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The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck

July 4, 2020




Problems and Pain


“Life is difficult…This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.  It is a great truth because once we truly see the truth, we transcend it.  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.”


“What makes life difficult is that the process of confronting and solving problems is a painful one…Yet it is in the whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning…It is through the pain of confronting and resolving our problems that we learn.”


“Some of us will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid our problems and the suffering they cause, proceeding far afield from all that is clearly good and sensible in order to try and find an easy way out, building the most elaborate fantasies in which to live, sometimes to the total exclusion of reality.”


“…when we avoid the legitimate suffering that results from dealing with problems, we also avoid the growth that problems demand from us.”


4 techniques of suffering that allow you to experience the pain of suffering constructively:

  1. delaying of gratification
  2. acceptance of responsibility
  3. dedication to truth
  4. balancing


Delaying Gratification


Delaying gratification is the 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.”


The Sins of The Father


“When parents do things a certain way, it seems to the young child the way to do them, the way they should be done.  If a child sees the parents day in and day out behaving with self-discipline, restraint, dignity, and a capacity to create order their own lives, then the child will come to feel in their deepest fibers of his being that this is the way to live.” (the opposite is also true)


“The parents who devote time to their children even when it is not demanded by glaring misdeeds will perceive in them subtle needs for discipline, to which they will respond with gentle urging or reprimand or structure or praise, administered with thoughtfulness and care.”


“…when children know they are valued, when they truly feel valued in the deepest parts of themselves, then they feel valuable…the feeling of being valuable is essential to mental health and is the cornerstone of self-discipline…when one considers oneself valuable one will take care of oneself in all ways that are necessary. Self-discipline is self-caring.”


“As the result of the experience of consistent parental love and caring throughout childhood, such fortunate children will enter adulthood not only with a deep internal sense of their own value but also with a deep internal sense of security.  All children are terrified of abandonment…”


For children to develop the capacity to delay gratification, it is necessary for them to have self-disciplined role models, a sense of self-worth, and a degree of trust in the safety of their existence. These “possessions” are ideally acquired through self-discipline and consistent, genuine caring of their parents; they are the most precious gifts of themselves that mothers and fathers can bequeath.”


Problem Solving and Time


“…many people simply do not take the time necessary to solve many of life’s intellectual, social or spiritual problems…”


“Actually, there is a deficit in the approach to problem-solving more primitive and more destructive than impatiently 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.”


“Problems do not go away.  They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit.”


“This inclination, to ignore problems is once again a simple manifestation of an unwillingness to delay gratification…It is choosing to suffer now in the hope of future gratification rather than choosing to continue present gratification in the hope that future suffering will not be necessary.”


“We must accept responsibility for a problem before we can solve it. We cannot solve a problem by saying, “It is not my problem.” We cannot solve a problem by hoping that someone else will solve it for us. I can solve a problem only when I say “This is my problem and it’s up to me to solve it.  But many, so many, seek to avoid the pain of their problems by saying to themselves: “This problem was caused me by other people, or by social circumstances beyond my control, and therefore it is up to other people or society to solve the problems for me.”


Neuroses and Character Disorders


“Most people who come to see a psychiatrist are suffering from what is called either a neurosis or a character disorder. Put most simply, these two conditions are disorders of responsibility, and as such they are opposite styles of relating to the world and its problems.  The neurotic assumes too much responsibility; the person with a character disorder not enough.”


“The speech of the neurotic is notable for such expressions as “I ought to,” “I should,” and “I shouldn’t,” indicating the individual’s self-image as an inferior man or woman, always falling short of the mark, always making the wrong choices.”


“The speech of a person with character disorder, however, relies heavily on “I can’t,” “I couldn’t,” “I have to,” and “I had to,” demonstrating a self-image of a being who has no power of choice, whose behavior is completely directed by external forces totally beyond his or her control.”


“…the problem of distinguishing what we are and what we are not responsible for in this life is one of the greatest problems of human existence; for the entirety of our lives we must continually assess and reassess where our responsibilities lie in the ever-changing course of events.”


“It is only through a vast amount of experience and a lengthy and successful maturation that we gain the capacity to see the world and our place in it realistically, and thus are enabled to realistically assess responsibility for ourselves and the world.”


“It is said that “neurotics” make themselves miserable; those with “character disorders” make everyone else miserable.  Chief among the people character disordered parents make miserable are their children.”


“When character-disordered individuals blame or something else for their problems, these problems persist. Nothing has been accomplished.”


Escape from Freedom


‘Whenever we seek to avoid responsibility for our own behavior, we do so by attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual or organization or entity. But that means we give away our power to that entity…”


“Frequently our choices lie between the lesser of two evils, but it is still within our power to make these choices…there are indeed oppressive forces at work within the world.  We have, however, the freedom to choose every step of the manner in which we are going to respond to and deal with these forces.”


Dedication to Reality


“For truth is reality. That which is unreal is false.  The more clearly, we see the reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world. The less clearly we see the reality of the world – the more our minds are befuddled by falsehood, misperceptions, and illusions – the less able we will be to determine correct courses of action and make wise decisions.”


“What happens when one has striven long and hard to develop a working view of the world, a seemingly useful workable map, and then is confronted with new information suggesting that view is wrong, and the map needs to be largely redrawn?  The painful effort required seems frightening almost overwhelming. What we do more often than not, and usually unconsciously, is to ignore new information…Rather than try and change the map, an individual may try to destroy the new reality.  Sadly, such a person may expend much more energy ultimately in defending an outmoded view of the world than would have been required to revise and correct it in the first place.’


Transference: The Outdated Map


“The process of active clinging to an outmoded view of reality is the basis for much mental illness. Psychiatrists refer to it as transference…My own definition is: Transference is the set of ways of perceiving and responding to the world which is developed in childhood and which is usually entirely appropriate to the childhood environment (indeed, often life-saving) but which is inappropriately transferred to the adult environment.”


“When problems of transference are involved, as they usually are, psychotherapy is, among other things, a process of map revising. Patients come to therapy because their maps are clearly not working.  But how they may cling to them and fight the process every step of the way!”


