Are you having trouble sleeping again, sweetheart? Don’t worry, Mommy will show you that there’s nothing to be scared of in your bedroom. It’s just you projecting your unconscious onto reality.
We could look in the closet and see that it’s empty, and I could tell you that monsters don’t exist and you have nothing to be afraid of. But that’s not true.
You have you to be afraid of, Timmy.
The closet may be physically empty, but it is full of monsters—the monsters of your own insecurities and fears. Until you recognize them, those closet monsters will always be out to get you. And if you wait too long, they may even bring some friends along—the beasts of self-denial.
You may not believe me now, but that’s just a reflection of your developmental phase and your consequential need to literalize the things you fear. The point is, Timmy, you need to trust Mommy when she says that there aren’t any monsters inside your closet; they’re inside your mind.
And of course there are more literal, human monsters, but the likelihood that a Stalin or Bundy is physically inside your closet is so remote that your persistence in believing they are—and the willed neurosis that would indicate—would be the monster Mommy would be most afraid of.
The dark? What’s so scary about the dark?
Timmy, you’re not afraid of the dark. No, you’re a middle child, so you’re afraid of being figuratively eclipsed by the older sibling who gets to blaze her own path, and the younger child who you see as receiving more of Mommy and Daddy’s attention, something you’ve mistakenly equated with affection.
Let me tell you something about the dark—Mommy and Daddy love all you kids equally. It may not seem like that, because Mommy and Daddy have unconscious preferences, too, preferences we aren’t even aware of. But we would never, ever say that we loved either of your sisters more than we love you. I truly believe that I love each of you the exact same amount.
It could also be that you’re expressing a latent desire to belong by defining yourself against a group of “others,” others that you are here externalizing as the “dark” in contrast to your own “lightness,” in which case you and Mommy need to have a frank discussion on race in the morning.
But until then, I’m going to turn on this nightlight to symbolize the constant light of Mommy and Daddy’s love. It is the same model of nightlight your sisters have in their rooms, because we plan to provide for each of you in exactly the same way. It is also the same model that children with different color skin use, because while we can recognize their difference, we need to remember that “different” does not mean better or worse.
Does that make the dark seem less scary, sweetheart? I thought it might.
All right, sweetie, Mommy’s going back downstairs now. You try to get some sleep, and remember what I told you: there’s nothing to be afraid of. Except, of course, your tendency to repress.