Sei sulla pagina 1di 303

SI MON & SCHUSTER

Rockefeller Cent er
1230 Avenue of t he Ameri cas
New York, NY 10020
Copyri ght 1997 by M. Scott Peck
All ri ght s reserved,
i ncl udi ng t he r i ght of r epr oduct i on
i n whol e or i n par t i n any form.
SIMON & SCHUSTER and col ophon are regi st ered t r ademar ks
of Si mon & Schust er Inc.
Desi gned by Irvi ng Perki ns Associates
Manuf act ur ed i n t he Uni t ed States of Amer i ca
1 3 5 7 9 1 0 8 6 4 2
Library of Congress Cat al ogi ng-i n-Publ i cat i on Dat a
Peck, M. Scott ( Mor gan Scot t ), dat e.
The r oad less traveled and beyond : spiritual growt h
in an age of anxiety / M. Scott Peck.
p. cm.
Incl udes bi bl i ographi cal references.
1. Spiritual life. 2. Peck, M. Scott ( Mor gan Scot t ), 1936- .
I. Title.
BL624. P43 1997
158dc20 96-43391
CIP
ISBN 0-684-81314-9
I acknowl edge with gr at i t ude t he cooper at i on of all my publ i shers, i ncl udi ng
Bant am Books, Har per SanFr anci sco, Har mony Books, Hyper i on Books,
Si mon & Schuster, a nd Tur ner Publ i shi ng, for citations and quot at i ons from
my various books. Lyrics for "Can' t Keep It In, " by Cat Stevens, are r epr i nt ed
by permi ssi on of Salafa Li mi t ed/ Sony/ ATV Music Publ i shi ng.
to my fellow travelers
Contents
Introduction 11
Editor's Preface 15
PART I: CRUSADE AGAINST SIMPLISM
1: Thinking 23
The Point of Having a Brain
Simplism and Society
What's in Fashion Isn't Necessarily Fashionable
Assumptions, Stereotypes, and Labeling
Common Criminal Thinking
Thinking Too Little Is Your Problem
Thinking Too Much Is Somebody Else's Problem
The Good, the Bad, and the In-between
Thinking and Listening
Freedom and Thinking
Time and Efficiency
Paradox and Thinking with Integrity
2: Consciousness 63
The Mystery of Consciousness
Revisiting Our Frontal Lobes
Lessons from Genesis 3
Good and Evil
Evil, Sin, and Other Distinctions
The Shadow
Consciousness and Competence
The Consciousness of Death
Traveling with God
8 CONTENTS
3: Learning and Growth 95
The Role of the Soul
Passive Learning
Growth and Will
Out of Narcissism
Narcissism Versus Self-love
Narcissism, Death, and the Learning of Dying
Unlearning and Flexibility
Learning as Adventure
Values and Learning Choices
Learning from Role Models
Group Learning
PART II: WRESTLING WITH THE COMPLEXITY OF EVERYDAY LIFE
4: Personal Life Choices 139
The Path of Smart Selfishness Versus the Path of Stupid Selfishness
Choices of Responsibility
Choices of Submission
Choices of Vocation
The Choice of Gratitude
The Choice to Die Gracefully
The Choice of Emptiness
5: Organizational Life Choices 167
Civility
Systems
Ethics
Interdependence and Collaboration
Accountability and Structure
Boundaries and Vulnerability
Power
Culture
Dysfunction Versus Civility
6: Choices About Society 203
The Paradox of Good and Evil
The Paradox of Human Nature
The Paradox of Entitlement
The Paradox of Responsibility
CONTENTS 9
The Paradoxes of Time and Money
A Personal Case Study
PART III: THE OTHER SIDE OF COMPLEXITY
7: The "Science" of God 241
Science and God
Spirituality and Religion
Stages of Spiritual Growth
Psychospiritual and Historical Baggage
Integration and Integrity
Grace and Serendipity
Revelation
The Ego and the Soul
Kenosis
Prayer and Faith
Process Theology
Glory
Cocreation
8: The "Poetry" of God 287
Acknowledgments 307
Notes 309
I AM SIXTY YEARS OF AGE. Th a t st at i st i c me a n s di f f er ent t hi ngs f or
di f f er ent p e o p l e . For me , s i nce I a m n o t i n t h e be s t of h e a l t h
a n d feel I ' ve l i ved e n o u g h f or t h r e e l i f et i mes, b e i n g sixty me a n s
t ha t i t i s t i me I s h o u l d s t ar t s et t i ng my affairs i n or der , as t hey
say. I t s e e ms p r o p e r f or me t he s e days t o be a b o u t t h e bus i nes s
of t yi ng up l oos e e n d s of my life i nsof ar as i t i s i n my p o we r t o
do so. I wr i t e t hi s b o o k i n t ha t e nde a vor .
I wr ot e The Road Less Traveled at t h e vi gor ous a ge of forty. It
was as i f a s pi got h a d b e e n o p e n e d , a n d o t h e r books ha ve c o me
p o u r i n g o u t ever s i nce: n i n e , t o be exact , n o t c o u n t i n g t hi s o n e .
Ea c h t i me p e o p l e have a s ke d me wha t I h o p e d t o achi eve by a
pa r t i c ul a r b o o k , as i f I gener al l y h a d a g r a n d s t r at egy i n mi n d .
T h e t r u t h i s I wr ot e t h e m n o t o u t of st rat egy, b u t s i mpl y be c a us e
e a c h b o o k ha s sai d, "Wr i t e me . " Howe ve r h a r d s he mi g h t be t o
def i ne, t h e r e i s s uc h a t h i n g as a mu s e , a n d I ha ve al ways a n d
onl y o p e r a t e d u n d e r h e r or de r s .
So i t i s now, b u t I bel i eve a mo r e c o mp l e x e x p l a n a t i o n i s i n
or de r . O n e of t hos e wor ks , a col l ect i on of my e di t e d l ect ur es , i s
e nt i t l e d Further Along the Road Less Traveled, as is t h e ser i es of
a u d i o t a p e s f r om whi c h i t was de ve l ope d. T h e t i de of t hi s o n e
ma k e s i t s o u n d l i ke " Th e Ro a d Less Tr avel ed I I I . " I wor r y t h e
s o u n d ma y be mi s l e a di ng. T h e fact i s t ha t my mu s e wo n ' t al l ow
me t o wr i t e t h e s a me b o o k over a n d a ga i n n o ma t t e r h o w
c omme r c i a l l y s ma r t i t mi g h t be t o do so.
All of my books a r e qui t e di f f er ent f r om e a c h ot he r . Yet n o t
t ot al l y di f f er ent . Wi t h t h e per s pect i ve of age I' ve c o me t o r eal -
Introduction
12 INTRODUCTION
i ze t ha t i n t he i r own u n i q u e ways t hey have all b e e n a t t e mp t s t o
wor k o u t t h e s a me c o mp l e x set of h i d d e n t h e me s . Lo o k i n g
ba c kwa r d, r ecent l y I d i s c e r n e d t ha t I have b e e n wr es t l i ng wi t h
t he s e t h e me s as far ba c k as I c a n r e me mb e r . At t h e t i me i t fel t as
if The Road Less Traveled a r os e de novo wh e n I was forty. No w I
c a n s ee h o w I ' d b e g u n wor k on i t a n d my o t h e r b o o k s be f or e I ' d
even e n t e r e d a dol e s c e nc e . Pe r h a p s I was b o r n wo r k i n g on t he s e
t h e me s . Or p e r h a p s I was b o r n t o wor k on t h e m. I d o n ' t know.
Wh a t I do k n o w i s t ha t t h e wor k was al r eady i n pr ogr e s s of
a s or t t wo d e c a d e s be f or e t h e publ i c a t i on of The Road Less Trav-
eled. I n l at e 1957 a n d ear l y 1958, at t he age of t went y- one, I
wr ot e a col l ege s e ni or t hesi s wi t h t h e e gr e gi ous t i t l e of "Anxi et y,
Mo d e r n Sc i e nc e , a n d t h e Epi s t e mol ogi c a l Pr o b l e m. " Epi s t e-
mo l o g y i s t ha t b r a n c h of phi l os ophy whi c h a ddr e s s e s t h e que s -
t i on: " How do we k n o w wh a t we t hi nk we know? Ho w do we
k n o w a nyt hi ng? " T h e e pi s t e mol ogi c a l p r o b l e m i s t ha t phi l os o-
p h e r s ha ve ne ve r s u c c e e d e d i n a ns we r i ng t h e que s t i on. Ma ny i n
t h e n i n e t e e n t h c e n t u r y t h o u g h t t h e ans wer lay i n s ci ence. We
c o u l d k n o w t hi ngs f or c e r t a i n t h r o u g h t h e sci ent i f i c me t h o d . As
my t hesi s p o i n t e d out , however , p e r h a p s t h e s i ngl e mo s t i mpor -
t a nt di scover y of mo d e r n s c i e nc e has b e e n t h a t t h e r e a r e l i mi t s
t o sci ent i fi c i nqui r y. Wi t h a few ifs, a nds , a n d but s , t h e r e i s no
mo r e r eal cer t ai nt y t o be f o u n d i n s ci ence t h a n i n t heol ogy. Yet
unc e r t a i nt y b r e e d s anxi et y. I t i s scar y wh e n o u r bes t mi n d s a r e
t hos e wh o bes t k n o w t ha t t hey d o n ' t know. Thi s i s why W. H. Au-
d e n r e f e r r e d t o o u r c e n t u r y a s t h e Age of Anxi e t ya t i me wh e n
t h e Age of Re a s on ha s p r o v e d t o be j u s t as uns e t t l i ng a p e r i o d
as t h e Age of Fai t h.
My col l ege t hesi s pr ovi de d no ans wer s , onl y que s t i ons , a n d
o n e way or a n o t h e r t hos e s a me que s t i ons a r e e c h o e d i n e a c h
a n d ever y o n e of my books . A ma j or t h e me of all of t h e m i s t h e
e n c o u r a g e me n t of t h e gr e a t e s t pos s i bl e r a n g e of t h o u g h t i n o u r
s e a r c h f or t he i r ans wer s . Th u s t h e t hi r d of t h e f our s ect i ons of
The Road Less Traveled c onc l ude s : "But j u s t as it is essent i al t ha t
o u r s i ght n o t be c r i ppl e d by sci ent i fi c t u n n e l vi si on, s o al so i t i s
essent i al t ha t o u r cr i t i cal f acul t i es a n d capaci t y f or s kept i ci s m
INTRODUCTION
13
n o t be b l i n d e d by t h e br i l l i ant be a ut y of t h e s pi r i t ual r e a l m. "
On c e I p u t t ha t col l ege t hesi s b e h i n d me ( or s o I t h o u g h t ) ,
I got on wi t h t h e bus i nes s of r eal life: me di c a l s chool , ma r r i a g e ,
c hi l dr e n, speci al t y t r a i ni ng i n psychi at r y, mi l i t ar y a n d gover n-
me n t ser vi ce, a n d event ual l y pr i vat e pr a c t i c e . Yet, wi t h o u t
k n o wi n g t ha t o n e mu c h l ess ma n y b o o k s wo u l d e ve nt ua t e , I
was b e g i n n i n g , a l mos t uncons ci ous l y, t o de ve l op s o me c a ut i ous ,
t ent at i ve ans wer s t o my own que s t i ons . Wh e n e n o u g h s uc h an-
swers h a d a c c u mu l a t e d , i t c a me t o me t went y year s l at er t o wr i t e
The Road Less Traveled. An d , as t hey c o n t i n u e d to a c c u mu l a t e , I
we nt on t o wr i t e wh a t I t h o u g h t we r e ver y di f f er ent wor ks .
Th e y are ver y di f f er ent . Yet wh e t h e r f or adul t s or c hi l dr e n,
wh e t h e r f oc us e d u p o n t h e i ndi vi dual or soci et y, wh e t h e r f i ct i on
or nonf i c t i on, t hey all ma y be l o o k e d u p o n i n p a r t a s e l a bor a -
t i ons of o n e or mo r e of t h e key c o n c e p t s i n The Road Less Trav-
eled. As e l a bor a t i ons t hey car r y t hos e c o n c e p t s f ur t her ; t hey
l ook d e e p e r ; t hey go beyond. Thi s b o o k i s e nt i t l e d The Road Less
Traveled and Beyond be c a us e i t t i es t o g e t h e r ma n y of t h e ways i n
whi c h I have b e e n p u s h e d o f t e n s t u mb l i n g t o mo v e b e y o n d
my f i r s t b o o k i n b o t h my publ i c wr i t i ng a n d my pe r s ona l j o u r -
ney over t h e pas t t went y year s.
So me ma y c ons i de r t hi s b o o k a c ompi l a t i on, a c om-
p e n d i u m, or a s u mma r y of all my p u b l i s h e d wor k, b u t t hos e
wor ds a r e i n a d e q u a t e . I n wr i t i ng t h e book, I f o u n d t h a t I h a d t o
be qui t e sel ect i ve. "Synt hesi s" wo u l d be a mo r e a d e q u a t e de -
s cr i pt i on, b u t still fails t o c a p t u r e t h e " be yondne s s " of t h e b o o k .
For i n a d d i t i o n t o t yi ng up l oos e e nds , I wa n t e d t o b r e a k n e w
g r o u n d as wel l . I ha ve b e e n power f ul l y assi st ed i n d o i n g so by a
q u o t e a t t r i but e d t o J us t i c e Ol i ver We n d e l l Ho l me s , Jr. , wh o
o n c e sai d: "I d o n ' t gi ve a f i g f or t h e si mpl i ci t y of t hi s si de of
compl exi t y, b u t I wo u l d di e for t h e si mpl i ci t y on t h e o t h e r
si de. "* Hi s p r o f o u n d s e n t i me n t has l ed me t o or ga ni z e t hi s
wor k i nt o t h r e e s ect i ons .
*The exact ori gi n of t he quot e of t he quot e i s unknown, but I am grateful t o
Max DuPr ee for passi ng it on to me in his book, The Art of Leadership.
14 INTRODUCTION
I n Pa r t I , " Cr us a de Agai ns t Si mpl i s m, " I de c r y t h e pr i mi t i ve
a n d effort l ess si mpl i st i c t h i n k i n g t ha t lies at t h e r o o t of s o mu c h
i ndi vi dual a n d soci et al si ckness.
I n Par t II, "Wr est l i ng wi t h t h e Compl e xi t y of Ever yday Li fe, "
I des cr i be t h e c o mp l e x c hoi c e s we mu s t c ont i nua l l y ma k e a n d
r e ma k e i f we a r e t o live wel l .
An d i n Pa r t III, " Th e Ot h e r Si de of Compl exi t y, " I de s c r i be
wh e r e we c a n ar r i ve wh e n we ha ve b e e n wi l l i ng t o pay all o u r
p r o p e r i nt el l ect ual a n d e mo t i o n a l due s .
Al t h o u g h t h e p h r a s e " t he Ot h e r Si de" r i ngs wi t h pos s i bl e
i nt i ma t i ons of he a ve n, I am n o t s o b o l d as t o s ugges t t ha t we c a n
r e a c h he a ve n t hi s si de of t h e gr ave. Wh a t I do suggest , however ,
i s t ha t we c a n i n d e e d c o me t o exi st i n a cl os er r e l a t i ons hi p t o
t h e Hol y. An d t h a t on t h e o t h e r si de of c ompl e xi t y t h e r e i s a
ki nd of si mpl i ci t y wh e r e we c a n k n o w wi t h humi l i t y t h a t i n t he
e n d all t hi ngs p o i n t t o Go d .
I FIRST MET M. SCOTT PECK in t h e s u mme r of 1995. I h a d wr i t t en
h i m a l e t t e r t o t h a n k h i m f or hi s book, In Search of Stones, a n d t o
t el l h i m of its p r o f o u n d effect on my life. I h a d al so r e a d t wo of
hi s ear l i er books , The Road Less Traveled a n d People of the Lie,
whi c h h a d b e c o me , as I wr ot e i n my l et t er , c o mp a n i o n s i n t e l -
l ect ual a n d s pi r i t ua l on my own j o u r n e y of p e r s o n a l gr owt h.
T h r e e weeks l at er , I r ecei ved a l e t t e r f r om Dr. Pe c k i n
whi c h he wr ot e t ha t he was i n s e a r c h of a n e d i t o r f or hi s n e w
b o o k a n d as ked i f I wo u l d l i ke t o e x p l o r e t h e possi bi l i t y of u n -
d e r t a k i n g t h e j o b . I was b o t h f l a t t e r e d a n d s ur pr i s e d. We s poke
o n t h e p h o n e , l at er me t , a n d t h e n , af t er sever al l o n g a n d p r o b -
i ng c onve r s a t i ons , we b e g a n o u r wor k t oge t he r . Ov e r t he c our s e
of t h e n e x t t e n mo n t h s , i t was a c ha l l e nge a n d an e xhi l a r a t i ng
e x p e r i e n c e t o ha ve a p a r t i n t h e e vol ut i on of The Road Less Trav-
eled and Beyond.
Ma ny r e a d e r s of t hi s b o o k will be f ami l i ar wi t h Dr. Peck' s
ear l i er wor ks , a l t h o u g h t h a t i s n o t neces s ar y f or a full c o mp r e -
h e n s i o n of The Road Less Traveled and Beyond. Never t hel es s , it
ma y b e usef ul h e r e t o me n t i o n t hos e b o o k s a n d c o mme n t
br i ef l y on t he i r ma j or t h e me s .
The Road Less Traveled ( New York: Si mo n & Schus t er , 1978)
was Dr. Peck' s first b o o k . Br e a ki ng n e w g r o u n d a s r ef l ect ed i n
its s ubt i t l e, "A Ne w Ps ychol ogy of Love, Tr a di t i ona l Val ues a n d
Spi r i t ual Gr o wt h " t h e b o o k s t e mme d f r om Dr. Peck' s wor k a s
a ps yc hot he r a pi s t wi t h pa t i e nt s s t r uggl i ng t o avoi d or t o gai n
g r e a t e r l evel s of mat ur i t y. An e n o r mo u s l y p o p u l a r a n d i nf l uen-
Editor's Preface
16 EDITOR'S PREFACE
tial book, The Road Less Traveled h e l p e d b r i d g e t h e g a p b e t we e n
ps ychol ogy a n d r el i gi on. I n it, Dr. Pe c k wr ot e t ha t he ma d e lit-
t l e di s t i nct i on b e t we e n t h e mi n d a n d t h e spi r i t a n d , t he r e f or e ,
l i t t l e di s t i nct i on b e t we e n t h e pr oc e s s of a c hi e vi ng e mo t i o n a l
ma t ur i t y a n d s pi r i t ual gr owt h.
In t h e I t al i an e di t i on, t h e t i t l e of The Road Less Traveled was
t r a ns l a t e d as Volo di Bene, whi c h me a n s " Th e Go o d Pa t h, " be -
caus e t h e r e i s a t r a di t i on i n It al y t o c o mp a r e t h e " good p a t h " t o
t h e " ba d pa t h. " So i t was n o t c oi nc i de nt a l t h a t Dr. Peck, ha vi ng
wr i t t en a b o o k a b o u t t h e g o o d p a t h , f ol l owed i t wi t h o n e a b o u t
t h e b a d p a t h . In People of the Lie ( New York: Si mo n & Schus t er ,
1983) , he p r o b e d i n d e p t h t h e e s s e nc e of h u ma n evil. Wr i t i ng
t ha t p e o p l e wh o a r e evil pl a c e t hems el ves i n di r e c t o p p o s i t i o n
t o t h e t r u t h a n d h a r m o t h e r s i ns t e a d of f aci ng t he i r own fail-
ur e s a n d l i mi t at i ons , h e dr amat i cal l y d e mo n s t r a t e d h o w t hey
s eek t o avoi d u n d e r t a k i n g t h e di ffi cul t t ask of p e r s o n a l gr owt h.
Agai n, p r e s e n t i n g cases e n c o u n t e r e d i n hi s ps ychi at r i c pr a c t i c e ,
he de s c r i be d vivid i nc i de nt s of evil i n ever yday life a n d t he i r
r ami f i cat i ons , as wel l as of f er i ng t h o u g h t s a b o u t t h e possi bi l i t i es
for h e a l i n g h u ma n evil.
Dr. Peck' s n e x t b o o k , What Return Can I Make? Dimensions
of the Christian Experience ( New York: Si mo n & Schus t er , 1985)
was c o a u t h o r e d wi t h Mar i l yn von Wa l dne r , O. C. D. , a n d Pat r i ci a
Kay. Ac c o mp a n i e d by t h e s pi r i t ual mus i c of von Wa l d n e r a n d
t he abs t r act dr a wi ngs of Kay, t h e b o o k was d e d i c a t e d t o t h e
"gl or y of God. " I n it, Dr. Pe c k r ef l ect ed on t h e me s r e l a t e d t o hi s
own j o u r n e y of s pi r i t ual gr owt h i nt o Chr i st i ani t y. Al t h o u g h i t i s
hi s mo s t evangel i cal wor k, i t d o e s n o t e x c l u d e t hos e n o t i dent i -
f i ed as Chr i s t i ans . I t i s a b o u t t h e di scover y of Go d a n d t h e mys-
t er y of fai t h. T h e book, wi t h o u t t h e a r t a n d s he e t mus i c b u t wi t h
t he a u d i o t a p e of s ongs by von Wa l dne r , was r e p u b l i s h e d a n d
r et i t l ed Gifts for the Journey: Treasures of the Christian Life ( San
Fr anci s co: Ha r p e r Sa n Fr a n c i s c o , 1995) .
I n 1984, Dr. Peck, hi s wife, Lily, a n d n i n e o t h e r s s t a r t e d t h e
F o u n d a t i o n f or Co mmu n i t y En c o u r a g e me n t ( FCE) , a n o n -
pr of i t or ga ni z a t i on f or p r o mo t i n g t h e e x p e r i e n c e of c o mmu -
EDITOR'S PREFACE 17
ni t y as a me a n s of i mp r o v i n g h u ma n r e l a t i ons hi ps a mo n g i ndi -
vi dual s, s mal l g r o u p s , a n d na t i ons . As a di r e c t c o n s e q u e n c e of
hi s wor k wi t h FCE, Dr. Pe c k wr ot e The Different Drum ( New York:
Si mo n & Schus t er , 1987) i n whi c h he c h a l l e n g e d r e a d e r s t o
t ake a n o t h e r j o u r n e y i n sel f - awar eness t o achi eve a ne w l evel of
" c o n n e c t e d n e s s " t h r o u g h t h e cr eat i ve e x p e r i e n c e of c o mmu -
nity.
I n a d e p a r t u r e f r om nonf i c t i on, Dr. Peck' s n e x t b o o k was a
ps ychol ogi cal t hr i l l er , A Bed by the Window ( New York: Ba n t a m
Books , 1990) , s ubt i t l ed A Novel of Mystery and Redemption. Su-
per f i ci al l y an a c c o u n t of sex, l ove, a n d d e a t h set i n a n u r s i n g
h o me , i t is, as its s ubt i t l e suggest s, mo r e t h a n a mys t er y st ory; i t
i s an e x p l o r a t i o n of t h e n a t u r e of mys t er y i t sel f on mul t i pl e lev-
els.
The Friendly Snowflake ( At l ant a: Tu r n e r Publ i s hi ng, I nc. ,
1992) , i l l us t r at ed by Peck' s s on, Ch r i s t o p h e r Peck, was al so a
wor k of f i ct i on, a st or y a b o u t a y o u n g gi r l ' s voyage i nt o s pi r i t ual
awar enes s . T h e book' s ma i n c o n c e r n s a r e life, l ove, f ai t h, a n d
family.
Dr. Peck' s n e x t b o o k , A World Waiting to Be Born: Civility Re-
discovered ( New York: Ba n t a m Books , 1993) e x p l o r e d t h e r ol e
of civility i n p e r s o n a l r e l a t i ons hi ps a n d i n soci et y as a whol e .
Ch a l l e n g i n g us t o r e c ogni z e t h e cul t ur al c o n s e q u e n c e s of i nci -
vility, Dr. Pe c k wr ot e of t h e ma n y mor a l l y di s r upt i ve p a t t e r n s of
b e h a v i o r b o t h s ubt l e a n d b l a t a n t t h a t s e e m i n g r a i n e d i n hu-
ma n r e l a t i ons hi ps , a n d p r o p o s e d c h a n g e s t ha t c a n b e ef f ect ed
t o achi eve b o t h p e r s o n a l a n d soci et al wel l - bei ng.
Further Along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey To-
ward Spiritual Growth ( New York: Si mo n & Schus t er , 1993) el ab-
or a t e d on t h e me s a n d c o n c e p t s f i r st e x p l o r e d i n The Road Less
Traveled a n d was a r evi sed a n d e di t e d col l ect i on of Dr. Peck' s
l ect ur es .
Dr. Peck' s n e x t wor k was In Search of Stones ( New York: Hy-
p e r i o n Books , 1995) , a n i nt e gr a t i on of t h e me s r e l a t e d t o hi s-
tory, t r avel , a n d a ut obi ogr a phy. Subt i t l e d A Pilgrimage of Faith,
Reason and Discovery, it was t h e st or y of a t hr e e - we e k t r i p
18 EDITOR'S PREFACE
t h r o u g h t h e c ount r ys i de of Wal es , En g l a n d , a n d Sc ot l a nd t ha t
b e c o me s a n a d v e n t u r e of t h e spi r i t a n d a n e x p l o r a t i o n of t h e
c ompl e xi t i e s of o u r j o u r n e y t h r o u g h life.
Dr. Pe c k r e t u r n e d to f i ct i on wi t h In Heaven as on Earth
( New York: Hy p e r i o n , 1996) , a st or y whos e c ha r a c t e r s i n h a b i t
a n aft erl i fe wh e r e t hey mu s t c o n f r o n t a n d a t t e mp t t o r esol ve
t h e conf l i ct s a n d c ompl e xi t i e s of t he i r lives on e a r t h.
An d finally, Dr. Pe c k i s n o w at wor k on a ne w b o o k e nt i t l e d
Denial of the Soul: Spiritual and Medical Perspectives on Euthanasia
( s c h e d u l e d f or publ i c a t i on i n 1997 by Ha r mo n y Books ) .
Col l ect i vel y, Dr. Peck' s books have b e e n a d e mo n s t r a t i o n
of b o t h hi s u n f o l d i n g c ons c i ous ne s s a n d t h e ever - i ncr eas i ng
c o u r a g e of hi s t h o u g h t s . Th e r e i s s o me t h i n g i n e a c h t ha t we
ma y f i nd hel pf ul , a n d c a n e mu l a t e , a s we st ri ve t o de ve l op o u r
own s pi r i t ual lives. Thi s book, I f eel , will pr ovi de p r o f o u n d n e w
i ns i ght s t o g u i d e us on t hi s c o n t i n u i n g j o u r n e y . I n its u n i q u e
wayl i ke t h e a u t h o r a n d e a c h of hi s books i t has a spi r i t of its
own.
Fannie LeFlore
T h e n a me s a n d s o me of t h e c i r c ums t a nc e s of all pa t i e nt s or
cl i ent s h e r e i n ha ve b e e n a l t e r e d i n o r d e r t o pr e s e r ve t he i r c on-
fidentiality.
P A R T I
Crusade Against
Simplism
CHAP TER 1
IN IRELAND, THE MIDDLE EAST, SOMALIA, Sri La nka , a n d c ount l e s s
o t h e r war - t or n a r e a s a r o u n d t h e wor l d, pr e j udi c e , r el i gi ous i n-
t ol e r a nc e , gr e e d, a n d f ear ha ve e r u p t e d i n t o vi ol ence t h a t has
t a ke n t h e lives of mi l l i ons . I n Ame r i c a , t h e d a ma g e c a us e d by
i ns t i t ut i onal i z ed r aci s m i s p e r h a p s mo r e s ubt l e b u t no l ess dev-
as t at i ng t o t h e soci al f abr i c. Ri ch ver s us poor , bl ack ver s us
whi t e, pr o- l i f e ver s us pr o- c hoi c e , s t r ai ght ver s us gayal l a r e so-
ci al , pol i t i cal , a n d e c o n o mi c conf l i ct s f o u g h t u n d e r t h e b a n n e r
of s o me i de ol ogy or de e pl y h e l d bel i ef. But gi ven t h e divisive
a n d des t r uct i ve r esul t s, a r e t he s e i de ol ogi e s a n d bel i ef s r at i o-
nal , or me r e r at i onal i z at i ons f or ot he r wi s e u n r e a s o n a b l e act s?
Ho w of t en, i n fact , do we s t op t o t h i n k a b o u t wha t we bel i eve?
On e of t h e ma j or d i l e mma s we face b o t h as i ndi vi dual s a n d as a
soci et y i s si mpl i st i c t h i n k i n g o r t h e f ai l ur e t o t hi nk at all. I t
i sn' t j u s t a p r o b l e m, i t i s t he p r o b l e m.
Gi ven t h e i mpe r f e c t i ons of o u r soci et y a n d t h e a p p a r e n t
d o wn wa r d spi r al of s pi r i t ual a n d mo r a l val ues i n r e c e n t year s,
t hi nki ng has b e c o me a gr ave i ssue. I t i s mo r e u r g e n t n o wp e r -
ha ps mo r e u r g e n t t h a n a n y t h i n g e l s e be c a us e i t i s t h e me a n s
by whi c h we cons i der , de c i de , a n d act u p o n e ve r yt hi ng i n o u r
i ncr eas i ngl y c o mp l e x wor l d. I f we d o n ' t b e g i n t o t hi nk wel l , i t ' s
hi ghl y l i kel y t ha t we ma y e n d up ki l l i ng our s el ves .
I n o n e way or a n o t h e r , e a c h of my b o o k s has b e e n s y m-
bol i cal l y a n d s ubs t ant i vel ya c r us a de agai ns t si mpl i st i c t hi nk-
i ng. I b e g a n The Road Less Traveled wi t h t h e as s er t i on t ha t "life
Thinking
24 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
is di ffi cul t . " In Further Along the Road Less Traveled, I a d d e d t ha t
"life i s c ompl e x. " He r e , i t c a n f ur t he r be sai d t h a t " t he r e a r e
no easy ans wer s . " An d a l t h o u g h I bel i eve t h e r o u t e t o f i ndi ng
ans wer s i s pr i mar i l y t h r o u g h b e t t e r t hi nki ng, even t hi s i s n o t as
s i mpl e as i t ma y s e e m.
Th i n k i n g i s di ffi cul t . Th i n k i n g i s c o mp l e x . An d t h i n k i n g
i s mo r e t h a n a n y t h i n g e l s e a pr oces s , wi t h a c our s e or di r ec-
t i on, a l aps e of t i me , a n d a ser i es of s t eps or st ages t ha t l e a d t o
s o me r esul t . To t hi nk wel l i s a l a bor i ous , of t en pa i ns t a ki ng
pr oc e s s unt i l o n e b e c o me s a c c u s t o me d t o b e i n g " t hought f ul . "
Si nce i t i s a pr oces s , t h e c our s e or di r e c t i on ma y n o t always be
cl ear - cut . No t all t h e st eps or st ages a r e l i near , n o r ar e t hey al-
ways i n t h e s a me s e q u e n c e . So me a r e ci r cul ar a n d over l ap wi t h
ot he r s . No t e ve r yone seeks t o achi eve t h e s a me r esul t . Gi ven all
t hi s, i f we a r e t o t hi nk wel l , we mu s t be on g u a r d agai ns t si m-
pl i st i c t h i n k i n g i n o u r a p p r o a c h t o anal yz i ng cr uci al i ssues a n d
sol vi ng t h e p r o b l e ms of life.
Al t h o u g h p e o p l e a r e di f f er ent , an a l l - t oo- c ommon flaw i s
t ha t mo s t t e n d t o bel i eve t hey s o me h o w i nst i nct i vel y k n o w h o w
t o t hi nk a n d t o c o mmu n i c a t e . I n real i t y, t hey usual l y do n e i t h e r
wel l be c a us e t hey a r e e i t h e r t o o self-satisfied t o e x a mi n e t he i r
a s s umpt i ons a b o u t t h i n k i n g or t o o sel f - absor bed t o i nvest t h e
t i me a n d e ne r gy t o do so. As a r esul t , i t i s i mpos s i bl e t o t el l why
t hey t hi nk a s t hey do or h o w t hey ma k e t he i r deci s i ons . An d
wh e n c ha l l e nge d, t hey s how ver y l i t t l e a wa r e ne s s of or be -
c o me easi l y f r us t r at ed b y t h e dyna mi c s i nvol ved i n t r ul y t hi nk-
i ng a n d c o mmu n i c a t i n g wel l .
Twi ce d u r i n g my c a r e e r as a l ect ur er , I gave an al l -day s em-
i na r on t hi nki ng. At t h e b e g i n n i n g of e a c h, I p o i n t e d o u t t ha t
mo s t p e o p l e t h i n k t hey a l r e a dy k n o w h o w t o t hi nk. At t h e c on-
cl us i on of e a c h, d u r i n g a f e e dba c k sessi on, s o me o n e sai d i n
s he e r e xa s pe r a t i on, " Th e s ubj ect i s s i mpl y t oo l ar ge. " I n d e e d ,
t hi nki ng i s n' t a t opi c t h a t a n y o n e c a n di ges t t h o r o u g h l y i n o n e
si t t i ng. Wh o l e books c a n be ( a n d ha ve b e e n ) wr i t t en a b o u t it. I t
i s no s ur pr i s e t ha t ma n y p e o p l e resi st t h e a r d u o u s effort s i n-
vol ved i n cont i nual l y mo n i t o r i n g a n d r evi si ng t he i r t hi nki ng.
An d no s ur pr i s e t ha t by t h e e n d of t h e s e mi na r s mo s t of t h e par -
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 25
t i ci pant s fel t so o v e r wh e l me d by all t ha t i s r eal l y i nvol ved i n
t h i n k i n g t ha t t hey we r e e i t he r n u mb e d o r hor r i f i ed. Ne e dl e s s
t o say, t he s e we r e n o t a mo n g my mo r e p o p u l a r e n g a g e me n t s .