Truth or reality is avoided when it is painful.  We can revise our maps only when we have the discipline to overcome the pain…Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs.”


Openness to Challenge


“The life of wisdom must be a life of contemplation combined with action.”


“Examination of the world without is never as personally painful as an examination of the world within, and it is certainly because of the pain involved in a life of genuine self-examination that the majority steer away from it.”


“The only way that we can be certain that our map of reality is valid is to expose it to the criticism and challenge of other map makers.”


“The primary reason people do not undergo psychotherapy is not that they lack money but that they lack courage.”


“The reason people lie is to avoid the pain of challenge and its consequences…”


“One of the roots of mental illness is invariably an interlocking system of lies we have been told and lies we have told ourselves.  These roots can be uncovered and excised only in an atmosphere of utter honesty.”


Withholding Truth


“Lying can be divided into two types: white lies and black lies. A black lie is a statement we make that we know is false.  A white lie is a statement we make that is not in itself false but leaves out a significant part of the truth, because it may seem less reprehensible, the withholding of essential information is the most common form of lying, and because it may be more difficult to detect and confront, it is often more pernicious than black lying.”


“There is simply no way around the fact that if one is to be at all effective within an organization, he or she must partially become an “organization person,” circumspect in the expression of individual opinions, merging at times personal identity with that of the organization.  On the other hand, if one regards one’s effectiveness in an organization as the only goal of organizational behavior, permitting only the expression of those opinions that would not make waves, then one has allowed the end to justify the means, and will have lost personal integrity and identity by becoming the total organization person.  The road the great executive must travel between the preservation and the loss of his or her identity and integrity is extraordinarily narrow, and very, very few people really make the trip successfully.  It is an enormous challenge.”


“What rules, then, can one follow if one is dedicated to the truth?  First, never speak falsehood. Second, bear in mind that the act of withholding the truth is always potentially a lie, and that in each instance in which the truth is withheld a significant moral decision is required. Third, the decision to withhold the truth should never be based on personal needs, such as the need for power, a need to be liked, or a need to protect one’s map from challenge. Fourth and conversely, the decision to withhold the truth must always be based entirely upon the needs of the person or people from whom the truth is being withheld. Fifth, the assessment of another’s needs is an act of responsibility which is so complex that it can only be executed wisely when one operates with a genuine love for the other. Sixth, the primary factor in the assessment of another’s needs is the assessment of that person’s capacity to utilize the truth for his or her spiritual growth. Finally, in assessing the capacity of another to utilize the truth for personal spiritual growth, it should be borne in mind that our tendency is generally to underestimate rather than overestimate this capacity.”


“The more honest one is, the easier it is to continue being honest, just as the more lies one had told, the more necessary it is to lie again. By their openness, people dedicated to the truth live in the open, and through the exercise of their courage to live in the open, they become free from fear.”




“Balancing is the discipline that gives us flexibility. Extraordinary flexibility is required for successful living in all spheres of activity.”


To function successfully in our complex world, it is necessary for us to possess the capacity not only to express our anger but also not express it. Moreover, we must possess the capacity to express our anger in different ways.”


“We therefore not only need to know how to deal with our anger in different ways at different times but also how most appropriately to match the right time with the right style of expression.”


To a greater or lesser degree, all people suffer from inadequacies in their flexible response systems.”


“Mature mental health demands, an extraordinary capacity to flexibly strike and continually restrike a delicate balance between conflicting needs, goals, duties, responsibilities, directions, etc.  The essence of this discipline of balancing is giving up… the giving up of personality traits, well-established patterns of behavior, ideologies, and even whole life systems.”


“Balancing is a discipline precisely because the act of giving up something is painful.”


The Healthiness of Depression


“The feeling of giving up something loved – or at least something that is part of us and familiar – is depression.  Since mentally healthy human beings must grow, and since giving up or loss of the old self is an integral part of the process of mental and spiritual growth, depression is a normal and basically healthy phenomenon.  It becomes unhealthy only when something interferes with the giving up process, with the result that the depression is prolonged and cannot be resolved by the completion of the process.”


What makes a crisis of these transition periods in the life cycle – that is, problematic and painful – is that in successfully working our way through them we must give up cherished notions and old ways of doing and looking at things.  Many people are either unwilling or unable to suffer the pain of giving up the outgrown which needs to be forsaken.”


List of the major conditions, desires, and attitudes that must be given up in the course of a wholly successful evolving lifetime:

  • The state of infancy, in which no external demands need to be responded to;
  • The fantasy of omnipotence;
  • The desire for total (including sexual) possession of one’s parents;
  • The dependency of childhood;
  • Distorted images of one’s parents;
  • The omnipotentiality of adolescence;
  • The freedom of uncommitment;
  • The agility of youth;
  • The sexual attractiveness and/or potency of youth;
  • The fantasy of immortality;
  • Authority over one’s children;
  • Various forms of temporal power;
  • The independence of physical health;
  • And, ultimately, the self and life itself.


Renunciation and Rebirth


“It is in the giving up of self that human beings can find the most ecstatic and lasting, solid, durable joy of life.  And it is death that provides life with all of its meaning.  This is the “secret” wisdom of all religions.”


“Bracketing is essentially the act of balancing the need for stability and assertion of the self with the need for new knowledge and greater understanding by temporarily giving up one’s self – putting one’s self aside, so to speak – so as to make room for the incorporation of new material into the self.”


Self-discipline is a self-enlarging process. The pain of giving up is the pain of death, but the death of the old is the birth of the new…”


“It is also clear that the farther one travels on the journey of life, the more births and deaths one will experience, and therefore the more deaths – the more joy and more pain.”


“…For to exercise power to make decisions, and the process of making decisions with total awareness is often infinitely more painful than making decisions with limited or blunted awareness (which is the way most decisions are made and why they are ultimately proved wrong).”


“Decisions affecting the lives of others must always be made.  The best decision-makers are those who are willing to suffer the most over their decisions but still retain their ability to be decisive.”


“So, if your goal is to avoid pain and escape suffering, I would not advise you to seek higher levels of consciousness or spiritual evolution.  First, you cannot achieve them without suffering, and second, insofar as you achieve them, you are likely to be called on to serve in ways more painful to you, or at least as demanding of you, than you can now imagine.”


