Friday, March 15, 2013

Discipline, a Loving Home, and Problem-Solving

I started M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth.  This book is the first of a trilogy.  I have the second book in the series, but not the third.  I'll probably blog through the second book, but I won't obligate myself to blog through the third book.  For one, I'm pretty stingy right now in terms of spending money, so I don't want to buy the third book.  And, second, by the time that I finish the second book, I may want to move on to something else.

When I thumbed through the first book of the series, I wondered if I would be able to adapt to Peck's writing style.  The second book of the series actually looked a lot more lucid than the first book!  But I got into the first book, and I found that I was reading it without any problem.  Actually, I enjoy Peck's anecdotes, and also his recognition that all of us (including himself) have flaws and are on a journey.

There were a number of things in my latest reading of Peck that resonated with me, but I don't want to get too personal on this blog, for a variety of reasons (i.e., I don't want to inadvertently insult anyone I know, I don't want potential employers to come onto my blog and read about my flaws, etc.).  But I'll still comment about things that I read.

My latest reading was about discipline.  I didn't finish that section, but Peck presented interesting thoughts in what I did get around to reading.  For one, Peck says that there are many who are undisciplined procrastinators because as children they did not have a loving home life, and so they went into the world with fear and suspicion: they felt that they had to have fun first and work later because they feared that they might not be able to have fun later!  Second, Peck distinguishes between neurotics and those who are character-disordered.  According to Peck, the former blame themselves, whereas the latter refuse or fail to take responsibility and blame others.  Peck states that most people are a combination of the two (neurotic and character-disordered).  Peck also criticizes ignoring problems in hope that they'll go away, for he is a strong proponent of problem-solving.

I don't consider myself to be a sage when it comes to how to live life, so please keep that in mind when you read my critiques of Peck's thoughts.  Peck is probably right most of the time, but I can only process what he is saying through my own way of seeing the world, however flawed that is.  Let's take Peck's first point about the importance of a loving home in instilling people with confidence.  Peck may have a point there, but it's possible to grow up in a loving home and to still go out into the world with fear and suspicion.  The reason is that this world can be a cold place.  Even if you're loved at home and people in your family are impressed by you, that doesn't mean that the outside world will like you or recognize your talents.  Could a loving home set people up for disappointment by making them think that the world is a warm, loving place?  Perhaps.  At the same time, I do agree with Peck that a loving home can instill people with confidence and the willingness to try, whereas an unloving home can deprive them of those things.  Even if the world can be a cold place, it's better to go into it with a leg-up rather than burdens, and a loving home can provide that leg-up.

On Peck's second point----about blaming oneself, blaming others, and ignoring problems----I'll admit that this is an area in which I struggle.  I hear so many different things from gurus, that I don't know whom to heed.  Therapists have told me that I'm too hard on myself.  Others, however, emphasize the importance of me looking for where I was at fault in a number of situations.  Some tell me not to fret about certain problems or obsess about them, and I find that heeding their advice helps my own peace of mind.  But others tell me that I have to solve my problems rather than ignoring them and hoping that they'll go away.  In my opinion, though, I shouldn't try to solve certain problems.  Some people won't like me, regardless of what I do or don't do.  Should I fret about that, or stress out over trying to appease those people?  I don't think so.

I think that the competing pieces of advice that I have heard highlights the value of therapy.  When should I criticize myself, and when should I not?  Can I solve such-and-such a problem?  If so, what are some steps that I can take?  What to do and how to approach a situation may vary on a case-by-case basis.  A therapist can provide you with feedback.  Moreover, I think that it's your choice what to do with your problems.  If you can live with your problems and you don't want to try to solve them, why not just let them be?  But if you are tired of repeatedly hitting your head against the wall, perhaps you should seek advice.

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