The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth

M. Scott Peck, M.D.

This book is such a classic in the field of psychology that I wanted to give it a try and I’m so glad I did. It is, however, not from a Christian perspective, although Dr. Peck had a conversion to Christ after writing this book. So a few of the ideas presented in this text are very much outside the moral framework from which I operate. That being said, the book is powerful, rich, and full of truth. The few parts that do not mesh with Christian faith are very obvious and easily ignored.


Opening line: “Life is difficult.”

Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. (p.15 –the 1st line of the book)

Life is a series of problems. Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing.

…it is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning…Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. When we desire to encourage the growth of the human spirit, we challenge and encourage the human capacity to solve problems, just as in school we deliberately set problems for our children to solve. It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn. (16)

This tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness… In the succinctly elegant words of Carl Jung, “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” But the substitute itself ultimately becomes more painful than the legitimate suffering it was designed to avoid. (17)

The Tools

What are these tools, these techniques of suffering, these means of experiencing the pain of problems constructively that I call discipline? There are four: delaying of gratification, acceptance of responsibility, dedication to truth, and balancing… These are not complex tools whose application demands extensive training. To the contrary, they are simple tools…the problem lies not in the complexity of these tools but in the will to use them. For they are tools with which pain is confronted rather than avoided, and if one seeks to avoid legitimate suffering, then one will avoid the use of these tools. (18)

Actually, there is a defect in the approach to problem-solving more primitive and more destructive than impatient and inadequate attempts to find instant solutions, a defect even more ubiquitous and universal. It is the hope that problems will go away of their own accord.

Essence of Life

The essence of life is change, a panoply of growth and decay. Elect life and growth, and you elect change and the prospect of death. (133)

I have said that the attempt to avoid legitimate suffering lies at the root of all emotional illness.  (P133)

All life itself represents a risk, and the more lovingly we live our lives, the more risks we take. Of the thousands, maybe even millions, of risks we can take in a lifetime the greatest is the risk of growing up. 

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