“.. you must have something in order to give it up. You cannot give up anything you have not already gotten…there are many people I know who possess a vision of evolution yet seem to lack the will for it. They want, and believe it is possible, to skip over the discipline, to find an easy short-cut to sainthood.”




Love Defined


“Love is too large, too deep ever to be truly understood or measured or limited within the framework of words.”


“Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”


“… the act of loving is an act of self-evolution even when the purpose of the act is someone else’s growth.”


“…we are incapable of loving another unless we love ourselves, just as we are incapable of teaching our children self-discipline unless we ourselves are self-disciplined. It is actually impossible to forsake our own spiritual development in favor of someone else’s.”


“Love is not effortless. To the contrary, love is effortful.”


“Love is as love does. Love is an act of will – namely, both an intention and an action.  Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love…”


Falling in Love


“We fall in love only when we are consciously or unconsciously sexually motivated.”


“… the feeling of falling in love is invariably temporary.  No matter whom we fall in love with, we sooner or later fall out of love if the relationship continues long enough.  This is not to say we invariably cease loving the person with whom we fell in love.  But it is to say that the feeling of ecstatic lovingness that characterizes the experience of falling in love always passes.”


“The essence of the phenomenon of falling in love is a sudden collapse of a section of an individual’s ego boundaries, permitting one to merge his or her identity with another person.  The sudden release of oneself from oneself, the explosive pouring out of oneself into the beloved, the dramatic surcease of loneliness accompanying this collapse of ego boundaries is experienced by most of us as ecstatic. We and our beloved are one! Loneliness no more!”


“Sooner or later, in response to daily living, individual will reasserts itself.”


“…real love often occurs in a context in which the feeling of love is lacking, when we act lovingly despite the fact that we don’t feel loving.”


“We can choose how to respond to the experience of falling in love, but we cannot choose the experience itself.”


More About Ego Boundaries


One’s limits are one’s ego boundaries…”


“Ego boundaries must be hardened before they can be softened. An identity must be established before it can be transcended. One must find one’s self before one can lose it…”




“When you require another individual for your survival, you are a parasite on that individual.  There’s no choice, no freedom involved in your relationship.  It is a matter of necessity rather than love.  Love is the free exercise of choice.  Two people love each other only when they are quite capable of living without each other but choose to live with each other.”


“Each one of us, no matter how old or mature, looks for and would like to have in his or her life a satisfying mother figure and father figure, But for most of us these desires or feelings do not rule our lives; they are not the predominant theme of our existence.  When they do rule our lives and dictate the quality of our existence, then we have something more than just dependency needs or feelings; we are dependent…. we ascribe the diagnostic name “passive dependent personality disorder.”


“People with this disorder, passive dependent people, are so busy seeking to be loved that they have no energy left to love.”


“In the diagnosis, the word “passive” is used in conjunction with the word “dependent” because these individuals concern themselves with what others can do for them to the exclusion of what they themselves can do.”


“…the only way to be assured of being loved is to be a person worthy of love; you cannot be a person worthy of love when your primary goal in life is to be passively loved.”


“Passive dependent people lack self-discipline.  They are unwilling or unable to delay gratification for their hunger for attention.  In their desperation to form and preserve attachments, they throw honesty to the winds.  They cling to outworn relationships when they should give them up. Most importantly they lack a sense of responsibility for themselves.  They passively look to others, frequently even their children, as the source of their happiness and fulfillment, and therefore when they are not happy or fulfilled, they basically feel that others are responsible.”


“…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 of antilove…”


Cathexis Without Love


“Dependent people are interested in their own nourishment, but no more; they desire filling, they desire to be happy; they don’t desire to grow, nor are they willing to tolerate the unhappiness, the loneliness and the suffering involved in growth.  Neither do dependent people care about the spiritual growth of the other, the object of the dependency; they care only that the other is there to satisfy them.”




“The motives behind injudicious giving and destructive nurturing are many, but such cases invariably have a basic feature in common: the “giver” under the guide of love, is responding to and meeting his or her own needs without regard to the spiritual needs of the receiver.”


“Masochists look on their submission to mistreatment as love, whereas in fact it is a necessity in their never-ceasing search for revenge and is basically motivated by hatred.”


“Whenever we think of ourselves as doing something for someone else, we are in some way denying our own responsibility.  Whatever we do is done because we choose to do it, and we make that choice because it is the one that satisfies us the most.  Whatever we do for someone else we do because it fulfills a need we have.”


“…genuine love is a self-replenishing activity…”


“…In the case of genuine love, the aim is always spiritual growth. In the case of nonlove, the aim is always something else.”


Love Is Not A Feeling


“The feeling of love is the emotion that accompanies the experience of cathecting is the process by which an object becomes important to us.  Once cathected, the object, commonly referred to as a “love object,” is invested with our energy as if it were part of ourselves, and this relationship between us and the invested object is called cathexis.”


Differences between Cathecting and Love:

  • We may cathect any object, animate or inanimate, with or without a spirit
  • The fact that we have cathected another human being does not mean that we care a whit for that person’s spiritual development
  • The intensity of our cathexes frequently has nothing to do with wisdom or commitment
  • Our cathexes may be fleeting and monetary.


“Genuine love, on the other hand, implies commitment and the exercise of wisdom…”

“In a constructive marriage, just as in constructive therapy, the partners must regularly, routinely, and predictably, attend to each other and their relationship no matter how they feel…couples sooner or later always fall out of love, and it is at the moment when the mating instinct has run its course that the opportunity for genuine love begins.  It is when the spouses no longer feel like being in each other’s company, when they would rather be elsewhere some of the time, that their love begins to be tested and will be found to be present or absent.”


“…Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional….”


“True love is not a feeling by which we are overwhelmed. It is a committed, thoughtful decision.”


The Work of Attention


“When we extend ourselves, when we take an extra step or walk an extra mile, we do so in opposition to the inertia of laziness or the resistance of fear.  Extension of ourselves or moving out against the inertia of laziness we call work.  Moving out in the face of fear we call courage.  Specifically, it is work or courage directed toward the nurture of our own or another’s spiritual growth.”