Yet i f all t h e e ne r gy r e q u i r e d t o t hi nk s e e ms t r o u b l e s o me , t h e
l ack of t h i n k i n g caus es far mo r e t r o u b l e a n d conf l i ct f or our -
selves as i ndi vi dual s a n d f or t h e soci et y i n whi c h we live.
Ha ml e t ' s of t en q u o t e d "To be or n o t t o be ? " i s o n e of life' s
ul t i ma t e exi s t ent i al que s t i ons . An o t h e r q u e s t i o n get s t o t h e
h e a r t of h o w we i n t e r p r e t t ha t exi s t ence. I wo u l d p a r a p h r a s e
Sha ke s pe a r e t o ask, "To t h i n k or n o t t o t hi nk? " Th a t i s t h e ul t i -
ma t e que s t i on i n c o mb a t i n g s i mpl i s m. An d a t t hi s p o i n t i n hu-
ma n evol ut i on, i t ma y be t h e ver y e qui va l e nt of "To be or n o t t o
be? "
F r o m my pr a c t i c e as a psychi at r i st a n d my e x p e r i e n c e s a n d
obs er vat i ons i n ge ne r a l , I ha ve b e c o me f ami l i ar wi t h t h e c om-
mo n e r r or s r e l a t e d t o t h e f ai l ur e t o t hi nk wel l . On e , of c our s e ,
i s si mpl y n o t t hi nki ng. An o t h e r i s ma k i n g a s s umpt i ons i n t hi nk-
i ng, t h r o u g h t h e us e of o n e - d i me n s i o n a l l ogi c, s t er eot ypes , a n d
l abel i ng. An o t h e r p r o b l e m i s t h e bel i ef t ha t t h i n k i n g a n d c o m-
mu n i c a t i o n d o n ' t r e q u i r e mu c h effort . An o t h e r i s a s s u mi n g
t ha t t h i n k i n g i s a was t e of t i me , whi c h i s a pa r t i c ul a r f act or i n
t he q u i e t r a ge we e x p e r i e n c e a r o u n d t h e f ai l ur e t o sol ve ma n y
soci al p r o b l e ms .
Le o n a r d Ho d g s o n wr ot e : "It i s n o t t h r o u g h t r us t i n o u r
r e a s on t ha t we g o wr o n g , b u t b e c a u s e t h r o u g h o u r si nf ul ness
o u r r e a s o n i s s o i mper f ect l y r at i onal . T h e r e me d y i s n o t t h e s ub-
s t i t ut i on of s o me o t h e r f or m of a c q u i r i n g k n o wl e d g e f or r at i o-
nal a p p r e h e n s i o n ; i t i s t h e e d u c a t i o n of o u r r e a s o n t o be its t r ue
self." Al t h o u g h t h e l a n g u a g e i s s o me wh a t mi s l e a di ng, s i nce hi s
b o o k da t e s ba c k over fifty year s , Ho d g s o n ' s wor ds a r e r el evant
t o t h e d i l e mma we face t oday. For " r eas on, " I wo u l d s ubs t i t ut e
t he wo r d " t hi nki ng" a n d all t ha t i t i mpl i es . By "si nf ul ness, "
Ho d g s o n was r ef er r i ng, I bel i eve, t o o u r c o mb i n e d "or i gi nal " si ns
of l azi ness, fear, a n d pr i de , whi c h l i mi t us or pr e ve nt us f r om ful-
fi l l i ng t h e h u ma n pot e nt i a l . I n r e f e r r i ng t o " t he e d u c a t i o n of
o u r r e a s o n t o be its t r u e self," Ho d g s o n suggest s t ha t we s h o u l d
al l ow o u r t r ue sel f t o be wha t e ve r i t ' s c a pa bl e of, t o r i se t o its
26 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
ful l est capaci t y. T h e p o i n t i s n o t t ha t we s h o u l d n ' t t r us t o u r
br a i n, speci fi cal l y o u r f r ont al l obes . T h e p o i n t i s t ha t we d o n ' t
us e t h e m e n o u g h . Be c a us e of o u r si ns of l azi ness, fear, a n d
pr i de , we d o n ' t p u t o u r br a i n t o full us e. We a r e f aced wi t h t h e
t ask of e d u c a t i n g our s el ves t o be fully h u ma n .
THE POINT OF HAVING A BRAIN
Obvi ous as t hi s ma y s e e m, we' ve b e e n gi ven a l ar ge b r a i n s o t h a t
we c a n t hi nk. On e char act er i s t i c t h a t di s t i ngui s hes h u ma n be -
i ngs f r om o t h e r c r e a t ur e s i s t h e rel at i vel y l ar ge size of o u r br a i n,
c o mp a r e d t o o u r overal l body wei ght . ( The e xc e pt i ons a r e whal es
a n d d o l p h i n s . Th e y have l a r ge r br a i ns i n p r o p o r t i o n t o t he i r
bodi e s t h a n p e o p l e d o , whi c h i s o n e r e a s o n ma n y a n i ma l r i ght s
act i vi st s a r e v e h e me n t i n t he i r mi s s i on t o p r o t e c t t he s e speci es;
t hey bel i eve whal es a n d d o l p h i n s may, i n fact , be s ma r t e r t h a n
we a r e i n s o me ways. )
Wh e t h e r i n h u ma n s o r o t h e r ma mma l s , t h e b r a i n consi st s
o f t h r e e c o mp o n e n t s t h e ol d br a i n, t h e mi d b r a i n , a n d t h e
n e w br a i n. Ea c h has u n i q u e f unc t i ons i n t h e o r c h e s t r a of or -
ga ns t ha t wor k i n u n i s o n t o k e e p us al i ve.
T h e ol d b r a i n wh i c h i s al so cal l ed t h e r e pt i l i a n b r a i n
l ooks l i t t l e di f f er ent i n h u ma n s t h a n i t d o e s i n wor ms . At t he
t o p of o u r s pi nal c or d, we have a n e l o n g a t e d bul ge t hat ' s cal l ed
t h e me d u l l a obl onga t a . T h r o u g h o u t t h e b r a i n a r e col l ect i ons
of ne r ve cel l s cal l ed n e u r a l c e nt e r s . I n t h e ol d b r a i n t he s e c e n-
t er s ser ve t h e p u r p o s e of mo n i t o r i n g phys i ol ogi cal n e e d s , s uc h
a s c ont r ol l i ng o u r r e s pi r a t i on, h e a r t r a t e , s l eep, a ppe t i t e , a n d
o t h e r ver y basi c b u t pr i mi t i ve f unct i ons .
T h e a r e a k n o wn a s t h e mi d b r a i n i s l a r ge r a n d mo r e c om-
pl ex. T h e n e u r a l c e nt e r s of t h e mi d b r a i n a r e i nvol ved i n t h e
g o v e r n a n c e a n d i n t h e p r o d u c t i o n o f e mo t i o n s , a n d n e u r o s u r -
g e o n s have act ual l y ma p p e d o u t t h e l ocat i ons of t he s e c e nt e r s .
Wi t h a h u ma n b e i n g l yi ng on a n o p e r a t i n g t abl e u n d e r l ocal
anes t hes i a, t hey c a n i ns er t e l e c t r ode s or ver y f i ne n e e d l e s i n t o
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 27
t he br a i n, f r om t h e t i p of whi c h t hey c a n del i ver a mi l l i vol t of
el ect r i cal c u r r e n t a n d act ual l y p r o d u c e speci fi c e mo t i o n s s uc h
a s anger , e u p h o r i a , a n d e ve n de pr e s s i on.
T h e ne w b r a i n consi st s most l y of o u r c e r e br a l c or t e x,
whi c h i s al so i nvol ved i n pr i mi t i ve act i vi t i es i n c l u d i n g i ns t i nct s
a n d l o c o mo t i o n . T h e bi gges t di f f er ence b e t we e n u s h u ma n s
a n d t h e o t h e r ma mma l s i s t h e size of o u r n e w br a i n, a n d specif-
ically of t ha t p a r t k n o wn as t h e f r ont al l obes . T h e di r e c t i on of
h u ma n evol ut i on has b e e n pr i mar i l y i n t h e gr owt h of t h e
f r ont al l obes . Th e s e l obes a r e i nvol ved i n o u r abi l i t y t o ma k e
j u d g me n t s , a n d i t i s h e r e t ha t t h e pr oc e s s i ng of i n f o r ma t i o n
t hi nki ngpr i ma r i l y t akes pl a c e .
J u s t a s o u r capaci t y for l e a r n i n g d e p e n d s on t hi nki ng, o u r
capaci t y f or t h i n k i n g wel l d e p e n d s on l e a r ni ng. So a n o t h e r c e n-
t ral f act or t h a t di s t i ngui s hes h u ma n be i ngs f r om o t h e r cr ea-
t ur es i s r e l a t e d t o o u r abi l i t y t o l e a r n. Whi l e we ha ve i ns t i nct s
l i ke o t h e r a ni ma l s ' , t hey d o n ' t always aut omat i cal l y gove r n o u r
be ha vi or t o as gr e a t a d e g r e e . Thi s f act or gi ves us f r ee will.
We' ve b e e n e n d o we d wi t h t h e c o mb i n a t i o n of t he s e f r ont al
l obes a n d f r e e d o m, whi c h e n a b l e s us t o l e a r n t h r o u g h o u t a life-
t i me.
Co mp a r e d t o t ha t of o t h e r ma mma l s , t h e p e r i o d of o u r
c h i l d h o o d d e p e n d e n c y i s mu c h l o n g e r r el at i ve t o o u r t ot al life
s pan. Gi ven o u r r el at i ve l ack of i ns t i nct s , we n e e d t ha t t i me t o
l ear n be f or e we a r e a bl e t o b r a n c h o u t on o u r own. Le a r n i n g i s
cr uci al t o o u r abi l i t y t o gr ow i n awar enes s , t o t hi nk i n d e p e n -
dent l y, a n d t o ma s t e r t h e k n o wl e d g e neces s ar y f or sur vi vi ng a n d
t hr i vi ng i n life.
Wh e n we a r e y o u n g , o u r d e p e n d e n c y o n t hos e wh o r ai se
us s ha pe s o u r t h i n k i n g a n d wh a t we l e a r n. An d gi ven o u r
l engt hy d e p e n d e n c e , we a r e at ri sk of d e v e l o p i n g t h i n k i n g pat -
t er ns t h a t ma y b e c o me i ngr a i ne d, e ve n s e e mi ngl y i r r ever s i bl e.
I f we have adul t s i n o u r y o u n g lives wh o h e l p us l e a r n t o t hi nk
well, we be ne f i t i n a mu l t i t u d e of ways. I f we ha ve adul t s i n o u r
young lives whos e own t hi nki ng i s s us pect , di s or de r e d, or ot he r -
wise l i mi t ed, o u r t h i n k i n g will be i mp a i r e d by wh a t we l e a r n a n d
28 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
d o n ' t l e a r n f r om t h e m. But i t woul d be n o n s e n s e t o p r e s u me
t ha t we a r e d o o me d . As adul t s , we no l o n g e r have t o d e p e n d on
ot he r s t o t el l us wha t t o t hi nk or d o .
Th e r e i s a di s t i nct i on b e t we e n he a l t hy a n d u n h e a l t h y de -
pe nde nc y. In The Road Less Traveled, I wr ot e t h a t d e p e n d e n c y in
physi cal l y he a l t hy adul t s i s pa t hol ogi c a l i t i s sick, always a
ma ni f e s t a t i on of a me n t a l i l l ness or def ect . I t i s t o be di st i n-
gui s he d, however , f r om wh a t a r e c o mmo n l y r e f e r r e d t o a s de -
p e n d e n c y n e e d s or f eel i ngs. We a l l e a c h a n d ever y o n e of us,
even i f we t ry t o p r e t e n d t o o t h e r s a n d t o our s el ves t ha t we
d o n ' t h a v e d e p e n d e n c y n e e d s a n d f eel i ngs. We have des i r es
t o be ba bi e d, t o be n u r t u r e d wi t hout ef f or t on o u r pa r t , t o be
c a r e d f or by p e r s o n s wh o a r e s t r o n g e r t h a n we a r e a n d have o u r
i nt er es t s t r ul y at he a r t . But f or mo s t of us t he s e des i r es or feel -
i ngs d o n o t r ul e o u r lives; t hey a r e n o t t h e p r e d o mi n a n t t h e me
o f o u r e xi s t e nc e . Wh e n t hey d o r ul e o u r lives a n d di ct at e t h e
qual i t y of o u r exi s t ence, we a r e s uf f er i ng f r om a ps ychi at r i c
i l l ness c o mmo n l y k n o wn as passi ve d e p e n d e n t pe r s ona l i t y di s-
or de r . Suc h d e p e n d e n c y is, at r oot , a d i s o r d e r r e l a t e d t o t hi nk-
i ngspeci f i cal l y, a r es i s t ance t o t h i n k i n g f or our s el ves .
J u s t as t h e myr i a d of di s or de r s t ha t s t e m f r om r es i s t ance t o
t h i n k i n g a r e c o mp l e x , s o al so i s t h e r e l a t i ons hi p b e t we e n t he s e
di s or de r s a n d o u r c o mp l e x br a i n. O n e par t i cul ar l y e xc i t i ng
a r e a of r e s e a r c h has s h e d s o me l i ght on as pect s of t hi s r el at i on-
s hi p. I n t h e l ast t went y year s, a ma j or b r e a k t h r o u g h c a me a b o u t
as a r es ul t of spl i t - br ai n r e s e a r c h e x a mi n i n g mo r e de e pl y t h e
wel l - known fact t ha t t h e n e w br a i n i s di vi ded i nt o a r i ght a n d a
left half. A b o d y of f i ber s or whi t e mat t er , t h e c o r p u s cal l os um,
c o n n e c t s t he s e t wo h e mi s p h e r e s . I t i s n o w bel i eved t ha t t h e left
br a i n i s o u r de duc t i ve b r a i n a n d t h e r i ght b r a i n i s pr i mar i l y i n-
vol ved i n i nduc t i ve r e a s o n i n g . Th e s e p a t t e r n s a r e n o t t ot al ab-
sol ut es, b u t mo r e or l ess i ndi c a t e t e n d e n c i e s .
So me p e o p l e wi t h epi l eps y have b e e n t r e a t e d a n d a few
c u r e d by s ever i ng t hi s c o n n e c t i o n b e t we e n t h e t wo hal ves of t h e
br a i n. Lat er , t he s e "spl i t - br ai n" pa t i e nt s we r e sci ent i fi cal l y s t ud-
i ed, a n d a ver y d r a ma t i c s t udy s h o we d t h a t i f you cover t h e eye
of s o me o n e whos e b r a i n has b e e n s ever ed s o t ha t vi sual i nf or -
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 29
ma t i on get s onl y t o t h e left br a i n, a n d you s how hi m, f or i n-
s t ance, an el ect r i cal he a t e r , hi s de s c r i pt i on of t h e obj ect will be
very speci fi c a n d t el l i ng. He ' l l likely say, "Wel l , i t ' s a b o x wi t h a
c or d a n d f i l a me n t s h e a t e d u p b y el ect ri ci t y. " An d he ' l l g o o n t o
des cr i be var i ous c o mp o n e n t pa r t s wi t h s t u n n i n g accur acy. But
h e wo n ' t b e abl e t o n a me t h e a ppl i a nc e . On t h e o t h e r h a n d , i f
you f eed i n f o r ma t i o n onl y t o t h e r i ght si de of hi s br a i n, he will
be abl e t o n a me t h e a p p l i a n c e b u t wo n ' t be a bl e t o e xpl a i n why
i t i s wh a t i t is.
T h e c r u x of spl i t - br ai n r e s e a r c h ha s s hown t h a t t h e left si de
i s t h e anal yt i cal br a i n, wi t h t h e abi l i t y t o t ake whol e s a n d b r e a k
t h e m up i n t o pi eces , whi l e t h e r i ght si de i s t h e i nt ui t i ve b r a i n
wi t h t h e abi l i t y t o t ake pi eces a n d ma k e s whol e s o u t of t h e m. As
h u ma n be i ngs , we have t h e abi l i t y t o l e a r n b o t h of t he s e t wo pr i -
ma r y t ypes of t hi nki ng: c o n c r e t e a n d abs t r act . Co n c r e t e t hi nk-
i ng deal s wi t h pa r t i c ul a r s i n t he i r ma t e r i a l f or m. Abs t r act
t hi nki ng deal s wi t h pa r t i c ul a r s i n g e n e r a l a n d t he or e t i c a l t e r ms .
T h e r es ul t s of spl i t - br ai n r e s e a r c h a r e o n e r e a s on i t ha s
b e e n s ugge s t e d t ha t g e n d e r di f f er ences go b e y o n d me r e soci al
c ondi t i oni ng. Wo me n s e e m t o b e mo r e r i ght - br a i ne d a n d me n
mo r e l ef t - br ai ned. Tha t ' s why i n ma t t e r s i nvol vi ng sex a n d r o-
ma n c e , me n s e e m mo r e l i kel y t o be i nt e r e s t e d i n pa r t s , s uc h a s
br east s, l egs, a n d peni s es . Wo me n t e n d t o be mo r e i nt e r e s t e d i n
t h e wh o l e pi c t ur e , wh i c h mi g h t i n c l u d e n o t onl y s exual s t i mul i
but al so a n i g h t o u t wi t h c a ndl e l i ght di nne r . Th e r e f o r e , i n t h e
bat t l e of t h e sexes, wo me n f r e que nt l y ha ve di ffi cul t y u n d e r -
s t a ndi ng why me n a r e s o f oc us e d on t he s e silly c o n c r e t e physi -
cal pa r t s a n d me n l i kewi se ha ve di ffi cul t y u n d e r s t a n d i n g why
wo me n mi g h t wa nt t o wast e t i me wi t h all t hi s r o ma n t i c c a ndl e -
l i ght st uff be f or e ge t t i ng d o wn t o t h e "r eal bus i nes s . "
T h e r e s e a r c h on spl i t br a i ns r e pr e s e nt s , I bel i eve, t h e mo s t
f or mi da bl e a dva nc e i n t h e f i el d of epi s t emol ogy, s ugge s t i ng
t ha t we ha ve at l east t wo ways of knowi ng, a n d t h a t obvi ousl y we
will k n o w t hi ngs b e t t e r i f we us e b o t h l ef t - br ai n a n d r i ght - br ai n
t hi nki ng. Th a t ' s why I ' m a gr e a t p r o p o n e n t of a n d r o g y n o u s
t hi nki ng. Be i n g a n d r o g y n o u s d o e s n o t i mpl y t ha t s o me o n e i s
de s e xe d. Me n d o n o t l ose t he i r mas cul i ni t y a n d wo me n d o n o t
30 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
l ose t he i r f emi ni ni t y i f t hey a r e a n d r o g y n o u s . Rat her , t he y di s-
pl ay t h e char act er i s t i cs of b o t h sexes. Th i n k i n g , i n t ha t s ens e,
woul d i mpl y t h e abi l i t y t o us e b o t h si des of t h e b r a i n t o i nt e-
gr a t e c o n c r e t e a n d abs t r act r eal i t i es.
In The Friendly Snowflake, t h e ma i n char act er , J e nny, e pi t o-
mi z es s o me o n e wh o i s a n d r o g y n o u s . She uses t he s e dua l as pect s
of h e r t h i n k i n g capabi l i t i es a s s he c ons i de r s t h e r e l e va nc e t ha t
t h e mys t er i ous p r e s e n c e of a f r i endl y snowf l ake has i n h e r life.
He r br ot he r , De nni s , on t h e o t h e r h a n d , i s st er eot ypi cal l y left-
br a i n- or i e nt e d. He i s ver y mu c h h o o k e d on anal yt i cal a n d c on-
c r e t e fact s a n d ha s l ess t ast e f or myst ery, whi c h ma k e s hi s vi si on
na r r owe r .
T h e a n c i e n t Sume r i a ns , I am t ol d, h a d a basi c r ul e f or
g u i d i n g t he i r t h i n k i n g n o t unl i ke spl i t - br ai n t heor y. Wi t h r e-
g a r d t o any i mp o r t a n t deci s i ons t o be ma d e ( usual l y a b o u t
wh e t h e r or n o t t o go t o war wi t h t h e Ba byl oni a ns ) , t hey l i t eral l y
h a d t o t hi nk t wi ce. I f t h e f i r s t deci s i on h a d b e e n ar r i ved a t wh e n
t hey we r e d r u n k , i t h a d t o be r e c o n s i d e r e d wh e n t hey we r e
sober . If, wh e n d r u n k , t hey sai d, "Let ' s go get t hos e Babyl oni -
ans , " t h e n l at er, i n t h e cl ear, c ool l i ght of day, i t mi g h t n o t l ook
l i ke s uc h a s ma r t deci s i on. Conver sel y, i f t hey we r e c ol d s obe r
wh e n t hey d e c i d e d t ha t i t wo u l d be st r at egi cal l y cl ever t o b e a t
up t h e Babyl oni ans , t hey h e l d off a n d sai d, "Fi rst l et ' s d r i n k
s o me wi ne. " Dr u n k , t hey mi g h t c o me t o t h e c onc l us i on t ha t
" t he r e ' s no n e e d t o go t o war wi t h t h e m. He l l , we l ove t h e Baby-
l oni a ns . "
For all t hey l a c ke d i n mo d e r n t echnol ogy, t h e Su me r i a n s
h a d t he r i ght a p p r o a c h . An d t he r e ' s n o r e a s on why we s h o u l d n ' t
be abl e t o t h i n k r e a s ona bl y i n t hi s day a n d age. Unl e s s t h e r e i s
br a i n d a ma g e as a r es ul t of s ur ge r y or a t u mo r or o t h e r di s eas e,
we have t he s e wo n d e r f u l f r ont al l obes a t o u r di sposal . But t ha t
d o e s n ' t me a n p e o p l e will us e t h e m, mu c h l ess us e t h e m t o t he i r
ful l est capaci t y. I n d e e d , br a i n d a ma g e i s n' t t h e onl y f act or c on-
t r i but i ng t o t h i n k i n g i r r at i onal l y or n o t at all. I t i s t h e l east of
t h e f act or s. Amo n g ot he r s , t h e r e a r e p r o f o u n d ways i n whi c h so-
ci et y act ual l y di s c our a ge s us f r om us i ng o u r f r ont al l obes , p r o -
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 31
mo t i n g one - di me ns i ona l , si mpl i st i c t h i n k i n g a s t h e n o r ma l way
of f unc t i oni ng.
SIMPLISM AND SOCIETY
Ever ywher e we t u r n , t h e e vi de nc e i s a s t o u n d i n g . Si mpl i st i c
t hi nki ng has b e c o me s o p a n d e mi c i n soci et y t ha t i t i s cons i d-
e r e d n o r ma l a n d c o n v e n t i o n a l wi s dom a mo n g s o me s e g me n t s
of t h e p o p u l a t i o n . Re c e n t e x a mp l e s of t hi s r a mp a n t s i mpl i s m
wer e e vi de nt i n t h e c o mme n t s of t wo No r t h Ca r ol i na pol i t i -
ci ans. Re pr e s e nt a t i ve He n r y Al dr i dge of Pi t t Co u n t y ma d e t h e
s i mpl e - mi nde d s t a t e me n t t h a t wo me n wh o a r e r a p e d d o n ' t ge t
p r e g n a n t b e c a u s e " t he j ui c e s d o n ' t flow, t h e b o d y f unc t i ons
d o n ' t wor k" d u r i n g an at t ack, as i f t o whi t ewas h t hi s h o r r i b l e
c r i me of vi ol at i on. U. S. Se n a t o r J e s s e He l ms , i n a r g u i n g why he
wa nt e d t o r e d u c e f eder al f u n d i n g f or AI DS r e s e a r c h, sai d t h a t
he saw no r e a s o n t o pr ovi de a d e q u a t e r e s our c e s be c a us e t h e
di sease i s b r o u g h t on by t h e " de l i be r a t e , di s gus t i ng a n d r evol t -
i ng c o n d u c t " of t hos e wh o a r e gay. T h e r eal i t y i s t h a t i n a d d i t i o n
t o b e i n g sexual l y t r a n s mi t t e d a mo n g b o t h h o mo s e x u a l s a n d
het er os exual s AI DS has b e e n t r a ns mi t t e d t h r o u g h b l o o d t r ans-
f usi ons, t o n e wb o r n ba bi e s t h r o u g h mo t h e r s i nf e c t e d wi t h t h e
vi rus, a n d t o h e a l t h c a r e wor ke r s wh o we r e acci dent al l y p r i c k e d
by i mp r o p e r l y st er i l i zed n e e d l e s us e d on i nf e c t e d pa t i e nt s .
Thus , He l ms ' c o mme n t s ma c ks n o t onl y of bi got r y b u t of si m-
pl i sm as wel l .
Var i ous i ns t i t ut i ons of soci et y, i n t he i r f ai l ur e t o t e a c h or
d e mo n s t r a t e h o w t o t hi nk wel l , set p e o p l e up f or t h i n k i n g si m-
plistically. Typically, t hi s f ai l ur e i s f o u n d a mo n g t h e mo s t i m-
mens el y i nf l uent i al i ns t i t ut i ons of soci et y i nc l udi ng, mo r e of t en
t ha n not , t h e family, t h e c h u r c h , a n d t h e mas s me d i a . Gi ven
t hat t hey have t h e gr e a t e s t i mp a c t on o u r lives, t h e de c e pt i ve
mes s ages t hey i mp a r t t o us a b o u t what ' s i mp o r t a n t i n life can-
not be t a k e n lightly. Be c a us e t he y a r e o u r cul t ur al l e a de r s i n
por t r a yi ng c e r t a i n ways of t h i n k i n g a n d l i vi ng as t r ut h, t he s e i n-
32 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
st i t ut i ons have t h e p o we r t o f ool a n d ma n i p u l a t e us . Th e y of t en
unwi t t i ngl y p r o mo t e ha l f - t r ut hs s ome t i me s e ve n bl a t a nt l i es
u n d e r t h e gui s e of cul t ur al i deas t ha t we' ve t a ke n for g r a n t e d t o
be " nor ma l . " On t h e basi s of cul t ur al n o r ms , we usual l y a s s ume
t ha t i f e ve r yone i s t h i n k i n g t hi s or d o i n g t hat , i t mu s t be n o r ma l
a n d cor r ect .
Suc h n o r ms i n c l u d e n o t onl y n o t i o n s a b o u t wha t s h o u l d b e
t h e g o o d life a n d wha t s h o u l d be a c c e pt a bl e , b u t al so wha t
s h o u l d b e c o n s i d e r e d b a d o r i n a p p r o p r i a t e . Th e r e a r e posi t i ve
n o r ms , of c our s e , s uc h a s t hos e t ha t p r o mo t e t h e wor k e t hi c
a n d e n c o u r a g e civility i n o u r e n c o u n t e r s wi t h e a c h ot he r . But
t hes e posi t i ve n o r ms a r e n o t t h e p r o b l e m. T h e n o r ms t ha t cr e-
a t e c ul t ur a l c ha os a r e t he o n e s we mu s t r e t hi nk. I cal l t h e m ne g-
at i ve n o r ms , a n d f r equent l y, t hey a r e dr e s s e d u p a n d ma d e t o
l ook a n d s o u n d pr et t y. But wh e n you g o b e n e a t h t h e s ur f ace,
you' l l f i nd t hey a r e negat i ve pr eci s el y be c a us e t hey di s c our a ge
o u r gr owt h. Th e y a r e ba s e d on hal f - t r ut hs a n d o u t r i g h t l i es t ha t
ser ve t o ma n i p u l a t e a n d h o l d us hos t a ge psychol ogi cal l y a n d
spi ri t ual l y.
In People of the Lie, I i ndi c a t e d t ha t lies c r e a t e c onf us i on. Be-
caus e of t h e di ffi cul t y i ns t i t ut i ons wo u l d have i f t hey we r e t o e n-
dor s e bl a t a nt l i es, t hey usual l y ma n i p u l a t e p e o p l e by p r o mo t i n g
hal f - t r ut hs . I t i s a mo r e s educt i ve a p p r o a c h , b u t a hal f - t r ut h,
whi c h usual l y l ooks a n d s o u n d s t r u e b u t r eal l y i sn' t , i s l i kel y t o
p r o d u c e even g r e a t e r conf us i on. I n d e e d , a s t h e Engl i s h p o e t
Al f r ed, Lo r d Te n n y s o n wr ot e : "A l i e whi c h i s hal f a t r u t h i s ever
t h e bl ackes t of l i es. "
T h e bi gges t lie p r o mo t e d by var i ous of o u r soci al i nst i t u-
t i o n s a n d t hi s i n s o me ways pl ays i nt o o u r h u ma n n a t u r e a n d
o u r si n of l azi nessi s t h a t we ' r e h e r e t o be h a p p y all t h e t i me .
We ' r e b o mb a r d e d b y bus i nes s , t h e me d i a , a n d t h e c h u r c h wi t h
t h e l i e t ha t we ' r e h e r e t o be happy, ful fi l l ed, a n d c omf or t a bl e .
For mot i ves of pr of i t , t h e l i es of ma t e r i a l i s m a n d adver t i s i ng
s ugges t t ha t i f we ' r e n o t happy, c omf or t a bl e , a n d ful fi l l ed, we
mu s t b e e a t i ng t h e wr o n g cer eal o r dr i vi ng t h e wr o n g car. Or
t ha t we mu s t n o t ha ve i t r i ght wi t h Go d . Ho w wi cked! T h e t r u t h
i s t ha t o u r f i ne s t mo me n t s , mo r e of t en t h a n not , o c c u r pr eci s el y
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 33
wh e n we a r e u n c o mf o r t a b l e , wh e n we ' r e n o t f eel i ng h a p p y o r
fulfilled, wh e n we ' r e s t r uggl i ng a n d s e a r c hi ng.
I n t hi s b o mb a r d me n t of o n e - d i me n s i o n a l t hi nki ng, we ' r e
t ol d i n cl ear b u t s ubt l e ways a b o u t wh a t i s e x p e c t e d of us i n or -
d e r t o fit i nt o soci et y. We a r e d i s c o u r a g e d f r om q u e s t i o n i n g or
s or t i ng t h r o u g h , mu c h l ess c onf r ont i ng, t h e l i es i n h e r e n t i n
mat er i al i s m. I f we wa nt t o be s e e n as n o r ma l , we a r e s i mpl y ex-
p e c t e d t o go a l o n g t o ge t a l ong. But i t i s n o t s i mpl y a ma t t e r of
o u r b e i n g d u mp e d o n . Fr equent l y, we wi l l i ngl y go a l o n g wi t h
t he l i es. Ou r l a z i ne s s our n a t u r a l i dol at r y of eas e a n d c om-
f or t ma ke s us c o- c ons pi r a t or s wi t h t h e mas s me d i a .
Of c our s e p e o p l e a r e di f f er ent , b u t ma n y ma k e u p t he i r
mi n d s e v e n a b o u t i mp o r t a n t i s s ue s on t h e basi s of ver y l i t t l e
i nf or ma t i on e x c e p t wha t soci et y tells t h e m i s " n o r ma l . " Gi ven a
c hoi c e , mo s t o p t n o t t o t hi nk t hi ngs t h r o u g h . Th e y t ake t h e lazy
way out , buyi ng i nt o si mpl i st i c a s s umpt i ons a n d s t er eot ypes . I n
t he que s t t o feel t hey fit i n, t hey fall pr e y t o ma s s - me di a l i es a n d
ma n i p u l a t i o n s i n o r d e r t o bel i eve t hey a r e n o t t ha t di f f er ent
f r om t he i r n e i g h b o r s or s o t hey c a n feel t he y' r e k e e p i n g up
wi t h t h e J o n e s e s . Th e y feel c o mp e l l e d t o buy t h e cer eal s adver -
t i sers say will ma k e t h e m he a l t hy a n d fit, wi t hout q u e s t i o n i n g
t he val i di t y of s uc h cl ai ms. Th e y bas e t he i r s ens e of wor t h pr i -
mar i l y on t h e p u r c h a s e of l uxur y car s a n d o t h e r a me ni t i e s t hey
c a n n o t af f or d, e ve n t h o u g h i t will p u t t h e m i n f i nanci al s t r ai n
wi t h l ong- t e r m de bt .
Ma n y g o a l o n g wi t h negat i ve n o r ms even t h o u g h a n i n n e r
gna wi ng t el l s t h e m s o me t h i n g i s s us pect . I t i s qui t e c o mmo n f or
t hos e wh o a r e ci r cl es, s o t o s peak, t o a t t e mp t t o f or ce t h e m-
selves t o f i t i nt o t h e s qua r e pe gs of cul t ur al pa t t e r ns . Th e y a r e
unwi l l i ng t o c ha l l e nge n o r ms , i n p a r t t o avoi d pa yi ng t h e pr i c e
of unpopul a r i t y, of b e i n g vi ewed as out cas t s wh o a r e s o me h o w
a b n o r ma l . Th e y usual l y live t o r e g r e t it. Ha v i n g es t abl i s hed a
sol i d c a r e e r by t h e a ge of thirty-five, b u t still s i ngl e, Sally i s un-
de r gr e a t soci al pr e s s ur e t o ma r r y t h e n e x t ma n wh o c o me s
al ong. Gi ven soci et y' s s us pi ci ons a n d cr i t i ci sm of "ol d ma i ds , "
s he s u c c u mb s wi t hout t h i n k i n g a b o u t t h e i ssues mo r e r adi cal l y
a n d f or hersel f. But Sally year s l at er ma y c o me t o k n o w t ha t s he
34 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
s houl d have f ol l owed h e r own h u n c h e s a b o u t ge t t i ng ma r r i e d .
Lai d off i n a c o r p o r a t e downs i z i ng wh e n he i s f i f t y- f i ve, a ma n
l i ke Bill ma y f i nd hi ms el f i n d e e p r e g r e t t ha t he bypas s ed t h e
o p p o r t u n i t y t o p u r s u e t h e c a r e e r he always wa n t e d i n n u r s i n g
a n d i ns t e a d b o u g h t i nt o t h e c o mp a n y - ma n i ma g e a s t h e n o r m.
