly childless?”

I imagined this scenario, my boss’s disdain veering to disbelief when I clarified that I meant my inner child. “And it’s a girl!”

“What if you want to go on a date?” she continued. “How appropriate is that? And you can forget about touching yourself down below while I’m around. That’s tantamount to pedophilia.”

“Should I get a babysitter?” I asked. “Or take you to the Daycare Center at work?”

“Where you go, I go. Do you think there’s enough minimum wage on earth for a daycare worker to change your diaper?”

I could see now that birthing this inner child had changed my life irrevocably.

“I thought you were supposed to be playful, funny, and jubilant,” I said. “That’s how the hypnotist described you, among other upbeat personality traits.”

 She sighed. “Take me to a movie,” she said. “I want to see something fun and eat candy and popcorn and drink the sugariest soda. And a Slushie.”

I had no choice but to take her. The theater lobby was practically empty on Halloween night, and that magnified my indignation at the ticket price. “Excuse me,” I said to the stringy boy at the booth, “but I’m not buying this ticket for me. It’s for my inner child, who’s a girl and whom I’ve named Fanny. So I want the kids’ price.”

He argued, I argued. My little girl grew morose as the situation devolved.

“Forget it,” I finally said, and turned to leave. “You can play the film to a completely empty house.” When he didn’t try to get the last word in I added, “And you’ve broken a child’s little heart.”

The inner me and I said nothing to each other in the car as I drove us home.

While I seldom had trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood, someone had gone to the trouble of pelting eggs at my house anyway, presumably in retaliation for no candy. Irritated as I was, that gave me an idea.

“Come, Fanny,” I said, getting my giant Wigwam hat and winter jacket, and putting them on her. “You’re going to have a fun Halloween after all. You’re going to be carefree, like I was promised you’d be.”

“Why do I have to wear this?” she asked.

“You’re going as me in the winter,” I said. “There’s a symmetry to it.” I handed her my very sturdy Lands’ End canvas shopping bag. “Now, get out there and collect treats from every neighborhood you can get yourself to. Every single subdivision. Don’t accept any apples, because I don’t like fruit. In fact, anything that’s not chocolate is bullshit, and you don’t want me to feel unsafe, do you? And whatever you do, don’t trade with any other children—inner or otherwise—or you’re grounded.”

I gave her an encouraging nudge out the door, and she moved sullenly into the night, looking like a hobo had tossed his clothes on a fire hydrant.

I never saw her again.

Of course I missed my Lands’ End bag, and I knew Fanny would be feeling unsafe out there in the suburban wilderness. And, being my inner child, she would be bingeing herself sick on candy to keep the panic from rising.

But I assumed that if I had let her stay, she would have run away eventually. And anyway, I’m a smoker, and second hand smoke is just not good for children.