on November 11, 2000
I am a therapist. The two books I recommend to my clients that seem to produced lasting results are The Road Less Traveled and An Encouter With A Prophet. I also recommend both books to all of my friends and relatives.
on March 5, 2003
The way this book is written�at times light, nurturing, and joyous but often heavy, challenging, and confrontational�is a metaphor for Scott Peck's perspective on life. The first sentence of the book, "life is difficult," reflects Scott Peck's idea that spiritual/mental growth must be worked towards, that human beings are generally lazy, and that growth of consciousness is a life-long process. Everything is generally working against our growth: laziness; defense mechanisms employed to maintain the status quo of mental illness over the struggle for accepting responsibility; confusion over the true nature of love; resistance to "grace" (the idea of being open to our unconscious and the symbolic language of God); lack of discipline; adults being mentally and spiritually immature; poor parenting resulting in nuerosis and character disorder; and a culture that generally defends, accepts, and nurtures sickness over health.
Sometimes Scott Peck's language is a little heavy, but it's only because he packs so much valuable information and insight into each page. The first chapter on Discipline (a tool to solve our problems. Another great Peck idea: see problems as challenges, and it is in our response to problems that life takes on its meaning and color) was a bit dry to me, but contains excellent information on delaying gratification, balancing and bracketing (attempting to listen to others/view situations with objectivity), dedication to the truth, and a key to anyone seeking to grow: ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY.
The second section on Love was fascinating to me. Scott Peck does a great job debunking the myth of romantic love, but perhaps most valuable is the idea that real loving is about nurturing your own or another's spiritual growth. Love is an action and a decision, not just a feeling. It's so easy in our culture to imagine love as a feeling, red roses, wine, dinners, etc. That is the illusion of romance but has nothing to do with the work and courage of real active loving (Scott Peck says if an action doesn't involve courage or work, it's not loving!). Also in this chapter are a few controversial ideas, namely open marriage (Scott Peck's extension of the idea that loving involves encouraging an individual's total development...hmmm...sort of vague extension to me to involve plural relationships. what happened to discipline?) and even Scott Peck's suggestion that he would have sex with a patient if he felt it would further both their spiritual development! (do not agree with this at all. any person in treatment is not in a position to navigate such power dynamics)
The final section on Grace reminds us to look to our unconscious for information and guidance. Dreams, nagging thoughts, sudden insights, etc. from our unconscious, which Scott Peck says knows more than our conscious ever could, are signs that there is a God, and he/she/it is a loving God interested in our spiritual development (reflection of Scott Peck's idea of love, and a good idea if you ask me). These signs are meant to prod us into action.
In general, although at times you will be re-reading pages to make sure you got the meaning, and sometimes Scott Peck's language will seem heavy and plodding, this book will help you see where you can expand the boundaries of your spirit, your mind, and your life, how you can love bigger and better (and make it mean more to everyone), how your life can have meaning and consistency, and how to be a loving, conscious person, parent, lover, mate, and friend. I underlined a LOT in this book, and going back to read just my underlines I am amazed at the amount of loving, valuable insight in this book. Growing and truly accepting responsibility for the quality of our lives is not as easy as it sounds. Scott Peck is very aware of this and gives a lot of support to keep on journeying this road less traveled.
on July 18, 2003
The book opens with the words "Life is difficult." Once you accept that, it becomes a lot easier!
But most of us don't accept that. We think if we do things the right way, or if other people would, then eventually life would become easier. Our material needs will be met, love will bloom forever, bad things won't happen to us, and life will unfold according to our individual needs and wishes.
Guess again. If you're constantly trying hard and finding life to be a major disappointment, you may find comfort and practical help in the reading and re-reading of this book.
Peck writes in an easy to read, easy to understand manner, writing of his life and that of many of his own patients. He begins with a section on Discipline; the next is on Love; then Growth and Religion; closing (how appropriately) with Grace.
When first I read this, in my mid-twenties, (living life in what one of my 'friends' called Life in the Breakdown Lane) the sections didn't look like they'd offer anything to help me. Discipline was something I wanted to act out against, not find solace in. The section on Love, I was disappointed to find, did NOT provide any instructions on how to find a knight on a white horse. Growth and Religion seemed some kind of a paradox to me, and I was sure that Grace was nothing more than a name I wished I had.
But within those Sections I have again and again(at different levels) found peace of mind through solutions that at first I didn't fully understand, but came to believe in -- for anyone looking for help in improving their lives, from a non-dogmatic, non-fundamentalist point of view, I'd strongly recommend this book.
Read it, learn from it, and just as happens to the bunny in the children's book, The Velveteen Rabbit, you'll find yourself becoming more alive, and more 'real.'
I'd also encourage the reading of Sheldon Kopp's "If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him" and (if you're looking for some comic relief, always good when stressed) watch "Groundhog Day."
This is truly a gem of a book (though I haven't liked many others of his).
I first read M. Scott Peck's 'The Road Less Travelled' over 20 years ago, but it is a text to which I return again and again, as Peck's insights and observations remain a constant source of inspiration and guidance in my life. It still finds a ready home in the hands of therapists, counselors, ministers, teachers, career planners, and others as part of their resources, and is not out of place in the home of anyone who cares about the directions of her or his life.