Me n i n o u r soci et y e x p e r i e n c e t r e me n d o u s pr e s s ur e t o pr ove
t he i r mas cul i ni t y t h r o u g h t he i r i n c o me . But Bill l ost o u t by n o t
d a r i n g t o be di f f er ent .
Me d i a i ma ge s a r e rife wi t h r i gi d c o n c e p t s a b o u t o u r hu-
mani t y. T h e f i f t y i s h wo ma n wh o c a n' t r e l i nqui s h h e r i ma g e a s
f or ever t hi r t y will ma k e her s el f mi s e r a bl e t o ma i n t a i n h e r al-
l i ance wi t h s i mpl i s m, a n d i n t h e pr oc e s s c i r c u mv e n t t h e possi -
bi l i t y of f i ndi ng gr a c e i n t h e a gi ng pr oces s . Whi l e t hi s ma y be
easi l y di s mi s s ed as b e i n g her p r o b l e m, i t i s i mp o r t a n t t o r e c og-
ni z e t ha t t hi s wo ma n i s n o t a l one . T h e negat i ve n o r m i n o u r ad-
ver t i si ng di r ect l y or i ndi r ect l y suggest s t ha t wo me n a r e pr i mar i l y
s exual obj ect s wh o l ose t he i r val ue as t hey age. T h e val uabl e
ma l e i n o u r adver t i s i ng i s t h e o n e wh o ma k e s mone y. I n p a r t be -
caus e of t h e s i mpl i s m i n h e r e n t i n sexi st t hi nki ng, ma n y a ma n
d e e ms hi s wor k out s i de t h e h o me e xpone nt i a l l y mo r e i mpor -
t a nt t h a n hi s wi fe' s h o me ma k i n g skills i n o r d e r t o boos t hi s self-
i ma ge , de s pi t e t h e t e ns i ons i t cr eat es t o u p h o l d hi s fl awed
a s s umpt i ons . Ra t h e r t h a n u p d a t e t he i r vi si on, b o t h me n a n d
wo me n i n o u r soci et y e n g a g e i n si mpl i st i c t h i n k i n g i n o r d e r t o
c o n f o r m t o negat i ve n o r ms .
We ma y feel s o me wh a t l i ke hos t a ge s i n t hi s p r e d i c a me n t .
We a r e c a u g h t b e t we e n t he d e ma n d s o f c onf or mi t y o n t h e o n e
h a n d , whi l e on t h e ot he r , gi ven o u r f r ee will, we c a n d e c i d e t ha t
i t i s i n o u r bes t i nt e r e s t t o r i se above c onve nt i ona l gr oup- t hi nk.
We have t h e abi l i t y t o t h i n k i n d e p e n d e n t l y a b o u t i mp o r t a n t is-
sues r a t h e r t h a n l e a d ma n y as pect s of o u r lives i n a c c o r d a n c e
wi t h t he si mpl i st i c t e ne t s of soci et y. Gr a n t e d , i t t akes ef f or t t o
s or t t h r o u g h wha t we s h o u l d a n d s h o u l d n ' t bel i eve. Wh e n we
d e n y our s el ves a u t o n o my , i t i s no wo n d e r we b e c o me c onf us e d
a n d u n c o mf o r t a b l e . But wh e n we us e si mpl i st i c f or mul a s ba s e d
on t h e " n o r ma l " o r f a s h i o n a b l e t h i n g t o d o , i nt e r na l i f n o t
e xt e r na l c ha os i s t he us ual r esul t .
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 35
WHAT'S IN FASHION ISN'T NECESSARILY FASHIONABLE
T h e ext ens i ve i nf l ue nc e of f as hi on i n o u r c ul t ur e of t en l eads
t o c onf or mi t y t h r o u g h si mpl i st i c t hi nki ng. We a r e a f as hi on-
obs es s ed c ul t ur e , wh e t h e r t h e f as hi on of t h e day i nvol ves wh a t
t o wear , wh a t ki nd of mus i c t o l i st en t o, or whi c h pol i t i cal i deol -
ogy t o s ubs cr i be t o a t t h e mo me n t . Ou r i nc r e di bl e e mp h a s i s on
f as hi on di s c our a ge s p e o p l e f r om t h i n k i n g i n d e p e n d e n t l y a n d
e n c o u r a g e s c o n v e n t i o n a l t h i n k i n g i n a c c o r d a n c e wi t h gener al l y
a c c e p t e d views a n d s t er eot ypes . Suc h t h i n k i n g ma y b o r d e r o n
t he i r r a t i ona l or cr oss t h e l i ne i nt o i nsani t y, as i t di d f or o u r na-
t i on i n Vi e t n a m.
We have a n obl i ga t i on t o c o n f r o n t o u r si mpl i st i c t h i n k i n g
a b o u t wh a t b e i n g " n o r ma l " s h o u l d me a n : a n obl i ga t i on t o us e
cri t i cal t hi nki ng. Th i n k , f or i ns t a nc e , a b o u t o u r Cons t i t ut i on.
For cl ose t o a cent ur y, i t c o u n t e d a sl ave as t hr ee- f i f t hs of a per -
s on. Th a t was f unda me nt a l l y crazy. Th e r e ' s no s uc h t h i n g as a
f i f t h of a p e r s o n . Ei t he r y o u ' r e a p e r s o n or y o u ' r e not . Whi l e i t
ma y have b e e n f a s hi ona bl e a wor ka bl e pol i t i cal a n d soci al
c o mp r o mi s e a t t h e t i me t hi s a n o ma l y wa s n' t ser i ousl y que s -
t i one d f or de c a de s .
To us e cr i t i cal t h i n k i n g d o e s n ' t s ugges t t h a t e ve r yone mu s t
b e c o me a wal ki ng e nc yc l ope di a . I t d o e s n ' t me a n we all have t o
know e ve r yt hi ng a b o u t t h e Dred Scott deci s i on, f or e x a mp l e . But
we have a n obl i ga t i on t o st udy, l e a r n, a n d t h i n k a b o u t t hos e
t hi ngs t h a t a r e of h i g h i mp o r t a n c e . On e of t h e mo s t cr uci al
skills of cr i t i cal t h i n k i n g i s t h a t of d e c i d i n g wh a t i s essent i al t o
t hi nk or l e a r n a bout , a n d wha t i s none s s e nt i a l . An d we mu s t ac-
knowl e dge t h e gaps i n o u r own knowl e dge , r a t h e r t h a n feel
c o mp e l l e d t o l et p r i d e , fear, or l azi ness l ur e us i nt o a s s umi ng
t he r ol e of know-i t -al l .
ASSUMPTIONS, STEREOTYPES, AND LABELING
To a s s ume we k n o w ever yt hi ng, a n d par t i cul ar l y s o me t h i n g we
d o n ' t r eal l y know, is, as t h e ol d sayi ng goes , t o ma k e an ass o u t
36 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
of you a n d me . T h e s i mpl i s m of a s s umpt i ons i s a way of life f or
s ome . Th e r e a r e p e o p l e wh o a s s ume t he i r way of t h i n k i n g
wh e t h e r i t ' s a b o u t a wo ma n ' s r i ght t o a b o r t i o n or a b o u t pr a ye r
i n s c hool s ha s t o be "always r i ght , " de s pi t e any e vi de nc e t o t h e
cont r ar y. Wh e n i t i nvol ves a p r e c a r i o u s n e e d t o pr e s e r ve t he i r
own false s ens e of i nt egr i t y a n d di gni t y, t he i r sel f - i mage be -
c o me s c l oa ke d i n a s s umpt i ons of r i ght e ous ne s s . Th e y c a n ' t
wo n ' t c o n s i d e r al t er nat i ves . Pe r h a p s i t wo u l d feel a l mos t l i ke
d e a t h t o do so, t o l et go of t he i r s i mpl i s m.
S o me of t h e mo s t c o mmo n a n d of t en des t r uct i veas -
s u mp t i o n s a r e ba s e d o n s t er eot ypes a b o u t our s el ves a n d o t h e r
p e o p l e . St e r e ot ypi ng t ypi cal l y i nvol ves l a be l i ng a n d cat egor i z-
i ng p e o p l e a n d t hi ngs i n a s i mp l e mi n d e d ma n n e r , t h e n ma k i n g
j u d g me n t s on t h e basi s of t h e a s s umpt i ons we a t t a c h t o t he s e
cat egor i es . Suc h a s s umpt i ons of t en pr ove t o be mi s l e a di ng. T h e
h e r o of my novel In Heaven as on Earth st ar t s off a s s umi ng t ha t
t h e r e will be no mys t er y i n he a ve n; e ve r yt hi ng will be b l a n d ,
s t r ai ght f or war d, a n d cl ear - cut . To hi s s ur pr i s e, he f i nds t h a t
he a ve nl i ke e a r t hc ons i s t s of a compl ex ma z e of s ur pr i s es ,
twists, a n d t ur ns r a t h e r t h a n s o me simplistic Utopia.
Ma ny ma k e j u d g me n t s a b o u t o t h e r s on t h e basi s of la-
bel s f or e x a mp l e , as s oci at i ng l i ber al s wi t h b l e e d i n g he a r t s a n d
cons er vat i ves wi t h t h e r i ght eous l y r i gi d. Raci al a n d e t h n i c l abel s
a r e ri fe wi t h of t en mi s l e a di ng a s s umpt i ons a b o u t t h e c ha r a c t e r s
of i ndi vi dual s wh o a r e i dent i f i ed wi t h t he s e g r o u p s . A J ewi s h
pe r s on' s pol i t i cal di s pos i t i on ma y be i nc or r e c t l y pe r c e i ve d by
s o me on t h e basi s of cat egor i es di vi di ng J u d a i s m i nt o Or t h o -
dox, Cons er vat i ve, a n d Re f or m c a mp s . Us ed- car s a l e s me n a r e
j u d g e d by s o me t o be sl eazy or u n s c r u p u l o u s , t hus u n d e r mi n -
i ng t h e r e p u t a t i o n of t h e ma n y h a r d wo r k i n g s a l e s me n whos e
c ha r a c t e r s a r e a bove r e p r o a c h . An d t h e r e i s a c o mmo n as-
s u mp t i o n t ha t a n y o n e wh o o p e n l y cal l s hi ms el f a Chr i s t i an
mu s t be a f unda me nt a l i s t , or t ha t a n y o n e wh o cal l s hi ms el f ag-
nos t i c mu s t n o t be spi r i t ual l y ma t u r e .
Whi l e s o me s t er eot ypes ma y ha ve a gr a i n of t r u t h t o t h e m,
f r equent l y t hey a r e t o o si mpl i st i c t o c a p t u r e t h e s ubt l e differ-
e nc e s , as wel l as t h e si mi l ar i t i es, i n ma k i n g c o mp a r i s o n s a n d
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 37
j u d g me n t s . Wh e n e x t r e me , t hey ma y f o r m t h e basi s of a s s ump-
t i ons t ha t a r e u s e d t o b r i n g a b o u t or j ust i fy pot ent i al l y de s t r uc -
tive act i ons .
On e of t h e ma i n dyna mi c s of my mu r d e r myst ery, A Bed by
the Window, i s t h e s t er eot ypi cal t h i n k i n g of a y o u n g det ect i ve.
On t h e basi s of hi s ma n y a s s umpt i ons , Li e u t e n a n t Pet r i ma k e s a
hos t o f e r r or s i n t h i n k i n g a n d j u d g me n t t h a t l e a d h i m t o c o me
per i l ous l y cl ose t o a r r e s t i ng t h e wr o n g p e r s o n . Hi s f i r s t a s s ump-
t i on l eads h i m t o n a r r o w hi s i nves t i gat i on t o o n e f emal e n u r s e
si mpl y be c a us e s he h a d b e e n sexual l y i nvol ved wi t h t h e mu r d e r
vi ct i m. Hi s s e c o n d a s s u mp t i o n i s bel i evi ng t ha t t hi s wo ma n
c o u l d n ' t possi bl y ha ve l oved t h e vi ct i m b e c a u s e he was s o phys -
ically d e f o r me d , even t h o u g h s he i n fact c a r e d de e pl y f or h i m.
An d be c a us e mo r e p e o p l e a t t h e n u r s i n g h o me h a d d i e d dur -
i ng t h e shift t h a t t hi s n u r s e wor ke d, Li e u t e n a n t Pet r i a s s ume s
s he i s a mas s mu r d e r e r wh o kills pa t i e nt s i n t h e n a me of mer cy.
On e of t h e mo s t cyni cal a s s umpt i ons e s p o u s e d by Li eu-
t e n a n t Pet r i al so t ur ns o u t t o be t h e mo s t bl i ndi ng. He bel i eves
t ha t p e o p l e i n n u r s i n g h o me s wh o a r e s eni l e c a n ne ve r t hi nk.
As a r esul t , he di smi sses s ubt l e l eads , over l ooks si gni f i cant cl ues ,
a n d negl ect s i mp o r t a n t as pect s of hi s e x p e r i e n c e s i n c o n n e c t -
i ng wi t h o t h e r s d u r i n g hi s i nves t i gat i on.
I n hi s g e n e r i c s t er eot ypes a b o u t p e o p l e i n n u r s i n g h o me s ,
t he c h a r a c t e r i s mo d e l e d af t er myself. Ini t i al l y i n my own p r o -
f essi onal c a r e e r wh e n I wo r k e d wi t h pa t i e nt s i n a n u r s i n g h o me ,
I wor e bl i nde r s . My a s s u mp t i o n was t ha t n u r s i n g h o me s we r e
me r e d u mp i n g g r o u n d s f or t h e l i vi ng d e a d . Ove r t i me , wh a t I
f o u n d i ns t e a d was a n e n v i r o n me n t wi t h var i ed d e p t h s , f i l l e d
wi t h i nt e r e s t i ng p e o p l e , h u mo r , l ove, a n d all o t h e r as pect s of
h u ma n behavi or . As I di d t h r o u g h f i r s t hand e x p e r i e n c e , Li eu-
t e n a n t Pe t r i event ual l y l e a r ns t o l ook b e y o n d t h e s ur f ace. He
gr adual l y has hi s eyes o p e n e d t o t h e r eal i z at i on t ha t si mpl i st i c
t hi nki ng of t en l eads us d o wn bl i nd al l eys.
We i n d e e d go d o wn bl i nd alleys wh e n we rel y st ri ct l y on as-
s umpt i ons , l abel s, a n d s t er eot ypes a n d t h i n k a b o u t p e o p l e i n a
si mpl i st i c way. To a s s ume , be c a us e I wr i t e a b o u t spi ri t ual i t y, t ha t
I do n o t ha ve h u ma n fai l i ngs wo u l d be a si mpl i st i c c onc l us i on.
38 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
To say t h a t s o me o n e wh o i dent i f i es hi ms el f as a Chr i s t i an mu s t
t he r e f or e aut omat i cal l y be hol i e r t h a n all o t h e r s wo u l d be an-
o t h e r si mpl i st i c a s s umpt i on. Wi t h r el i gi on i n par t i cul ar , t he r e ' s
a t e n d e n c y f or ma n y t o us e l abel s a n d a s s umpt i ons t o val i dat e
t he i r spi ri t ual i t y. So me t h i n k t ha t t h e d e n o mi n a t i o n t o whi c h
t hey b e l o n g mu s t b e t h e o n e a n d onl y r o u t e t o r eal i z i ng Go d .
Th a t i s mi s t a ke n. Go d d o e s n ' t c a r e a s mu c h a b o u t l abel s a s She
d o e s a b o u t s ubs t a nc e .
La be l i ng of p e o p l e a n d t hi ngs always has h i d d e n l i abi l i t i es.
For o n e , i t di mi ni s he s a n d de pl e t e s t he i r d e p t h . I n my o p i n i o n ,
t h e a s s u mp t i o n t ha t s o me o n e wh o i s physi cal l y beaut i f ul i s al so
k i n d e r a n d s ma r t e r t h a n s o me o n e wh o i s physi cal l y d e f o r me d i s
onl y t hat : an a s s umpt i on, n o t a t r ut h. Yet s t udy af t er s t udy d o n e
on t hi s s ubj ect shows t ha t mo s t p e o p l e favor t hos e wh o a r e
vi ewed a s at t r act i ve a n d mo s t of t en a t t r i but e s uc h b e n e v o l e n t
qual i t i es t o t h e m.
Ma n y a s s umpt i ons we dr a w f r om l a be l i ng k e e p life a t t h e
l evel of super f i ci al i t y. We ne gl e c t t o que s t i on o u r c onc l us i ons . I t
woul d, however , be j u s t as si mpl i st i c t o say t h a t t he r e ' s ne ve r a ny
g o o d r e a s o n f or l abel i ng. Sci ent i st s mu s t cat egor i z e t hi ngs t o
t est t he or i e s a n d t o r epl i cat e r esul t s. Te a c he r s mu s t r e c ogni z e
t h a t n o t ever y s e ve nt h- gr a de r i s c a pa bl e of b e c o mi n g a g r e a t
wr i t er . Pa r e nt s mu s t di s t i ngui s h b e t we e n t h e p e r s o n a l t ast es
a n d t e mp e r a me n t s of t he i r c h i l d r e n i f t he y' r e g o i n g t o be per -
cept i ve e n o u g h t o r e s p o n d t o t h e speci fi c n e e d s of e a c h chi l d.
So l a be l i ng ha s its p u r p o s e s l i mi t e d p u r p o s e s . Wh e n i t ' s pr o-
duct i ve, i t ser ves t o h e l p us ma k e qui ck, s o me t i me s l i fesayi ng
deci s i ons . I f y o u ' r e on t h e s t r e e t a t n i g h t a n d b e i n g a p p r o a c h e d
by a me n a c i n g s t r a nge r wi t h a g u n , i t wo u l d be f ool i sh t o say,
" Hm, l et me anal yz e t hi s be f or e I f l ee. "
We n e e d t o us e l abel s t o size up s o me t hi ngs . T h e r e a r e
t i mes wh e n we mu s t ma k e t e mp o r a r y deci s i ons unt i l we ha ve
mo r e i nf or ma t i on or e x p e r i e n c e a b o u t a s i t uat i on or p e r s o n .
But f or t he mo s t pa r t , we t e n d t o l abel f or t h e wr o n g r e a s ons .
Wh e n we us e l a be l i ng t o ma k e a s s umpt i ons a n d unj ust l y di s-
c r i mi na t e agai ns t o t h e r s o r t o ma k e excus es f or our s el ves we
i nf er b r o a d e r qual i t i es a b o u t a p e r s o n or a s i t uat i on wi t h o u t t h e
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 39
i nf or ma t i on neces s ar y t o s u p p o r t o u r c onc l us i ons . Some t i me s ,
t he c o n s e q u e n c e s c a n be des t r uct i ve n o t onl y t o o t h e r s b u t t o
our sel ves.
COMMON CRIMINAL THINKING
I f we ' r e h o n e s t wi t h our s el ves , mo s t of us mu s t a d mi t t ha t at
s o me t i me or a n o t h e r we have e n g a g e d i n c r i mi na l t hi nki ng,
whi ch i s b u t o n e f or m of d i s o r d e r e d t hi nki ng. T h e bul k of cri t -
ical t h e o r y on c r i mi na l t h i n k i n g has b e e n de r i ve d pr i mar i l y
f r om p e o p l e wh o a r e i n c a r c e r a t e d o r have ot he r wi s e b r o k e n
t he law. But t h e r e i s of t en a t hi n l i ne s e pa r a t i ng c r i mi na l s be -
h i n d ba r s f r om t h e r est of us. T h e r e s e a r c h on c r i mi na l t hi nk-
i ng unde r s c or e s t he mos t c o mmo n pa t t e r ns of i r r at i onal t h o u g h t
t hat l e a d t o d i s o r d e r e d deci s i ons . Mos t c o mmo n c r i mi na l
t hi nki ng p a t t e r n s a r e n o t s o mu c h c o n v o l u t e d a s si mpl i st i c a n d
one - di me ns i ona l . T h e n t h e r e i s a t e n d e n c y a mo n g s o me t o see
t hems el ves as always t h e vi ct i m. Pe o p l e wh o t hi nk t hi s way do
n o t t ake r es pons i bi l i t y f or t he i r choi ces . For o t h e r s still, t h e r e i s
a l ack of per s pect i ve a b o u t t i me , whi c h r esul t s i n l i vi ng pr i ma r -
ily i n t h e pr e s e nt , wi t hout i nves t i ng i n t h e f ut ur e or t a ki ng i nt o
a c c o u n t t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s of o n e ' s act i ons .
On e a s pe c t o f c r i mi na l t h i n k i n g p a t t e r n s s t a nds o u t mo s t
be c a us e of its pr e va l e nc e a mo n g n o n c r i mi n a l s e g me n t s of t h e
p o p u l a t i o n . I t i s an a t t i t ude of o wn e r s h i p , or wh a t c a n be r e-
f er r ed t o as a s ens e of e nt i t l e me nt . I n h e r e n t i n t hi s a t t i t ude i s a
cocki nes s t h a t b o r d e r s on bl a t a nt nar ci s s i s m. Th o s e wi t h a n ex-
t r e me s ens e of e n t i t l e me n t a r e abl e t o j ust i fy vi ol at i ng o t h e r
p e o p l e or t he i r p r o p e r t y wi t hout r e g a r d t o t he i r r i ght s . I f t he i r
t h i n k i n g s t ems f r om a n "i nf er i or i t y c ompl e x, " t hos e wh o feel
e nt i t l e d s ee t hems el ves as hel pl es s a n d of t en as vi ct i ms. Th e y
c o mp l a i n a n d pr ot e s t gr eat l y a b o u t t h e l ack of o p p o r t u n i t i e s
t hey have h a d i n life be c a us e of t he i r e t hni c , e c o n o mi c , or f am-
ily b a c k g r o u n d . Th e y di s c ount t he i r own f ai l ur e t o p u t i n t h e ef-
f or t r e q u i r e d t o i mp r o v e t he i r lives. So me will c h o o s e t o st eal ,
ma n i p u l a t e , a n d ot he r wi s e t ake f r om o t h e r s be c a us e of t he i r
40 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
bel i ef t ha t t h e wor l d owes t h e m. Th e y fail t o s ee t he i r own ne g-
l i gence i n c o n s i d e r i n g al t er nat i ve ways of t h i n k i n g a n d l i vi ng.
I n o t h e r s t h e s ens e of e n t i t l e me n t ar i ses o u t of a " s uper i or -
ity c ompl e x. " A p e r s o n ma y bel i eve he s h o u l d always ha ve f i r s t
s hot at ever yt hi ng, a ga i n usual l y be c a us e of hi s e t hni c , eco-
n o mi c , or fami l y b a c k g r o u n d . He t hi nks t hos e l i ke h i m a r e al so
s u p e r i o r a n d t he r e f or e d u e a n y t h i n g t hey des i r e, e ve n i f ge t t i ng
i t me a n s t a ki ng f r om ot he r s . He feel s e nt i t l e d t o t h e bes t e du-
cat i onal or j o b o p p o r t u n i t i e s , a n d i s of f e nde d by o t h e r s wh o
wa n t t h e bes t f or t hems el ves . De s i r i ng t h e bes t i n life i s n o t t h e
p r o b l e m. Thi s t h i n k i n g i s p r o b l e ma t i c wh e n p e o p l e a r e wi l l i ng
t o vi ol at e o t h e r s by di s c r i mi na t i on, e xpl oi t a t i on, a n d oppr e s -
s i on, d e n y i n g t h e m t h e s a me r i ght s , o p p o r t u n i t i e s , a n d access
t o va l ue d r e s our c e s .
Of c our s e , all of t hi s i s si mpl i st i c t hi nki ng. I t i s as a p p a r e n t
a mo n g t hos e c o n s i d e r e d t o b e ot he r wi s e i nt el l i gent a n d suc-
cessful , wh o ha ve a t t e n d e d t op- not c h s chool s a n d r u n ma j or
c o r p o r a t i o n s , as i t i s a mo n g t h e u n e d u c a t e d , unde r pr i vi l e ge d,
a n d c r i mi na l a n d me nt a l l y ill p o p u l a t i o n s . T h e c o mmo n de -
n o mi n a t o r i s o u r h u ma n t e n d e n c y of f ai l i ng t o t hi nk wel l .
THINKING TOO LITTLE IS YOUR PROBLEM
On e p a t i e n t I saw i n my pr a c t i c e year s a go i s an e x a mp l e of t h e
p r o b l e ms c r e a t e d by a f ai l ur e t o t hi nk wel l . Hi s pr evai l i ng mo -
tive, a n d t h e speci fi c def ect i n hi s t hi nki ng, was r es i s t ance t o
c h a n g e . Gi ven t ha t we live i n a wor l d of c h a n g e , t h i n k i n g t h a t i t
was pos s i bl e n o t t o c h a n g e , or s i mpl y t o avoi d c h a n g e , fell
s o me wh e r e i n b e t we e n a n i l l usi on a n d a de l us i on. Thi s ma n
c a me t o s ee me f r om a c o u n t r y t own t ha t was a b o u t a t went y-
mi n u t e dr i ve f r om my offi ce. He saw me t wi ce a we e k f or f our
year s a n d we n t t h r o u g h hi s life savi ngs f or t he s e sessi ons. Thi s
i nve s t me nt of t i me a n d mo n e y wo u l d s e e m t o r ef l ect a n i nt e r e s t
i n c h a n g e a n d gr owt h. Suc h, I di s cover ed, was n o t t h e case.
Wh e n he first s t ar t ed, I gave h i m a ma p f or a s h o r t c u t he
c oul d t ake wh e n c o mi n g t o see me , savi ng b o t h t i me a n d
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 41
money. Ab o u t six mo n t h s i nt o t her apy, he c o mp l a i n e d o n e day
a b o u t h o w l o n g i t t ook t o dr i ve t o hi s a p p o i n t me n t s . So I sai d,
"Well, J o h n , t ry t h e s hor t c ut . " But he r e pl i e d, " I ' m sorry, I l ost
t he ma p . " I gave h i m a n o t h e r o n e .
Ab o u t six mo n t h s af t er t hat , he c o mp l a i n e d a ga i n a b o u t
how l o n g i t t ook. I as ked, "Wel l , do you t ake t h e s hor t c ut ? " He
sai d, " No, i t ' s wi nt e r a n d I h a v e n ' t wa n t e d t o c h a n c e i t on t h e icy
back r oa ds . " I t h e n a s ke d wh e t h e r he h a d l ost t h e ma p agai n,
a n d I e n d e d up gi vi ng h i m a n o t h e r o n e . Finally, a year or s o
l a t e r a b o u t t wo year s i nt o t h e r a p y h e s t a r t e d c o mp l a i n i n g
agai n, a n d a ga i n I as ked, " J ohn, ha ve you t r i ed t h e s hor t c ut ? "
He sai d, " Oh , yeah. I t r i ed i t b u t i t d i d n ' t save any t i me. " So I
s a i d a n d t hi s i s n o t t ypi cal of anal yst b e h a v i o r " J o h n , off t h e
c o u c h . Ge t off t h e c o u c h . We ' r e g o i n g t o do a n e x p e r i me n t . "
I gave h i m t h e o p t i o n of b e i n g t h e r e c o r d e r or t h e dr i ver .
He d e c i d e d t o b e t h e r e c or de r . We got i nt o my c a r a n d dr ove
t he r o u t e he usual l y t ook, a n d t h e n we dr ove t h e s h o r t c u t ba c k
t o my offi ce. T h e s h o r t c u t wo u l d have saved h i m f i ve mi n u t e s
e a c h way. " J ohn, " I sai d. " I ' d l i ke t o p o i n t o u t s o me t h i n g t o you.
You have l ost t e n mi n u t e s on ever y r o u n d t r i p you ha ve ma d e t o
my offi ce. You have g o n e o u t of y o u r way f or t h e l ast t wo year s,
t he e qui va l e nt of t wo t h o u s a n d mi n u t e s , or t h r e e days. You have
was t ed t h r e e days of your life. No t onl y t hat , " I a d d e d , "you' ve
dr i ven a t ot al of t wel ve t h o u s a n d mi l es o u t of your way t o avoi d
t a ki ng t ha t s hor t c ut . An d i f t ha t i s n' t e n o u g h , you' ve l i ed t o
p r o t e c t your ne ur os i s . "
I t was a ye a r af t er t ha t a f t e r a t ot al of t h r e e year s of t her -
a p y wh e n J o h n f i nal l y sai d, "Well, I gue s s I s u p p o s e t h e
d o mi n a n t mot i ve i n my life i s t o avoi d any c h a n g e . " Th a t was
why he a voi de d t a ki ng t h e s hor t c ut . I t wo u l d have me a n t t hi nk-
i ng a n d d o i n g s o me t h i n g di f f er ent f r om wh a t h e h a d b e c o me
a c c u s t o me d t o. T h e s a me was t r u e i n o u r wor k t oge t he r . But hi s
us e of t h e p h r a s e " I gues s " a n d " I s u p p o s e " ma d e i t cl ear t ha t
J o h n was still r e l uc t a nt t o own up t o t h e necessi t y f or c h a n g e .
T h e p o we r of n e u r o s e s c a n be f or mi da bl e . Less t h a n a success-
ful case, unt i l t h e ver y e n d of o u r wor k he c o n t i n u e d t o set hi m-
self up f or f ai l ur e by s e e ki ng t o avoi d t h e ri sks i nvol ved wi t h
42 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
c h a n g e . Li ke J o h n , ma n y p e o p l e r u n f r om t h e c h a n g e neces -
sary for gr owt h. Th e y a r e n ' t wi l l i ng t o face t h e t ask of r e f or mu-
l at i ng s o me of t h e a s s umpt i ons a n d i l l usi ons t hey ha ve a c c e p t e d
as t r ut h.
Wh e n I was i n ps ychi at r i c t r ai ni ng, s c h i z o p h r e n i a was la-
be l e d a t h i n k i n g di s or der , or a t h o u g h t di s or der . Si nce t ha t
t i me , I have c o me t o bel i eve t ha t all psychi at r i c di s or de r s a r e
t h i n k i n g di s or de r s . I ndi vi dual s at t h e e x t r e me s of me n t a l ill-
ness, as i n s o me f or ms of s c hi z ophr e ni a , a r e cl ear l y t h e vi ct i ms
of d i s o r d e r e d t h i n k i n g a n d ma y be s o far o u t of t o u c h wi t h r e-
ality t h a t t hey c a n n o t f unc t i on wel l i n day-t o-day act i vi t i es. Yet
we ha ve all me t nar ci ssi st s, obsessi ve- compul si ves, a n d passi ve-
d e p e n d e n t p e o p l e i n o u r soci al a n d wor k lives. Th e i r me n t a l
h e a l t h ma y b e f r agi l e, b u t t hey ma n a g e t o a p p e a r " n o r ma l "
a n d ge t by. T h e fact , however , i s t h a t t hey, t oo, a r e d i s o r d e r e d
t hi nke r s . Narci ssi st s c a n n o t t hi nk a b o u t o t h e r p e o p l e . Obsessi ve-
compul s i ves c a n n o t t hi nk a b o u t t h e bi g pi c t ur e . Passive-
d e p e n d e n t p e o p l e c a n n o t t hi nk f or t hems el ves .
I n ever y ps ychi at r i c c o n d i t i o n I ha ve wo r k e d wi t h over t h e
year s, t h e r e was s o me di s or de r of t h i n k i n g i nvol ved. Mos t p e o -
pl e wh o go i nt o t h e r a p y a r e suf f er i ng f r om e i t h e r a ne ur os i s or
c ha r a c t e r di s or der . Amo n g t h e ge ne r a l p o p u l a t i o n wh o ne ve r
go t o see a ps yc hot he r a pi s t , t he s e c ondi t i ons a r e equal l y p r o mi -
n e n t a n d a r e , agai n, t h e r es ul t of d i s o r d e r e d t hi nki ng. Th e y
a r e , at r oot , i l l usi ons of r esponsi bi l i t y, a n d as s uc h, t hey r ef l ect
oppos i t e styles of t h i n k i n g a b o u t a n d r e l a t i ng t o t h e wor l d a n d
t he p r o b l e ms i n life.
T h e n e u r o t i c p e r s o n i s u n d e r t h e i l l usi on t ha t s he i s r e-
s pons i bl e f or e ve r yone or e ve r yt hi ng a n d , as a r esul t , of t en as-
s ume s t oo mu c h r esponsi bi l i t y. Wh e n ne ur ot i c s a r e i n conf l i ct
wi t h t he wor l d, t hey t e n d t o a s s ume aut omat i cal l y t ha t t hey a r e
a t faul t . T h e p e r s o n wi t h a c h a r a c t e r di s or de r o p e r a t e s u n d e r
t h e i l l usi on t ha t he s h o u l d n ' t have t o be r e s pons i bl e f or hi ms el f
or a n y o n e el se. Th u s , he ' s n o t l i kel y t o t ake on e n o u g h r e s pon-
sibility. Wh e n t hos e wi t h c h a r a c t e r di s or de r s a r e i n conf l i ct wi t h
t h e wor l d t hey aut omat i cal l y a s s ume t h e wor l d i s at faul t .
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 43
Let me p o i n t o u t t ha t all of us have t o live wi t h s o me illu-
si ons. Th e s e a r e wha t psychol ogi st s cal l he a l t hy i l l usi ons, whi c h
h e l p s u p p o r t us d u r i n g p e r i o d s of t r ans i t i on i n life a n d give us
h o p e . Ta ke t h e i l l usi on of r o ma n t i c l ove. Pe o p l e wo u l d n ' t ge t
ma r r i e d wi t hout it. T h e i l l usi on t ha t r ai s i ng c h i l d r e n i s g o i n g t o
be mo r e f un t h a n p a i n i s heal t hy, t oo. Ot he r wi s e we wo u l d n ' t
have c h i l d r e n . I t h o u g h t t ha t my own c h i l d r e n wo u l d be eas i er
t o de a l wi t h wh e n t hey got o u t of di a pe r s , a n d t h e n I t h o u g h t
t ha t t hey wo u l d be eas i er wh e n t hey s t a r t e d s chool . T h e n I
t h o u g h t t he y wo u l d be eas i er wh e n t hey got t he i r dr i ver ' s li-
censes. T h e n wh e n t hey we n t t o col l ege. T h e n wh e n t hey got
ma r r i e d. No w I ha ve t h e i l l usi on t ha t my c h i l d r e n will be eas i er
t o de a l wi t h o n c e t he y' r e i n t he i r f or t i es. I l l usi ons l i ke t ha t k e e p
us g o i n g a n d e n c o u r a g e gr owt h.
