, Research Paper
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
The Discipline section of M. Scott Peck s The Road Less Traveled first deals with life s difficulties. He makes it clear that we all have problems and pain but we have to deal with it to get by and to make life less difficult. Life is difficult… Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. (p.15)
The four main points of the Discipline section are delaying gratification, acceptance of responsibility, dedication to reality and balancing. These four points are referred to as tools to solve life s problems. By using these tools one is able to overcome
anything that life throws his or her way.
Delaying gratification as Peck puts it is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. (p. 19) I feel Peck s point is to save the good things
for last so that you can always have something to look forward to and an incentive to finish whatever task is at hand. Good scheduling skills and the lack of procrastination are very important in delaying gratification.
Responsibility is very important in solving life s problems. Peck says that we must accept responsibility for a problem before the problem can be solved. This is a fairly self-evident statement; however, many people feel if they put the blame for all their problems off on other people that the problems with miraculously go away. Perhaps they are scared of the pain that the problem will cause, or maybe they just can t handle the stress of the problem. Peck goes on to make it clear that these unresolved problems with
eventually catch up to you. Peck then discusses how neurosis and character disorders deal with misplaced responsibility. This misplaced responsibility is either one extreme or the other. The neurotic assumes too much responsibility; the person with a character
disorder not enough. (p. 35)
I feel that responsibility can be directly tied into delaying gratification. The three main problems I see with responsibility are people either denying the fact that a problem exists, taking too much responsibility for the problems that do exist, and knowing the fact a problem exists but putting of solving the problem. The latter of the three main problems is directly related with delaying gratification because it involves putting off the difficult things.
Dedication to reality deals with the ability to clearly see the reality of the world. Without this clear picture we have a false misconception of the way the world works. This also impairs us from being able to make wise decisions and determine the correct course of action. People that ignore reality ignore it because reality is scary and not easy to deal with. To have a true dedication to reality in Pecks words means first of all, a life of continuous and never-ending stringent self-examination. We know the world only
through our relationship to it. Therefore, to know the world, we must not only examine it but we must simultaneously examine the examiner. (p. 51)
Peck describes the fourth and final tool of balancing as discipline required to discipline discipline. Balancing requires a great deal of flexibility. Peck says that extraordinary flexibility is required for successful living in all spheres of activity. (p. 64)
Balancing is difficult for many people because it involves making sacrifices. The act of giving something up, especially something helpful or pleasurable, is very difficult for many.
Peck defines love as, The will to extend one s self for the purpose of nurturing one s own or another s spiritual growth. (p. 82) Peck breaks the definition of love down into five different things: love is a teleological definition, love is a strangely circular process, the unitary definition of love includes self-love with love for the other, the act of extending one s limits implies effort, and love has a distinction between desire and action.
Peck describes the act of falling in love as being a specifically sex-linked erotic experience. He says this sexual orientation can be conscious or unconscious. I feel Peck is totally wrong. One can fall in love with someone and it not be related at all
to sex. He also feels that love is merely temporary which I also disagree with. In my experiences, the people I have been in love wt. I still love. This feeling never goes away. The need for their companionship goes away, but the feeling never leaves. He goes on to
tell us that there is no such thing as romantic love, which once again I disagree with. Peck goes on to say that making love is actually not an act of love and that dependencyis not love either.
He makes it clear that to have a working relationship the two people must be
independent rather than codependent. Dependency may appear to be love because it is a force that causes people to fiercely attach themselves to one another. But in actuality it is not love; it is a form on antilove… It seeks to receive rather than to give. It nourishes infantilism rather than growth. It works to trap and constrict rather than to liberate. Ultimately it destroys rather than builds people. (p. 105)
Peck also says that love is an action, an activity, not a feeling. Peck say that many people who feel like they are in love and act in response to the supposed feeling actually act in a manner of unloving and destructive ways. A genuinely loving person, he says,
will take loving action toward a person whether he or she likes them or not. Genuine love implies commitment and the exercise of wisdom. The common tendency to confuse love with the feeling of love allows people all manner of self-deception. (p. 119) Love is the act of going the extra mile to make something work. He also calls it a form of courage. If an act is not one of work or courage, then it is not an act of love. There are no exceptions. (p. 120) Primarily the work is the attention one gives to the one he or she loves. This attention includes true listening. The courage comes into play because one should always fear the risk of loss, commitment, and confrontation.
