I’m sitting here in Cheshire coffee and I’m about to explain in my own words what I learned from reading “The Road Less Traveled.” I’m only on page 110, but I learned a few things that I want to cement into memory by writing about them.
I stumbled upon this book at a tag sale in Cape Cod. I love buying used books at tag sales because people add charm to their books. Notes are found scribbled in the margins, and forgotten bookmarks are written on.
This person wrote some crazy poems on the back of this bookmark from the Eastham public library. I knew I would love the book just from the bookmark.
I already wrote about Buddha’s Four Noble Truth’s from page one of the book, on the second page the author goes into a little more detail in describing why suffering is essential for spiritual growth.
“Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” – Carl Jung
“Those things that hurt, instruct.” – Benjamin Franklin
What I gathered from reading these first few pages is that people are driven by two forces; pain and pleasure. People are driven to avoid pain and seek pleasure at all costs. This is especially true for people who want instant gratification, but I’ll talk about those people later.
Life poses an endless series of problems. When we’re young, we are able to map out a belief system that ultimately rules our lives and our thought process. This ‘map’ is fundamentally true for us on a subconscious level, but as we are confronted with problems, we learn and grow by deconstructing our map to create a new one that coincides with our new beliefs. However, when we get older, we get frustrated with constant changes in our belief system, and we stop learning – we avoid the pain it costs us in deconstructing our carefully built map in order to make a new one. Therefore, we give up growing and learning and trust what we already learned in life (stubborn people do this perhaps? My Mother perhaps?)
I have a personal experience with this. I always wrote in my journal when I was younger, trying to pin down my thoughts and beliefs. I was in constant flux, constant confusion and I remember one day making a conscious choice of saying ‘screw it, I give up.’ And I did give up. My journal, after that day, was filled with things I did, rather than reflective words and questions.
Okay, so what I’m getting at is this; growth is suffering, learning is suffering, and that most people avoid this process as best they can.
“This tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness.” – M. Scott Peck M.D (author of The Road Less Traveled)
What the author means by this is that ALL mental illness is stemmed from avoiding the pain of knowing the truth. He’s a bold guy for putting all his crazy eggs in one mental basket, but I can’t argue with him.
People live in the past, or substitute a new belief system to bypass the painful truth. Admitting that they were wrong, or admitting that they have a problem is the first universally known step to cure illness. And it’s also a painful experience having to give up something you grown to love – I’ll talk about that later.
I like to draw. When I was 22, I bought a book about learning how to see correctly in order to properly draw whats really there in front of me. DiVinci also commented about teaching himself how to see properly, but I can’t remember his exact quote.
All this about learning truth reminds me of the art book that I read. It’s about vigilant refinement – seeing what’s really there and not what you think is there, not how you see it in your own head. You have to view everything with alien eyes (eyes that were never used before), so not to revert back to the inner perceptions already mapped out in your subconscious.
Oh man, I don’t know if I’m making any sense. Am I going crazy? I might be. This book is making me crazy.
Wow, all that was only from the first three pages of the book. I’m all done with my first latte, shall I get another? I need a cigarette but it’s less than 18 degree’s out. I have to go to the bathroom.
Whew, Okay….let me collect myself.
So, according to the book, we stop growing at some point. We stop rewriting our maps as a means of avoiding pain. From my understanding, you slowly become susceptible to instant gratification. You lose patience and discipline and shoot for the least amount of work to get from point A to point B. You stop your will from understanding the process of things.
To learn something new, you have to be patient. You have to be in no hurry. If you follow this advice, you will be amazed at your ability to figure things out and retain information. I know this first hand when I tried learning French. I spent about 3 hours one day learning the language and already had the basics down. It felt easy for me. But then I got bored and stopped.
Neuroses and Character Disorders
There are two types of conditions that most people suffer from to some degree; The neurotic and the character disorder.
Neurotics assume responsibility for their suffering, blaming themselves for their unhappiness – thinking that something must be wrong with them.
Character disorder people blame not themselves, but other people and/or any external influence outside themselves.
Neurotics make themselves miserable while character disorder people make everyone around them miserable.