So i l l usi ons a r e n o t t ot al l y ba d, unl es s we h o l d on t o t h e m
far t oo l o n g a n d b e y o n d t he i r usef ul ness. T h e p r o b l e m c o me s
wh e n o u r i l l usi ons cons i s t ent l y i nt e r f e r e wi t h gr owt h. For ex-
a mp l e , t h e si xt een- year - ol d wh o b e c o me s obsessi ve i n h e r t hi nk-
i ng a b o u t h e r e a t i ng ha bi t s a n d a p p e a r a n c e ma y feel s he i s
ne ve r t hi n e n o u g h o r g o o d e n o u g h t o me a s u r e u p t o t h e o t h e r
girls i n h e r s c hool . I n t a ki ng t hi s i l l usi on t o a n e x t r e me , s he
ma y st ar ve her s el f a n d b e c o me a nor e xi c . Or s he ma y o u t g r o w
t hi s n e u r o t i c d i l e mma by t h e t i me s he r e a c h e s h e r t went i es a n d
b e c o me s mo r e c o n f i d e n t a n d sel f - assur ed. T h e y o u n g ma n wh o
d o e s n ' t excel i n s por t s ma y f i nd t ha t hi s i nt el l ect ual qual i t i es
c o mp e n s a t e f or hi s l ack of at hl et i c skills. I f he c a n l e a r n t o val ue
hi s i nt el l ect , i t will be mo r e pos s i bl e t o o v e r c o me t h e n e u r o t i c
i nf er i or i t y c o mp l e x h e e x p e r i e n c e s wh e n c o mp a r i n g hi ms e l f t o
t he j o c k s at hi s s chool . So a mi l d ne ur os i s or sl i ght c h a r a c t e r di s-
o r d e r n e e d n o t be vi ewed a s a l i f et i me di s pos i t i on. On t h e o t h e r
h a n d , o u r pe r s i s t e nt n e u r o s e s a n d c h a r a c t e r di s or de r s a r e cr i p-
pl i ng i f n o t de a l t wi t h. Th e y c a n gr ow a n d b e c o me l i ke b o u l d e r s
t ha t t ot al l y bl oc k o u r way.
Car l J u n g wr ot e , " Neur os i s i s always a s ubs t i t ut e f or l egi t i -
ma t e suf f er i ng. " But t h e s ubs t i t ut e c a n b e c o me mo r e pai nf ul
t h a n t h e l egi t i mat e suf f er i ng i t was d e s i g n e d t o avoi d. T h e ne u-
44 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
rosi s i t sel f ul t i mat el y b e c o me s t h e bi gges t p r o b l e m. As I wr ot e
i n The Road Less Traveled, " Tr ue t o f or m, ma n y will t h e n a t t e mp t
t o avoi d t hi s p a i n a n d t hi s p r o b l e m, i n t u r n , b u i l d i n g l ayer
u p o n l ayer of ne ur os i s . For t unat el y, however , s o me possess t h e
c o u r a g e t o face t he i r n e u r o s e s a n d be gi nus ua l l y wi t h t h e
h e l p of p s y c h o t h e r a p y t o l e a r n h o w t o e x p e r i e n c e l e gi t i ma t e
suf f er i ng. I n any case, wh e n we avoi d t h e l egi t i mat e suf f er i ng
t ha t r es ul t s f r om de a l i ng wi t h p r o b l e ms , we al so avoi d t h e
gr owt h t ha t p r o b l e ms d e ma n d f r om us. I t i s f or t hi s r e a s o n t ha t
i n c h r o n i c me n t a l i l l ness we s t op gr owi ng, we b e c o me st uck.
An d wi t hout gr owt h, wi t hout he a l i ng, t h e h u ma n spi r i t be gi ns
t o shr i vel . "
THINKING TOO MUCH IS SOMEBODY ELSE'S PROBLEM
Al t h o u g h of t en we do d a ma g e t o our s el ves t h r o u g h si mpl i st i c
t hi nki ng, t h e r e a r e o t h e r t i me s wh e n p e o p l e ma y s eek t o d a m-
a ge us f or d a r i n g t o t hi nk wel l . I f we t hi nk a gr e a t de a l a n d ot h-
er s d o n ' t par t i cul ar l y l i ke it, t h a t i s t he i r p r o b l e m, n o t our s . I f
you us e y o u r br a i n, i t ' s b o u n d t o c r e a t e a p r o b l e m f or o t h e r s i f
t hey a r e s e e ki ng t o us e, a bus e , or c ont r ol you or k e e p you de -
p e n d e n t o r f ear f ul . Th e i r h i d d e n mot i ve ma y b e t o di s c our a ge
you f r om r eal i z i ng t h e s ens e of p e r s o n a l p o we r t h a t i s di r ect l y
r e l a t e d t o t h e abi l i t y t o exer ci s e g o o d , i n d e p e n d e n t t hi nki ng.
Mu c h i s i nves t ed i n ha vi ng us bel i eve e ve r yt hi ng we r e a d i n
ne ws pa pe r s a n d e ve r yt hi ng o u r g o v e r n me n t t el l s us . Af t er all, i f
we ' r e n o t t h i n k i n g f or our s el ves , we a r e easy t ar get s f or c ont r ol
a n d ma n i p u l a t i o n . To k e e p u s d e p e n d e n t , we a r e t a u g h t t h a t
i t ' s n o t neces s ar y t o t h i n k mu c h . My own p a r e n t s u s e d t o r ou-
t i nel y tell me , "Scotty, you t hi nk t o o mu c h . " Ho w ma n y p a r e n t s
or t e a c he r s have t ol d c h i l d r e n t h e s a me t hi ng: ' You t hi nk t o o
mu c h . " Wh a t a t er r i bl e t h i n g t o say t o anybody. T h e r e a s o n we
we r e gi ven a br a i n i s t o t hi nk. But we live i n a c ul t ur e t ha t pl aces
l i t t l e val ue on t h e i nt el l ect , t h e abi l i t y t o t h i n k wel l , be c a us e i t i s
vi ewed as di f f e r e nt a nd possi bl y even d a n g e r o u s . For a n y o n e
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 45
wh o i s i n c ont r ol , l i ke p a r e n t s or e mpl oye r s or o u r g o v e r n me n t ,
i t ma y feel l i ke a t h r e a t wh e n s o me o n e el se t hi nks i n d e p e n -
dent l y.
T h e mo s t c o mmo n r e s pons e t o all of my wr i t i ngs i s n o t t ha t
I' ve sai d a n y t h i n g par t i cul ar l y new. I t i s t ha t I wr i t e a b o u t t h e
ki nds of t hi ngs t ha t a l ot of p e o p l e have b e e n t h i n k i n g al l a l ong,
b u t we r e af r ai d t o t al k a bout . Th e y have f o u n d t h e k n o wl e d g e
t ha t t hey a r e n o t a l o n e n o t cr az yt o be of gr e a t s ol ace i n a
c ul t ur e t ha t di s c our a ge s t hi nki ng, a n d of t en c a ndor . I n d e e d , i t
t akes c o u r a g e t o be di f f er ent , t o d a r e t o be onesel f . I f we c h o o s e
t o t hi nk f or our s el ves , we mu s t be b r a c e d f or backl as h. We ri sk
b e i n g s e e n a s eccent r i cs or ma l c o n t e n t s . We ma y be p r e s u me d
t o be on t h e f r i nges of ma i n s t r e a m soci et y, r e g a r d e d as differ-
e n t a n d a b n o r ma l i n t h e wor s t s ens e of t h e wor d. But i f we d a r e
t o s eek gr owt h, we ha ve t o d a r e t o t hi nk.
I t c a n t ake a l i f et i me f or ma n y p e o p l e t o c o me t o t e r ms
wi t h t h e f r e e d o m t hey t r ul y have t o t hi nk f or t hems el ves . But
t hi s p a t h t o f r e e d o m i s obs t r uc t e d by soci et al myt hs , o n e of
whi c h wo u l d ha ve us bel i eve t h a t o n c e we ha ve c o mp l e t e d a do-
l es cence, we c a n' t c h a n g e mu c h . I n reality, we a r e abl e t o c h a n g e
a n d gr ow t h r o u g h o u t o u r l i f et i mes even i n t h e s ubt l es t ways.
But i t i s a c hoi c e . Of t e n i t i s wh e n we me e t t h e cri ses of mi dl i f e
t hat o u r t h i n k i n g t akes off i n ne w a n d i n d e p e n d e n t di r e c t i ons .
An d f or s o me , i n d e p e n d e n t t h i n k i n g evol ves onl y wh e n t hey
ar e a b o u t t o di e. Sadly, of c our s e , f or ma n y i t ne ve r h a p p e n s .
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE IN-BETWEEN
I t i s a t r u e sayi ng t ha t you a r e wh a t you t hi nk. You a r e wh a t you
t hi nk mos t a bout . You a r e wh a t you d o n ' t t h i n k a bout . So i n
es s ence, t h e g o o d , t h e ba d, a n d e ve r yt hi ng i n b e t we e n t ha t we
t hi nk o r d o n ' t t hi nk a b o u t t el l s mu c h a b o u t wh o we a r e . Wh e n
we t hi nk si mpl i st i cal l y a b o u t ever yt hi ng, we set our s el ves up t o
always e x p e c t s i mpl e s ol ut i ons , obvi ous ans wer s , a n d cl ear r e-
sul t s e ve n i n c o mp l e x s i t uat i ons . We n e e d t o c o me t o t e r ms wi t h
46 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
t h e r eal i t y t ha t ma n y s i t ua t i ons s uc h a s wh e t h e r t o ma r r y t hi s
p e r s o n or t ha t o n e , wh a t c a r e e r t o c hoos e , wh e n t o buy a
hous e i nvol ve ga mbl e s . We n e e d t o l e a r n t o live wi t h t h e "i n-
be t we e nne s s " of uncer t ai nt y.
A t ol e r a nc e f or uncer t ai nt y, as I p o i n t e d o u t i n The Road
Less Traveled, i s cr uci al i n t h e pr oc e s s of q u e s t i o n i n g o u r as-
s u mp t i o n s . An d in A Bed by the Window, my det ect i ve r u n s off
ha l f - c oc ke da nd as t r aywi t h hi s s t er eot ypi cal t h i n k i n g i n a
r us h t o j u d g me n t i n l ar ge p a r t be c a us e he i s unwi l l i ng t o wai t
t h r o u g h a p e r i o d of uncer t ai nl y. But s i nce we c a n ne ve r be s ur e
we ha ve c o n s i d e r e d al l as pect s of a s i t uat i on, t h e wi l l i ngness t o
t hi nk i n d e p t h of t en l eads t o i ndeci s i venes s . Th e r e ' s always a
c h a n c e we ma y l eave s o me t h i n g out , a n d we mu s t be wi l l i ng t o
b e a r t h e p a i n i nvol ved i n b e i n g u n c e r t a i n . I n t h e face of t hi s
unc e r t a i nt y, we still ha ve t o be abl e t o act a n d ma k e deci s i ons
a t s o me poi nt . I n we i ghi ng o u r t h o u g h t s a n d f eel i ngs, wh a t
ma t t e r s mo s t i s wh e t h e r we a r e wi l l i ng t o wr est l e wi t h t h e r eal -
i zat i on t h a t we d o n ' t k n o w i t all. Thi s me a n s n o t onl y b e i n g i n-
t r os pect i ve, b u t al so e x p e r i e n c i n g d o u b t . Do u b t , I bel i eve, i s
of t en t h e b e g i n n i n g of wi s dom.
I n my pr a c t i c e as a ps yc hot he r a pi s t , I di s cover ed t ha t ma n y
p e o p l e h o l d t enaci ous l y t o t h e cer t ai nt y of t he i r c h i l d h o o d be -
liefs, as i f t hey c o u l d n ' t f unc t i on as adul t s wi t h o u t t hi s cer t ai nt y
as a s ecur i t y bl a nke t . Onl y wh e n t he y hi t t h e g a p i n g voi d wo u l d
d o u b t a n d unc e r t a i nt y e me r g e , a n d i n c o n f r o n t i n g cri si s, t he s e
b e c a me a savi ng gr a c e .
Fr equent l y, a b o u t o n e or t wo year s i nt o t her apy, t hey woul d
b e c o me far mo r e d e p r e s s e d t h a n t hey we r e wh e n t hey f i r s t
c a me t o me . I cal l ed t h e p h e n o me n o n t h e r a p e u t i c de pr e s s i on.
At t hi s j u n c t u r e , pa t i e nt s r eal i z ed t ha t t he i r ol d way of t h i n k i n g
was no l o n g e r wo r k i n g f or t h e m. Th e y h a d c o me t o see s o me of
t he i r t h i n k i n g p a t t e r n s as s t upi d or ma l a da pt i ve . But n e w ways
of t h i n k i n g s e e me d t erri fyi ngl y ri sky a n d i n h e r e n t l y di ffi cul t .
Th e y c o u l d n ' t go ba c k a n d c o u l d n ' t go f or war d, a n d i n t hi s "i n-
be t we e nne s s " t hey b e c a me de pr e s s e d. At s uc h t i mes , t hey
wo u l d ask, "Wel l , why go anypl ace? Wh y s h o u l d I e xe r t myself?
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 47
Why s houl d I r i sk c h a n g i n g my beliefs? Why s h o u l d n ' t I j u s t gi ve
up a n d kill mysel f ? Wh y b o t h e r ? Wha t ' s t h e p o i n t of i t al l ?"
For t he s e que s t i ons , t h e r e a r e ne ve r easy ans wer s . T h e r e
ar e no ans wer s i n t h e me di c a l t e xt books or books of ps ychi at r y
be c a us e t he s e a r e f unda me nt a l l y exi s t ent i al a n d s pi r i t ual que s -
t i ons . Th e y a r e que s t i ons a b o u t me a n i n g i n life. An d a l t h o u g h
i t was di ffi cul t t o g r a p p l e wi t h, I cal l ed t hi s p e r i o d of de pr e s s i on
t he r a pe ut i c pr eci sel y be c a us e s uc h spi r i t ual gr a ppl i ng ul t i mat el y
l ed t o gr owt h f or t he s e pa t i e nt s i n l ong- t e r m t her apy.
In t h e i n t r o d u c t i o n to The Road Less Traveled, I wr ot e t ha t I
ma k e l i t t l e di s t i nct i on b e t we e n t h e mi n d a n d t h e spi r i t , a n d
t he r e f or e n o di s t i nct i on b e t we e n s pi r i t ual gr owt h a n d me n t a l
gr owt h. You c a n n o t s e pa r a t e t hi nki ngi nt e l l e c t f r om psy-
chol ogi cal a n d s pi r i t ual gr owt h. Wh e n I was i n t r a i ni ng, i t was
f a s hi ona bl e t o de c r y i nt el l ect ual i ns i ght . T h e only t h i n g cons i d-
e r e d i mp o r t a n t was e mo t i o n a l i ns i ght , as i f i nt el l ect ual u n d e r -
s t a ndi ng we r e wor t hl es s . Thi s was si mpl i st i c t hi nki ng. Whi l e I
a gr e e t ha t ul t i mat el y t h e r e has t o be e mo t i o n a l i ns i ght , mo s t of
t he t i me you c a n' t even be gi n t o u n d e r s t a n d t h e e mo t i o n a l as-
pect s of an i ndi vi dual case unt i l you ha ve a t t a i ne d i nt el l ect ual
i nsi ght .
Le t us t ake t h e Oe d i p u s c o mp l e x . An a dul t wi t h a n u n r e -
sol ved Oe d i p u s c o mp l e x c a n n o t b e h e a l e d unl es s h e f i r s t i nt el -
l ect ual l y knows wha t a n Oe d i p u s c o mp l e x i si f he c a n be
h e a l e d at al l .
To b e c o me he a l t hy adul t s we f i r s t mu s t r esol ve t h e Oe d i p a l
d i l e mma of gi vi ng up o u r s exual f eel i ngs f or o u r pa r e nt s . I f t h e
chi l d i s a boy, t h e f a t he r i s s e e n as t h e c o mp e t i t i o n f or t h e
mo t h e r ' s a t t e nt i on. I f i t ' s a gi rl , t h e des i r e f or t h e f a t he r as a sex-
ual or l ove obj ect me a n s c o mp e t i n g wi t h t h e mo t h e r . For t h e
f i r s t t i me i n t he i r lives, basically, c h i l d r e n e x p e r i e n c e t h e t en-
si ons of loss. Th e y a r e f or c e d t o gi ve up s o me t h i n g i mp o r t a n t t o
t h e m t h a t t hey c a n n o t have. I n my e x p e r i e n c e , p e o p l e wh o fail
t o r esol ve t h e Oe d i p u s c o mp l e x a ppr opr i a t e l y will t he r e a f t e r
have t h e mo s t sever e, e ve n ove r whe l mi ng, di ffi cul t y i n ever r e-
n o u n c i n g a n y t h i n g s i nce t hey ne ve r ma d e t ha t f i r s t r e n u n c i a -
48 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
t i on. So i t ' s cr uci al t ha t t hey c o me t o t e r ms wi t h n o t b e i n g abl e
t o possess t h e p a r e n t i n t h e way t ha t t hey have f ant asi zed.
A wo ma n wh o mo v e d f r om Fl or i da t o Co n n e c t i c u t t o s ee
me f or t h e r a p y was a case i n poi nt . She was an ear l y f an of The
Road Less Traveled, a n d s he h a d t h e mo n e y t o ma k e s uc h a move .
I n hi nds i ght , I s h o u l d have di s c our a ge d h e r f r om p a c k i n g up
a n d mo v i n g s o far, be c a us e t h e r e a r e always l ocal t her api s t s
avai l abl e. I t was o n e of sever al mi s t akes I ma d e i n t hi s case, a n d
h e r h e a l i n g was i n c o mp l e t e . Gi ven t h e di ffi cul t i es I e n c o u n -
t e r e d wi t h h e r i n t her apy, t h e f ur t hes t we got i n p e n e t r a t i n g t h e
r eal i ssue was t h e day wh e n s he f i r s t h e a r d her s el f cl ear l y ut t e r
h e r h i d d e n mot i ves f or c o mi n g t o me f or t her apy. Af t er l eavi ng
a sessi on t hi s pa r t i c ul a r day, s he sat i n h e r car, s o b b i n g a n d
s ha ki ng at t h e s t e e r i ng whe e l . "Well, ma y b e wh e n I ge t over my
Oe d i p u s c ompl e x, " s he sai d, " t h e n Dr. Pe c k will ma r r y me . " I
h a d b e c o me t h e f a t he r f i gur e i n h e r life, a r e p l a c e me n t f or t h e
f a t he r s he c o u l d n o t have. Lat er , s he sai d t o me , "Maybe y o u ' r e
r i ght . Ma ybe I do ha ve a n Oe d i p u s c ompl e x. " But we wo u l d n ' t
ha ve g o t t e n e ve n t ha t far h a d I n o t f i r s t i nt el l ect ual l y e x p l a i n e d
t o h e r wha t a n Oe d i p u s c o mp l e x was.
An o t h e r case i nvol ved a ma n wh o was t r e a t e d, a ga i n un-
successfully, f or t h e di ffi cul t y he h a d wi t h r e n u n c i a t i o n . Wh e n
he c a me t o see me he was t or t ur e d. Hi s c o mp l a i n t was t h a t he
h a d t h r e e gi r l f r i ends a n d was s l e e pi ng wi t h all of t h e m. Co m-
pl i cat i ng ma t t e r s , he was s t ar t i ng t o be a t t r a c t e d t o a f our t h
o n e . "Dr. Peck, " he sai d, "you d o n ' t u n d e r s t a n d t h e a g o n y I ' m
i n, j u s t h o w t er r i bl e t hi s is. Do you k n o w wh a t i t ' s l i ke t o t ry a n d
s how up a t t h r e e di f f er ent Tha nks gi vi ng di nne r s ? "
" Tha t d o e s ma k e y o u r life ki nd of c ompl i c a t e d, d o e s n ' t i t ?"
I r e s p o n d e d . At t ha t t i me, I was no l o n g e r s e e i ng p e o p l e f or
t her apy, onl y f or c ons ul t a t i ons . But s i nce I d i d n ' t qui t e k n o w
wha t t o ma k e of t hi s ma n initially, I a s ke d h i m t o c o me ba c k f or
a s e c o n d visit. I n b e t we e n t hos e sessi ons, I b e g a n t o wo n d e r
wh e t h e r t h e r e a s o n he c o u l d n ' t gi ve up any of hi s gi r l f r i ends
c o u l d n ' t c h o o s e o n e wa s p e r h a p s t ha t h e h a d n ' t r es ol ved hi s
Oe d i p u s c o mp l e x . Wh e n h e c a me ba c k f or t h e s e c o n d sessi on,
I a s ke d h i m t o tell me a b o u t hi s mo t h e r .
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 49
He de s c r i be d h e r a s s t unni ngl y beaut i f ul a n d we n t o n a n d
on a n d on a b o u t her . He wo r k e d f or a c o mp a n y i n p e r s o n n e l
c ouns e l i ng a n d c o n d u c t e d wor ks hops r e l a t e d t o psychol ogy.
Des pi t e t h e si gni f i cant b a c k g r o u n d he h a d i n psychol ogy, he
was e mot i ona l l y u n a wa r e of hi s own d i l e mma . Wh e n I sai d t o
hi m, "Har r y, by t h e way, do you k n o w wha t a n Oe d i p u s c o mp l e x
is?" hi s r epl y was "It ' s got s o me t h i n g t o do wi t h p e o p l e , d o e s n ' t
it?" Thi s ma n s h o u l d have known, a t l east i nt el l ect ual l y, wh a t a n
Oe d i p u s c o mp l e x is. Appa r e nt l y, h e j u s t h a d n ' t h e a r d mu c h o f
what was sai d a b o u t i t d u r i n g hi s t r a i ni ng. T h e obvi ous r e a s on,
of c our s e , i s t ha t i t t o u c h e d on hi s own ne ur os i s . Ha v i n g n o w
ma d e t h e di agnos i s , I r e f e r r e d h i m t o a n o t h e r t her api s t , b u t I
l at er h e a r d t h a t t he i r sessi ons we r e uns ucces s f ul . He was unwi l l -
i ng t o c h a n g e . I t i s h a r d t o mo v e on wh e n you c a n' t r e n o u n c e
a nyt hi ng.
It ' s a s i mi l ar p r o b l e m i n de a l i ng wi t h mas ochi s t s . T h e r o o t
of t he i r ne ur os i s i s t h e des i r e t o be mi s e r a bl e . An d t o ge t wel l ,
t hey ha ve t o l e a r n ways t o be ha ppy. But t he i r bas i c mot i ve i s t o
not be happy. Thi s i s a s e t u p for sel f-defeat i n t h e r a p y wi t h all
t hos e wh o cl i ng h a r d t o s o me t h i n g t hey a r e si mpl y unwi l l i ng or
u n a b l e at t h e t i me t o gi ve u p , even t h o u g h i t i s ma k i n g t h e m
u n h a p p y . I t ' s as i f t hey ha ve a bui l t - i n mot i ve f or f ai l ur e. To
give up s o me t h i n g r e p r e s e n t s ma k i n g a c h a n g e . Li ke t h e ma n
wh o was unwi l l i ng t o gi ve up hi s pr omi s cui t y, s uc h i ndi vi dual s
ar e unwi l l i ng t o ma k e t h e c h a n g e s t ha t will he a l t h e m. Th a t i s
t he s or t of pr i c e ma n y pay f or a t h i n k i n g di s or der .
THINKING AND LISTENING
Gi ven o u r a l mos t addi ct i ve r e l i a nc e on a s s u mp t i o n s a n d on
t he i l l usi ons t ha t coexi s t wi t h t h e mwe of t en mi s c o mmu n i c a t e
wi t h ot he r s , c r e a t i ng gr e a t c ha os . T h e pol a r i z a t i on a l o n g r aci al
l i nes i n t h e a f t e r ma t h of t he O. J . Si mp s o n ver di ct i s an e xa m-
pl e. T h e f ai l ur e t o que s t i on o u r o wn wh i t e or bl ackr aci al as-
s u mp t i o n s l eads t o f ai l ur es i n r eal l y h e a r i n g wha t i s b e i n g
c o mmu n i c a t e d t o us . We r e ma i n obl i vi ous t o t h e basi cs of g o o d
50 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
c o mmu n i c a t i o n . I t s h o u l d go wi t hout sayi ng you c a n' t t r ul y
c o mmu n i c a t e wel l i f you d o n ' t l i st en wel l , a n d you a r e u n a b l e t o
l i st en wel l unl es s you a r e t h i n k i n g wel l .
An i ndus t r i al ps ychol ogi s t o n c e p o i n t e d o u t t o me t ha t t h e
a mo u n t of t i me we de vot e t o t e a c h i n g c e r t a i n subj ect s t o o u r
c h i l d r e n i n s c hool i s i nver sel y p r o p o r t i o n a l t o t h e f r e que nc y
wi t h whi c h t hey will ma k e us e of t h e m wh e n t hey gr ow u p . I do
n o t bel i eve i t wo u l d be a g o o d t h i n g t o ma k e wh a t we t e a c h i n
s c hool exact l y p r o p o r t i o n a l t o wha t will be usef ul af t er s chool ,
b u t I do t hi nk we wo u l d be wi se t o gi ve o u r c h i l d r e n mo r e i n-
s t r uct i on i n t h e pr oces s es of t h i n k i n g a n d l i s t eni ng wel l .
I n mo s t publ i c a n d pr i vat e s chool s , t h e r e i s vi rt ual l y no for-
ma l e d u c a t i o n on t he s e cr uci al as pect s of c o mmu n i c a t i n g . A
successful t o p execut i ve will s p e n d at l east t hr e e - qua r t e r s of h e r
t i me t h i n k i n g a n d l i s t eni ng. She will s p e n d a smal l f r act i on
s pe a ki ng a n d a n even s mal l er f r act i on wr i t i ng. Yet t h e a mo u n t
of f or ma l e d u c a t i o n we get i n d e v e l o p i n g t he s e essent i al skills i s
i nver sel y p r o p o r t i o n a l t o wh a t i s r e q u i r e d t o be an effect i ve ex-
ecut i ve. T h e skills a r e , i n fact, essent i al s i n ever y a s pe c t of o u r
lives.
Ma ny p e o p l e t hi nk t ha t l i s t eni ng i s a passi ve i nt e r a c t i on. I t
i s j u s t t h e oppos i t e . Li s t e ni ng wel l i s an act i ve exer ci s e of o u r at-
t e n t i o n a n d , by necessi t y, i s h a r d wor k. I t i s b e c a u s e t he y do n o t
r eal i ze t hi s or be c a us e t hey a r e n o t wi l l i ng t o do t h e wor k t ha t
mo s t p e o p l e do n o t l i st en wel l . Wh e n we e x t e n d our s el ves by at-
t e mp t i n g t o l i st en a n d c o mmu n i c a t e wel l , we t ake a n e xt r a s t ep
or wal k a n e xt r a mi l e. We do s o i n oppos i t i on t o t h e i ner t i a of
l azi ness or t h e r es i s t ance of fear. I t always r e qui r e s h a r d wor k.
Li s t e ni ng wel l al so r e qui r e s t ot al c o n c e n t r a t i o n u p o n an-
o t h e r a n d i s a ma ni f e s t a t i on of l ove i n t h e b r o a d e s t s ens e of t h e
wor d. An essent i al p a r t of l i s t eni ng wel l i s t h e di s ci pl i ne of
br a c ke t i ng, t h e t e mp o r a r y gi vi ng up or s et t i ng as i de of your
own pr ej udi ces , f r ames of r e f e r e nc e , a n d des i r es i n o r d e r t o ex-
p e r i e n c e as far as pos s i bl e a n o t h e r ' s wor l d f r om t h e i ns i de, st ep-
p i n g i ns i de hi s or h e r s hoe s . Thi s uni f i cat i on of s pe a ke r a n d
l i s t ener i s act ual l y an e xt e ns i on a n d e n l a r g e me n t of our s el ves ,
a n d ne w k n o wl e d g e i s al ways g a i n e d f r om it. Mor eover , s i nce lis-
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 51
t e n i n g wel l i nvol ves br a c ke t i ng, i t al so i nvol ves a t e mp o r a r y t o-
tal a c c e pt a nc e of t h e ot her . Se ns i ng t hi s a c c e pt a nc e , t h e s pe a ke r
will feel less a n d l ess vul ne r a bl e a n d mo r e a n d mo r e i nc l i ne d t o
o p e n up t h e i n n e r r ecesses of hi s or h e r mi n d t o t h e l i st ener . As
t hi s h a p p e n s , s pe a ke r a n d l i s t ener be gi n t o u n d e r s t a n d e a c h
o t h e r b e t t e r a n d bet t er . Tr u e c o mmu n i c a t i o n i s u n d e r way a n d
t he d u e t d a n c e of l ove has b e g u n . T h e e ne r gy r e q u i r e d f or t h e
di s ci pl i ne of b r a c k e t i n g a n d t h e f ocus i ng of t ot al a t t e n t i o n on
a n o t h e r i s s o gr e a t t ha t i t c a n be a c c o mp l i s h e d onl y by l ove,
whi c h I de f i ne as t h e will t o e x t e n d one s e l f f or mu t u a l gr owt h.
Mos t of t h e t i me we l ack t hi s ener gy. Eve n t h o u g h we ma y
feel i n o u r bus i nes s de a l i ngs or soci al r e l a t i ons hi ps t h a t we a r e
l i s t eni ng wel l , wha t we a r e usual l y d o i n g i s l i s t eni ng sel ect i vel y.
Of t en, we ha ve a pr e s e t a g e n d a i n mi n d a n d wo n d e r as we l i st en
how we c a n achi eve c e r t a i n de s i r e d r es ul t s t o ge t t h e conver s a-
t i on over wi t h as qui ckl y as pos s i bl e or r e d i r e c t e d i n ways mo r e
sat i sfact ory t o us . Ma ny of us a r e far mo r e i nt e r e s t e d i n t al ki ng
t h a n i n l i s t eni ng, or we si mpl y r ef use t o l i st en t o wha t we d o n ' t
wa nt t o hear .
Whi l e i t i s t r u e t h a t o n e ' s capaci t y t o l i st en wel l ma y i m-
pr ove gr a dua l l y wi t h pr a c t i c e , i t ne ve r b e c o me s an effort l ess
pr oces s . I t wa s n' t unt i l t owa r d t h e e n d of my c a r e e r as a t he r a -
pi st t ha t I woul d s o me t i me s ask my pa t i e nt s t o go over s o me -
t hi ng t hey h a d sai d be c a us e my mi n d h a d wa n d e r e d . T h e first
few t i mes I di d t hi s, I wo n d e r e d i f t hey mi g h t que s t i on wh e t h e r
I h a d b e e n l i s t eni ng at all a n d woul d be r es ent f ul . Wh a t I
f ound, t o t h e cont r ar y, was t h a t t hey s e e me d t o u n d e r s t a n d i n-
t ui t i vel y t ha t a vi t al e l e me n t of t h e capaci t y t o l i st en wel l i s b e i n g
al er t f or t hos e l aps es wh e n o n e i s n o t t r ul y l i s t eni ng. An d my ac-
k n o wl e d g me n t t ha t my a t t e n t i o n h a d wa n d e r e d act ual l y r eas-
s ur e d t h e m t ha t mo s t of t h e t i me I was l i s t eni ng wel l .
I have f o u n d t ha t t h e k n o wl e d g e t ha t o n e i s b e i n g t r ul y lis-
t e n e d t o i s f r equent l y, i n a n d of itself, r e ma r ka bl y t h e r a p e u t i c .
I n a p p r o x i ma t e l y a q u a r t e r of t h e pa t i e nt s I saw, wh e t h e r t hey
wer e adul t s or c hi l dr e n, c ons i de r a bl e a n d even d r a ma t i c i m-
p r o v e me n t was s hown d u r i n g t h e f i r s t few mo n t h s of ps ycho-
t her apy, be f or e any of t he r oot s of p r o b l e ms h a d b e e n u n c o v e r e d
52 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
o r si gni f i cant i nt e r pr e t a t i ons h a d b e e n ma d e . T h e r e a r e sever al
r e a s ons f or t hi s p h e n o me n o n , b u t chi ef a mo n g t h e m, I bel i eve,
was t h e pa t i e nt ' s s ens e t ha t he or s he was b e i n g t r ul y l i s t ened t o,
of t en f or t h e f i r s t t i me i n y e a r s a n d f or s o me , p e r h a p s f or t h e
f i r st t i me ever.
FREEDOM AND THINKING
Th e r e i s a s h a r p di s t i nct i on b e t we e n d i s o r d e r e d a n d cl ear
t hi nki ng. Yet t h e r e i s a r ul e i n ps ychi at r y t ha t t he r e ' s no s uc h
t h i n g as a b a d t h o u g h t or f eel i ng. I t i s a usef ul r ul e i n c e r t a i n
ways. In o t h e r ways, i t i s i t sel f si mpl i st i c.
We c a n ma k e et hi cal j u d g me n t s onl y a b o u t act i ons . I f s ome -
o n e t hi nks a b o u t hi t t i ng you a n d t h e n p r o c e e d s t o ba s h you
over t h e h e a d wi t h a l a mp , t ha t i s ba d. To j u s t t hi nk a b o u t d o -
i ng s o i sn' t . Thi s i s t h e di s t i nct i on b e t we e n pr i vat e t h o u g h t a n d
" publ i c " a c t i on. T h e l at t er i nvol ves e xt e r na l i z i ng o u r t h o u g h t s
by a c t i ng on t h e m. I t i s vi r t ual l y i mpos s i bl e t o ma k e j u d g me n t s
a b o u t a pe r s on' s t h o u g h t s wh e n t hey a r e n o t t r a ns l a t e d i nt o be -
havi or .
