Search for the brat within you

Terence Blacker confronts his inner child and tries to explain a few salient points
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The Independent Culture
ON BALANCE, I think we'll be giving this weekend's Personal Development Show at Olympia a miss. I realise that, from tomorrow onwards, over 10,000 people are expected and that, if you add to that figure the various inner children, secret warriors, goddesses within, shadows, mirrors and alternative personalities that each visitor will be bringing, we could be talking in millions, but I think I'll stay here on my own.

I don't want personal development. From what I've seen of him, my inner warrior is a whingeing, niggling little creep who annoys the very people I want to please. My shadow is a devious, randy, unattractive thing, entirely devoid of moral scruples. As for my inner child, he's a grizzling, self- pitying little brat, forever going through one of those famous "difficult phases".

Oh, you think you're so great, don't you? Such a typical parent. Like, where d'you, like, get off with all this totally lame patronising?

But you're so gloomy, you inner children. One never seems to hear of a hey-guys- let's-go-down-the-pub-party-dude inner child. Oh no. It's all introversion and staring out of the window and bursting into tears at the sound of a blackbird, or Rule Britannia at the last night of the Proms, or James Taylor singing Sweet Baby James.

Oh, please. What is your problem? Why's it such a big deal to take me to Olympia? All the other parents are taking their inner children.

All right, I suppose you're grown-up enough to know the truth. The fact is I've had it up to here with personal growth - all this worshipping at the great shrine of Me gives me the creeps. Love yourself? Get to know yourself? Stand in front of the mirror and say "Hey, guy, you're OK"? It's just another excuse for selfishness.

Duh. Like, no one's selfish in this house, right?

All I'm saying is that, if you spend your life searching for the hero inside yourself, the rest of the world tends to become nothing more than a shadowy backdrop to the endlessly fascinating personal drama unfolding within your precious psyche.

Yeah so, like, the best way to be mature and grown-up is to scurry about worrying about your career, right? Er, I don't think so.

That's it - that's the great myth of personhood. You honestly believe that all this feeling and caring and self-nurturing is a healthy reaction to the hard-eyed greed-is-good ethic of the Eighties. In fact, it's exactly the same. But whereas 10 years ago, the received wisdom was that if the individual was expansive and ambitious, then society would benefit, today the argument is that, if I'm happy, self-knowing and "centred", then the world will magically be a better, more nurturing place. You're an emotional Thatcherite.

Booooooring. What's a Thatcherite? Something you repair the roof with?

And here's the real kicker. The effect of all this individualism is that it leads to a sort of bullying conformity. You're only accepted as a worthwhile member of society if you care in precisely the right way. It's no coincidence that, in the months following the death of Diana, a quantum leap in national self-confidence became evident. Caring's a competitive business; it gives you the chance to exert moral authority over others, to feel superior to those less sensitive than yourself.

Lalalala. Notlisteningnotlisteningnotlisteningnotlistening.

Look at Vanessa or Ricki or Oprah. You can own up to being a dysfunctional sex addict of the worst kind but, if you're sorry and you cry the obligatory tears, then the studio audience will be merciful. Because, hey, you're in a healing place. On the other hand, the sad, bad characters (usually men) who, with blundering slack-jawed innocence, actually dare to defend their behaviour, invoke the wrath of the screaming pack of self-righteous prats in the audience.

Hello? All we inner children are saying is that you should get in touch with your feelings. Is that, like, so difficult to come to terms with?

Feeling, feeling - everything's feeling. Whatever happened to thinking?

OK, so let me get this right. It's the action of a thinking person not to go to the Personal Development Show in case he comes across something that frightens him out of his sad little life.

That's quite enough of that! You can go to your room, right now!

Miles Kington returns next week.