Peck was a clinical psychiatrist - the material for this book came largely from his experiences with clients and others, seeing what worked and what didn't, what was missing and what was mis-understood. Often cases involved psychotherapy (talk therapy), but the processes here are not confined to therapists' offices. The same kinds of problem solving, processing and relationship building that takes place in psychotherapy can be used as life-long tools.
Peck resists labels such as Freudian and Jungian; he doesn't look for, nor does he offer, quick fixes or the psychotherapeutic variety of the get-rich-quick schemes. This book is not a therapy manual, but rather a guide to spiritual growth that incorporates therapeutic and psychological principles. Peck echoes the sentiments of many spiritual directors and leaders through the millennia that spiritual and personal growth are long journeys, not short leaps. It involves dedication and intention, and a willingness to accept risk and change.
Perhaps it is ironic that, given this, the first topic Peck focuses upon is Discipline. However, without discipline, change can go unchecked and uncharted, growth can become problematic, and the human soul becomes susceptible to a host of difficulties. Dedication and application to problem-solving and long-term building (whether it be of retirement funds or of one's own spirit) requires a disciplined approach that recognises that life is difficulty (the first of Buddha's Four Noble Truths, cited by Peck), gratification sometimes needs to be delayed for greater goods, and reality needs to be approached and dealt with responsibly.
Peck calls here for a life to be totally dedicated to the truth. This is hard, because we as human beings are so accustomed to rationalisation and reinterpretation. This kind of dedication also requires a balance in life, and an ability to be flexible as the truths of our lives change - few of us are in possession of timeless and eternal truths governing every aspect of our lives, and often those who feel they are end up disappointed in the end. The continuing creativity of God in our lives requires flexibility, but this is best achieved in a disciplined and balanced context.
Peck then turns to love, a mysterious thing even in the best of times. He identifies some of the myths of `falling in love' and romantic love that our culture through various means idealises, leading to great dissatisfaction when we do not achieve the desired feelings or situations. Peck makes the assertion that love is not really a feeling, but rather an action or activity, that involves a lot of risk-taking (Peck talks about risks of independence, of commitment, of confrontation, and of loss). True love requires discipline and recognition of the needs of the self and others.
The final two sections of the text deal with aspects of religion on the spiritual and psychological development of persons. The first section looks at religion and growth processes. He does a short survey of some attitudes toward religions and denominations, as well as a look at how the modern scientific mindset colours the worldview of modern people, particularly with ideas of verification and skepticism. Some psychologists and theorists have wondered if religion were mass delusions, mass psychosis, or some other kind of sickness. Peck uses interesting extended case studies here to examine the role of various aspects of religion in the developmental lives of several people. Peck asks the question, `Is belief in God a psychopathology?' In some aspects, and for some people, the way they approach and `use' religion, the answer may well be yes. However, Peck also takes the psychotherapeutic community to task for often being too narrow or too dismissive of the value of religious sentiment and institutions in the lives of their charges.
The final section looks at the role of grace in the spiritual growth process. Grace is another mysterious force, like love, that is difficult to pin down and explain. It is also something uncontrollable. Why do some with artistic talent end up being successful and celebrated, and others not? Why do some use their talent, when others don't? In cases of ultimate despair, Peck makes the observation that while it is often clear why some people commit suicide, it is not often clear why others in the same situations don't. Some of this has to do with the unconscious mind that guides us, and some of it has to do with the miracle of serendipity, as Peck describes it.
Peck describes in some detail his concept of what grace is and how it works, in very general terms that relate to no denomination or religion in particular, but has wide applicability. He talks both about resistance to grace and the welcoming of grace. Grace is not easy, and often comes with responsibilities (Bonhoeffer talks about cheap grace; the requirements of grace are noted through scriptures of many religions). Welcoming grace welcomes often more than we bargained for, but also often more than we hoped.
In his afterword, Peck discusses the difficulties of writing in an organised and linear fashion about something so fundamentally disorganised as spiritual growth and therapeutic processes. He also talks about the need for finding competent help when required - ability is not measured by degrees, he states (something true in many professions). This is useful for those seeking a first therapeutic relationship, or needing a change.
on February 2, 2000
I first read "The Road Less Traveled" at a rather low point in my life. I needed something, but I wasn't sure what. This book was it! So many of Dr. Peck's insights really hit home. I felt he had written the book for and about me. For once I felt as if someone really understood me, and I felt that I understood myself and my life much better. This is no doubt due to the fact that love and spirituality are subjects which we all must deal with on some level. I suspect that those who don't like this book or don't "get it" are those who aren't ready to accept the messages it contains. The section about Love is one of the best writings on this subject I have ever read, and the author's thoughts on Grace will be of interest to many. Some may not agree with certain aspects of the book, e.g., religious views or the merits of psychiatry. But there is still enough thought-provoking content to interest the open-minded individual. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking personal growth who has the courage to look at his or her life honestly.