So we ar r i ve at a p a r a d o x r e g a r d i n g f r e e d o m a n d t hi nki ng.
On t h e o n e h a n d , we a r e f r ee t o t h i n k a nyt hi ng. To be he a l e d,
we ha ve t o be f r ee t o be our s el ves . But t ha t d o e s n ' t me a n we a r e
f r ee t o be o u r c r i mi na l sel ves a n d i mp o s e o u r t h o u g h t s on ot h-
er s or e n g a g e i n des t r uct i ve act i ons wi t hout c o n s e q u e n c e s .
Th u s , wi t h t h e f r e e d o m t o t h i n k a n d feel a n y t h i n g al so c o me s
t h e r es pons i bi l i t y t o di s ci pl i ne o u r t h o u g h t s a n d f eel i ngs.
So me , as I mysel f h a d t o, n e e d t o gi ve our s el ves pe r mi s s i on t o
l e a r n t o cry. Ot h e r s wh o a r e easily h u r t ma y n e e d t o l e a r n n o t t o
cry as mu c h . We have t o be free t o t hi nk a n d feel , b u t t ha t doe s n' t
me a n we s h o u l d u t t e r ever y t h o u g h t a l o u d or always we a r o u r
he a r t s on o u r sl eeves.
A gr e a t p e a c e act i vi st , cons er vat i oni s t , a n d civil r i ght s
l eader , Pe t e Seeger , u s e d t o s i ng a n ant i fasci st Ge r ma n s ong,
"Di e Ge d a n k e n s i nd frei , " whi c h l i t er al l y t r ans l at es " Th o u g h t s
Ar e Fr ee. " I n o r d e r t o t h i n k a n d feel , we ha ve got t o feel f r ee.
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 53
But as wi t h e ve r yt hi ng el se, t h e r e a r e qual i f i er s. F r e e d o m wi t h-
o u t di s ci pl i ne c a n ge t us i n t r oubl e . I n d e e d , t h e f r e e d o m t o
t hi nk a nyt hi ng pr e s e nt s a c o mp l e x d i l e mma . Th e r e a r e f r e e dom-
l i mi t i ng r ul es f or g o o d t hi nki ng, a n d n o t all t h i n k i n g i s g o o d
t hi nki ng. Po o r t h i n k i n g of t en l eads t o p o o r behavi or . Fur t he r -
mo r e , as we' ve s e e n i n t h e e x a mp l e s of o u r soci et y' s si mpl i st i c
t hi nki ng, t h e r e i s mu c h r e a s o n t o be c a ut i ous gi ven t h e pr e -
p o n d e r a n c e of e vi de nc e t ha t a l ot of b a d a n d e x t r e me t h i n k i n g
has b e e n i n t e r p r e t e d as g o o d si mpl y be c a us e i t i s c o mmo n l y ac-
c e p t e d a s n o r ma l .
I am r e mi n d e d of Cat St evens' s lyrics t o hi s s o n g " Ca n' t
Ke e p I t I n, " whi c h e n d s wi t h: "Say wh a t you me a n , me a n wha t
y o u ' r e t hi nki ng, t hi nk a nyt hi ng. " I l ove t h e s ong, yet wh e n he
says, " Th i n k a nyt hi ng, " I ge t a l i t t l e l eery. Al l owi ng p e o p l e t h e
f r e e d o m t o t h i n k a n y t h i n g c a n be a scar y pr opos i t i on. But we
mus t , I bel i eve, gi ve t h e m t h a t f r e e d o m. At t h e s a me t i me , we
mu s t r e c ogni z e t ha t i t d o e s n o t me a n all p e o p l e a r e g o i n g t o
t hi nk wel l . I n a c k n o wl e d g i n g o u r f r e e d o m t o t hi nk, we n e e d al-
ways t o r e ma i n awar e t ha t we c a n ma k e b o t h wr o n g a n d r i ght
choi ces . An d wi t h t h e f r e e d o m t o t hi nk, we mu s t al so l e a r n t o
t ol e r a t e t h e f r e e d o m of b e i n g u n c e r t a i n .
I c h a mp i o n a p r o p o s a l by a f r i end of mi n e wh o want s t o
u n d e r s c o r e t he s e poi nt s i n a s ymbol i c way. He bel i eves we
s h o u l d e r e c t a St at ut e of Res pons i bi l i t y on t h e Wes t Coas t t o
b r i n g ba l a nc e t o t h e St at ut e of Li ber t y t ha t s t ands on t h e East
Coast . I n d e e d , we c a n n o t s e pa r a t e f r e e d o m f r om r esponsi bi l i t y.
Wi t h t h e f r e e d o m t h a t we ha ve t o t hi nk f or our sel ves, ul t i mat el y
we mu s t h o l d our s el ves a c c o u n t a b l e f or h o w a n d wha t we t hi nk
a n d wh e t h e r we a r e us i ng o u r capaci t y f or t h i n k i n g t o ge t t h e
mo s t o u t of life.
TIME AND EFFICIENCY
Al o n g wi t h t h e bel i ef mo s t p e o p l e have t ha t t hey nat ur al l y k n o w
h o w t o t hi nk i s a n unde r l yi ng, c or r e l a t i ng a s s u mp t i o n t h a t
t h i n k i n g d o e s n ' t r e q u i r e mu c h ef f or t or t i me . Whi l e we a r e for-
54
M. Scott Peck, M.D.
t u n a t e t o live i n a soci et y t ha t al l ows us t o us e o u r t i me effi-
ci ent l y i n ever yday l i vi ngas wh e n we c a n pi ck up dr y c l e a ni ng
a n d a me a l a l o n g t h e s a me r o u t e on o u r way h o me we ha ve
c o me t o e x p e c t r es ul t s t o be as qui c k as ser vi ce at a fast -food
r e s t a ur a nt . We a r e e n c o u r a g e d t o us e o u r t i me efficiently, b u t
we s e l d o m t ake t h e t i me t o t hi nk efficiently. Co n f r o n t e d wi t h
real -l i fe p r o b l e ms , we i ma g i n e t hey c a n be de a l t wi t h as qui ckl y
a n d easi l y as a t hi r t y- mi nut e t el evi si on s i t com wo u l d por t r a y
t h e m t o b e .
As a r esul t , ma n y p e o p l e s how l i t t l e i nt e r e s t i n c o n t e mp l a -
t i on. T h e ef f or t i nvol ved i n t r ul y t h i n k i n g of t en t akes a back-
seat , a n d t hey e n d up g o i n g i n ci r cl es r a t h e r t h a n d e a l i n g wi t h
life' s var i ous d i l e mma s efficiently. Th e y wo u l d n ' t t hi nk of g o i n g
on a l o n g a u t o mo b i l e t r i p wi t h o u t c ons ul t i ng a ma p a n d deci d-
i ng whi c h r o u t e t o t ake. Bu t i n t he i r psychosoci al - spi r i t ual j o u r -
ne y t h r o u g h life, t hey r ar el y s t op t o t hi nk a b o u t why t he y' r e
g o i n g wh e r e t he y' r e goi ng, wh e r e t hey r eal l y wa nt t o go, or h o w
bes t t o pl ot o u t a n d f aci l i t at e t h e j o u r n e y .
I n t hi s si mpl i st i c a p p r o a c h , we of t en ove r l ook var i ous as-
pe c t s of o u r lives t ha t a r e d e s p e r a t e f or a t t e n t i o n unt i l t hey be -
c o me full-blown cri ses. Or we di smi ss ne w i deas t ha t c oul d f ur t her
o u r gr owt h s i mpl y b e c a u s e t hey d o n o t f i t wi t hi n t h e g e n e r a l
f r a me wor k of o u r p r e c o n c e i v e d n o t i o n s a n d sel f - concept s. An
e n o r mo u s a mo u n t of t i me i s s p e n t s i mpl y r e a c t i ng. It ' s as i f we
a r e r o b o t s p r o g r a mme d t o r e s p o n d o n c ue t o wha t e ve r de -
ma n d s t h e l east t i me a n d a t t e nt i on, a n d di s r e ga r d a n y t h i n g t h a t
r e qui r e s p u t t i n g i n e xt r a t i me a n d e ne r gy t o t hi nk. We s ki m
over t h e s ur f ace t hought l essl y. But we mu s t a c k n o wl e d g e t ha t
t h i n k i n g wel l i s a t i me - c o n s u mi n g pr oces s . We c a n ' t e x p e c t i n-
s t a nt r esul t s. We have t o sl ow d o wn a bi t a n d t ake t h e t i me t o
c o n t e mp l a t e , me d i t a t e , even pr ay. I t i s t h e onl y r o u t e t o a mo r e
me a ni ngf ul a n d ef f i ci ent e xi s t e nc e .
I' ve sai d be f or e t ha t I am a b o r n c ont e mpl a t i ve . Thi s
me a n s t ha t s et t i ng as i de t i me t o t h i n k a n d pr ayi s a s na t ur a l
t o me as b r u s h i n g my t e e t h. My r o u t i n e i nvol ves a t ot al of al-
mo s t t wo a n d a hal f h o u r s a day, i n t h r e e s e pa r a t e forty-five-
mi n u t e i nt er val s. No mo r e t h a n a t e n t h of t ha t t i me i s s p e n t
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 55
t al ki ng t o Go d ( whi ch i s wh a t mo s t p e o p l e woul d c ons i de r
pr ayer ) a n d a n o t h e r t e n t h l i s t eni ng f or Go d ( a def i ni t i on of
me d i t a t i o n ) . For t h e r es t of t h e t i me , I ' m j u s t t hi nki ng, s or t i ng
o u t my pr i or i t i es a n d we i ghi ng opt i ons be f or e ma k i n g deci -
si ons. I cal l i t my pr a ye r t i me be c a us e i f I si mpl y cal l ed i t my
t h i n k i n g t i me, p e o p l e woul d vi ew i t as less "hol y" a n d feel f r ee
t o i n t e r r u p t me . But I ' m n o t b e i n g di s hone s t . I n ma n y ways,
t hi nki ng i s aki n t o pr ayer .
My favori t e def i ni t i on of p r a y e r o n e t ha t doe s n' t even me n -
t i on Go d c o me s f r om Ma t t h e w Fox, wh o de s c r i be d pr a ye r a s
" a r adi cal r e s p o n s e t o t h e myst er i es of l i fe. " Th u s , pr a ye r has
ever yt hi ng t o do wi t h t hi nki ng. Bef or e we c a n r e s p o n d r adi cal l y
we f i r st n e e d t o t h i n k radi cal l y. To t h i n k wel l i s a r adi cal activity.
It ' s i mp o r t a n t t o clarify wh a t I me a n by t h e wo r d "r adi cal . "
I t c o me s f r om t h e Lat i n radix, " r oot . " Th u s , t o be r adi cal i s t o
get d o wn t o t h e r o o t of t hi ngs , p e n e t r a t i n g t he i r e s s e nc e a n d
n o t b e i n g di s t r a c t e d by super f i ci al i t i es. T h e cl osest s ynonym f or
"r adi cal " i s " f unda me nt a l , " whi c h me a n s basi c or essent i al . Fun-
d a me n t a l s a r e wha t i s r eal l y i mp o r t a n t . Cur i ousl y, t h e n o u n
"r adi cal " i s us e d t o de s c r i be a l eft -wi ng, b o mb - t h r o wi n g a na r -
chi st , whi l e t h e n o u n " f unda me nt a l i s t " i s us e d t o de s c r i be a
r i ng- wi ng ext r emi s t . I me a n t o i mpl y n e i t h e r of t hos e mi nd- s et s
i n my us e of t he s e wor ds . Rat her , I me a n t h a t a n y o n e wh o
t hi nks deeply a b o u t f u n d a me n t a l s will, by def i ni t i on, be a r adi -
cal . An d t h e act i ons t ha t s t e m f r om t ha t ki nd of t h i n k i n g will
al so be r adi cal i n t h e s ens e t ha t t hey will a ddr e s s a n d s eek t o
solve life' s mo s t i mp o r t a n t p r o b l e ms . T h e s a me h o l d s t r u e f or
pr ayer . Pr a ye r i s usel ess unl es s i t i s t r a ns l a t e d i n t o me a ni ngf ul
act i on.
Radi cal t hi nke r s a r e al so i n d e p e n d e n t t hi nke r s . But t hey
know t h a t t hey c a n n o t si mpl y rel y on t hems el ves . To t h i n k i n-
d e p e n d e n t l y d o e s n o t me a n g o i n g t o a n e x t r e me t ha t wo u l d ex-
c l ude i n f o r ma t i o n a n d l e a r n i n g f r om ot he r s . Th e r e f o r e , whi l e
i t i s p r o p e r t h a t we t h i n k f or our sel ves, t ha t d o e s n o t i mpl y t ha t
we act l i ke r e be l l i ous c hi l dr e n, r ej ect i ng all c onve nt i ona l wis-
d o m a n d di s mi s s i ng all soci et al n o r ms . Th a t woul d be a n un-
neces s ar y e x p e n d i t u r e of e ne r gy a n d a n i nef f i ci ent wast e of
56 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
t i me. Rat her , we c a n l e a r n mu c h f r om g o o d l e a de r s a n d t each-
er s f or mal l y a n d i nf or mal l y. I t i s t h r o u g h t hos e wh o t hi nk wel l
t ha t we can f i nd g o o d e x a mp l e s of wha t i t me a n s t o be ef f i ci ent
a n d live life fully.
I c ons i de r o n e ( a mo n g ma ny) of my i dent i t i es t o be t ha t of
an effi ci ency e xpe r t . Bot h as a psychi at r i st a n d as a wri t er, I ha ve
wo r k e d t o h e l p p e o p l e live t he i r lives mo r e ef f i ci ent l ynot ne c -
essari l y t o be h a p p y or c omf or t a bl e all t h e t i me , b u t r a t h e r t o
l e a r n a s mu c h a s pos s i bl e i n any gi ven s i t uat i on a n d ge t t h e
mo s t o u t of life.
Wh e n I was still l e c t ur i ng, p e o p l e of t en a s ke d h o w I ma n -
a g e d t o do s o mu c h l e c t u r i n g , wr i t i ng, b e i n g a f a t he r a n d a
h u s b a n d , a c o mmu n i t y act i vi st a n d an avi d r e a de r . My r e s p o n s e
was t ha t be c a us e I s p e n t at l east t wo h o u r s a day d o i n g n o t h -
i n g t h a t is, t a ki ng t h e t i me t o t hi nk, pray, a n d or ga ni z e my pr i -
or i t i es I b e c a me mo r e effi ci ent .
Wh e n you a r e effi ci ent , you c a n a c c ompl i s h mo r e t hi ngs i n
a s h o r t e r t i me . I n t h i n k i n g efficiently, you l e a r n h o w t o gi ve pr i -
or i t y t o what ' s i mp o r t a n t i n o r d e r t o face life' s di ffi cul t i es h e a d -
on r a t h e r t h a n p r e t e n d t hey a r e i nc ons e que nt i a l . Effi ci ency
necessar i l y i nc l ude s di s ci pl i ne. Be i ng di s ci pl i ned i nvol ves an
abi l i t y t o del ay gr at i f i cat i on as wel l as a wi l l i ngness t o c ons i de r
al t er nat i ves . On t h e o t h e r h a n d , t h i n k i n g si mpl i st i cal l y l eads
you t o ma k e undi s c i pl i ne d, knee- j er k r e s pons e s r a t h e r t h a n
c o n s i d e r i n g c hoi c e s t ha t wo u l d l e a d t o wi se a n d pr oduc t i ve de -
ci si ons.
Be i ng ef f i ci ent d o e s n o t me a n we s h o u l d b e c o me c ont r ol
f r eaks. I t wo u l d be l udi c r ous t o a t t e mp t t o p l a n o u t ever y mo -
me n t of every day of o n e ' s l i fe. Effi ci ency me a n s n o t onl y pl a n-
n i n g b u t p r e p a r i n g . Wh e n e me r g e n c y s i t uat i ons c o me u p , a s
t hey i nevi t abl y will, we will be f r ee t o r e s p o n d t o t h e mo s t i m-
p o r t a n t n e e d s a t t h e t i me be c a us e we have d o n e o u r h o me -
wor k. Effi ci ency i nvol ves at t ent i venes s t o t hos e t hi ngs t ha t mu s t
be deal t wi t h be f or e t hey b e c o me s uc h o v e r wh e l mi n g p r o b l e ms
t ha t t hey caus e far mo r e d a ma g e t h a n necessar y.
Si mpl i s m i s i nef f i ci ent a n d t h e lazy way out . No pr ogr e s s i s
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 57
pos s i bl e wh e n i l l egi t i mat e s hor t c ut s i n t h i n k i n g a r e t a ke n i n or -
d e r t o avoi d t h e l egi t i mat e effort a n d suf f er i ng t ha t a c c o mp a n y
t he di s ci pl i ne of pr obl em- s ol vi ng. No t onl y i s s i mpl i s m a me a n s
by whi c h t o h a r b o r t h e i l l usi on t ha t t h e r e a r e easy ans wer s , i t i s
a s ur e p a t h t o b e c o mi n g r i gi d a n d st uck. Tha t ' s why I di st i n-
gui s h b e t we e n t h e s i mpl i s m t h a t i nvol ves s i mp l e mi n d e d an-
swers, a n d t h e ef f i ci ent si mpl i ci t y of o r d e r i n g o n e ' s pr i or i t i es
be f or e ma k i n g choi ces . T h e di s t i nct i on i s cr uci al i f we a r e t o
t hi nk a n d act wi t h i nt egr i t y.
PARADOX AND THINKING WITH INTEGRITY
I bel i eve t ha t t hos e wh o s ubs cr i be t o t h e n o t i o n t ha t t h e r e a r e
easy a ns we r s a si ngl e r e a s on f or ever yt hi ngact ual l y p r o mo t e
s i mpl i s m a n d i nt el l ect ual bi got r y. I have f o u n d , i n my wi de t rav-
els, t ha t whe r e ve r I go s uc h bi got r y i s t h e n o r m r a t h e r t h a n t h e
e xc e pt i on. I f we a s s ume t ha t t h e r e i s a r e a s o n f or ever yt hi ng,
nat ur al l y we go l o o k i n g f or itand di smi ss all o t h e r possi bi l i -
ties t ha t pot ent i al l y conf l i ct wi t h itwhen we s h o u l d be l ook-
i ng f or them. I am a s t oni s he d by t he n u mb e r of wel l - educat ed
p e o p l e wh o offer or s e e k s i mp l e - mi n d e d e xpl a na t i ons f or c om-
pl i cat ed p h e n o me n a r a n g i n g f r om r i ot s, homos e xua l i t y, a n d
a b o r t i o n t o pover t y, i l l ness, evil, a n d war. I bel i eve i t woul d of t en
be c ons i de r a bl y h e a l t h i e r f or us t o d a r e t o live wi t h o u t a r e a s o n
for ma n y t hi ngs t h a n t o live wi t h r e a s ons t ha t a r e si mpl i st i c.
In In Search of Stones, I wr ot e of a c onve r s a t i on I h a d wi t h a
weal t hy whi t e s t ockbr oker . Whi l e s pe a ki ng of t h e r i ot s i n Los
Angel es f ol l owi ng a j ur y' s deci s i on t h a t t h e pol i c e wh o b e a t
Ro d n e y Ki ng we r e n o t gui l t y of a c r i me , t h e s t o c k b r o k e r a
hi ghl y e d u c a t e d , i nt el l i gent , a n d successf ul ma n t o l d me wi t h
a s s ur a nc e t ha t t h e r e a s on f or t h e r i ot s was " t he de c l i ne i n f am-
ily val ues. " He d e d u c e d t hi s f r o m hi s obs e r va t i on t h a t vi r t ual l y
all t h e r i ot er s we r e y o u n g bl ack mal es . "If t he y' d b e e n ma r r i e d
a n d wo r k i n g t o s u p p o r t t he i r f ami l i es, t hey wo u l d n ' t have h a d
t i me t o r i ot , " he e xpl a i ne d.
58 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
I pr act i cal l y e x p l o d e d . I t ol d h i m t ha t f or t wo h u n d r e d
year s u n d e r sl avery we h a d n ' t allowed mo s t bl acks t o ma r r y or
have l egal f ami l i es. We ma d e t he i r fami l y val ues i l l egal . I gave
h i m sever al cul t ur al a n d hi s t or i cal r e a s ons why, on t h e aver age,
bl ack wo me n a r e b e t t e r e d u c a t e d a n d mo r e e mpl oya bl e t h a n
bl ack me n . I r e mi n d e d h i m t ha t t h e e c o n o mi c r eces s i on i n Cal -
i f or ni a at t h e t i me was wor s e t h a n t ha t of any o t h e r st at e. I
s poke of t h e de c l i ne of government val ues i n t h e Un i t e d St at es. I
t al ked a b o u t t h e oppr e s s i on of pr e j udi c e a n d t h e ps ychol ogy of
des pai r . " Th e ' d e c l i n e ' of fami l y val ues ma y have b e e n o n e of
t h e r e a s ons f or t h e r i ot s, " I c o n c l u d e d , " but onl y o n e of many,
of a whol e c o mp l e x of r e a s ons . "
I was t e a c h i n g h i m a b o u t " ove r de t e r mi na t i on, " t h e c on-
c e p t t ha t e ve r yt hi ng i mp o r t a n t ha s mul t i pl e caus es . Far f r om
b e i n g si mpl i st i c, o v e r d e t e r mi n a t i o n d e ma n d s t h e i nt e gr a t i on
of mul t i pl e d i me n s i o n s i n o r d e r t o s ee t h e whol e pi c t ur e . I t i s
neces s ar y f or t h e u n d e r s t a n d i n g of ma n y i ssues. To t hi nk wel l
me a n s t o per cei ve i n mu l t i d i me n s i o n a l ways. I t i s t h e e s s e nc e of
t h i n k i n g wi t h i nt egr i t y. T h e wo r d "i nt egr i t y" c o me s f r om t h e
n o u n "i nt eger , " whi c h si gni fi es whol e ne s s , ent i r et y, c o mp l e t i o n .
To t hi nk a n d ul t i mat el y t o act wi t h i nt egr i t y, we have t o i nt e-
gr a t e t h e mul t i pl e r e a s ons a n d d i me n s i o n s of o u r i nc r e di bl y
c o mp l e x wor l d.
We psychi at r i st s have a ve r b f or t h e oppos i t e of " i nt egr at e" :
" c o mp a r t me n t a l i z e . " To c o mp a r t me n t a l i z e i s t o t ake t hi ngs t ha t
a r e p r o p e r l y r e l a t e d a n d st i ck t h e m i n s e pa r a t e , ai r t i ght c o m-
p a r t me n t s i n o u r mi n d s wh e r e t hey d o n ' t ha ve t o r u b u p agai ns t
e a c h o t h e r a n d caus e us any st ress or pa i n, f r i ct i on or t e ns i on.
An e x a mp l e I ci t ed in The Different Drum a n d In Search of Stones
woul d b e t h a t o f t h e ma n wh o goes t o c h u r c h o n Sunda y mo r n -
i ng, devout l y bel i evi ng t ha t he l oves Go d a n d Go d ' s c r e a t i on,
a n d t h e n o n Mo n d a y has n o t r o u b l e wi t h hi s c o mp a n y ' s pol i cy
of d u mp i n g t oxi c wast es i n t h e l ocal s t r e a m. Thi s is, of c our s e ,
be c a us e h e ha s p u t hi s r el i gi on i n o n e c o mp a r t me n t a n d hi s
bus i nes s i n a not he r . He i s wh a t we ha ve c o me t o cal l a Su n d a y
mo r n i n g Chr i s t i an. I t i s a ver y c omf or t a bl e way t o o p e r a t e , b u t
i nt egr i t y i t i s not .
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 59
To t hi nk a n d act wi t h i nt egr i t y r e qui r e s t ha t we fully e xpe -
r i e nc e t h e t e ns i ons of c o mp e t i n g t h o u g h t s a n d d e ma n d s . I t r e-
qui r es t ha t we ask t h e cr uci al que s t i on: Ha s a n y t h i n g b e e n left
out ? I t r e qui r e s us t o l ook b e y o n d o u r usual l y si mpl i st i c illu-
si ons a n d a s s umpt i ons t o t ry t o di s cover wh a t i s mi s s i ng.
Ear l y i n my ps ychi at r i c t r a i ni ng, I was t a u g h t t ha t wh a t t h e
p a t i e n t d o e s not say i s mo r e i mp o r t a n t t h a n wha t he or s he d o e s
say. Thi s i s an e xc e l l e nt gui de f or ge t t i ng t o t h e r o o t of wh a t i s
mi ssi ng. For i ns t a nc e , d u r i n g t h e c our s e of a few ps yc hot he r a -
pe ut i c sessi ons, he a l t hy pa t i e nt s will t al k of t he i r pr e s e nt , past ,
a n d f ut ur e i n a wel l - i nt egr at ed f as hi on. Sh o u l d a p a t i e n t s pe a k
onl y of t h e p r e s e n t a n d f ut ur e , ne ve r me n t i o n i n g t h e past , you
can be s ur e t ha t t h e r e i s a t l east o n e u n i n t e g r a t e d , unr e s ol ve d,
a n d i mp o r t a n t i ssue i n c h i l d h o o d t ha t mu s t be b r o u g h t t o l i ght
f or full he a l i ng. I f t h e p a t i e n t onl y s peaks of h e r c h i l d h o o d a n d
h e r f ut ur e , t h e t he r a pi s t can t el l t ha t s he has s o me ma j or diffi-
cul t y de a l i ng wi t h t h e h e r e a n d nowof t e n a di ffi cul t y c on-
n e c t e d wi t h i nt i macy a n d risk. An d s h o u l d t h e p a t i e n t ne ve r
ma k e me n t i o n of hi s f ut ur e, o n e mi g h t p r o p e r l y be l ed t o sus-
pe c t t ha t he has a p r o b l e m wi t h f ant asy a n d h o p e .
I f you wa n t t o t hi nk wi t h i nt egr i t y, a n d a r e wi l l i ng t o b e a r
t he p a i n i nvol ved, you will i nevi t abl y e n c o u n t e r p a r a d o x . T h e
Gr e e k wo r d para me a n s "by t h e si de of, be s i de , a l ongs i de , past ,
be yond. " Doxa me a n s o p i n i o n . Th u s , a p a r a d o x i s "a s t a t e me n t
c ont r a r y t o c o mmo n bel i ef, or o n e t h a t s e e ms c ont r a di c t or y,
unbe l i e va bl e , or a b s u r d b u t ma y act ual l y be t r u e i n fact . " I f a
c o n c e p t i s pa r a doxi c a l , t ha t i n i t sel f s h o u l d s ugges t t ha t i t
s macks of i nt egr i t y a n d ha s t h e r i ng of t r u t h . Conver sel y, i f a
c o n c e p t i s n o t i n t h e l east pa r a doxi c a l , you ma y s us pe c t t ha t i t
has f ai l ed t o i nt e gr a t e s o me a s pe c t of t h e whol e .
T h e e t hi c of r u g g e d i ndi vi dual i s m i s an e x a mp l e . Ma n y fall
pr ey t o t hi s i l l usi on be c a us e t hey do n o t or will n o t t h i n k wi t h
i nt egr i t y. For t h e r eal i t y i s t ha t we do n o t exi st e i t h e r by or f or
our sel ves. If I t hi nk wi t h i nt egr i t y at al l , I have t o r e c ogni z e i m-
me di a t e l y t ha t my life i s n u r t u r e d n o t onl y by t h e e a r t h a n d t h e
r ai n a n d t h e s un b u t al so by f a r me r s , publ i s he r s , a n d book-
sel l ers, as wel l as by my c hi l dr e n, wife, f r i ends , a n d t e a c h e r s
60 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
i n d e e d , by t h e e nt i r e f abr i c of family, soci et y, a n d c r e a t i on. I am
n o t sol el y a n i ndi vi dual . I a m i n t e r d e p e n d e n t , a n d mu c h of t h e
t i me I do n o t even have t h e r i ght t o act "r uggedl y. "
I f no pi eces of r eal i t y a r e mi s s i ng f r om t h e pi c t ur e , i f all t h e
d i me n s i o n s a r e i nt e gr a t e d, you will p r o b a b l y be c o n f r o n t e d by
a p a r a d o x . Wh e n you get t o t h e r o o t of t hi ngs , vi r t ual l y al l t r u t h
i s pa r a doxi c a l . T h e t r u t h is, for e x a mp l e , t ha t I am a n d I am n o t
a n i ndi vi dual . Th u s , t o s eek t h e t r u t h i nvol ves a n i nt e gr a t i on of
t hi ngs t h a t s e e m t o be s e pa r a t e a n d l ook l i ke oppos i t e s wh e n , i n
real i t y, t hey a r e i nt e r t wi ne d a n d r e l a t e d i n s o me ways. Real i t y it-
self i s pa r a doxi c a l , i n t ha t whi l e ma n y t hi ngs i n a n d a b o u t life
s e e m s i mpl e on t h e s ur f ace, t hey a r e of t en c o mp l e x a l t h o u g h
n o t always c ompl i c a t e d. Th e r e i s a di f f er ence, j u s t as c l e a r as
t h e di f f er ence b e t we e n s i mpl i s m a n d si mpl i ci t y. T h e r e is, i n
fact, a gr e a t si mpl i ci t y t o whol e ne s s .
The Road Less Traveled is fi l l ed wi t h p a r a d o x e s . I wr ot e t ha t
"life i s di ffi cul t be c a us e t h e pr oc e s s of c o n f r o n t i n g a n d sol vi ng
p r o b l e ms i s a pai nf ul o n e . " Bu t wh e n I say t ha t life i s di ffi cul t ,
I ' m n o t s ugge s t i ng t ha t i t i s ne ve r easy or r e wa r di ng. To say t ha t
life i s di ffi cul t wi t h o u t qual i f yi ng t h e s t a t e me n t wo u l d be t o s ub-
s cr i be t o t h e i d e a t ha t "life i s di ffi cul t a n d t h e n we di e. " I t i s a
si mpl i st i c a n d ni hi l i st i c n o t i o n . I t di s c ount s all beaut y, good-
ness, o p p o r t u n i t i e s f or s pi r i t ual gr owt h, ser eni t y, a n d o t h e r
wo n d e r f u l as pect s of l i vi ng. I n d e e d , o n e of t h e mys t er i ous a n d
pa r a doxi c a l r eal i t i es i s t h a t i n a d d i t i o n t o t h e p a i n t h a t life
br i ngs , l i vi ng c a n be a c c o mp a n i e d by a n u n f a t h o me d j o y o n c e
we ge t pas t t h e pa i n.
To u n d e r s t a n d p a r a d o x ul t i mat el y me a n s b e i n g a bl e t o
gr a s p t wo c ont r a di c t or y c o n c e p t s i n o n e ' s mi n d wi t hout g o i n g
crazy. As a psychi at r i st , I do n o t us e t h e wo r d "crazy" i n a f l i ppant
way. I t c a n act ual l y ma k e p e o p l e feel cr azy wh e n s o me t h i n g t hey
have t a ke n f or g r a n t e d a s t r u t h a n d t h e onl y t r u t h c o me s
i nt o que s t i on. I t i s cer t ai nl y a skill of me n t a l acr obat i cs t o be
abl e t o j u g g l e o p p o s i n g i deas i n o n e ' s mi n d wi t h o u t a ut oma t i -
cally n e g a t i n g or r ej ect i ng t h e r eal i t y of e i t h e r i dea. But e ve n
wh e n t h e s t r onge s t i mp u l s e i s t o wa nt t o d e n y s o me t h i n g t ha t
o n e f i nds h a r d t o di ge s t s uc h as t h e fact t h a t evil coexi st s wi t h
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 61
g o o d i n o u r wo r l d t h e abi l i t y t o u n d e r s t a n d p a r a d o x i s ne c e s -
sary i n t h e pr oc e s s of s or t i ng t h r o u g h i l l usi ons, hal f - t r ut hs, a n d
o u t r i g h t l i es.
Al mos t all of us have t h e capaci t y t o t hi nk par adoxi cal l y.
T h e e x t e n t t o whi c h we ne gl e c t or us e t hi s capabi l i t y var i es
great l y. I t i s n o t s o mu c h d e t e r mi n e d by o u r I Qs as by t h e d e p t h
of pr a c t i c e we p u t i nt o t hi nki ng. To b e c o me k e e n i n pa r a doxi -
cal r e a s oni ng, you mus t , as t h e sayi ng goes , us e i t or l ose it. T h e
mo r e we us e o u r capaci t y f or t h i n k i n g par adoxi cal l y, t h e mo r e
likely we will e x p a n d t hi s ability.
I t i s u n q u e s t i o n a b l e t h a t c e r t a i n c h a n g e s a r e n e e d e d i n so-
ci et y t o e n c o u r a g e b e t t e r t hi nki ng. Bu t a t t h e s a me t i me , e a c h
i ndi vi dual i s r e s pons i bl e f or hi s or h e r own t h i n k i n g a n d h o w t o
me e t t hi s c ha l l e nge . Ul t i mat el y, i f we c a n t e a c h p e o p l e t o t hi nk
wel l , we c oul d he a l mos t of t h e ills of i ndi vi dual s a n d mo s t of
t he ills of soci et y. I n t h e e n d , however , t h e benef i t s of t h i n k i n g
wel l a r e wo r t h t h e e f f or t a nd far b e t t e r t h a n t h e al t er nat i ve.
Thi s i s ul t i mat el y a hope f ul bus i nes s . L o n g a go I h e a r d i t sai d:
" On c e a mi n d i s t r ul y s t r e t c he d, i t ne ve r r e t u r n s t o its f o r me r di -
me ns i ons . "
THE POINT OF THINKING WELL IS to b e c o me mo r e c ons c i ous ,
whi ch, i n t ur n, i s a pr e r e qui s i t e f or sol vi ng p r o b l e ms wel l . But
wha t i s cons ci ous nes s ? An d why i s i t t h e poi nt ?
