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The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck

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It was back in my late teens when I first heard about the book "The Road Less Traveled" by M. Scott Peck. I was going through a rough transition in my life and at the time I really was not ready to hear his message. To one who is in pain and not ready to deal with the issues of the pain, the book will come off as judging and condemning. It is only when you have sunk to the bottom and you cannot bear going on in the same path that you can change, which is the theme of this book.

Peck covers such topics as discipline, love, growth, religion and grace. None of these are meant to force the reader to take a path he dictates for you, but rather it is for you to take the responsibility for your life and grab your own reigns to lead yourself on your own path.

The major cause of problems in coping with life stem in childhood. This is not to blame your parents since as an adult you are responsible for your own life. A parent contributes to some of your bad habits, especially not delaying gratification. When you fail to control this urge, you set yourself up for future failure.

If you don't get something unpleasant out of the way first in order to enjoy the reward and do it the other way around, you get your brief enjoyment and then dread doing what is necessary. On the other hand, if you do the unpleasant thing first, you are free to enjoy the reward without doom lurking over you. Peck's point is that we tend to want to avoid unpleasant feelings at all costs. Many who have problems as adults have come from homes of extremes that have either tried to avoid all unpleasantness or was void of the pleasures. Those who, as children were indulged in pleasures and never expected to work for the reward do not know how to cope with the unpleasant situations in adult life and will do their best to avoid it. Children whose parents were very strict and controlling without allowing the kids to be kids grow up to want all the pleasures coming their way without regard to consequences.

Those without the control to delay pleasure temporarily tend to be the same ones who are sexual loose, drug addicts, alcoholics, in debt, lousy parents, and just about every out of control situation you can conceive. He does draw a line of difference between those who are this way from upbringing and those who are medically inclined to be this way. Some people do have medical conditions, but far more are treatable and can turn their lives around once they are tired of the pain.

Peck claims that we are all set in a comfort zone. No matter how rough our lives seem, even if we are in debt over our heads avoiding bill collectors, on skid row looking for a hit, tense over an action we took that could get us in jail... we at least are in a comfort zone because we know what to expect. The unknown is more uncomfortable than the known discomfort. The solution to the problem is likely to cause more pain and discomfort than we want to face so we would rather stay in an uncomfortable situation than go into a more painful, unknown situation.

Once we get to a point of pain in our lives where we know we just cannot go on the same path any longer and the same path seems more painful than the solution, then we are ready to change.

One of the more challenging thoughts within the book is about love. This is very controversial since people want to attack the statement without really finding out his reasoning. You do not fall in love with someone, you choose to love someone. For those in domestic abuse situations, this may be the hardest thing to come to terms with until you are ready to leave. We have a feeling of lust which attracts us to the opposite sex, but it is not love. Love implies commitment, respect, and honor on both parts. Love is work. Love does not seek to control another person. Love starts within yourself.

For instance, if you are being battered by a live in boyfriend but, you refuse to leave because you are "in love," you are misleading yourself. You have the responsibility to yourself to love and respect yourself. You must realize such a person has no love for you, but wants to control you. You alone have the choice to love the abuse and put up with it or end the pain and leave the abuse. It might be scary to deal with the unknown factors of what might happen, but that road can get more painful or deadly if you do not leave it as soon as possible.

Religion is also covered, but he is not trying to lead anyone down a certain religious path. If you have had a bad experience with religion, don't throw out the baby with the bath water. Religion and spirituality are two different things and you must realize what it is you want and expect. If it is something you feel you need, don't prejudge past experiences with what might happen. Even an atheist can be a spiritual person.

This book is great for anyone who is going through a time of questions in their life from the seemingly minor day to day blahs and midlife crisis to severe problems of addicts and criminals. When you are ready to change your life, get this book. If you are not ready to face the issues and follow through, this book will not help you.