on March 20, 1999
I have read many books in my lifetime but none has had such an impact as this one. This is easily, hands-down the best book of its kind. I have read Further Along the Road... by Peck and while it had useful information, it was not as informative and enjoyable as this book. ( I would also highly recommend "People of the Lie") I enjoyed the stories of his personal life as well as the patients he helped (and that had helped him) along the way. This is a serious book that still made me laugh & cry sometimes. It touches on so many issues of responsibility and discipline that no review I could write could possibly do it justice. Despite a previous reviewer's comments that this book is inaccessable- it is not! Very easy to read & not too technical. This is a book that anyone who is willing to open themselves to the pain of change & challange, will forever be changed & enriched. And the author himself admitted that any definition of Love would be subject to criticism from others- but dealing with something as nebulous and intangible, I think Mr. Peck does a terrific job. Especially when he notes what love is NOT. It has helped me to identify when someone's motives are not out of love- which seeks to help the person it touches. I really cannot think of another book that is as important as this one. Give it to a loved one as a gift--a gift they will never forget and hopefully- if they aren't "character disordered" they will see that this book can help them perhaps more than any other.
on April 8, 2007
How amazing that we are still writing reviews on this record-breaking book 30 years after its writing! As another reviewer said, "The Road Less Traveled had an epiphany effect on my life." That has surely been the case for thousands of readers. Peck's insights into spirituality (not to be confused with religion) had a far more profound, immediate and direct effect on my adult spirituality than did my strict religious upbringing and my entire education at private religious schools (without disparaging the lessons of my childhood rearing).
The section of this book titled "Discipline" taught me that "spiritual" means more than just religious--and I have been infinitely more in tune with my spiritual side (the non-physical aspects of who I am) in the 20 years since the first of my many readings of this book than I ever was before.
The advice on love is indispensable. I used to tell everyone I dated that our relationship could not proceed until after they'd read that section--so they'd know what love is and is not! Another favorite section is where Peck talks about how most people stop drawing their maps of the world (their view of reality) at an early age because it is extremely painful to make revisions. But wise people embrace the pain of constantly redrawing our maps because it results in great rewards of meaning and purpose.
Some have mocked Peck's first sentence, "Life is difficult," as a great big "duh." They fail to mention the point he makes... how he builds on that. According to testimony, entire lives have been changed by the end of page one. Life's most important truths are the simplest ones (I learned that from this book, and it is so true!), and once we understand that life is difficult by definition, instead of assuming it is expected to be relatively easy, then suddenly it no longer seems the world is against us personally, and life is no longer so difficult. One page, changed lives!
I have given 20 to 40 copies of this book as gifts over time. But I always recommended only the sections on Discipline and Love. I told them I really didn't get much from the section on Grace, and that they should take it or leave it as they wished. (I can't deduct a star for this, since the rest of the book is so good.) I also agree with those who have said parts of the book are a difficult read. My first copy was a gift to me, and I didn't read it for several years, not until too many people recommended it for me to ignore it any longer. I had gotten bogged down in the case histories--the psychiatry talk. But be patient. The good parts are always just around the corner.
A book this successful, this enduring, and with so many accolades and favorable testimonies cannot be ignored by wise, thoughtful people.
on October 20, 2000
I am a therapist. Part of my treatment for all of my patients includes giveing them a copy of this book and book An Encounter With A Prophet. Both books are God sent.
on July 22, 1999
Ever wonder why, when you think you are in the greatest relationship of your life, it suddenly ends? Or how about the reason you can't seem to get your work done and your falling behind in all aspects of your life. "The Road Less Traveled; A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth" by M. Scott Peck, M.D. could be the answer for you. M. Scott Peck wrote a book using the experiences of his patients and some of his own and tried to relate them to the problems of everyday people in the real world. In the first section of his book he talks about discipline, self-gratification, character disorders, responsibility, and depression. He explains that all of these are healthy and the only way to get beyond them so they do not become a problem is to admit that you have a problem. Because if we ignore them they will only cause more pain and suffering. In section number two, Peck talks about love, falling in love, and falling out of love. He teaches us how to recognize true compatibility, how to distinguish dependency from love, and how to become one's own person while in a relationship. This book is one that should be read by anyone who has questions about their life. It can show you how to take control of your life so that you can experience it to the fullest. No more sitting and wondering why things are happening to you. It is like having your own psychaitrist in the palm of your hand, just a whole lot cheaper!!
on July 23, 2004
I cannot think of a better manual for life, its principles applicable to everything from the tiniest minutiae to the most important decisions you will make during your days on earth. It is a compelling, at times overwhelming, collection of experience, anecdotes, and wisdom; if read with a willing mind and heart, it will change your life.
Dr. Peck brilliantly does in this work exactly what he compels the reader to do, which is to express consciously that which is normally hidden under many layers of denial, confusion, or downright lies. He tells us the many things that we already know about life, and we immediately recognize them as true, yet somehow the ideas themselves seem novel, and at times foreign or impossible.
I recommend this book if you have ever stepped foot into an incompetent therapist's office, if you know there are things you should do that you just don't (and don't know why), or simply if you are yearning for direction in your spiritual growth. Don't try to read it cover-to-cover; take it in pieces, and its deeper meaning will reveal itself to you.