Cons c i ous ne s s i s a mo n g t h e ma n y t hi ngs s uc h as l ove,
pr ayer , beaut y, a n d c o mmu n i t y t h a t a r e t oo l ar ge, c o mp l e x ,
a n d mys t er i ous t o s u b mi t t o a ny si ngl e a d e q u a t e def i ni t i on. I n
The Road Less Traveled, I c o n c l u d e d t he s ect i on a b o u t l ove wi t h a
s ubs ect i on e nt i t l e d " Th e Myst er y of Love. " Th e r e i n , ha vi ng
g o n e on f or a h u n d r e d pa ge s as i f I k n e w wha t l ove was all
a bout , I r ai s ed ma n y i ssues of l ove I c o u l d n ' t even be gi n t o ex-
pl ai n.
In In Search of Stones, I wr ot e t ha t a r t is al so h a r d to def i ne.
On e of t h e char act er i s t i cs of a r t i s its u n r e a s o n a b l e n e s s . Ot h e r
h u ma n c r e a t i ons ha ve a n obvi ous r e a s on. Th e y a r e necessar y,
useful , a n d ser ve a cl ear f unct i on. Few wo u l d p o n d e r t h e pur -
pos e of a f or k or s p o o n , a kni f e or an ax, a h o u s e or an office
bui l di ng. But as s oon as you car ve s o me t h i n g i nt o t h e h a n d l e of
t ha t f or k or t h e bl a de of t h a t kni f e or t h e mo l d i n g of t ha t bui l d-
i ng, you a r e e n g a g i n g i n t h e pr a c t i c e of a d o r n me n t a n d have
e n t e r e d t he n o t ent i r el y r e a s o n a b l e o r easily de f i na bl e r e a l m
of ar t . Wh e t h e r we us e ma k e u p on our sel ves, p a i n t on canvas,
car ve on s t one s , wr i t e poet r y, or ma k e mus i c , we a r e d o i n g
s o me t h i n g v e r y a n d u n i q u e l y h u ma n . Th e r e f o r e , a r t i mpl i es
cons ci ous nes s : n o t onl y of self, as t h e pr act i ce of s e l f - a dor nme nt
C H A P T E R 2
Consciousness
64 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
d e mo n s t r a t e s , b u t al so c ons c i ous ne s s of t h i n g s a n d b e a u t y
e xt e r na l t o our sel ves.
Th a t t h e r e i s no si ngl e a d e q u a t e def i ni t i on of cons ci ous -
nes s i s n o t s ur pr i s i ng. For t h e mo s t pa r t , we c a n de f i ne onl y
t hos e t hi ngs t ha t a r e s mal l er t h a n we a r e . I bel i eve t ha t all t hos e
t hi ngs t oo l ar ge for a si ngl e, si mpl i st i c def i ni t i on, i n c l u d i n g
cons ci ous nes s , ul t i mat el y have s o me t h i n g t o do wi t h Go d . Th a t
i s why, f or e x a mp l e , t h e Mus l i ms ha ve a p r o h i b i t i o n agai ns t a ny
i ma ge of God: i t c oul d n o t c a p t u r e or de f i ne Go d , b u t woul d
onl y r e p r e s e n t a t i ny s e g me n t of t h e whol e a n d h e n c e wo u l d be ,
in a s ens e, a de s e c r a t i on.
THE MYSTERY OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Des car t es i s mos t f a mous for hi s s t a t e me nt "Cogi t o, e r g o s u m"
"I t hi nk, t he r e f or e I a m. " I wo u l d s ubs t i t ut e t h e wo r d "con-
sci ous" a n d say, "I am c ons c i ous [ or awar e] t ha t I am t hi nki ng;
t he r e f or e I a m. "
Doe s t hi s me a n t ha t u n c o n s c i o u s ' t hi ngs d o n ' t exi st ?
Har dl y. Even i f we a s s ume t ha t t h e t r ees out s i de my wi n d o w do
n o t have cons ci ous nes s , I ver y mu c h enj oy t he i r p r e s e n c e a n d
a m awar e of t he i r exi s t ence a s ent i t i es s e pa r a t e f r om me . Th e y
di spl ay def i ni t i ve si gns of l i f ewi t hout pr ovoc a t i on f r om h u -
ma n s . Cons t a nt l y i nvi gor a t e d by t h e e a r t h, r ai n, a n d s unl i ght ,
t he i r l eaves c h a n g e col or s as t hey adj ust t o t h e s eas ons . I n d e e d ,
we have no k n o wl e d g e t ha t t h e t r ees or t h e gr ass or e ve n t h e
s t ones a r e n ' t c ons c i ous . T h e bel i ef t ha t t hey have no ki nd of
sel f - awar eness i s si mpl y an a s s umpt i on. Th e y ma y be awar e i n
s o me di f f er ent way t h a n we a r e . Woul d t ha t I c o u l d r e a d t h e
mi n d of a d e e r or a f l ower or a d o l p h i n a n d u n d e r s t a n d its c on-
sci ousness, b u t I c a n' t .
So t hi s n o t i o n of cons ci ous nes s , or sel f - awar eness, i s n o t
s i mpl e. Gener al l y, we t e n d t o t hi nk of c ons c i ous ne s s as t ha t
whi ch di s t i ngui s hes h u ma n be i ngs f r om o t h e r c r e a t ur e s . On
t h e o n e h a n d , t h e whol e wor l d i s a n i ma t e wi t h c ons c i ous ne s s
al i ve, awar e, gr owi ng a n d c h a n g i n g . At t h e s a me t i me , we a r e all
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 65
REVISITING OUR FRONTAL LOBES
I n t h e p r e c e d i n g c ha pt e r , I wr ot e t ha t o n e of t h e t hi ngs t ha t
s e e ms t o di s t i ngui s h h u ma n be i ngs f r om t h e o t h e r c r e a t ur e s i s
o u r r el at i ve l ack of i nst i nct s. Ha v i n g few i ns t i nct s , we a r e c om-
pe l l e d t o l e a r n. Si nce we d o n ' t i nst i nct i vel y k n o w ma n y t hi ngs ,
we have t o be t a ught h o w t o b e h a v e a n d deal wi t h p r o b l e ms i n
life.
T h e mo s t pr i mi t i ve of o u r l i mi t e d i ns t i nct s a r e cal l ed r e-
fl exes. An e x a mp l e of a r ef l ex i s o u r r e s pons e t o s u d d e n pa i n.
Put your h a n d on a h o t st ove b u r n e r acci dent al l y, a n d you will
i mme di a t e l y pul l i t away, even be f or e you have fel t t h e pa i n.
Thi s i s be c a us e t h e r e a r e "r ef l ex ar cs " i n o u r s pi nal c or d. T h e
i n c o mi n g p a i n mes s ages will a r c over t o ne r ve f i be r s g o i n g t h e
o t h e r way t ha t c ont r ol mo v e me n t wi t hout t h e br a i n i t sel f e ve n
b e i n g i nvol ved. But i f t h e p a i n i s at all sever e, t h e br a i n will ver y
qui ckl y b e c o me a wa r e c ons c i ous of i t a n d we will e xpe r i -
e n c e t h e a gony me nt a l l y as wel l as physi cal l y.
Cons c i ous ne s s has no speci fi c si t e i n t h e br a i n. No n e t h e -
less, i nsof ar as i t c a n be r egi onal i z ed, i t i s mo r e l ocal i zed i n o u r
f r ont al l obe s t h a n a nypl a c e el se. Tu mo r s of o u r f r ont al l obes
mi r e d i n unc ons c i ous ne s s , a n d t hi s c a n be s e e n qui t e obvi ousl y
a mo n g h u ma n s g i v e n t h e r eal i t y t ha t whi l e s o me p e o p l e t hi nk
i n d e p t h , ma n y t hi nk ver y l i t t l e a n d s o me si mpl y fail t o t hi nk at
all.
In The Road Less Traveled, I wr ot e t ha t we have b o t h a c on-
sci ous mi n d a n d a n u n c o n s c i o u s mi n d . T h e c ons c i ous mi n d
ma ke s deci s i ons a n d t r ans l at es t h e m i nt o act i on. T h e u n c o n -
sci ous mi n d r es i des be l ow t h e s ur f ace; i t i s t h e pos s es s or of ex-
t r a or di na r y k n o wl e d g e t h a t we a r e n ' t nat ur al l y awar e of. I t
knows mo r e t h a n we k n o wt h e "we" b e i n g de f i ne d a s o u r c on-
sci ous self. Ho w we c o me t o k n o w t ha t whi c h i s h i d d e n a n d un-
cons ci ous , i s mys t e r ya nd mys t er i ous . But we do have s o me
hi nt s a b o u t wh a t i s i nvol ved i n t h e d e v e l o p me n t of cons ci ous -
ness.
66 M. Scott Peck, M.D. /
will of t en first ma ni f e s t t hems el ves i n d i mi n i s h e d a wa r e ne s s
a n d al er t nes s , a n d h e n c e a d i mi n i s h e d capaci t y t o sol ve c om-
pl e x p r o b l e ms .
For ma n y year s , neur ops ychi at r i s t s p e r f o r me d pr e f r ont a l
l obot omi e s on c e r t a i n s c hi z ophr e ni c pa t i e nt s wh o we r e i n
a gony as a r es ul t of f i xed de l us i ons . T h e s ur gi cal p r o c e d u r e i s a
s i mpl e o n e t h a t sever s t h e c o n n e c t i o n s b e t we e n t h e pr e f r ont a l
l obes ( t he mo s t hi ghl y evol ved p a r t of o u r br a i n) a n d t h e r es t of
t h e br a i n. I n o t h e r wor ds , wi t h t hi s o p e r a t i o n , s u r g e o n s r e n-
d e r e d dys f unct i onal t h e mo s t d e v e l o p e d o r h u ma n p a r t o f t h e
br a i n. Th e y di d n o t do t hi s o u t of cr uel t y. I n d e e d , i n my c a r e e r
I have s e e n sever al pa t i e nt s wi t h pr e f r ont a l l o b o t o mi e s wh o r e-
p o r t e d t o me t ha t t h e o p e r a t i o n was t h e bes t t h i n g t ha t ever
h a p p e n e d i n t he i r lives be c a us e i t h a d r el i eved t h e m of year s of
e xc r uc i a t i ng mi ser y. But t h e pr i c e t hey pa i d was a loss of p a r t of
t he i r h u ma n i t y ; t he s e pa t i e nt s d e mo n s t r a t e d a loss of f i ne j u d g -
me n t . T h e o p e r a t i o n h a d t a k e n away t he i r a gony b u t i t left
t h e m wi t h a di st i nct l y l i mi t e d sel f - awar eness a n d r es t r i ct ed t he i r
r a n g e of e mo t i o n a l r e s pons e s .
LESSONS FROM GENESIS 3
T h e s ci ences of a n t h r o p o l o g y a n d n e u r o a n a t o my s t r ongl y sug-
gest t ha t t h e di r e c t i on of all e vol ut i on i s t owa r d t h e de ve l op-
me n t o f t h e f r ont al l obe s a n d h e n c e t h e d e v e l o p me n t o f
c ons c i ous ne s s . But t h e Bi bl e a n d myt hol ogy al so ha ve mu c h t o
t e a c h a b o u t t h e e vol ut i on o f h u ma n c ons c i ous ne s s . T h e gr e a t
myt h of Ge ne s i s 3, o n e of t h e mo s t c o mp l i c a t e d a n d mul t i di -
me n s i o n a l myt hs a b o u t o u r huma ni t y, pr ovi de s u s wi t h a n o t h e r
ma j or hi nt . I n it, Go d f or bi ds Ad a m a n d Eve t o e a t of t h e frui t
of t he Tr e e of t h e Knowl e dge of Go o d a n d Evil. I n s t e a d u r g e d
by a fal l en a nge l , we a r e t ol dt he y give i n t o t e mp t a t i o n . I n
t he i r d i s o b e d i e n c e , t hey h i d e f r om Go d . Wh e n Go d asks why
t hey a r e hi di ng, t hey e xpl a i n i t i s be c a us e t hey a r e n a k e d . " Who
t ol d you you we r e n a k e d ? " Go d asks. An d t h e s ecr et i s out .
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 67
I n o t h e r wor ds , t h e f i r s t r es ul t of e a t i ng of t h e Tr e e of t h e
Knowl e dge of Go o d a n d Evil i s t h a t Ad a m a n d Eve b e c o me shy
or mo d e s t be c a us e t hey a r e n o w self-conscious. Th e y a r e awar e
t hat t hey a r e n a k e d . F r o m t hi s we c a n al so e xt r a pol a t e t h a t t h e
e mo t i o n s of gui l t a n d s h a me a r e ma ni f e s t a t i ons of cons ci ous -
ness, a n d a l t h o u g h b o t h e mo t i o n s c a n b e e x a g g e r a t e d t o t h e
p o i n t of pat hol ogy, wi t hi n l i mi t s t hey a r e an essent i al p a r t of
o u r h u ma n i t y a n d neces s ar y f or o u r ps ychol ogi cal d e v e l o p me n t
a n d f unc t i oni ng. So Genes i s 3 i s a myt h of e vol ut i on, a n d specif-
ically of h u ma n evol ut i on i n t o cons ci ous nes s . Li ke o t h e r myt hs ,
i t i s a n e mb o d i me n t of t r ut h. An d a mo n g t h e ma n y t r ut hf ul
t hi ngs t h e myt h of t h e Ga r d e n of Ed e n tells us i s t h a t i t i s hu-
ma n t o be shy.
I have h a d t he o p p o r t u n i t y t o me e t a gr e a t n u mb e r of won-
der f ul , d e e p - t h i n k i n g p e o p l e , a n d I have ne ve r me t s uc h a per -
s on wh o was n o t basi cal l y shy. A few of t h e m h a d n o t t h o u g h t of
t hems el ves as shy, b u t as we t al ked a b o u t it, t hey c a me t o r eal i ze
t ha t t hey we r e . An d t h e ver y few p e o p l e I ha ve me t wh o we r e
n o t t h e l east bi t shy we r e p e o p l e wh o h a d b e e n ser i ousl y d a m-
a ge d i n s o me way, wh o h a d l ost s o me of t he i r huma ni t y.
Wh e n we h u ma n s b e c a me sel f - consci ous, we b e c a me c on-
sci ous of our s el ves as s e pa r a t e ent i t i es . We l ost t ha t s ens e of
o n e n e s s wi t h n a t u r e a n d t h e r es t of c r e a t i on. Thi s l oss i s sym-
bol i z ed by p u r b a n i s h me n t f r om Par adi s e. An d i nevi t abl y, as
Ad a m a n d Eve d e v e l o p e d a h i g h e r l evel of sel f - awar eness, t hey
ar r i ved a t t h e r eal i z at i on t ha t c o n s e q u e n c e s fol l ow act i ons , a n d
t ha t t he i r c hoi c e s wo u l d be f or ever b u r d e n s o me by vi r t ue of t h e
r es pons i bi l i t y c hoi c e e nt a i l e d. All of h u ma n i t y has i n h e r i t e d
t hi s p r e d i c a me n t . We have all b e e n t hr us t o u t i nt o t h e de s e r t of
mat ur i t y.
Th u s , o u r e vol ut i on i n t o c ons c i ous ne s s ha s a far mo r e p r o -
f o u n d i mpl i c a t i on t h a n j u s t gui l t a n d s h a me . I t i s wh e n we a r e
c ons c i ous t ha t we ha ve f r ee will. Mo r e t h a n a n y t h i n g el se, I be -
lieve wha t i s me a n t by God' s c r e a t i ng us i n Hi s own i ma ge i s t hat ,
t h r o u g h t h e e vol ut i ona r y pr oces s , He gave us f r ee will. T h e r e i s
no f r ee will wh e n we a r e o p e r a t i n g at a pur e l y r ef l exi ve or i n-
68 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
s t i nct ual l evel . But l et me e mp h a s i z e t h e wo r d "f r ee. " O n e c a n
al so n o t be f r ee wh e n a g u n i s p o i n t e d at o n e ' s back. Go d or
evol ut i on gave us t h e f r e e d o m t o c h o o s e wha t we t h i n k or d o .
Genes i s 3 el uci dat es o u r n e e d t o c o n t i n u e evol vi ng i nt o
g r e a t e r cons ci ous nes s . Gi ven t h a t h u ma n e vol ut i on i s a for-
wa r d- movi ng p h e n o me n o n a n d t ha t we a r e c r e a t ur e s wi t h c on-
sci ousness, we c a n ne ve r go ba c k a ga i n t o t h e i n n o c e n c e of n o t
k n o wi n g ot he r wi s e , howe ve r h a r d we ma y t ry t o do so. T h e ga t e
of Ed e n i s f or ever b a r r e d t o us by c h e r u b i ms wi t h a f l a mi ng
s wor d. So, i n ma n y ways, we a r e b o t h bl es s ed a n d c ur s e d by c on-
s ci ous nes s . Wi t h i t c o me s t h e awar enes s of t h e r eal i t y of g o o d
a n d evil.
GOOD AND EVIL
T h e f i r s t t h r e e c h a p t e r s of Genes i s t el l us mu c h a b o u t t h e ge n-
esis of g o o d a n d evil. At t h e ver y b e g i n n i n g t hey s ugges t t ha t t h e
i mpul s e t o do g o o d has s o me t h i n g t o do wi t h wh a t creat i vi t y i s
all a bout . Go d f i r s t c r e a t e d t h e f i r mament a n d saw t ha t i t was
good; t h e n He c r e a t e d t h e l a n d a n d t h e wat er s , t h e pl a nt s a n d
a ni ma l s a n d h u ma n s a n d saw t ha t t hey, t oo, we r e g o o d cr e-
at i ons . I n cont r as t , t h e i mpul s e t o do evil i s des t r uct i ve r a t h e r
t h a n cr eat i ve. T h e c hoi c e b e t we e n g o o d a n d evil, creat i vi t y a n d
de s t r uc t i on, i s o u r own. An d ul t i mat el y, we mu s t t ake t ha t r e-
sponsi bi l i t y a n d a c c e pt its c o n s e q u e n c e s .
As s oon as Go d ( or evol ut i on) gave us f r ee will, He i mme -
di at el y l et l oos e t h e pot e nt i a l f or h u ma n evil i n t h e wor l d. I f
t h e r e i s no c hoi c e , t h e r e i s no evil. I f o n e i s t o have f r ee will,
t h e n o n e mu s t have t h e p o we r t o c h o o s e b e t we e n g o o d a n d
evil. An d o n e i s as f r ee t o c h o o s e t h e evil as t h e g o o d .
So i t st r i kes me a s no a c c i de nt t ha t t h e ver y n e x t t h i n g t ha t
h a p p e n s i n t h e st or y i s an e x a mp l e of evil: i n Genes i s 4, Ca i n
mu r d e r s Abel . I s i t n o t h i n g mo r e t h a n a ma t t e r of f r ee will t ha t
he c hoos e s t o do so? Wh e n Go d asks Ca i n wh e r e Abel is, he
r epl i es wi t h a que s t i on: "Am I my b r o t h e r ' s k e e p e r ? " We c a n
r e c ogni z e t hi s as a gr oss r at i onal i z at i on; a n d , as a r at i onal i za-
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 6 9
t i on, i t r e pr e s e nt s t h i n k i n g of a s or t def ens i ve t hi nki ng. I t i s
e xt r e me l y shal l ow, a l mos t r ef l exi ve t hi nki ng. Thi s gi ves us a
hi nt t ha t Ca i n mu r d e r e d Abel be c a us e h e c hos e n o t t o t h i n k
mo r e deepl y. Wi t h f r ee will we have t h e c hoi c e t o t hi nk or t o
n o t t hi nk, or t o t h i n k de e pl y or shal l owl y.
But why wo u l d s o me o n e c h o o s e n o t t o t hi nk deepl y? Wh y
woul d s o me o n e c hoos e t o t hi nk onl y si mpl i st i cal l y, superfi ci al l y,
a n d reflexively? T h e answer, agai n, i s t hat , des pi t e o u r consci ous-
ness, wha t we have i n c o mmo n wi t h t h e o t h e r c r e a t ur e s i s a
p r e f e r e n c e f or a voi di ng pa i n. Th i n k i n g de e pl y i s of t en mo r e
pai nf ul t h a n t h i n k i n g shal l owl y. Wh e n we t hi nk wi t h i nt egr i t y
we mu s t b e a r t h e t e ns i on of all ma n n e r of caus es a n d f act or s
pul l i ng agai ns t e a c h o t h e r i n o u r mi n d s . J u s t as i nt egr i t y i s ne ve r
pai nl ess, so cons ci ous nes s i s i nevi t abl y associ at ed wi t h pa i n.
Bef or e g o i n g mo r e de e pl y i nt o t h e ma t t e r of evil, l et me r e-
i t er at e t ha t we a r e n o t h e r e si mpl y t o e x p e r i e n c e pai n- f r ee liv-
i n g t o be c omf or t a bl e , happy, or ful fi l l ed all t h e t i me . T h e
real i t y i s t h a t pai nf ul f eel i ngs a c c o mp a n y p r o b l e m sol vi ng, a n d
t he pr oc e s s of b e c o mi n g i ncr eas i ngl y c ons c i ous is, l i ke life i n
ge ne r a l , di ffi cul t . But i t has ma n y benef i t s , t h e gr e a t e s t of whi c h
i s t ha t we will b e c o me mo r e effect i ve i n life. We will be awar e of
a b r o a d e r ar r ay of c hoi c e s i n r e s p o n d i n g t o di f f er ent s i t uat i ons
a n d t h e dai l y d i l e mma s of life. We will be mo r e awar e of t h e
ga me s p e o p l e play, t hus less wi l l i ng t o be ma n i p u l a t e d by o t h e r s
i nt o d o i n g t hi ngs we d e e m t o be agai ns t o u r bes t i nt er es t s . We
will be i n a b e t t e r pos i t i on t o d e t e r mi n e f or our s el ves wh a t t o
t hi nk a n d bel i eve, r a t h e r t h a n si mpl y fall pr e y t o t h e di ct at es of
mas s me d i a or fami l y a n d p e e r i nf l uences .
Unf or t unat el y, p a i n i s an i nevi t abl e si de effect of c on-
s ci ous nes s . We will al so b e c o me mo r e awar e of t h e n e e d s , bur -
de ns , a n d s or r ows of our s el ves a n d ot he r s . We will b e c o me
mo r e awar e of t h e r eal i t i es of o u r mor t al i t y a n d t h e a gi ng
pr oces s wo r k i n g i n ever y cel l of o u r bodi e s . We will b e c o me
cons ci ous of o u r own si ns a n d i mpe r f e c t i ons a n d , i nevi t abl y,
mo r e awar e of t h e si ns a n d evils of soci et y.
T h e c hoi c e of wh e t h e r or n o t t o t h i n k de e pl y is, t he r e f or e ,
t he c hoi c e of wh e t h e r or n o t t o a c c e pt t ha t p a i n i s as s oci at ed
70 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
wi t h cons ci ous nes s . Thi s c hoi c e i s s o cr uci al t ha t t h e f i r s t c h a p -
t er of The Road Less Traveled f ocuses on h o w p r o b l e ms caus e us
p a i n a n d how, be c a us e we a r e pai n- avoi di ng c r e a t ur e s , we t ry t o
r u n away f r om o u r p r o b l e ms r a t h e r t h a n face t h e m a n d de a l
wi t h t h e pa i n. Si mi l arl y, t h e fi rst c h a p t e r of Further Along the
Road Less Traveled i s e nt i t l e d " Cons c i ous ne s s a n d t h e Pr o b l e m of
Pai n. "
T h e p a i n i nvol ved ma y n o t ma k e c ons c i ous ne s s s e e m
wor t hwhi l e or g o o d u n t i l you c ons i de r s o me of t h e pr i ces we
pay f or f ai l i ng t o gr ow i n c ons c i ous ne s s or t o t hi nk wi t h i n-
t egri t y. T h e r e i s mu c h evil i n t h e wo r l d u n n e c e s s a r y i ndi vi d-
ual suf f er i ng, t r e me n d o u s d a ma g e t o h u ma n r el at i ons , a n d
soci al c h a o s d u e t o o u r f ai l ur e t o t hi nk a n d gr ow i n c on-
s ci ous nes s .
EVIL, SIN, AND OTHER DISTINCTIONS
Whi l e i mp o r t a n t di s t i nct i ons a r e t o be ma d e b e t we e n evil a n d
i nsani t y, i l l ness a n d si n, I wr ot e i n People of the Lie t ha t t o n a me
s o me t h i n g cor r ect l y gi ves us a c e r t a i n a mo u n t of p o we r over it.
I bel i eve t ha t evil c a n be de f i ne d as a speci fi c f or m of me n t a l ill-
ness a n d s h o u l d be s ubj ect t o at l east t h e s a me i nt ens i t y of sci-
ent i f i c i nves t i gat i on t ha t we woul d de vot e t o s o me o t h e r ma j or
ps ychi at r i c di s eas e. Yet evil i s still evil. Aus chwi t z a n d My Lai a n d
J o n e s t o wn a n d t h e Ok l a h o ma City b o mb i n g a r e facts. Evil i s n o t
a f i gme nt of t h e i ma gi na t i on of s o me pr i mi t i ve r el i gi ous mi n d
a t t e mp t i n g t o e xpl a i n t h e u n k n o wn . An d i t i s mo r e t h a n j u s t a
"si ckness. "
Gi ven t h e st at e of wor l d affairs, i t ' s i mpos s i bl e t o ove r l ook
t h e r eal i t y of evil i f you a r e t h i n k i n g wi t h i nt egr i t y. But t h e r e i s
wi de s pr e a d de ni a l i n o u r count r y. Ma ny downpl a y evil or hesi -
t at e t o see i t f or wh a t i t t r ul y is, i n p a r t be c a us e t hey d o n ' t wa n t
t o a p p e a r t o be a c t i ng a r r o g a n t or hol i e r - t ha n- t hou. I n d e e d , i t
i s qui t e c o mmo n t o r e a d n e ws p a p e r ar t i cl es t ha t de s c r i be t hos e
wh o c o mmi t a r a n g e of h u ma n at r oci t i es as si mpl y "sick. " As a
psychi at r i st , I bel i eve t h e wo r d "sick" i s mo r e a ppr opr i a t e l y a p-
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 71
pl i ed t o t hos e wh o a r e affl i ct ed wi t h s o me t h i n g f or whi c h t r eat -
me n t or a c u r e i s pos s i bl e a nd al so desired. Al t h o u g h t h e evil
a r e o p e r a t i n g f r om a "si ck" per s pect i ve, t h e di f f er ence i s t h a t
ma n y of t hos e wh o a r e "si ck" de a l wi t h t he i r v e n o m i nt er nal l y,
t u r n i n g i t pai nf ul l y u p o n t hems el ves i f t hey c h o o s e n o t t o s eek
he l p. Th o s e wh o a r e evil go a n o t h e r way. Th e y fail t o suffer. Be-
caus e t hey l ash o u t at o t h e r s a n d us e t h e m as s capegoat s , i t i s
t he p e o p l e a r o u n d t h e m wh o mu s t suffer. Th i n k of t h e ill ef-
fect s c a us e d by t hos e wh o a r e a d d i c t e d t o a h i g h o p i n i o n of
t hems el ves , t o c o mp l a c e n c y a n d s el f - r i ght eous nes s or far wor s e.
Be c a us e i t i s so des t r uct i ve, evil i s t h e ul t i ma t e i l l ness. But a
t h i n k i n g di s or de r d o e s n o t abs ol ve s o me o n e of r es pons i bi l i t y
for hi s act i ons . We ha ve t he c hoi c e t o t h i n k or n o t t o t hi nk, a n d
whi l e evil s h o u l d be c o n s i d e r e d a ps ychi at r i c di agnos i s , t ha t
d o e s n ' t me a n p e o p l e s h o u l d n ' t g o t o j ai l wh e n t hey have c om-
mi t t e d a c r i me . I ' m i n full a g r e e me n t wi t h t h e law, whi c h mo s t
infrequently absol ves p e o p l e of a c r i me on t h e g r o u n d s of i ns an-
ity. T h e r eal i t y i s t ha t wh e n e v e r we ha ve a c hoi c e , we s h o u l d be
he l d a c c o u n t a b l e .
In People of the Lie, I bol dl y as s er t ed t ha t c e r t a i n p e o p l e a r e
evil. Wh o a r e t hey? I t i s i mp o r t a n t t ha t we ma k e di s t i nct i ons be -
t ween evil p e o p l e a n d o r d i n a r y c r i mi na l s a n d b e t we e n evil p e o -
pl e a n d o r d i n a r y s i nne r s . Du r i n g my c a r e e r as a psychi at r i st , I
s pe nt s o me t i me wo r k i n g i n pr i s ons wi t h c onvi c t e d cr i mi nal s .
Whi l e ma n y t hi nk t ha t t h e p r o b l e m of evil i s c onf i ne d t o t hos e
wh o a r e l oc ke d u p , s e l d o m have I e x p e r i e n c e d i n ma t e s as t r ul y
evil p e o p l e . Obvi ous l y t hey a r e des t r uct i ve, a n d usual l y r e pe a t -
edl y so. But t h e r e i s a ki nd of r a n d o mn e s s t o t he i r des t r uct i ve-
ness. Mor eover , a l t h o u g h t hey gener al l y d e n y r es pons i bi l i t y f or
t hei r evil de e ds , t h e r e i s still a qual i t y of o p e n n e s s t o t he i r
wi ckednes s . Th e y t hems el ves a r e qui c k t o p o i n t t hi s out , cl ai m-
i ng t hey ha ve b e e n c a u g h t pr eci s el y b e c a u s e t hey a r e t h e " hon-
est cr i mi nal s . " T h e t r ul y evil, t hey will t el l you, always r es i de
out s i de of j ai l . Cl earl y, s uc h p r o c l a ma t i o n s a r e self-justifying.
Th e y a r e al so, I bel i eve, gener al l y a c c ur a t e .
I n d e e d , mo s t p e o p l e wh o c o mmi t evil a r e usual l y s e e n a s
or di na r y ci t i zens. Th e y live d o wn t h e s t r e e t o n any s t r eet .
72 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
Th e y ma y be r i ch or poor , e d u c a t e d or u n e d u c a t e d . Mos t a r e
n o t de s i gna t e d " cr i mi nal s . " Mo r e of t en t h a n not , t hey a r e "sol i d
ci t i zens" wh o f i t i n wel l wi t h society, wh o do a n d say mo s t of t h e
r i ght t hi ngs on t h e s ur f ace. Th e y ma y be act i ve l e a de r s i n t h e
c ommuni t y, Su n d a y s c hool t e a c he r s , p o l i c e me n or ba nke r s , st u-
d e n t s o r pa r e nt s .
T h e case of Bobby a n d hi s p a r e n t s , de s c r i be d i n People of the
Lie, i s a c o mp e l l i n g e x a mp l e of t h e k i n d of ma j or evil t ha t c a n
be c o mmi t t e d by so- cal l ed n o r ma l p e o p l e i n ever yday life. Af t er
hi s o l d e r br ot he r , St uar t , c o mmi t t e d s ui ci de by s h o o t i n g hi m-
self i n t h e h e a d wi t h a . 22 ri fl e, f i f t een- year - ol d Bobby r ecal l ed
all ma n n e r of l i t t l e i nc i de nt s a n d b e g a n t o feel gui l t y f or ha vi ng
cal l ed hi s b r o t h e r n a me s or ha vi ng hi t or ki c ke d h i m d u r i n g a
f i ght . To s o me d e g r e e , he fel t r e s pons i bl e f or St uar t ' s d e a t h .
Cons e que nt l y, he b e g a n j u d g i n g himself as evil. Th a t was n o t sur-
pr i s i ng. I f s o me o n e cl ose t o us c o mmi t s s ui ci de, o u r first r e-
s pons e af t er t h e i ni t i al s hocki f we a r e nor ma l l y h u ma n , wi t h
a n o r ma l h u ma n cons ci encewi l l be t o wo n d e r wha t we di d
wr ong.
Ha d Bobby l i ved i n a he a l t hy fami l y e n v i r o n me n t , hi s sta-
bl e, bl ue- col l ar p a r e n t s wo u l d ha ve t al ked t o h i m a b o u t hi s
b r o t h e r ' s d e a t h a n d a t t e mp t e d t o r e a s s ur e h i m t ha t St ua r t mu s t
have b e e n suf f er i ng f r om a me n t a l i l l ness a n d t ha t i t was n o t
Bobby' s faul t . But hi s p a r e n t s di d n o t do so. An d wi t h o u t t hi s r e-
a s s ur a nc e , Bobby b e c a me visibly de pr e s s e d. Hi s gr a de s p l u m-
me t e d a n d t h e s c hool advi s ed hi s p a r e n t s t o t ake h i m t o a
t her api s t . Th e y di d n o t do t hi s ei t her .
Wh a t t hey di d d o a t Chr i s t ma s , a l t h o u g h h e h a d n o t a s ke d
for it, was t o gi ve Bobby a . 22 r i f l et he r i f l eas hi s "bi g pr es -
ent . " T h e me s s a ge t hi s s e nt was chi l l i ng. Gi ven Bobby' s obvi ous
de pr e s s i on a n d l ack of suf f i ci ent ma t ur i t y t o u n d e r s t a n d hi s
p a r e n t s ' mot i ves i n gi vi ng h i m t hi s "gift," t h e me s s a ge he r e-
cei ved was i n es s ence: "Take your b r o t h e r ' s s ui ci de we a p o n a n d
do l i kewi se. You de s e r ve t o di e . " Wh e n c o n f r o n t e d wi t h t h e hor -
rific n a t u r e of t hi s ge s t ur e , hi s p a r e n t s r e s p o n d e d i n a way typi-
cal of t h e de ni a l a n d s el f - decept i on i n h e r e n t i n evil. "It was
b e t t e r t h a n any o t h e r p r e s e n t we c oul d af f or d, " hi s p a r e n t s t ol d
THE ROAD LESS TRAWLED AND BEYOND 73
me . " We ' r e j u s t working p e o p l e . We ' r e n o t s ophi s t i cat ed, s mar t ,
a n d e d u c a t e d p e o p l e l i ke you. We c a n' t be e x p e c t e d t o t h i n k
a b o u t t he s e ki nd of t hi ngs . "
Of c our s e , a n evil d e e d d o e s n o t a n evil p e r s o n ma k e . Ot h -
er wi se, we wo u l d all be de s i gna t e d evil, be c a us e we all do evil
t hi ngs . But I bel i eve i t wo u l d be a mi s t ake t o t hi nk of si n or evil
as s i mpl y a ma t t e r of d e g r e e . Si n n i n g i s mo s t br oa dl y de f i ne d as
"mi s s i ng t h e ma r k, " whi c h me a n s we si n ever y t i me we fail t o hi t
t he bul l ' s- eye. Si n i s n o t h i n g less t h a n a f ai l ur e t o be c ont i nua l l y
per f ect . An d be c a us e i t i s i mpos s i bl e f or us t o be c ont i nua l l y
per f ect , we ar e all s i nne r s . We r out i ne l y fail t o do t h e ver y bes t
of whi c h we a r e c a pa bl e , a n d wi t h e a c h f ai l ur e we c o mmi t a
c r i me of s or t s agai ns t our s el ves or ot he r s .