Peck says that love is separateness. He confirms that it is important to nurture one anothers spiritual growth, but one major characteristic of genuine love is that the distinction between oneself and the other is always maintained and preserved. It is
important that the two lovers maintain separate identities and individuality. He feels that it is the separateness of partners that enriches the union. But let there be spaces in your togetherness,…Fill each others cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf… (p. 168)
GROWTH AND RELIGION
Peck states in the opening of this chapter that discipline and love directly influence their ability to grow. He also defines religion as the understanding of what life is all about. The false interpretation of religion is that it must include a belief in God or
some ritualistic practice. He goes on to say that for the most part, humans religion is incompletely conscious. People often misunderstand their own feelings about the world. To develop a religion or world view that is realistic…we must constantly revise and extend our understanding to include new knowledge of the larger world. (p. 191) What he means by this is that our religion can change day to day because the world changes day to day. So we must always review the way we think about the world.
One of the main themes of the book is expansion of knowledge. Religion and love are both expansions of knowledge and expansions of ourselves. To develop a broader vision, Peck says we must be willing to forsake, to kill, our narrower vision. Because it is easier not to do this, this has a lot to do with the first two sections. Peck says the path to holiness lies in questioning everything. Peck goes into great deal of detail in describing three of his cases that dealt with religious problems.
Peck goes on to question whether or not belief in God is a form of phychopathology. His answer to this question is yes and no. In the case of Kathy, one of his patients in this chapter, the answer is yes. Until she was able to question and discard some of the beliefs that she had been taught she couldn t venture forth into a wider, more satisfying, more productive life. In the case of Marcia, another of Peck s patients, the answer was no. Her belief in God grew by what she had learned within her, quietly and naturally.
I agree with Peck for the most part on whether or not belief in God is a form of psychopathology. A movie I saw as a child truly stands out in my mind as an example of how religion can be a form of psychopathology. Carrie was a very interesting movie and novel by Stephen King. It was obvious that Carrie s mother in the movie and the novel was a clear psychopath and had no grip on reality. Although this was a fictional story with many things that could not possibly happen, Carrie s mother s actions are real in some people s lives.
Peck describes grace as miraculous and amazing. He says this because things that are inexplicable and extraordinary should be described in this way. He describes our mind as a large circle with a small niche. This niche is a mere representation of the five percent of our brain we use, or the part that is conscious. The other ninety-five percent is totally unconscious. However, through long hard work, one is able to tap into the part of one s mind that they are unconscious of. He says our unconscious mind comes out in our dreams, in our idle thoughts, and in our behavior.
Peck then goes on to discuss the part of the brain that has paranormal ability. Webster defines serendipity as the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for. This implies that some people have it and some people don t. Grace on the other
hand, is described by Peck as valuable or agreeable things not sought for. He says grace is available to everyone, but some choose to not take advantage of it. Peck goes on to define grace by four different parts: they either serve to nurture, the action is either
incompletely understandable or totally obscure, occurrence is frequent and routine, and although possibly influenced by human consciousness, their origin is outside of the conscious. Peck emphasizes that the process of spiritual growth is an effortful and
difficult one because it goes against the natural resistance of things.
Peck goes back the question, Where does love come from? Peck says love is a conscious effort, while grace is not. To explain grace, one must assume that there is an existence f a God who cares for our well being and wants us to grow. God wants us to become more like Him. We are growing toward godhoood. (p.270) Peck says that He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. (p.270) The idea that God is nurturing us so that we might grow up to be like Him brings us face to face with our own laziness, Peck says.
Peck says the original sin is laziness, and if we overcome laziness, then we have overcome all other impediments. Without overcoming laziness we can t overcome any of the other hurdles. He says this is the one and only thing that all humans have in common;
we are all lazy to some extent. Most people are unaware of their laziness; therefore, these people never overcome laziness. The people more aware of their laziness are the ones who have moved the farthest along as far as spiritual growth.
He goes on to describe the four conclusions he has reached concerning the nature of evil. First, evil is real. It is not a figment of our imagination as some may assume. Second, evil is laziness carried to its ultimate. Truly evil people actively avoid extending themselves. Third, the existence of evil is inevitable. Because humans have freewill it is inevitable that some will take laziness to an extreme. Finally, while entropy is an enormous force, in its most extreme form of human evil it is strangely ineffective as a social force. For every soul evil destroys–and there are many– it is instrumental in the salvation of others. (p.279) Evil serves as a warning to others. Evil ones resist self-awareness.
When Grace knocks on the door of some people, they reject it. Most simply ignore that it exists because they are too lazy to work at it, while others resist Grace because they don t want to lose power. It is extremely important for one to have a will to grow to achieve grace. Peck says, All of us are called by and to grace, but few of us choose to listen to the call. With Grace comes lots of obligations and responsibilities.
Although some reject Grace, others welcome it with open arms. People who accept Grace prepare ourselves to be a fertile ground, a welcoming place. If we can make ourselves into totally disciplined, wholly loving individuals, then, even though we may be ignorant of theology and give no thought to God, we will have prepared ourselves well for the coming of grace. (p.307) Peck says that we not only choose grace, but grace chooses us. This is what he concludes the book with.