Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The voltage of life

This is a letter from the poet Ted Hughes to his adult son, the son he had with Sylvia Plath. It's really lovely, particularly if you push through the lack of paragraphing to the end. He talks a lot about everyone's inner children, in what seems to me a non-hippie dippy or cheesy way.
Nicholas, don't you know about people this first and most crucial fact: every single one is, and is painfully every moment aware of it, still a child...It's something people don't discuss, because it's something most people are aware of only as a general crisis of sense of inadequacy, or helpless dependence, or pointless loneliness, or a sense of not having a strong enough ego to meet and master inner storms that come from an unexpected angle. But not many people realise that it is, in fact, the suffering of the child inside them. Everybody tries to protect this vulnerable two three four five six seven eight year old inside, and to acquire skills and aptitudes for dealing with the situations that threaten to overwhelm it. So everybody develops a whole armour of secondary self, the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world, and the crush of circumstances. And when we meet people this is what we usually meet...But when you develop a strong divining sense for the child behind that armour, and you make your dealings and negotiations only with that child..they too sense when that is what you are appealing to, and they respond with an impulse of real life, you get a little flash of the essential person, which is the child. 
I'm a very social person, but also one whose feelings get hurt easily. When that happens I try (I'm no saint, I don't always succeed, and of course there are reasons that I was able to be wounded so easily) to think about what it was that made that person snap, or criticize, or ignore. I try to get a sense of the essential part of them that was somehow hurt, but that didn't intend to do hurt. Usually it's also a part of them I like, the part that in better times I'm trying to make laugh. So this rang true to me.

It's also worth following the link through to the full letter to see a photo of Plath looking very happy. That's not how I generally picture her.

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