very year, I have a tantrum over my tax return. To the casual observer, I may look like a grown-up but even when you have a job, a bank account and you’ve started using eye cream, you’re capable of kicking off when your emotional response goes beyond reason – punching a pillow, pounding the treadmill until it shakes, sobbing into your MacBook Air. Tax, I have realised, is my trigger. It presses all my childhood-fear buttons: maths, making a mistake, getting ‘in trouble’ with some distant authority.
I can’t trace these triggers back to my parents, so I guess I acquired them at primary school. It was an oddly old-fashioned school for the Nineties, run by a Maggie Thatcher lookalike called Miss ByrneCooper. There was a draconian emphasis on being neat, obedient and ladylike. Anything rowdy, eccentric or messy was unwelcome – we even had to walk ‘in a genteel and orderly fashion’. Maths was the one subject that didn’t come naturally to me. I hated not being good at something. Most of all, I feared getting ‘told off ’.
Psychologists call this kind of recurring baggage our Inner Child. It’s the fragile, vulnerable part of us that adapted to fit our childhood, and repeats those patterns into adulthood. She may whisper in your ear that you need to be ‘a good girl’ to be accepted, sabotage a job interview by convincing you to get drunk the night before, or destroy relationships by demanding incessant reassurance. We all sit on a spectrum of how far our Inner Child