“…love is always either work or courage. If an act is not one of work or courage, then it is not an act of love.  There are no exceptions.”


“The principal form that the work of love takes is attention. When we love another, we give him or her our attention; we attend to that person’s growth…By far the most common and important way in which we can exercise our attention is by listening.”


“Love, as we shall see again and again, is invariably a two-way street, a reciprocal phenomenon whereby the receiver also gives, and the giver also receives.”


“If you give your child the same esteem you would give a great lecturer, then the child will know him- or herself to be valued and therefore will feel valuable.  There is not better and ultimately no other way to teach your children that they are valuable people than by valuing them…the more children feel valuable, the more they will begin to say things of value.  They will rise to your expectations of them…the more you listen to your child, the more you will realize that in amongst the pauses, the stutterings, the seemingly innocent chatter, your child does indeed have valuable things to say…And the more you will learn…the more you know about your child, the more you will be able to teach.


“Value creates value. Love begets love.”


“True listening, total concentration on the other, is always a manifestation of love.  An essential part of true listening is the discipline of bracketing, the temporary giving up or setting aside of one’s own prejudices, frames of reference and desires so as to experience as far as possible the speaker’s world from the inside, stepping inside his or her shoes.”


“Even though we may feel in our business dealings or social relationships that we are listening very hard, what we are usually doing is listening selectively, with a preset agenda in mind, wondering as we listen how we can achieve certain desired results and get the conversation over with as quickly as possible or redirected in ways more satisfactory to us.”


The Risk of Loss


“Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the making of action in spite of fear, the moving out against the resistance engendered by fear into the unknown and into the future.  On some level, spiritual growth, and therefore love, always requires courage and involves risk.”


“Love anything that lives – a person, a pet, a plant – and it will die.  Trust anybody and you may be hurt; depend on anyone and that one may let you down…If someone is determined not to risk pain, then such a person must do without many things: having children, getting married, the ecstasy of sex, the hope of ambition, friendship – all that makes life alive, meaningful and significant.”


“Move our or grow in any dimension and pain as well as joy will be your reward.  A full life will be full of pain…”


“…the attempt to avoid legitimate suffering lies at the root of all emotional illness…”


The Risk of Independence


“The only real security in life lies in relishing life’s insecurity…”


“…it is only when one has taken the leap into the unknown of total selfhood, psychological independence, and unique individuality that one is free to proceed along still higher paths of spiritual growth and free to manifest love in its greatest dimensions.”


“The highest forms of love are inevitably totally free choices and not acts of conformity.”


The Risk of Commitment


“Commitment is inherent in any genuinely loving relationship.  Anyone who is truly concerned for the spiritual growth of another knows, consciously or instinctively, that he or she can significantly foster that growth only through a relationship of constancy.”


“Character disordered individuals tend to form only shallow commitments, and when their disorders are severe these individuals seem to lack totally the capacity to form commitments at all.  It is not so much that they fear the risk of committing themselves as that they basically do not understand what commitment all is about.”


“Neurotics, on the other hand, are generally aware of the nature of commitment but are frequently paralyzed by the fear of it…”


“One of the problems that people commonly have in their adult relationships if they have never received a firm commitment from their parents is the “I’ll desert you before you desert me” syndrome.”


“There come many points on one’s journey of spiritual growth, whether one is alone or has a psychotherapist as a guide, when one must take new and unfamiliar actions in consonance with one’s new world view.  The taking of such actions – behaving differently from the way one has always behaved before – may represent extraordinary personal risk.”


“…It is impossible to truly understand another without making room for that person within yourself.  This making room, which once again is the discipline of bracketing, requires an extension of and therefore a changing of the self.”


The Risk of Confrontation


“For the truly loving person the act of criticism or confrontation does not come easily; to such a person it is evident that the act has great potential for arrogance.  To confront one’s beloved is to assume a position of moral or intellectual superiority over the loved one, at least so far as the issue at hand is concerned…”


“…The truly loving person, valuing the uniqueness and differentness of his or her beloved, will be reluctant indeed to assume, “I am right, you are wrong; I know better than you what is good for you,” But the reality of life is such that at times one person does know better than the other what is good for the other, and in actuality is in a position of superior knowledge or wisdom in regard to the matter at hand.  Under these circumstances, the wiser of the two does in fact have an obligation to confront the other with the problem.  The loving person, therefore, is frequently in a dilemma, caught between a loving respect for the beloved’s own path in life and a responsibility to exercise loving leadership when the beloved appears to need such leadership…The dilemma can be resolved only by painstaking self-scrutiny, in which the lover examines stringently the worth of his or her “wisdom” and the motives behind this need to assume leadership.”


“To fail to confront when confrontation is required for the nurture of spiritual growth represents a failure to love equally as does thoughtless criticism or condemnation and other forms of active deprivation of caring…”


“No marriage can be judged truly successful unless husband and wife are each other’s best critics. The same holds true for friendship…Mutual loving confrontation is a significant part of all successful and meaningful human relationships.  Without it, the relationship is either unsuccessful or shallow.”


“To confront someone with something he or she cannot handle will be at best a waste of time, and likely will have a deleterious effect.  If we want to be heard, we must speak in a language the listener can understand and on a level at which the listener is capable of operating…”


Love Is Disciplined


“…any genuinely loving relationship is a disciplined relationship.  If I truly love another, I will obviously order my behavior in such a way as to contribute the utmost to his or her spiritual growth.”


“…psychiatrists know well the truth of the old proverbs, “Shallow waters are noisy” and “Still waters run deep.”  We must not assume that someone whose feelings are modulated and controlled is not a passionate person.”


“Because genuine love involves an extension of oneself, vast amounts of energy are required and, like it or not, the store of our energy is as limited as the hours of our day.”


“To try and love someone who cannot benefit from your love with spiritual growth is to waste your energy, to cast your seed upon arid ground.  Genuine love is precious, and those who are capable of genuine love know that their loving must be focused as productively as possible through self-discipline.”


