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... Usually, that child is a wretchedly isolated undeveloped little being. It’s been protected by the efficient armour, it’s never participated in life, it’s never been exposed to living and to managing the person’s affairs, it’s never been given responsibility for taking the brunt. And it’s never properly lived. That’s how it is in almost everybody. And that little creature is sitting there, behind the armour, peering through the slits. And in its own self, it is still unprotected, incapable, inexperienced...And in fact, that child is the only real thing in them. It’s their humanity, their real individuality, the one that can’t understand why it was born and that knows it will have to die, in no matter how crowded a place, quite on its own. That’s the carrier of all the living qualities. It’s the centre of all the possible magic and revelation. What doesn’t come out of that creature isn’t worth having, or it’s worth having only as a tool—for that creature to use and turn to account and make meaningful...And so, wherever life takes it by surprise and suddenly the artificial self of adaptations proves inadequate and fails to ward off the invasion of raw experience, that inner self is thrown into the front line—unprepared, with all its childhood terrors round its ears.And yet that’s the moment it wants. That’s where it comes alive—even if only to be overwhelmed and bewildered and hurt. And that’s where it calls up its own resources—not artificial aids, picked up outside, but real inner resources, real biological ability to cope and to turn to account and to enjoy.That’s the paradox: the only time most people feel alive is when they’re suffering, when something overwhelms their ordinary, careful armour and the naked child is flung out onto the world. That’s why the things that are worst to undergo are best to remember.But when that child gets buried away under their adaptive and protective shells—he becomes one of the walking dead, a monster. So when you realise you’ve gone a few weeks and haven’t felt that awful struggle of your childish self—struggling to lift itself out of its inadequacy and incompetence—you’ll know you’ve gone some weeks without meeting new challenge and without growing and that you’ve gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself.
Ted Hughes