Of c our s e , t h e r e a r e c r i me s of gr e a t e r or l esser ma g n i t u d e .
I t ma y s e e m less odi ous t o c h e a t t h e r i ch t h a n t o c h e a t t h e poor ,
b u t i t i s still c he a t i ng. Th e r e ar e di f f er ences be f or e t h e l aw i n
d e f r a u d i n g a bus i nes s , c l a i mi ng a false d e d u c t i o n on your i n-
c o me t ax, t el l i ng your wife t ha t you have t o wor k l at e wh e n you
ar e b e i n g unf ai t hf ul , or t el l i ng your h u s b a n d you d i d n ' t have
t i me t o pi ck up hi s cl ot hes a t t h e c l e a ne r wh e n you s p e n t a n
h o u r on t h e p h o n e wi t h a f r i end. Sur el y s o me of t he s e d e e d s
a r e mo r e e xc us a bl e t h a n o t h e r s a n d p e r h a p s all t h e mo r e s o
u n d e r c e r t a i n c i r c u ms t a n c e s b u t t h e fact r e ma i n s t ha t t hey
a r e all lies a n d bet r ayal s.
T h e r eal i t y i s t ha t we do be t r a y our s el ves a n d o t h e r s r ou-
tinely. T h e wor st of us do i t bl at ant l y, even compulsively. T h e
nobl e s t of us do i t subt l y a n d sel f - cent er edl y, even wh e n we
t hi nk we a r e t r yi ng n o t t o do it. Wh e t h e r i t i s d o n e cons ci ous l y
or unc ons c i ous l y i s of no ma t t e r ; t h e bet r ayal occur s . I f you
i ma g i n e you a r e suffi ci ent l y s c r upul ous ne ve r t o have d o n e any
s uc h t hi ng, t h e n ask your s el f wh e t h e r t h e r e i s any way i n whi c h
you ha ve l i ed t o yoursel f. Or have k i d d e d yoursel f. Be per f ect l y
h o n e s t wi t h your s el f a n d you will r eal i ze t ha t you si n. I f you do
n o t r eal i ze it, t h e n you a r e n o t per f ect l y h o n e s t wi t h yoursel f,
whi c h is itself a si n.
Th u s , we a r e all s i nne r s t o o n e d e g r e e or a not he r . But
t hos e wh o ar e evil c a n n o t be st ri ct l y de f i ne d by t h e ma g n i t u d e
74 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
of t he i r si ns or t h e i l l egal i t y of t he i r d e e d s . I t i s n o t t he i r si ns p e r
s e t ha t c ha r a c t e r i z e t h e m; r a t h e r i t i s t h e s ubt l et y a n d per si s-
t e n c e a n d cons i s t ency of t he i r si ns. An d u n d e r l y i n g t hi s consi s-
t ency, wha t di s t i ngui s hes t hos e wh o ar e evil, l i ke Bobby' s pa r e nt s ,
i s t h e e x t r e me s t ha t t hey will go t o i n o r d e r t o avoi d t h e c on-
s ci ous nes s of t he i r own evil.
THE SHADOW
Car l J u n g a s c r i be d t he r o o t of h u ma n evil t o " t he r ef usal t o
me e t t h e Shadow. " By " t he Shadow, " J u n g me a n t t h e p a r t of o u r
mi n d c o n t a i n i n g t hos e t hi ngs t ha t we wo u l d r a t h e r n o t own u p
t o, t ha t we a r e c ont i nua l l y t r yi ng t o h i d e f r om our s el ves a n d
o t h e r s a n d s weep u n d e r t he r u g o f o u r cons ci ous nes s .
Mos t of us , wh e n p u s h e d up agai ns t t h e wal l by e vi de nc e of
o u r own si ns, f ai l ur es, or i mpe r f e c t i ons , will a c knowl e dge o u r
Shadow. But by hi s us e of t h e wo r d "r ef usal , " J u n g was i mpl y-
i ng s o me t h i n g far mo r e act i ve. Th o s e wh o have cr os s ed over
t h e l i ne t ha t s e pa r a t e s si n f r om evil a r e c ha r a c t e r i z e d mo s t by
t he i r a bs ol ut e r ef usal t o t ol e r a t e a s ens e of t he i r own si nf ul ness.
Thi s i s be c a us e t he i r c e nt r a l de f e c t i s n o t t ha t t hey ha ve no c on-
s ci ence b u t t h a t t hey r ef use t o b e a r its pa i n. I n o t h e r wor ds , i t i s
n o t s o mu c h t h e si n i t sel f b u t t h e r ef usal t o a c k n o wl e d g e i t t ha t
ma k e s i t evil.
I n fact , t h e evil a r e of t en hi ghl y i nt e l l i ge nt p e o p l e , wh o
ma y be qui t e c ons c i ous i n mo s t r es pect s b u t ha ve a ver y speci fi c
unwi l l i ngnes s t o a c knowl e dge t he i r Shadow. T h e br i ef est def i n-
i t i on of evil I k n o w i s t ha t i t i s " mi l i t ant i g n o r a n c e . " But evil i s
n o t ge ne r a l i g n o r a n c e ; mo r e specifically, i t i s mi l i t ant i gno-
r a n c e of t h e Shadow. Th o s e wh o a r e evil r ef use t o b e a r t h e p a i n
of gui l t or t o al l ow t h e Sh a d o w i nt o c ons c i ous ne s s a n d " me e t "
it. I ns t ead, t hey will set a b o u t o f t e n at gr e a t ef f or t mi l i t ant l y
t r yi ng t o des t r oy t h e e vi de nc e of t he i r si n or a n y o n e wh o s peaks
of i t or r e pr e s e nt s it. An d i n t hi s act of de s t r uc t i on, t he i r evil i s
c o mmi t t e d .
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 75
I have wr i t t en t ha t g u i l t a l t h o u g h of t en vi ewed as a
" downe r " i s i n ma n y ways a bl essi ng. Ha v i n g a g e n u i n e awar e-
ness of o n e ' s own s h o r t c o mi n g s i s wh a t I cal l a s ens e of p e r s o n a l
si n. I t i s n o t pl e a s a nt t o be awar e of ones el f as a nat ur al l y lazy,
i gnor a nt , s el f - cent er ed b e i n g t ha t r a t h e r r out i ne l y bet r ays its
Cr eat or , its fel l ow c r e a t ur e s , a n d e ve n its own bes t i nt er es t s . Yet
t hi s u n p l e a s a n t s ens e of p e r s o n a l f ai l ur e a n d i n a d e q u a c y is,
par adoxi cal l y, t h e gr e a t e s t bl es s i ng a h u ma n b e i n g c a n possess.
Un p l e a s a n t t h o u g h i t ma y b e , t h e gift of a p p r o p r i a t e gui l t i s
pr eci sel y wh a t ke e ps o u r si ns f r om ge t t i ng o u t of h a n d . I t i s o u r
mos t effect i ve s af eguar d agai ns t o u r own pr ocl i vi t y f or evil.
Amo n g t h e r e a s ons f or b e c o mi n g mo r e c ons c i ous i s t o
avoi d b e c o mi n g evil. For t unat el y, t h e t r ul y evil r e p r e s e n t onl y a
mi nor i t y of t h e h u ma n p o p u l a t i o n . Yet l esser f or ms of ps ycho-
l ogi cal i l l ness a b o u n d . An d a l t h o u g h n o t evil, t hey t o o c a n r e-
fl ect a n unwi l l i ngnes s t o me e t o u r Shadow. S i g mu n d F r e u d a n d
hi s da ught e r , An n a , c ompe l l i ngl y d e mo n s t r a t e d t ha t t h e r e i s of-
t e n "si ni st er " st uff l ur ki ng i n t h e d e p t h s of t h e u n c o n s c i o u s
mi n d . Tr a di t i ona l Fr e u d i a n ps ychol ogy ha s t a u g h t us t h a t t h e
caus es of mo s t ps ychol ogi cal di s or de r s s t e m f r om h i d d e n feel -
i ngs anger , u n a c k n o wl e d g e d s exual des i r e, a n d s o on. Be c a us e
of t hi s, ps ychol ogi cal i l l ness has b e e n l ocal i zed i n t h e u n c o n -
sci ous r e a l m by mo s t t hi nke r s , as i f t h e u n c o n s c i o u s we r e t h e
seat of ps yc hopa t hol ogy, a n d s y mp t o ms we r e l i ke s u b t e r r a n e a n
d e mo n s t ha t s ur f ace t o t o r me n t t h e i ndi vi dual . My own vi ew i s
t h e oppos i t e .
As I wr ot e in The Road Less Traveled, I bel i eve t ha t all psy-
chol ogi cal di s or de r s a r e basi cal l y di s or de r s of cons ci ous nes s .
Th e y a r e n o t r o o t e d i n t h e u n c o n s c i o u s b u t i n a c ons c i ous
mi n d t ha t r ef uses t o t hi nk a n d i s unwi l l i ng t o de a l wi t h c e r t a i n
i ssues, b e a r c e r t a i n f eel i ngs, or t ol e r a t e pa i n. Th e s e i ssues, feel -
i ngs, or des i r es a r e i n t h e u n c o n s c i o u s onl y be c a us e a pai n-
avoi di ng c ons c i ous mi n d has t hr us t t h e m t h e r e .
Of c our s e , no o n e wal ki ng a r o u n d i s s o u n h e a l t h y t ha t he
i s n o t at l eas t sl i ght l y c ons c i ous . An d no o n e i s s o he a l t hy t ha t
s he i s totally c ons c i ous . Th e r e a r e i n n u me r a b l e d e g r e e s of c on-
76 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
sci ousness, gi ven t ha t s o me p e o p l e e x e r t t hems el ves mo r e or
less t h a n ot he r s . But t h e d e g r e e of c ons c i ous ne s s i s i n h e r e n t l y
h a r d t o me a s u r e . Even wi t h t h e t ool s f or g a u g i n g me n t a l h e a l t h
t h r o u g h s t a n d a r d ps ychol ogi cal t est i ng, i t i s di ffi cul t t o de t e r -
mi n e a nyone ' s t r u e l evel of cons ci ous nes s . We c a n s pe c ul a t e
f r om hi s or h e r behavi or . But p e r h a p s t h e bes t me a s u r e of
s o me o n e ' s d e g r e e of c ons c i ous ne s s c a n be f o u n d i n t he consi s-
t ency of hi s or h e r g e n e r a l a p p r o a c h t o t hi nki ng. For e x a mp l e ,
a p e r s o n wh o i s o r i e n t e d mo r e t owa r d t h i n k i n g si mpl i st i cal l y
has a l esser d e g r e e of c ons c i ous ne s s t h a n a p e r s o n wh o t hi nks
wi t h i nt egr i t y.
I n t hi s way, t h i n k i n g a n d c ons c i ous ne s s a r e i next r i cabl y
l oc ke d t o g e t h e r i n a par al l el r e l a t i ons hi p. Cons c i ous ne s s i s t h e
f o u n d a t i o n of all t hi nki ng, a n d t h i n k i n g i s t h e f o u n d a t i o n of all
c ons c i ous ne s s . Anyt i me t h e r e i s a f ai l ur e i n t hi nki ng, t h e r e i s
c o r r e s p o n d i n g def i ci t i n a pe r s on' s l evel of cons ci ous nes s .
Th u s , all h u ma n b e h a v i o r t h e good, t h e ba d, a n d t h e indif-
f e r e nt i s d e t e r mi n e d by t h e e xt e nt , or l ack t her eof , of t h e
qual i t y of t h i n k i n g a n d c ons c i ous ne s s i nvol ved.
Pe opl e have f r equent l y as ked me , "Dr. Peck, s i nce we all
have ne ur os e s of o n e sor t or a n o t h e r s i n c e no o n e c a n be c o m-
pl et el y c ons c i ous how do you k n o w wh e n t o go i nt o t her apy? "
My a ns we r t o t h e m is: " Wh e n y o u ' r e stuck. Th e r e ' s no n e e d
f or t h e r a p y wh e n y o u ' r e cl ear l y gr owi ng wel l wi t hout it. But
wh e n we ' r e n o t gr owi ng, wh e n we ' r e s t uck a n d s p i n n i n g o u r
wheel s , we ' r e obvi ousl y i n a c o n d i t i o n of i neffi ci ency. An d
wh e n e v e r t he r e ' s a l ack of effi ci ency t h e r e i s a pot ent i al l y u n -
neces s ar y l ack of c o mp e t e n c e . " So t h e r e i s yet a n o t h e r r e a s on
t o s eek g r e a t e r c ons c i ous ne s s . I t i s t h e f o u n d a t i o n of me n t a l
a n d s pi r i t ual gr owt h. An d i t i s t h r o u g h t hi s gr owt h t h a t we be -
c o me ever mo r e c o mp e t e n t .
CONSCIOUSNESS AND COMPETENCE
Al t h o u g h we c a n p i n p o i n t var i ous capabi l i t i es a n d t al ent s t h a t
al l ow us t o me e t t h e d e ma n d s of life or t o de ve l op def t nes s i n
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 77
pr obl em- s ol vi ng skills, ge ne r a l c o mp e t e n c e i s a mu c h mo r e
c o mp l e x capabi l i t y. I n r e l a t i on t o t h e d e v e l o p me n t of c on-
sci ousness, i t i s b r o a d e r t h a n j u s t a t t a i ni ng a d e q u a c y i n basi c
survival skills, l e a r n i n g h o w t o or ga ni z e , or ha vi ng an e xc e l l e nt
me mor y. Tr u e c o mp e t e n c e i s mo r e a b o u t gr owi ng i n wi s dom
t h a n a c c u mu l a t i n g me r e knowl e dge . I t ent ai l s st r i vi ng t owa r d a
ps ychol ogi cal a n d s pi r i t ual ma t ur i t y t ha t r es ul t s i n r eal p e r s o n a l
power .
Ma n y p e o p l e c a n c o o k wi t hout r eci pes o r wor k o n c a r e n-
gi nes wi t hout a ma n u a l , or ha ve br i l l i ant me mo r i e s t ha t e n a b l e
t h e m t o r ecal l qui ck, f or mul a i c ways of r e s p o n d i n g t o si t ua-
t i ons . But , be c a us e of an i nabi l i t y or unwi l l i ngnes s t o t h i n k i n
b r o a d e r ways or t o h a n d l e di f f er ent s i t uat i ons creat i vel y, t hey
ma y fail i n de a l i ng wi t h s i t uat i ons t h a t do n o t f i t wi t hi n ex-
p e c t e d pa t t e r ns . T h e ma n wh o c a n easi l y f i x a g a r b a g e di s pos al
wi t hout mu c h h e l p f r om a ma n u a l ma y feel t ot al l y i n c o mp e t e n t
wh e n f aced wi t h h a n d l i n g mo r e c o mp l e x o r de t a i l e d s i t uat i ons
i nvol vi ng t h e di s ci pl i ne of hi s c h i l d r e n or c o mmu n i c a t i o n wi t h
hi s wife.
T h e r eal i t y i s t ha t even wh e n p e o p l e a r e c o mp e t e n t i n
s o me as pect s of t he i r lives, t he i r c o mp e t e n c e i n o t h e r ar eas
var i es. He a t h e r , o n e of t h e ma i n c ha r a c t e r s i n A Bed by the Win-
dow, i s ver y ski l l ed a n d c ons c i e nt i ous i n h e r wor k as a n u r s e s o
c o mp e t e n t a n d we l l - r ounde d as a car egi ver t ha t s he i s o n e of
t he mo s t a p p r e c i a t e d staff me mb e r s a t t h e n u r s i n g h o me . He r
pe r s ona l life i s a n o t h e r ma t t e r al t oget her . She i s l ess c o mp e t e n t
i n ma k i n g deci s i ons a b o u t ma t e s , a n d of t en f i nds her s el f i n
c o mp r o mi s i n g e v e n abus i ves i t uat i ons as a r es ul t of h e r
p o o r j u d g me n t a b o u t me n . As a s u p e r b n u r s e o n t h e o n e h a n d
but a l ousy gi r l f r i end on t h e ot her , He a t h e r i s a gl a r i ng e x a mp l e
of wha t psychol ogi st s r ef er t o as s o me o n e wi t h a c o mb i n a t i o n of
b o t h "conf l i ct - f r ee ar eas of t h e e g o " a n d e xt r e me l y conf l i ct ed
one s , s o me o n e wh o i s fully c ons c i ous i n c e r t a i n ar eas but , be -
caus e of n e u r o t i c conf l i ct , ut t er l y u n c o n s c i o u s i n ot he r s .
Ma ny p e o p l e f i nd t hems el ves c onf us e d by t h e u n e v e n na-
t ur e of t he i r cons ci ous nes s . As di d He a t h e r , t hey ma y go i nt o
t he r a py s e e ki ng a n e n d t o t he i r t o r me n t . Al t h o u g h s o me r el i ef
78 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
usual l y c o me s qui ckl y wi t h t h e r eal i z at i on t h a t t hey a r e n o t
crazy, a n d ma j or gr owt h ma y c o me mo r e slowly, t hey will f i nd
t ha t e ve n t h e r a p y d o e s n o t offer a p a n a c e a f or t h e p a i n of de -
ve l opi ng cons ci ous nes s .
In my pr a c t i c e as a ps yc hot he r a pi s t , I wo u l d r out i ne l y tell
my pa t i e nt s , " Ps yc hot he r a py i s n o t a b o u t ha ppi ne s s ; i t i s a b o u t
power . I f you go t h e whol e r o u t e h e r e , I c a n n o t g u a r a n t e e you
t ha t you will l eave o n e j o t ha ppi e r . Wh a t I c a n g u a r a n t e e you i s
t ha t you will l eave mo r e c o mp e t e n t . " I wo u l d go on t o say, "But
t h e r e i s a v a c u u m of c o mp e t e n c e i n t h e wor l d, a n d s o as s o o n as
p e o p l e b e c o me mo r e c o mp e t e n t , Go d or life will give t h e m bi g-
ge r t hi ngs t o d o . Cons e que nt l y, you ma y wel l l eave h e r e wor r y-
i ng a b o u t far bi gge r p r o b l e ms t h a n wh e n you f i r s t c a me .
No n e t h e l e s s , a c e r t a i n ki nd of j o y a n d p e a c e of mi n d do c o me
f r om k n o wi n g t ha t y o u ' r e wor r yi ng a b o u t bi g t hi ngs a n d n o
l o n g e r ge t t i ng b e n t o u t of s h a p e a b o u t t h e l i t t l e one s . "
On c e , wh e n as ked t h e p u r p o s e o f ps ychot her apy, Fr e u d
c o mme n t e d , "To ma k e t h e u n c o n s c i o u s cons ci ous . " Thi s , of
c our s e , i s wh a t has b e e n sai d all a l ong. The r a py' s p u r p o s e i s t o
h e l p p e o p l e b e c o me mo r e awar e s o t h a t t hey c a n t hi nk mo r e
cl ear l y a n d live t he i r lives mo r e effect i vel y a n d effi ci ent l y.
An o t h e r way of t al ki ng a b o u t t hi s pr ogr e s s i on of awar enes s
or c ons c i ous ne s s i s i n t e r ms of wha t i s k n o wn as e go de ve l op-
me n t , whi c h i s ver y mu c h a d e v e l o p me n t of c ons c i ous ne s s . I n A
World Waiting to Be Born, I wr ot e t ha t t h e e g o is t h e g o v e r n i n g
p a r t of o u r pe r s ona l i t y a n d t ha t its d e v e l o p me n t t h e ma t u r a -
t i on of t hi s g o v e r n o r c a n be d e l i n e a t e d i n t h r e e over al l st ages.
T h e f i r s t st age, t ha t of ear l y c h i l d h o o d , i s o n e of a n a bs ol ut e or
a l mos t a bs ol ut e l ack of sel f - consci ousness. He r e t h e e g o i s t o-
tally d o wn a t t h e l evel of t h e e mo t i o n s a n d e n me s h e d wi t h
t h e m. I t i s t hi s l ack of sel f - consci ousness t ha t c a n ma k e y o u n g
c h i l d r e n s o f r equent l y c h a r mi n g a n d s e e mi ngl y i n n o c u o u s .
Wh e n t hey a r e j oyf ul , t hey a r e o n e h u n d r e d p e r c e n t j oyf ul .
Th e y a r e mar vel ous l y s p o n t a n e o u s a n d i n n o c e n t . But i t i s t hi s
s a me l ack of sel f - consci ousness t ha t c a n s o of t en ma k e t h e m dif-
f i c ul t . For wh e n c h i l d r e n a r e sad, t hey a r e al so o n e h u n d r e d
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 79
p e r c e n t sad, s o me t i me s t o t h e p o i n t of b e i n g i nc ons ol a bl e . An d
wh e n t hey a r e angr y, t he i r a n g e r will e r u p t i n t e mp e r t a n t r u ms
a n d s o me t i me s vi ol ent or vi ci ous behavi or .
T h e r e a r e g l i mme r i n g s of sel f - consci ousness by t h e a ge of
n i n e mo n t h s , a n d t h e capaci t y f or sel f - awar eness ver y gr adual l y
i ncr eas es t h r o u g h o u t c h i l d h o o d . I n a dol e s c e nc e , however , i t
u n d e r g o e s a d r a ma t i c gr owt h s pur t . For t h e f i r s t t i me y o u n g
p e o p l e ha ve a qui t e obvi ous " obs er vi ng e go. " No w t hey c a n ob-
ser ve t hems el ves b e i n g j oyf ul or s ad or a ngr y whi l e t hey a r e feel -
i ng so. Thi s me a n s t h e e go i s no l o n g e r whol l y c onf i ne d t o t h e
l evel of t h e e mo t i o n s . No w a p a r t of i t t he obs e r vi ng e goi s
d e t a c h e d f r om t h e e mo t i o n s , a bove t h e m l o o k i n g o n . T h e r e i s
a c e r t a i n r e s ul t i ng loss of s pont anei t y.
T h e obs e r vi ng e g o i s still n o t fully d e v e l o p e d i n adol es -
c e nc e . Th u s , a dol e s c e nt s a r e f r e que nt l y s p o n t a n e o u s , s ome -
t i mes da nge r ous l y so. At o t h e r t i mes , however , t hey s e e m t o be
n o t h i n g b u t a mas s of af f ect at i ons as t hey sel f-consci ousl y t ry on
o n e ne w i dent i t y af t er a n o t h e r by we a r i ng bi z a r r e hai r st yl es a n d
cl ot hes a n d be ha vi ng out r ageous l y. Cons t ant l y c o mp a r i n g t h e m-
selves wi t h p e e r s a n d pa r e nt s , t he s e s e e mi ngl y f l a mboya nt cr ea-
t ur es a r e of t en pai nf ul l y shy a n d suffer i n n u me r a b l e s pa s ms of
e xc r uc i a t i ng e mb a r r a s s me n t a n d s el f - depr ecat i on.
Si nce sel f - consci ousness of t en b e c o me s pai nf ul at t hi s st age
of ps ychos oci al a n d s pi r i t ual d e v e l o p me n t , ma n y p e o p l e mo v e
i nt o a d u l t h o o d f or s aki ng r a t h e r t h a n c o n t i n u i n g its de ve l op-
me n t . Be c a us e t hey fail t o f ur t he r de ve l op t he i r obs e r vi ng e gos
o n c e t hey e n t e r a d u l t h o o d , t he i r sel f - obser vi ng capaci t y be -
c o me s mo d u l a t e d ( a n d less pa i nf ul ) , b u t t hi s of t en oc c ur s onl y
be c a us e of a n act ual s hr i nka ge of cons ci ous nes s . Wh e n , unwi t -
tingly, t he maj or i t y set t l e f or a l i mi t e de ve n di mi ni s he da wa r e -
nes s of t he i r own f eel i ngs a n d i mpe r f e c t i ons , t hey have s t o p p e d
s hor t on t h e j o u r n e y of p e r s o n a l gr owt h, t h e r e b y f ai l i ng t o ful-
f i l l t he i r h u ma n pot e nt i a l o r gr ow i nt o t r u e ps ychos pi r i t ual
power .
But a f or t una t e mi nor i t y, f or r e a s ons b o t h mys t er i ous a n d
gr acef ul , c o n t i n u e t h e j o u r n e y , ever s t r e n g t h e n i n g t he i r ob-
80 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
s er vi ng egos r a t h e r t h a n al l owi ng t h e m t o at r ophy. On e of t h e
r e a s ons t ha t psychoanal yt i cal l y o r i e n t e d ps yc hot he r a py ma y be
p r o f o u n d l y effect i ve i s t ha t i t i s a vehi cl e f or t h e exer ci s e of t h e
obs e r vi ng e go. Wh a t t h e p a t i e n t i s d o i n g a s he lies on t h e ana-
lyst' s c o u c h i s n o t me r e l y t al ki ng a b o u t hi ms el f b u t obs e r vi ng
hi ms el f t al ki ng a b o u t hi ms el f a n d obs e r vi ng hi s f eel i ngs a s he
d o e s so.
T h e exer ci s e of t h e obs e r vi ng e go i s cr uci al be c a us e i f i t be -
c o me s s t r ong e n o u g h , t h e i ndi vi dual i s t h e n i n a pos i t i on wh e r e
s he c a n p r o c e e d t o t h e n e x t st age a n d de ve l op wha t I call a t r a n-
s c e n d e n t e go. Wi t h a t r a n s c e n d e n t e go, we b e c o me mo r e awar e
of o u r b r o a d e r d i me n s i o n s , b e t t e r p r e p a r e d t o d e c i d e real i st i -
cally wh e n , wh e r e , a n d why t o expr es s t h e e s s e nc e of wh o we
a r e . I n b e c o mi n g mo r e c ons c i ous of t h e full r a n g e of o u r
t h o u g h t s a n d f eel i ngs, we i nevi t abl y b e c o me less t h r e a t e n e d by
t h e k n o wl e d g e of o u r flaws a n d c a n mo r e r eadi l y i nt e gr a t e a n d
a p p r e c i a t e t h e whol e of wh o we a r e t h e g o o d a n d t h e ba d. We
ma y de ve l op t h e capaci t y t o live wi t h, p e r h a p s e ve n l a ugh at ,
o u r l i mi t at i ons . Wh e n we can a c k n o wl e d g e o u r i mpe r f e c t i ons ,
we f i nd our s el ves i n a be t t e r pos i t i on t o wor k on t hos e ar eas
wi t hi n o u r p o we r t o c h a n g e a n d t o a c c e pt t hos e t hi ngs we can-
not .
It ' s a gi ven t ha t t h e ver y e xi s t e nc e of a si gni f i cant obs e r vi ng
e g o i mpl i es a c e r t a i n loss of s pont anei t y. Si nce t h e d e v e l o p me n t
of a t r a n s c e n d e n t e go i s ba s e d on t h e p r i o r f o u n d a t i o n of an ob-
s er vi ng e go, a fully c ons c i ous p e r s o n knows he i s of t en n o t f r ee
t o do e ve r yt hi ng he s i mpl y feel s l i ke d o i n g . On t h e o t h e r h a n d ,
he has t h e ps ychol ogi cal fl exi bi l i t y t o cons ci ous l y d e c i d e wh e n
he c a n be s p o n t a n e o u s a n d t o k n o w wh e n t h e s i t uat i on cal l s f or
c a ut i on.
I was a t t e mp t i n g t o e xpl a i n t h e c o n c e p t of t r a n s c e n d e n t
e go t o a p a t i e n t o n e a f t e r noon. Thi s pa r t i c ul a r p a t i e n t was see-
i ng me be c a us e of a p r o b l e m e xpr e s s i ng hi s anger . He h a d
s o me year s be f or e b e e n h i g h i n t h e a dmi ni s t r a t i on of a uni ver -
sity at a t i me of s t u d e n t r i ot s. "Aha! " he s u d d e n l y e xc l a i me d.
" Now I u n d e r s t a n d wh a t y o u ' r e t al ki ng a bout . " He r e c o u n t e d
h o w at t h e h e i g h t of t h e r i ot s, t h e p r e s i d e n t of t h e uni ver si t y r e-
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 81
s i gne d a n d a ne w p r e s i d e n t was i mme di a t e l y b r o u g h t i n t o r e-
pl ace hi m:
We we n t f r om me e t i n g t o me e t i n g t o me e t i n g . Mo r e
of t en t h a n not , t h e di s cus s i ons we r e ver y h e a t e d . T h e
ne w ma n mos t l y j u s t l i s t ened. Occas i onal l y h e woul d
ver y cal ml y c o mme n t t ha t uni ver si t y pol i cy was pr oba -
bl y s uc h a n d s uc h, b u t he wa s n' t s ur e be c a us e he was
still l e a r n i n g t h e r ope s . I a d mi r e d h o w he ke pt hi s
cool . But I al so b e g a n t o wo n d e r i f he wa s n' t b e i n g t o o
passi ve, possi bl y e ve n i nef f ect i ve. Finally, we we r e at a
h u g e me e t i n g i n t h e a mp h i t h e a t e r , o p e n t o t h e e nt i r e
faculty. T h e i ssue was par t i cul ar l y cr i t i cal . A ver y
y o u n g f acul t y me mb e r we n t i nt o a l o n g di a t r i be a b o u t
h o w t h e e nt i r e a dmi ni s t r a t i on was n o t h i n g b u t a col -
l ect i on of i nsensi t i ve a n d unr e s pons i ve fascist pi gs.
Wh e n h e was f i n i s h e d t h e n e w ma n s t ood u p a n d
s t r ode t o t h e l e c t e r n. " I have b e e n wi t h you f or t h r e e
weeks now, " he sai d wi t h hi s us ual c a l m, s t eady voi ce,
" a nd you have n o t yet h a d t h e occas i on t o see your
n e w p r e s i d e n t get angr y. Today you a r e g o i n g t o have
t ha t oppor t uni t y. " T h e n he p r o c e e d e d t o ut t er l y bl ast
t h e a r r o g a n t y o u n g f ool away. I t was ver y i mpr es s i ve.
Ma ybe t hat ' s an e x a mp l e of wha t you me a n by a t r an-
s c e n d e n t e go a t wor k.
Whi l e t h e r e i s a smal l loss of f r e e d o m as s oci at ed wi t h c on-
s ci ous nes s a n d c o n s t a n t s el f - exami nat i on, t hos e wh o have be -
c o me a c c u s t o me d t o i t have f o u n d t hat , on ba l a nc e , i t ma k e s
for a way of life t h a t c a n be p r o f o u n d l y l i ber at i ng. Th a t i s be -
caus e u n d e r l y i n g a h i g h d e g r e e of c ons c i ous ne s s i s a d e g r e e of
s el f - cont r ol i n o t h e r wor ds , ps ychol ogi cal c o mp e t e n c e .
Ha v i n g a t r a n s c e n d e n t e g o i s a n a l o g o u s t o b e i n g an or -
c he s t r a c o n d u c t o r . Li ke t h e uni ver si t y pr e s i de nt , a n i ndi vi dual
wi t h a t r a n s c e n d e n t e go has b e c o me s o awar e of h e r e mo t i o n s
t ha t s he c a n act ual l y or c he s t r a t e t h e m. She ma y be f eel i ng s o me
s adnes s , b u t s he i s i n c o mma n d of hersel f, s o s he c a n say i n
82 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
e s s e nc e , " Thi s i s n o t t h e t i me f or s adnes s or vi ol i ns; i t i s a t i me
f or j oy. So h u s h now, vi ol i ns. An d c o me o n , h o r n s , bl ow f or t h. "
Wh a t def i nes h e r c o mp e t e n c e h e r e h e r p e r s o n a l powe r i s
t ha t s he d o e s n o t r e pr e s s o r d e n y h e r s adnes s any mo r e t h a n a n
o r c h e s t r a c o n d u c t o r wo u l d s ma s h t h e vi ol i ns. She si mpl y set s
as i de h e r s adnes s , or br a c ke t s it. Si mi l arl y, wi t h t h e e mo t i o n a l
a n d i nt el l ect ual c o mp e t e n c e of a t r a n s c e n d e n t e go, s he woul d
be a bl e t o a ddr e s s t h e j oyf ul p a r t of hersel f: " I l ove you, h o r n s ,
b u t t hi s i s n o t a s i t uat i on f or j oyf ul e xpr e s s i on. I t i s o n e t ha t
calls f or a nge r . So be a t t h e d r u ms . "
Yet o n c e agai n, i n t h e i nt e r e s t of r eal i s m, we mu s t r e me m-
b e r t h a t all bl essi ngs a r e pot e nt i a l cur s es , a n d t ha t b o t h c on-
s ci ous nes s a n d c o mp e t e n c e a r e i next r i cabl y i nt e r wove n wi t h
pa i n. As I wr ot e in The Road Less Traveled, " Pe r ha ps t h e bes t me a -
s ur e of a pe r s on' s gr e a t ne s s i s t h e capaci t y f or suf f er i ng. " Thi s
p o i n t i s u n d e r s c o r e d i n t h e apt l y t i t l ed b o o k The Price of Great-
ness, by Ar n o l d Ludwi g, a pr of es s or of ps ychi at r y at t h e Uni ver -
sity of Ke nt uc ky Col l ege of Me di c i ne . Ludwi g' s b o o k i s ba s e d on
t e n year s of r e s e a r c h t ha t e x a mi n e d t h e lives of 1,004 e mi n e n t
f i gur e s of t h e t we nt i e t h c e n t u r y wh o r e p r e s e n t e d var i ous di sci -
pl i ne s i n c l u d i n g ar t i st s, wr i t er s, i nve nt or s , a n d o t h e r cr eat i ve i n-
di vi dual s. I n e x p l o r i n g t h e r e l a t i ons hi p b e t we e n ge ni us a n d
me n t a l he a l t h, Ludwi g wr ot e t h a t a mo n g t h e gr e a t ge ni us e s of
o u r t i mes , all s h o we d a r e a di ne s s t o di s c a r d pr e va l e nt views, an
i r r e ve r e nc e t owa r d es t abl i s hed aut hor i t y, a s t r o n g capaci t y f or
s ol i t ude, a n d a "ps ychol ogi cal u n e a s e , " whi c h c o u l d caus e me n -
t al t r o u b l e s uc h as de pr e s s i on, anxi et y, or a l c ohol i s m. But i f
t he s e qual i t i es we r e n o t t oo i nc a pa c i t a t i ng, t hey act ual l y c on-
t r i but e d t o t h e i ndi vi dual ' s abi l i t y t o achi eve si gni f i cant creat i v-
ity, bl aze n e w t rai l s, p r o p o s e r adi cal s ol ut i ons , a n d p r o mo t e n e w
s chool s of t h o u g h t .