“The first obligation of a genuinely loving person will always be to his or her marital and parental relationships…”


“Genuine love is self-replenishing.  The more I nurture the spiritual growth of others, the more my own spiritual growth is nurtured.”


Love Is Separateness


“Although the act of nurturing another’s spiritual growth has the effect of nurturing one’s own, a major characteristic of genuine love is the distinction between oneself and the other is always maintained and preserved.  The genuine lover always perceives the beloved as someone who has a totally separate identity.  Moreover, the genuine lover always respects and even encourages the separateness and the unique individuality of the beloved.”


“In its most extreme form, the failure to perceive the separateness of the other is called narcissism.”


“Lacking empathy, narcissistic parents usually respond inappropriately to their children on an emotional level and fail to offer any recognition or verification of their children’s feelings.”


“The difficulty that humans so generally seem to have in fully appreciating the separateness of those who they are close to interferes not only with their parenting but with all their intimate relationships, including marriage.”


“The women’s liberation movement has been helpful in pointing the way to what is obviously the only ideal resolution: marriage as a truly cooperative institution, requiring great mutual contributions and care, time and energy, but existing for the primary purpose of nurturing each of the participants for individual journeys towards his or her own individual peaks of spiritual growth.  Male and female both must tend the hearth and both must venture forth.”


“Great marriages cannot be constructed by individuals who are terrified by their basic aloneness, as so commonly is the case, and seek a merging in marriage.  Genuine love not only respects the individuality of the other but actually seeks to cultivate it, even at the risk of separation or loss…” sacrifices” on behalf of the other result in equal or greater growth of the self.”


Love and Psychotherapy


“Intensive psychotherapy in many ways is a process of reparenting.  It is no more inappropriate for a psychotherapist to have feelings of love for a patient than it is for a good parent to have feelings of love for a child.  To the contrary, it is essential for the therapist to love a patient for the therapy to be successful, and if therapy does become successful, the therapeutic relationship will become a mutually loving one.”


“For the most part, mental illness is caused by an absence of or defect in the love that a particular child required for its particular parents for successful maturation and spiritual growth.”


“.. all human interactions are opportunities either to learn or to teach (to give or receive therapy), and when they neither learn nor teach in an interaction they are passing up an opportunity.”




World Views and Religion


“…among the members of the human race, there exists an extraordinary variability in the breadth and sophistication of our understanding of what life is all about…Since everyone has some understanding – some world view, no matter how limited or primitive or inaccurate – everyone has a religion.  This fact, not widely recognized, is of the utmost importance: everyone has a religion.”


“…everyone has an explicit or implicit set of ideas and beliefs as to the essential nature of the world…”


“…the world view of patients is always an essential part of their problems, and a correction in their world view is necessary for their cure.”


“We tend to believe what people around us believe, and we tend to accept as truth what these people tell us of the nature of the world as we listen to them during our formative years…But less obvious (except to psychotherapists) is the fact that the most important part of our culture is our particular family…It is not so much what our parents sat that determines our world view as it is the unique world they create for us by their behavior.”


“The fact that our religion or world view is initially largely determined by our unique childhood experience brings us face to face with a central problem: the relationship between religion and reality.  It is the problem of the microcosm and the macrocosm.”


“To develop a religion or world view that is realistic – that is, conforms to the reality of the cosmos and our role in it, as best we can know that reality – we must constantly revise and extend our understanding to include new knowledge of the larger world.  We must constantly enlarge our frame of reference…”


“it is no wonder, then, that the world of humanity is so full of conflict.  We have a situation in which human beings, who must deal with each other, have vastly different views as to the nature of reality, yet each one believes his or her own view to be the correct one since it is based on the microcosm of personal experience.”


The Religion of Science


“In order to escape the microcosm of our previous experience and free ourselves from transferences, it is necessary that we learn.  We must continually expand our realm of knowledge and our field of vision through the thorough digestion and incorporation of new information…To develop a broader vision we must be willing to forsake, to kill, our narrower vision.”


“The path to holiness lies through questioning everything…”


“There is no such thing as good hand-me-down religion.  To be vital, to be the best of which we are capable, our religion must be a wholly personal one, forged entirely through the fire of our questioning and doubting the crucible of our own experience of reality.”


“Science is a religion of skepticism…It is the scientific attitude that enables us to transform our personal experience of the microcosm into a personal experience of the macrocosm.  We must begin by becoming scientists.”


“To some extent, while I believe that the skeptical world view of the scientific-minded is a distinct improvement over a world view based on blind faith, local superstition, and unquestioned assumptions, I also believe that most of the scientific-minded have only barely begun the journey of spiritual growth.  Specifically, I believe that the outlook of most scientific-minded people toward the reality of God is almost as parochial as the outlook of simple peasants who blindly follow the faith of their fathers.  Scientists have grave difficulty dealing with the reality of God.”


“Psychiatrists and psychotherapists who have a simplistic attitude towards religion are likely to do a disservice to some of their patients.”


Scientific Tunnel Vision


“Many scientists simply do not look at the evidence of the reality of God.  They suffer from a kind of tunnel vision, a psychologically self-imposed psychological set of blinders which prevents them from turning their attention to the realm of the spirit.”




The Miracle of Health


“We know very well why people become mentally and physically ill.  What we don’t understand is why people survive the traumas of their lives as well as they do…All we can say is there is a force, the mechanics of which we do not fully understand, that seems to operate routinely in most people to protect and to foster their mental and physical health even under the most adverse conditions.”


The Miracle of the Unconscious


“…dreams that can be interpreted invariably provide helpful information to the dreamer.  This assistance comes in a variety of forms: as warnings of personal pitfalls; as guides to the solution of problems we have been unable to solve; as a proper indication that we are wrong when we think we are right, and as correct encouragement that we are right when we think we are probably wrong; as sources of necessary information about ourselves that we are lacking; as direction-finders when we feel lost; and as pointers to the way we need to go when we are floundering.”


“The unconscious may communicate to us when we are awake with as much elegance and beneficence as when we are asleep, although in a slightly different form.  This is the form of “idle thoughts,” or even fragments of thoughts…while these “idle thoughts” usually provide us with insight into ourselves, they may also provide us with dramatic insights into others or into the world outside ourselves.”


