(134) Carw rhudd
Robert Bly, despite his leftist predilections, was right in one respect: most people do not grow. There may be some connection between growth and poetry, in fact—and Bly noticed this absence of growth in others because he was a poet. The reason is that poetry involves vulnerability, whereas most people, men in particular, guard their vulnerable inner observer with an armour—and this armour amounts to what we call “cope” today, a coping mechanism. Indeed, people are encouraged to refine their coping mechanisms, to push experience away from themselves—so that they never grow.
Ted Hughes put it this way, with “inner child” (unfortunately a sickly phrase) not “inner observer”: “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.”
The only means by which to genuinely grow is to expose the inner observer to experience and “allow it to take the brunt”, as Hughes puts it—anything less amounts to “no contact”, a return to equilibrium. Nietzsche also understood this, in part, because he advocated for constant growth; yet the lazy option, the lower energy option that humans automatically pick, is to revert to what has worked before—“efficient armour”. Hence most people have a stereotyped personality, since they use whatever techniques have achieved results in the past—some people still use the techniques that worked on their parents, right back to when they were toddlers; they use these techniques on us. To grow, you must risk exposure—as Robinson Jeffers said, “Guard yourself from perceiving the inherent nastiness of man and woman. (Expose yourself to it: you might learn something).”