I’m a healthy mixture of the two. I blame myself for my anxiety and apprehension towards people, but blame the world for having so many stupid people in it. This puts me in the category of the Character Neurotic. I like the sound of that, it has zing. The author is harsh by stating that very few people escape their neurosis. But as long as I continue painful, continual self-examination, I will get better to some degree. Do I want to get better? Eh…….
I haven’t eaten that much today. I’m starting to get shaky.
Let’s talk about assuming responsibility. I am not the type to assume responsibility. I let others make choices for me. And I knew this was a problem and a character defect, I just never knew how to fix it – I never knew where it was coming from. I can treat the symptoms, but not the cause. I give people authority over me, limiting my freedom so I can withhold the suffering that comes from making my own choices.
This escape from freedom can also happen on a grand scale, be it Communism or Nazism. It’s easier to live in a society where other people make choices for you. Am I really that weak? Am I susceptible to fall under the control of Big Brothers influence?
Problem solving is pain. But if we refuse to solve our own problems, we become stuck. We build our world around illusion and are unable to take correct courses of action. Hence, why it’s so easy to leave it up to someone else who might “know better.”
“The more clearly we see reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world.” – M. Scott Peck M.D
My mind feels blown. I can’t think straight. This must be the painful process of realizing my own faults and luckily I get to capture them all on my blog!
I need more self-discipline. Self-discipline is said to go against what feels natural – to go against human nature. But to be human is to have the capacity to do the unnatural. We grow from transcending our built-in animal instincts.
M. Scott Peck says that in order to live a life dedicated to learning truth, we have to live a life of honesty. As long as we’re honest with ourselves and others, we can wriggle out of mental illness – we can escape our stagnant states of mind, and help others to grow as well. This is part of what Love is. Also by living an open honest life, we lose all fear and obtain the courage to be ourselves.
To be free, we have to assume all responsibility for ourselves, and omit the things we are not responsible for. It’s a delicate balance that requires flexibility and good judgement. To have balance and discipline, you have to learn to “give up” some of the things that bring you joy.
“…..the feeling associated with giving up something loved – or at least something that is a part of ourselves and familiar – is depression.” – M. Scott Peck M.D
You essentially give up something that was a part of you in the past in order to make room for the new you. Like for instance, learning that your family won’t always be there to support you – you have to grow up and assume responsibility. It transforms your perceptions and beliefs and can be a scary, painful process.
Love is not effortless. When we fall in love, it’s a trick our animal instincts play on us to procreate and survive as a species. Once the honeymoon is over, and we can see clearly the faults in our spouse that separates us from them, we no longer have the feeling of “Oneness” we experienced when we first met.
We should feel complete and whole without having another person fill in the emptiness. Jerry McGuire is not the best role model at love advice.
Real love happens when we fall out of love and transcend the sexual aspect into a deeper, more penetrating realm of understanding. This happens when we extend (not tear down) what is called our “Ego Boundaries.” Our ego sets up boundaries that distinguishes us from the rest of the world. It can be a lonesome and scary experience if we keep our boundaries narrow and heavily guarded.
The moment we fall in love, we feel that finally we are no longer alone. We have someone there that cares about us and protects us. Their priorities match our own and we regress into a feeling of wholeness. The feeling of “wholeness” comes from the complete annihilation of the ego boundaries. But it’s only from our differences and contrasts do we learn to grow and mature. Once we regain our boundaries that make us individuals, we start to see our beloved for the first time. And start to really love them for the first time.
The process of spiritual growth happens when we extend our ego boundaries. We can do this by loving a person/people/things, or a hobby – the purpose is to love something that extends our understanding of the world, incorporating us into the world and blurring our boundaries so they are that of the world. This blurring of boundaries can lead a person to ecstasy – much like what happens during an orgasm, only this orgasm lasts a lifetime. I also believe this is the goal of the Buddhist monk whose main goal is to experience enlightenment (nirvana – freedom from suffering and having union with all things.)
The more we love, the more we extend ourselves, the happier we will be. And true reality will be known once we stop narrowing our ego boundaries.
Okay, I think I’m done for today. I’m exhausted. I feel the need to watch a ridiculously stupid movie.