“…mental illness is not a product of the unconscious; it is instead a phenomenon of consciousness or a disordered relationship between the conscious and unconscious.”


“A third way in which the unconscious manifests itself and speaks to us if we care to listen (which we usually don’t) is through our behavior. I am referring to slips of the tongue and other “mistakes” in behavior, or Freudian slips,” which Freud initially demonstrated to be manifestations of the unconscious.”


“Not all slips express hostility or denied “negative” feelings.  They express all denied feelings, negative or positive.  They express the truth; the way things really are as opposed to the way we like to think they are.”


“A major and essential task in the process of one’s spiritual development is the continuous work of bringing one’s conscious self-concept into progressively greater congruence with reality…”


“If we identify our self with our self-concept or self-awareness or consciousness in general, then we must say concerning the unconscious that there is a part of us that is wiser than we are.”


Jung has a theory of “Collective Unconscious,” in which we inherit the wisdom of the experience of our ancestors without ourselves having the personal experience…

It is as if all knowledge and all wisdom were contained in our minds, and when we learn “something new” we are only discovering something that existed in our self all along.”


The mind, which sometimes presumes to believe that there is no such thing as a miracle, is itself a miracle.”


The Miracle of Serendipity


“The fact that highly implausible events, for which no cause can be determined within the framework of known natural law, occur with implausible frequency has come to be known as the principle of synchronicity…”


“The incident of the similar, almost synchronous dreams is one that qualifies by virtue of its statistical improbability as a genuine psychic or “paranormal” phenomenon even though the meaning of the incident is obscure…”


“…another characteristic of psychic phenomena, apart from their statistical implausibility, is that a significant number of such occurrences seem to be fortunate – in some way beneficial to one or more of the human participants involved.”


“Webster’s Dictionary defines serendipity as “the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.”


“It is a major thesis of this section that grace, manifested in part by “valuable or agreeable things not sought for,” is available to everyone, but while some take advantage of it, others do not.”


“…one of the reasons we fail to take full advantage of grace is that we are not fully aware of its presence – that is, we don’t find valuable things not sought for, because we fail to appreciate the value of the gift when it is given us…we consider such events unremarkable, and consequently, we fail to take full advantage of them.”


The Definition of Grace


“The religious, who, of course, ascribe the origins of grace to God, believing it literally to be God’s love, have through the ages had the same difficulty locating God (like scientists). There are within theology two lengthy and opposing traditions in this regard: one, the Doctrine of Emanance, which holds that grace emanates down from an external God to men; the other, the doctrine of Immanence, which holds that grace emanates out from the God within the center of man’s being.”


“Human beings have a profound tendency to conceptualize in terms of discrete entities.  We perceive the world composed of such entities: ships, shoes and sealing wax, and other categories.  And we then tend to understand a phenomenon by placing it in a particular category, saying it such and such an entity.  It is either this or that, but it cannot be both…The I-entity is my identity and the you-entity is your identity, and we tend to be quite discomfited if our identities become mixed and confused…Our tendency to entity-thinking compels us to want to locate things, even such things as God or grace and even when we know our tendency is interfering with our comprehension of these matters.”


“…regardless of how we ascribe them or where we locate them, the “miracles” described indicate that our growth as human beings is being assisted by a force other than our conscious will…”


The Miracle of Evolution


“An individual’s body may undergo changes of the life cycle, but it does not evolve.  New physical patterns are not forged.  Decline of physical competence in old age is an inevitability.  Within an individual lifetime, however, the human spirit may evolve dramatically.  New patterns may be forged. Spiritual competence may increase (although it usually does not) until the moment of death in advanced old age.  Our lifetime offers unlimited opportunities for spiritual growth until the end.”


“Again and again I have emphasized that the process of spiritual growth is an effortful and difficult one.  This is because it is conducted against a natural resistance, against a natural inclination to keep things the way they were, to cling to the old maps and old ways of doing things, to take the easy path…But as is the case of physical evolution, the miracle is that this resistance is overcome.  We do grow. Despite all that resists the process, we do become better human beings.  Not all of us.  Note easily.  But in significant numbers, humans somehow manage to improve themselves and their cultures.  There is a force that somehow pushes us to choose the more difficult path whereby we can transcend the mire and muck into which we are so often born.”


“Our very sense of disillusionment arises from the fact that we expect more of ourselves than our forebears did of themselves.  Human behavior that we find repugnant and outrageous today was accepted as a matter of course yesteryear.”


“When we grow, it is because we are working at it, and we are working at it because we love ourselves.  And it is through love that we elevate ourselves.  And it is through our love for others that we assist others to elevate themselves.  Love, the extension of the self, is a very rare act of evolution.  It is an evolution in progress.  The evolutionary force, present in all life, manifests itself in humankind as human love.  Among humanity, love is the miraculous force that defies the natural law of entropy.”


The Alpha and the Omega


“To explain the miracles of grace and evolution we hypothesize the existence of a God who wants us to grow – a God who loves us.  To many, this hypothesis seems too simple, too easy; too much like fantasy; childlike and naïve.  But what else do we have?  To ignore the data by using tunnel vision is not the answer.  We cannot obtain an answer by not asking the questions.  Simple though it may be, no one has observed the data and asked the questions has been able to produce a better hypothesis or even rally a hypothesis at all.  Until someone does, we are stuck with this childlike notion of a loving God and theoretical vacuum.”


“…all of us who postulate a loving God and really think about it eventually come to a single terrifying idea: God wants us to become Himself (or Herself or Itself).  We are growing toward godhood.  God is the goal of evolution.  It is God who is the source of the evolutionary force and God who is the destination.  That is what we mean when we say that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”


“…as soon as we believe is possible for man to become God, we can never really rest for long, never say, ‘OK, my job is finished, my work is done.”  We must constantly push ourselves to greater and greater wisdom, greater and greater effectiveness…  By this belief, we will have trapped ourselves, at least until death, on an effortful treadmill of self-improvement and spiritual growth.  God’s responsibility must be our own…”


“The idea that God is actively measuring us so that we might grow up to be like Him brings us face to face with our own laziness.”


Entropy and Original Sin


“If we overcome laziness, all other impediments will be overcome.  If we don’t overcome laziness, none of the others will be hurdled.”


“In examining discipline, we were considering the laziness of attempting to avoid necessary suffering or taking the easy way out.  In examining love, we were also examining the fact that nonlove is the unwillingness to extend one’s self.  Laziness is love’s opposite.  Spiritual growth is effortful…”


“In debating the wisdom of a proposed course of action, human beings routinely fail to obtain God’s side of the issue.  They fail to consult or listen to the God within them, the knowledge of rightness which inherently resides within the minds of all mankind.  We make this failure because we are lazy.  It is work to hold these internal debates.  They require time and energy just to conduct them.  And if we take them seriously – if we seriously listen to this “God within us” – we usually find ourselves being urged to take the more difficult path, the path of more effort rather than less. To conduct the debate is to open ourselves to suffering and struggle.”


“A major form of laziness is fear…Much of our fear is fear of change in the status quo, a fear that we might lose what we have if we venture forth from where we are now.”


“Within each and every one of us there are two selves, one sick and one healthy – the life urge and the death urge, if you will.  Each of us represents the whole human race; within each of us is the instinct for godhood and the hope for mankind, and within each of us is the original sin of laziness, the ever-present force of entropy pushing us back to childhood, to the womb and to the swamps from which we have evolved.”


The Problem of Evil


“Evil people hate the light because it reveals themselves to themselves.  They hate goodness because it reveals their badness; they hate love because it reveals their laziness.  They will destroy the light, the goodness, the love in order to avoid the pain of such self-awareness…evil is laziness carried to its ultimate, extraordinary extreme.”


“I define evil, then, as the exercise of political power – that is the imposition of one’s will upon others by overt or covert coercion – in order to avoid extending one’s self for the purpose of nurturing spiritual growth.  Ordinary laziness is nonlove; evil is antilove.”


“…the existence of evil is inevitable, at least at this stage in human evolution.  Given the force of entropy and the fact that humans possess free will, it is inevitable that laziness will be well contained in some and completely uncontained in others.  As entropy, on the one hand, and the evolutionary flow of love, on the other, are opposing forces, it is only natural that these forces will be relatively in balance in most people, while a few at one extreme will manifest pure love, and a few at the other extreme pure entropy or evil.  Since they are conflicting forces, it is also inevitable that those at the extremes will be locked in combat; it is as natural for evil to hate goodness as it is for goodness to hate evil.”


“But evil backfires in the big picture of human evolution.  For every soul is destroyed – and there are many – it is instrumental in the salvation of others. Unwittingly, evil serves as a beacon to warn others away from its own shoals.  Because most of us have been graced by an almost instinctive sense of horror at the outrageousness of evil, when we recognize its presence, our own personalities are honed by the awareness of its existence…Our personal involvement in the fight against evil in the world is one of the ways we grow.”


The Evolution of Consciousness


“Evil people resist the awareness of their own condition.  A mark of the spiritually advanced is their awareness of their own laziness.”


“An essential part of discipline is the development of an awareness of our responsibility and power of choice.  The capacity of awareness we assign to that portion of the mind we call conscious our consciousness.”


“In my vision, the collective unconscious is God; the conscious is man as an individual; and the personal unconscious is the interface between them.  Being this interface, it is inevitable that the personal unconscious should be a place of some turmoil, the scene of some struggle between God’s will and the will of the individual.”


“It is because our conscious self resists our unconscious wisdom that we become ill.”


“The ultimate goal of spiritual growth is for the individual to become as one with God.”


“The conscious is the executive part of our total being.  It is the conscious that makes decisions and translates them into action. Were we to become all unconscious, we would be indeed like the newborn infant, one with God but incapable of any action that might make the presence of God felt in the world.”


The Nature of Power


“There are two kinds of power – political and spiritual.”


“Political power is the capacity to coerce others, overtly or covertly, to do one’s will. This capacity resides in a position, such as a kingship or a presidency, or else in money.  It does not reside in the person who occupies the position or possesses money.  Consequently, political power is unrelated to goodness or wisdom.”


“Spiritual power, however, resides entirely within the individual and has nothing to do with the capacity to coerce others.  People of great spiritual power may be wealthy and may upon occasion occupy political positions of leadership, but they are as likely to be poor and lacking in political authority…”


“Then, what is the capacity of spiritual power if it is not the capacity to coerce?  It is the capacity to make decisions with maximum awareness.  It is consciousness.”


“Most people most of the time make decisions with little awareness of what they are doing.  They take action with little understanding of their own motives and without beginning to know the ramifications of their choices…”


“Is it any better to do the right thing for the wrong reasons than the wrong thing for the right reasons?  We are often most in the dark when we are the most certain, and the most enlightened when we are the most confused.”


“The path of spiritual growth is the path of lifelong learning.”


“The experience of spiritual power is basically a joyful one.  There is a joy that comes with mastery.  Indeed, there is no greater satisfaction than that of being an expert, of really knowing what we are doing…For when we truly know what we are doing, we are participating in the omniscience of God.”


“Invariably when asked the source of their knowledge and power, the truly powerful will reply: “It is not my power.  What little power I have is but a minute expression of a far greater power.  I am merely a conduit.  It is not my power at all.”


“Joyful though it is, the experience of spiritual power is also terrifying.  For the greater one’s awareness, the more difficult it is to take action.  It is easy to act with awareness of limited data and let the chips fall where they may.  The greater our awareness, however, the more and more data we must assimilate and integrate into our decision-making.  The more we know, the more complex decisions become…”


“…spiritual power is not simply awareness; it is the capacity to maintain one’s ability to still make decisions with greater and greater awareness.  And godlike power is the power to make decisions with total awareness.  But unlike the popular notion of it, omniscience does not make decision making easier; rather, it becomes more difficult…”


“There is another problem with power; aloneness…Someone who is approaching the peak of spiritual evolution is like someone at the peak of political power.  There is no one above to whom to pass the buck, no one to blame; no one to tell you how to do it.  There may not even be anyone on the same level to share the agony or the responsibility.  Others may advise but the decision is yours alone…”


“One of the most poignant themes of the Gospels is Christ’s continual sense of frustration on finding that there was no one who could really understand him…This kind of aloneness is “shared” by all who travel farthest of the journey of spiritual growth…”


Grace and Mental Illness: The Myth of Orestes


“…Mental health is a dedication to reality at all costs; and ‘mental illness occurs when the conscious will of the individual substantially deviates from the will of God, which is his or her own unconscious will.”


“We attempt to defend our consciousness, our awareness, against reality.  We do this by a variety of means which psychiatrists call defense mechanisms.  All of us employ such defenses, thereby limiting our awareness.  If in our laziness and fear of suffering we massively defend our awareness, then it will come to pass that our understanding of the world will bear little or no relation to reality.”


“Although our conscious mind has denied reality, our unconscious which is omniscient, knows the rue score and attempts to help us out by stimulating, through symptom formation, our conscious mind to the awareness that something is wrong.  In other words, the painful and unwanted symptoms of mental illness are manifestations of grace.  They are products of a powerful force, originating outside the consciousness which nurtures our spiritual growth.”


“…the unpleasant symptoms of mental illness serve to notify people that they have taken the wrong path, that their spirits are not growing and are in grave jeopardy…”


“As is common with grace, most reject the gift and do not heed the message.  They do this in a variety of ways, all of which represent an attempt to avoid responsibility for their illness.”


“Only those few who accept responsibility for their symptoms, who realize that their symptoms are a manifestation of a disorder in their own soul, heed the message of their unconscious and accept its grace.  They accept their own inadequacy and the pain of the work necessary to heal themselves.”


“Those who have faced their mental illness, accepted the responsibility for it, and made the necessary changes in themselves to overcome it, find themselves not only cured and free from the curses of their childhood and ancestry but also find themselves living in a new and different world.  What they once perceived as problems they now perceive as opportunities.  What were once loathsome barriers are now welcome challenges.  Thoughts previously unwanted become helpful insights; feelings previously disowned become sources of energy and guidance.  Occurrences that once seemed to be burdens now seem to be gifts, including the very symptoms from which they recovered.”


Resistance to Grace


“…psychotherapy is only a tool – a discipline.  It is up to the patient to choose or reject the tool, and once chosen, it is the patient who determines how much to use the tool and to what end.”


“…individuals with psychoses are thought to have experienced extremely poor parenting in the first nine months of life; their resulting illnesses can be ameliorated by this or that form treatment, but it is almost impossible to cure.  Individuals with character disorders are thought to have experienced adequate care as infants but very poor care during the period between roughly nine months and two years of age, with the result that they are less sick than psychotics but still quite sick indeed and very difficult to cure.  Individuals with neuroses are thought to have received adequate parenting in their very early childhood but then thought to have suffered from poor parenting sometime after the age of two but usually beginning before the age of five or six.  Neurotics are therefore thought to be less sick than either character-disordered people or psychotics, and consequently much easier to treat and cure.”


“Love is the will to extend oneself for spiritual growth.  Genuine lovingly people are, by definition, growing people.”


“…people’s capacity to love, hence their will to grow, is nurtured not only by the love of their parents during childhood but also throughout their lives by grace, or God’s love…”


“It is our laziness, the original sin of entropy with which we all have been cursed.  Just as grace is the ultimate source of the force that pushes us to ascend the ladder of human evolution, so it is entropy that causes us to resist that force, to stay at the comfortable, easy rung where we now are or even to descend to less and less demanding forms of existence…”


“…psychiatric problems occur with remarkable frequency in individuals shortly after promotion to positions of higher power and responsibility…”


“The call to grace is a call to a life of effortful caring, to a life of service and whatever sacrifice seems required.  It is a call out of spiritual childhood into adulthood, a call to be a parent to mankind…”


“A major part of the task of psychotherapy is not only to bring patients to the experience of mental health but also, through a mixture of consolation, reassurance and sternness, to prevent them from running away form that experience once they have arrived at it…”


“Some who have been called to grace may wrestle for years with their fearfulness before they are able to transcend it so as to accept their own godliness.  When this fearfulness and sense of unworthiness is so great as to consistently prevent the assumption of power, it is a neurotic problem, and dealing with it may be a critical issue or even the central issue in one’s psychotherapy.”


“For a call to grace in its ultimate form is a summons to be one with God, to assume peership with God.  Hence it is a call to total adulthood…So the fact that “many are called but few are chosen” is easily explainable in the view of the difficulties inherent in responding to the call to grace.”


The Welcoming of Grace


“While on one level we do not choose whether or not to heed the call of grace, on the other it seems clear that God is the one who does the choosing.  The common experience of those who have achieved a state of grace, on whom “this new life from heaven” has been bestowed, is one of amazement at their condition.  They do not feel they have earned it.  While they may have a realistic awareness of the particular goodness of their nature, they do not ascribe their nature to their own will; rather, they distinctly feel that the goodness of their nature has been created by hands wiser and more skilled than their own.  Those who are closest to grace are the most aware of the mysterious character of the gift they have been given…”


“…Perhaps the best that we can say is that while we cannot will ourselves to grace, we can by will open ourselves to its miraculous coming.  We can prepare ourselves to be 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.  Conversely, the study of theology is a relatively poor method of preparation and, by itself, completely useless…”


‘The paradox that we both choose grace and are chosen by grace is the essence of the phenomenon of serendipity (…the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for).”


“For the journey of spiritual growth requires courage and initiative and independence of thought and action.  While the words of the prophets and the assistance of grace are available, the journey must still be traveled alone.  No teacher can carry you there…No words can be said, no teaching can be taught that will relieve spiritual travelers for the necessity of picking their own ways, working our with effort and anxiety their own paths through the unique circumstances of their own lives toward the identification of their individual selves with God. ”


“…the human race is in the midst of making an evolutionary leap. Whether or not we succeed in that leap is your personal responsibility.  And mine.  The universe, this steppingstone, has been laid down to prepare the way for us.  But we ourselves must step across it, one by one.  Through grace, we are helped not to stumble and through grace, we know that we are being welcomed.  What more can we ask?”