An o t h e r a s pe c t of t h e p a i n of b e i n g gi f t ed a n d hi ghl y c on-
sci ous has t o do wi t h t h e s t r uggl e t o c o me t o t e r ms wi t h o n e ' s
super i or i t y. As I wr ot e in A World Waiting to Be Born, ma n y wh o
a r e t r ul y s upe r i or will s t r uggl e agai ns t t he i r g e n u i n e cal l t o per -
s onal a n d civic p o we r be c a us e t hey f ear e xe r c i s i ng aut hor i t y.
Usual l y, t hey a r e r e l uc t a nt t o c ons i de r t hems el ves " be t t e r t h a n "
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 83
or " above" ot he r s , i n l ar ge p a r t be c a us e of a s ens e of humi l i t y
t ha t a c c o mp a n i e s t he i r p e r s o n a l a n d s pi r i t ual power .
A wo ma n n a me d J a n e was a case i n poi nt . She was a br i l -
l i ant a n d beaut i f ul y o u n g s t u d e n t i n t h e s e c o n d year of bus i ne s s
s c hool wh o h a d c o me t o see me be c a us e of i rri t abi l i t y. He r
dat es we r e dul l . He r pr of es s or s s e e me d p o mp o u s . He r fel l ow
s t ude nt s , even t h e wo me n , s t r uck h e r a s r e ma r ka bl y l i mi t e d a n d
uni ma gi na t i ve . She h a d n o i d e a wh a t t h e p r o b l e m was, b u t s he
was s ma r t e n o u g h t o k n o w t ha t s o me t h i n g was wr o n g a b o u t liv-
i ng i n a st at e of c o n s t a n t a n n o y a n c e .
Af t er sever al sessi ons g o i n g over t h e s a me ol d g r o u n d , s he
e xc l a i me d i n e xa s pe r a t i on, "I feel t ha t all I ' m d o i n g h e r e i s
whi ni ng. I d o n ' t wa n t t o be a whi ner . "
" Th e n you' l l n e e d t o l e a r n h o w t o a c c e pt y o u r super i or i t y, "
I r e t o r t e d .
"My what ? Wh a t do you me a n ? " J a n e was d u mb f o u n d e d .
" I ' m n o t s uper i or . "
"All y o u r c o mp l a i n t s y o u r whi ni ng, i f you wi l l c e nt e r
a r o u n d y o u r pr oba bl y a c c ur a t e a s s e s s me nt t h a t y o u r da t e s
a r e n ' t as s ma r t as you, y o u r pr of es s or s a r e n ' t as h u mb l e as you,
a n d y o u r fel l ow s t ude nt s a r e n ' t as i nt e r e s t i ng as you, " I p o i n t e d
out . "I n o t h e r wor ds , all y o u r u n h a p p i n e s s r el at es t o t h e fact
t ha t you f e e l a n d pr oba bl y a r e s u p e r i o r t o mo s t p e o p l e . "
"But I d o n ' t feel s uper i or , " s he e x c l a i me d wi t h a t o u c h of
de s pe r a t i on. " Tha t ' s t h e poi nt . I s h o u l d n ' t feel s uper i or . Every-
one ' s e qua l . "
"Ar e t hey?" I a r c h e d my eyebr ows . "If you bel i eve e ve r yone
i s as s ma r t as you, t h e n y o u ' r e b o u n d t o be chr oni cal l y i r r i t at ed
wh e n p e o p l e pr ove t hems el ves n o t t o be a s s ma r t . You' r e g o i n g
t o be cons t ant l y d i s a p p o i n t e d wi t h t h e m wh e n t hey d o n ' t live
u p t o y o u r e xpe c t a t i ons . "
T h e weeks t ha t f ol l owed we r e o n e s of excr uci at i ngl y h a r d
wor k f or J a n e , a l t h o u g h t i nge d wi t h t h e e x c i t e me n t of g r u d g -
i ngl y s e ns i ng t ha t s he was on t h e r i ght t r ack. I t was s o mu c h eas-
i er b e i n g or di nar y. I t was s o safe. Ho w c oul d s he a c c e pt h e r
s uper i or i t y a n d n o t s u c c u mb t o a r r o g a n c e ? No t b e c o me mi r e d
i n sel f - r i ght eousness? I f s he r eal l y was s uper i or , was s he n o t t h e n
84 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
d o o me d t o a life of l onel i nes s ? An d i f s he was n o t or di na r yi f
s he was, i n fact, e xt r a or di na r ywhy? Wh y he r ? Wh y was s he si n-
gl e d out , c h o s e n or c ur s e d? Of c our s e , I c oul d ne ve r ans wer
t he s e que s t i ons f or her . But i t was r e a s s ur i ng f or h e r t ha t I ac-
k n o wl e d g e d t h a t t hey we r e ver y r eal a n d ver y i mp o r t a n t ques -
t i ons . Gr adual l y, s he c a me t o a c c e pt t h a t s he was n o t or di nar y,
t ha t s he was b o t h c h o s e n a n d c ur s e d, bl es s ed a n d b u r d e n e d .
Yet a n o t h e r pai nf ul b u r d e n t ha t c o me s wi t h i nc r e a s e d c on-
s ci ous nes s a n d c o mp e t e n c e i s t h e l onel i nes s of t r a n s c e n d i n g
t r a di t i ona l c ul t ur e . T h r o u g h o u t t h e ages , onl y a few a mo n g mi l -
l i ons a Socr at es , a J e s u s h a v e obvi ousl y r i s en a bove t h e r i gi d
c ul t ur e a n d si mpl i st i c t h i n k i n g of t he i r t i mes . Now, as a r es ul t of
mas s c o mmu n i c a t i o n s , ps yc hot he r a py, a n d gr a c e , I woul d est i -
ma t e t h a t t h e r e a r e h u n d r e d s of t h o u s a n d s of adul t s i n o u r
c o u n t r y wh o a r e o n t hi s c ut t i ng e d g e . Th e s e i ndi vi dual s t h i n k
wel l e n o u g h t o c ha l l e nge c onve nt i ona l a n d i r r at i onal t hi nki ng.
Th e y que s t i on bl i nd na t i ona l a n d t r i bal l oyal t i es and t h e l i mi -
t at i ons i mp o s e d by t he i r c u l t u r e i n o r d e r t o gr ow. Th e y no
l o n g e r bel i eve e ve r yt hi ng t hey r e a d i n t h e ne ws pa pe r s . Th e y
s eek t r u t h a n d c ha l l e nge t h e i l l usi ons a b o u t " nor ma l c y" a s p r o -
mo t e d by soci et y a n d t h e mas s me d i a . Th e y s how t h e c o u r a g e
t o n o l o n g e r b e s uc ke d i nt o t h e si mpl i st i c t h i n k i n g a r o u n d
t h e m. Th e y ha ve r e de f i ne d "fami l y" t o i n c l u d e n o t onl y b l o o d
r el at i ves b u t t h e me a ni ngf ul r e l a t i ons t hey est abl i sh wi t h ot h-
er s wh o s h a r e c o mmo n i nt er es t s a n d a c o mmo n a n d gr owt h-
o r i e n t e d a p p r o a c h t o life.
I n t h e pr oc e s s of b e c o mi n g i ncr eas i ngl y cons ci ous , ma n y
e x p e r i e n c e a s ens e of f r e e d o m a n d l i be r a t i on i n st r i vi ng t owa r d
b e c o mi n g t r ue t o a n d t r ul yt hems el ves . Th e i r a wa r e ne s s i s
b e c o mi n g r o o t e d i n t h e e t e r na l , a n d t h e e vol ut i on of c on-
s ci ous nes s i s t h e ver y e s s e nc e of s pi r i t ual gr owt h. But t hey pay a
pr i c e as wel l , be c a us e t hei r s c a n be a l onel y j o u r n e y . De e p
t hi nke r s a r e of t en mi s u n d e r s t o o d by t h e mas s es wh o c o n t i n u e
t o vi ew life a n d t h e wor l d si mpl i st i cal l y. Si nce ma n y wh o a r e
c ons c i ous do n o t r eadi l y buy i nt o t h e "go a l o n g t o get a l ong"
me nt a l i t y t ha t i s pr e va l e nt i n society, t hey f i nd i t h a r d t o fit
neat l y i nt o t h e ma i n s t r e a m. Th e y f i nd t ha t o t h e r s have diffi-
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 85
cul t y u n d e r s t a n d i n g a n d c o mmu n i c a t i n g wi t h t h e m. Th e y pay
t he pr i c e of f eel i ng at l east par t i al l y a l i e na t e d f r om f ami l i es a n d
i sol at ed f r om ol d f r i ends a n d c ul t ur a l r i t ual s.
Th e s e i nt el l ect ual l y a n d spi r i t ual l y "el i t e" c o me f r om a va-
ri et y of b a c k g r o u n d s . Th e y ma y be r i ch or poor , of any r ace,
ge nde r , or l evel of e d u c a t i o n . But be c a us e c ons c i ous ne s s r e-
qui r e s gr e a t i nt e r na l s t r e ngt h t o c o p e , ma n y wi t h t h e pot e nt i a l
t o r i se a bove t he i r l ot a c e r t a i n me nt a l i t y t hey we r e r ai s ed
wi t hi ns t e a d c h o o s e wh a t s e e ms t h e eas i er p a t h , of s t a gna t i on
over gr owt h.
For e x a mp l e , a n u mb e r of bl ack s e r vi c e me n wh o m I eval u-
a t e d whi l e wo r k i n g as a psychi at r i st i n t h e Ar my d u r i n g t h e Vi et -
n a m e r a c hos e t o pl ay " d u mb " even t h o u g h i t was cl ear t hey
we r e i nt e l l i ge nt e n o u g h t o a ns we r c o mp l e x que s t i ons . Ma n y
d i d n ' t wa n t t o r oc k t h e boat ; o t h e r s wa n t e d t o avoi d t h e r e-
sponsi bi l i t y t ha t c o me s wi t h b e i n g c o mp e t e n t a n d t h e d e ma n d s
i t wo u l d pl a c e on t h e m. For t h e s a me r e a s on, a l ar ge n u mb e r of
p e o p l e s h u n c ons c i ous ne s s t o a l esser or gr e a t e r e x t e n t be c a us e
t hey f i nd i t a mo r e c omf or t a bl e way t o live. Even i f t hey gi ve l i p
ser vi ce t o t h e i mp o r t a n c e of awar enes s a n d gr owi ng, t he i r ac-
t i ons do n o t always c o r r e s p o n d t o t he i r wor ds .
I n fact, i t i s c o mmo n f or c ons c i ous ne s s t o be t r e a t e d a l mos t
as i f i t we r e a c o mmo n col d, c ont a gi ous or pot ent i al l y de a dl y i f
o n e s pr e a ds d e e p t h i n k i n g t oo mu c h t o t hos e i n o n e ' s e nvi r on-
me n t . As I wr ot e i n Ch a p t e r 1, i t i s qui t e c o mmo n f or c o n t e m-
pl at i ves t o be t ol d by o t h e r s t ha t t he y " t hi nk t oo mu c h . " Be i n g
awar e i s of t en g r e e t e d wi t h s us pi ci on a n d t r e pi da t i on, as i f
t h i n k i n g de e pl y a n d wel l c a n be e q u a t e d wi t h a b a d d r u g t h a t
o n e c a n b e c o me a d d i c t e d t o a n d ove r dos e on.
THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF DEATH
Th e r e i s still a n o t h e r p a i n of c ons c i ous ne s s s o gr e a t a n d s o i m-
p o r t a n t t h a t i t wa r r a nt s even d e e p e r c ons i de r a t i on. I r ef er t o
o u r c ons c i ous ne s s of d e a t h a n d dyi ng. As s u mi n g t ha t we a r e
mo r e c ons c i ous t h a n o t h e r a ni ma l s , o n e of t h e t hi ngs mo s t fre-
86 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
que nt l y sai d a b o u t t h e h u ma n c o n d i t i o n i s t ha t " ma n i s t h e onl y
c r e a t u r e t o be awar e of hi s mor t al i t y. " So me have l a be l e d t hi s
n o t onl y t h e h u ma n c o n d i t i o n b u t t h e h u ma n d i l e mma be c a us e
p e o p l e t e n d t o f i nd t hi s awar enes s excr uci at i ngl y pai nf ul .
Cons e que nt l y, mo s t p e o p l e , o n e way or a not he r , a t t e mp t t o
f l e e f r om di r ect l y f aci ng t he i r mor t al i t y. Ra t h e r t h a n me e t i n g
o u r mor t al i t y h e a d - o n d o i n g s o a s ear l y a s pos s i bl e a n d d o i n g
so on a r e gul a r ba s i s ma ny of us fail t o p r e p a r e i n any signifi-
c a n t way. I n o u r de a t h- de nyi ng a n d yout h- wor s hi pi ng c ul t ur e ,
we go t o gr e a t l e ngt hs t o avoi d f aci ng even t h e s mal l es t r e-
mi n d e r s of d e a t h . As Er ne s t Be c ke r p o i n t e d o u t i n hi s n o w clas-
sic wor k, The Denial of Death, t hi s, t oo, ma y l e a d us to evil in a
var i et y of s ubt l e ways (as i n s c a pe goa t i ng or act ual h u ma n sacri -
f i c e t o pr opi t i a t e t h e gods s o t ha t t hey wo n ' t get us ) .
Nat ur al l y as s oci at ed wi t h o u r r e l u c t a n c e t o de a l wi t h d e a t h
i s o u r r e l u c t a n c e t o de a l wi t h ol d age. I wr ot e i n In Search of
Stones t ha t i t wo u l d be u n n a t u r a l t o act ual l y we l c o me a gi ng be -
caus e i t i s a pr oc e s s of s t r i ppi ng awayevent ual l y a s t r i ppi ng
away of ever yt hi ng. I n t h e l at er days of my pr a c t i c e , I was c on-
s ul t ed by f our r e ma r ka bl y s i mi l ar wo me n i n t he i r l at e si xt i es or
ear l y s event i es wh o c a me t o me wi t h t h e s a me chi ef c ompl a i nt :
de pr e s s i on a t gr owi ng ol d. Ea c h was s e c ul a r - mi nde d. Ea c h h a d
e i t h e r ma d e mo n e y o r ma r r i e d mone y. All t he i r c h i l d r e n h a d
t u r n e d o u t g o l d e n . I t was as i f life h a d g o n e a c c o r d i n g t o a
scr i pt .
But n o w t hey we r e ge t t i ng cat ar act s , r e q u i r i n g h e a r i n g ai ds
or d e n t u r e s , a n d f aci ng h i p r e p l a c e me n t s . Thi s was n' t t h e way
t hey wo u l d have wr i t t en t h e scr i pt , a n d t hey we r e a ngr y a n d de -
pr es s ed. I saw no way t o h e l p t h e m wi t hout c onve r t i ng t h e m t o
a vi si on of ol d a ge as s o me t h i n g mo r e t h a n a me a ni ngl e s s t i me
of wa t c hi ng t hems el ves s i mpl y r ot away. I t r i ed t o h e l p t h e m
"buy it" as a s pi r i t ual p e r i o d i n t he i r lives, a t i me of p r e p a r a t i o n .
I t was n o t an easy sell. I n a t t e mp t i n g it, I k e p t sayi ng t o e a c h of
t h e m i n ever y pos s i bl e way, " Look, y o u ' r e n o t t h e scr i pt wr i t er ;
i t ' s j u s t n o t ent i r el y y o u r show. " Two of t h e m s oon left, pr ef er -
r i ng t o be d e p r e s s e d r a t h e r t h a n c o me t o t e r ms wi t h t h e fact
t ha t life was n o t sol el y t he i r own show.
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 87
Al t h o u g h s he was even mo r e de pr e s s e d, I h a d a mu c h eas-
i er t i me of i t wi t h an el der l y wo ma n wh o h a d a di st i nct l y rel i -
gi ous , Chr i s t i an mi nd- s et . I n h e r mi d- si xt i es, s he h a d suf f er ed a
d e t a c h e d r e t i na i n e a c h eye. Ni ne t y p e r c e n t bl i nd, s he was i n-
c e ns e d a t h e r f at e a n d f ur i ous a t t h e o p h t h a l mo l o g i s t wh o h a d
b e e n uns ucces s f ul i n h e a l i n g h e r c o n d i t i o n wi t h t h e mo s t ad-
v a n c e d l as er t r e a t me n t . A t h e me s oon e me r g e d d u r i n g o u r ses-
si ons. " I j u s t h a t e i t wh e n t hey have t o t ake h o l d of my a r m t o
h e l p me o u t o f t h e pe w o r wal k me d o wn t h e s t eps a t c h u r c h , "
s he r a n t e d . " I h a t e b e i n g s t uck at h o me . I k n o w t ha t l ot s of p e o -
pl e v o l u n t e e r t o t ake me pl aces , b u t I c a n ' t be a s ki ng f r i ends t o
dr i ve me a r o u n d all t h e t i me . "
I t was cl ear t o me , I t ol d her , t ha t s he h a d t a ke n a l ot of
p r i d e i n h e r i n d e p e n d e n c e . ' You' ve b e e n a ver y successf ul pe r -
s on, a n d I t hi nk you n e e d e d t ha t p r i d e f or y o u r ma n y a c c om-
pl i s hme nt s . But you know, i t ' s a j o u r n e y f r om h e r e t o he a ve n,
a n d i t ' s a g o o d r u l e of j o u r n e y i n g t o t r avel l i ght . I ' m n o t s ur e
how successful y o u ' r e g o i n g t o be i n ge t t i ng t o he a ve n, c a r r yi ng
a r o u n d all t hi s pr i de , " I sai d. ' You see your bl i ndne s s as a c ur s e ,
a n d I d o n ' t b l a me you. Concei vabl y, however , you mi g h t l ook at
i t as a bl es s i ng d e s i g n e d t o r el i eve you of t h e no l o n g e r neces -
sar y b u r d e n of y o u r p r i d e . Ex c e p t f or your eyes, y o u ' r e i n pr e t t y
g o o d he a l t h. You' ve pr oba bl y got at l east a d o z e n mo r e year s t o
live. It ' s up t o you wh e t h e r y o u ' d r a t h e r live t hos e year s wi t h a
c ur s e or a bl es s i ng. "
Wh e t h e r s o me o n e c a n ma k e t h e t r ans i t i on a n d l e a r n t o
di s c e r n a bl es s i ng wh e r e o n c e t hey onl y saw a c ur s e s e e ms t o
have s o me t h i n g t o do wi t h wh e t h e r t hey c a n vi ew ol d a ge as a
t i me of p r e p a r a t i o n . Pr e p a r a t i o n f or what ? Obvi ousl y, an aft er-
life. In my b o o k In Heaven as on Earth, o n e of t h e ma j or subj ect s
i s t ha t of pur ga t or y, whi c h I de s c r i be I bel i eve qui t e p r o p -
er l yas a ver y e l e ga nt , we l l - a ppoi nt e d ps ychi at r i c hos pi t al wi t h
t he mo s t mo d e r n t e c h n i q u e s f or as-pai nl ess-as-possi bl e l e a r ni ng.
No n e t h e l e s s , I ma k e i t i ndel i bl y cl ear t h a t t h e a mo u n t of t i me
we mu s t s p e n d i n pur ga t or y, i f any, i s di r ect l y p r o p o r t i o n a l t o
t h e ef f or t we ha ve ma d e t o avoi d d e a l i n g wi t h t h e i mp o r t a n t is-
sues i n o u r lives ( i nc l udi ng o u r Sh a d o w a n d o u r ol d a ge ) a n d
88 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
o u r f ai l ur e t o p r e p a r e for d e a t h . Wh e t h e r i n a n aft erl i fe or on
e a r t h, we mu s t do t h e wor k of p u r g a t o r y or r e ma i n f or ever i n
l i mbo, s e p a r a t e d f r om Go d . Why n o t get on wi t h it?
S o me p e o p l e ma n a g e t o get on wi t h i t mo r e c our a ge ous l y
t h a n ot he r s . T h e el der l y wo ma n I pr evi ousl y me n t i o n e d r api dl y
b e g a n wo r k i n g t h r o u g h h e r t ur moi l . He r de pr e s s i on o f f our
year s ' d u r a t i o n b e g a n t o lift by o u r t h i r d sessi on. But mo s t si t u-
a t i ons do n o t c h a n g e s o easily or b e c o me r es ol ved p e r ma n e n t l y .
I n t he s t r uggl e t o face a g i n g a n d ul t i mat el y d e a t h , s o me even
kill t hems el ves be c a us e t hey do n o t wa n t t o go d e e p e r i nt o wh a t
t hey per cei ve a s t h e i ndi gni t y of dyi ng; ma n y c a n n o t b e a r t o e n-
d u r e all t h e l osses t ha t c o me wi t h t h e s t r i ppi ng- away pr oces s .
T h e s t r i ppi ng away of h e a l t h a n d physi cal agi l i t y i s n o t as
pai nf ul f or me , a n d I s us pect f or ot he r s , as t h e ps ychol ogi cal
s t r i ppi ng away. T h e l oss of he r oe s , me n t o r s , a n d even i nt er es t s
c a n l eave us f eel i ng empt y. T h e s t r i ppi ng away of i l l us i ons
h u n d r e d s of t h e mma y be all f or t h e good, b u t i t still h u r t s
a n d ma y l eave ma n y di st r ust f ul , cyni cal , a n d e mb i t t e r e d . I ' m
n o t s ur e I will be as gr acef ul as t h e bl i nd wo ma n I de s c r i be d.
But I am ut t er l y c e r t a i n t ha t I will n o t be a bl e t o de a l de c e nt l y
wi t h my a gi ng wi t hout r el yi ng on my r e l a t i ons hi p wi t h Go d . It ' s
n o t sol el y a ma t t e r of f ai t h i n an aft erl i fe t ha t i s my t r ue h o me ,
a n d f ai t h t ha t a gi ng i s a pr oc e s s of p r e p a r a t i o n for it. I n e e d
s o me t h i n g even mo r e pe r s ona l , i n c l u d i n g my wife Lily a n d
God, t o c o mp l a i n t o a b o u t t h e i ndi gni t y of t h e st r i ppi ng- away
pr oces s . An d I n e e d Go d u p o n occas i on t o a ns we r i n He r pe c u-
l i ar way, s o me t i me s s e e mi ngl y t h r o u g h spi r i t s a n d angel s of a
sor t , t o h e l p me a l ong. Wh a t I' ve c o me t o r eal i ze i s t h a t t he
st r i ppi ng- away pr oc e s s of ol d age i s n o t par t i al . I t i s n o t j u s t
physi cal ; i t i s t ot al . T h e r eal i t y i s t ha t Go d d o e s n ' t j u s t wa n t p a r t
of us. Go d want s all of us .
T h e p a t h of h e a l t h a n d h e a l i n g i s t h e oppos i t e f r om t ha t of
t h e de ni a l of d e a t h . T h e be s t b o o k I ha ve r e a d on t h e s ubj ect i s
Living Our Dying by J o s e p h Sha r p. He bel i eves, as I d o , t ha t
d e a t h i s n o t a t a ke r away of me a n i n g b u t a gi ver of me a n i n g .
Wh e t h e r we ar e y o u n g or ol d, a d e e p c ons c i ous ne s s of d e a t h ul -
t i mat el y l eads us on a p a t h t o s e e ki ng me a n i n g . Pe o p l e ma y
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 89
g r a b u p o n s o me si mpl i st i c s e c o n d h a n d f ai t h o u t of fear, i n or -
d e r t o avoi d t h i n k i n g a b o u t t he i r de a t hs . But whi l e s uc h rel i -
gi ons ma y k e e p us wa r m f or a bi t , l i ke h a n d - me - d o wn cl ot hes
t hey a r e j u s t t r a ppi ngs . A fully ma t u r e r el i gi on, however , be gi ns
wi t h an act i ve s t r uggl e wi t h t h e mys t er y of d e a t h a n d i n a per -
s onal s e a r c h f or me a n i n g i n its f ace. You c a n n o t l et a n y o n e el se
do t h e s t r uggl i ng f or you. Th u s t h e sayi ng " God has no g r a n d -
c hi l dr e n. " You c a n n o t b e r e l a t e d t o Go d t h r o u g h y o u r p a r e n t s .
You mu s t f i nd y o u r me a n i n g as a "chi l d of Go d " i n a di r e c t r e-
l a t i ons hi p wi t h t h e cycl e of bi r t h, d e a t h , a n d r e bi r t h.
I n h e r e n t i n t hi s i s t ha t we mu s t c o me t o t e r ms wi t h t h e r e-
ality of c h a n g e , whi c h r e qui r e s c o n t i n u a l a dj us t me nt s i n t h e
way we t hi nk a n d b e h a v e a n d par t i cul ar l y wh e n we ha ve be -
c o me t h e mo s t c omf or t a bl e wi t h wh e r e we a r e . An d c h a n g e of-
t e n feel s l i ke dyi ng, l i ke de a t h. In The Road Less Traveled, I q u o t e d
Se n e c a a s sayi ng t wo t h o u s a n d year s a go, " Th r o u g h o u t t h e
whol e of life o n e mu s t c o n t i n u e t o l e a r n t o live, a n d wh a t will
a ma z e you even mo r e , t h r o u g h o u t life o n e mu s t l e a r n t o di e. "
Amo n g o t h e r t hi ngs t hi s i nc l ude s t h e f e a r s ome l e a r n i n g of h o w
t o cons ci ous l y gi ve up c ont r ol of o u r lives wh e n i t i s a p p r o p r i a t e
t o do s o a n d ul t i mat el y h a n d our s el ves over t o Go d .
TRAVELING WITH GOD
I have s ugge s t e d ma n y r e a s ons t o gr ow i n cons ci ous nes s , b u t we
can always ask mo r e r adi cal que s t i ons . I f o n e r e a s on i s t o f i nd
me a n i n g , wh a t me a n i n g a r e we s eeki ng? We n e e d t o b e c o me
c ons c i ous t o b e c o me g o o d a n d save our s el ves f r om evil, b u t
why? Wh y b e good? T h e mo r e we c a n b e c o me c ons c i ous , t h e
mo r e we will gr ow i n p o we r a n d c o mp e t e n c e , b u t t o wh a t pur -
pos e? Gr a n t e d t ha t t h e whol e t hr us t of e vol ut i on i s i n t h e di -
r e c t i on of c ons c i ous ne s s , wh e r e a r e we evol vi ng t owar d?
No t h i n g ever will r e mo v e al l myst er y. Bu t I bel i eve at l east
p a r t of t h e a ns we r t o t he s e que s t i ons c a n be f o u n d i n t h e Lat i n
der i vat i on of t h e ver y wo r d " cons ci ous , " con-scire, whi c h l i t eral l y
me a n s "t o k n o w wi t h. " Wh a t a s t r a nge der i vat i on! To k n o w
90 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
wi t h? To k n o w wi t h what ? I s ugges t t ha t t h e ans wer i s t o k n o w
wi t h Go d . I ha ve sai d t ha t ps ychol ogi cal di s or de r s pr i mar i l y
have t he i r r o o t i n c ons c i ous ne s s r a t h e r t h a n i n o u r u n c o n -
sci ous, t ha t "nast y" ma t e r i a l i s c o n t a i n e d i n o u r u n c o n s c i o u s
onl y b e c a u s e o u r c ons c i ous mi n d r ef uses t o de a l wi t h it. I f we
c a n de a l wi t h t hi s u n p l e a s a n t stuff, t h e n o u r u n c o n s c i o u s mi n d
offers a n a bs ol ut e g a r d e n of del i ght s t h r o u g h whi c h we a r e c on-
n e c t e d t o Go d . I n o t h e r wor ds , I bel i eve t ha t Go d r eveal s He r -
sel f t o us t h r o u g h o u r u n c o n s c i o u s i f we a r e wi l l i ng t o be o p e n
t o i t a n d b e c o me c ons c i ous of its wi s dom.
In Gifts for the Journey, o n e of Si st er Mar i l yn' s " wi s dom"
s ongs be gi ns wi t h " Wi s dom i s a spi r i t . " It s r ef r ai n i s " And I say:
ask a n d you will r ecei ve. Seek a n d you will f i nd. Kn o c k a n d i t
will be o p e n t o you. An d I say: t h e Lo r d will give you Hi s mi n d ,
t h e Lo r d will s how you t h e way, t h e Lo r d will ma k e you hi s
l i ght . " T h e Lo r d will act ual l y gi ve us Hi s mi n d . I f we b e c o me
c ons c i ous e n o u g h , we c a n act ual l y be gi n t o t hi nk wi t h t h e mi n d
of Go d . T h e d e v e l o p me n t of c ons c i ous ne s s i s t hus , a mo n g
o t h e r t hi ngs , a pr oc e s s of t h e c ons c i ous mi n d o p e n i n g i t sel f t o
t h e u n c o n s c i o u s i n o r d e r t o be c o n g r u e n t wi t h t h e mi n d of
God. Wh e n we b e c o me a wa r e of a n e w t r ut h, i t i s be c a us e we
cons ci ous l y re-cognize i t t o be t r ue ; we r e- know t ha t whi c h we
k n e w all a l o n g i n o u r u n c o n s c i o u s mi n d . We c o me t o k n o w t h e
wi s dom t h a t Go d s har es wi t h us .
In The Road Less Traveled, I s ugge s t e d t h a t Go d act ual l y
s peaks t o us i n a whol e var i et y of ways, a n d I gave s o me e xa m-
pl es. O n e i s t h r o u g h He r "still, smal l voi ce. " Of t hi s still, smal l
voi ce I gave a n o t h e r e x a mp l e in Gifts for the Journey, wh e r e I t ol d
of a wo ma n i n h e r l at e t hi r t i es wh o h a d t r avel ed r e ma r ka bl y far
on t h e s pi r i t ual j o u r n e y b u t was still de e pl y e n g a g e d i n c on-
f r ont i ng h e r g e n e r a l f ear f ul ness a n d l ack of f ai t h.
A f r i end of mi n e , s he r e c o u n t e d a n e x p e r i e n c e s he h a d
h a d a few mo r n i n g s be f or e as s he was p u t t i n g on h e r l i pst i ck
j u s t be f or e g o i n g o u t t h e d o o r t o wor k. A "still, smal l voi ce" i n-
si de h e r h e a d sai d, " Go r u n n i n g . " She s h o o k h e r h e a d a s i f t o
s ha ke away t h e voi ce, b u t i t c a me ba c k s t r onger . " That ' s r i di cu-
l ous , " s he r e pl i e d, hal f t o hersel f, hal f t o t h e voi ce. " I d o n ' t go
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 91
r u n n i n g i n t h e mo r n i n g s . I onl y r u n i n t h e eveni ngs . Bes i des ,
I ' m on my way t o wor k. "
" None t he l e s s , go r u n n i n g now, " t h e voi ce i nsi st ed, a n d a s
s he t h o u g h t a b o u t it, s he r eal i z ed i t ma d e no di f f er ence i f s he
got t o h e r office at t e n t ha t mo r n i n g i ns t e a d of n i n e . So, i n o b e -
di e nc e t o t h e voi ce, s he u n d r e s s e d a n d got i nt o h e r j o g g i n g out -
fit. Af t er s he h a d r u n a mi l e a n d a hal f i n a ne a r by pa r k, s he
b e g a n f eel i ng qui t e awkwar d; s he was n o t enj oyi ng i t a n d s he
d i d n ' t even k n o w why s he was r u n n i n g i n t h e f i r s t pl a c e . At t h a t
p o i n t t h e voi ce s poke agai n. "Cl ose y o u r eyes, " i t c o mma n d e d .
" That ' s crazy, " s he c o u n t e r e d . ' You d o n ' t cl ose y o u r eyes
wh e n y o u ' r e r u n n i n g . " Fi nal l y a ga i n i n o b e d i e n c e , s he cl os ed
h e r eyes. Af t er t wo s t r i des s he o p e n e d t h e m i n pa ni c . But s he
was still on t he pa t h. T h e woods h a d n ' t move d a n d t h e sky h a d n ' t
fal l en. T h e voi ce t ol d h e r t o cl ose h e r eyes agai n. Event ual l y,
s he was abl e t o t ake up t o t went y s t r i des wi t h h e r eyes cl os ed,
ne ve r r u n n i n g off t h e p a t h or i nt o t r oubl e . At whi c h p o i n t t h e
voi ce sai d, " Tha t ' s e n o u g h f or t oday. You c a n go h o me now. "
As s he f i ni s hed t el l i ng me t hi s story, my f r i end' s eyes f i l l ed
wi t h t ear s . "To t hi nk, " s he e xc l a i me d wi t h j oy, " t hat t h e Cr e a t o r
of t he whol e uni ver s e woul d t ake t h e t i me o u t t o go r u n n i n g
wi t h me . "
As my r u n n i n g f r i end' s e x p e r i e n c e d e mo n s t r a t e s , t h e Hol y
Spi r i t of t en s peaks t o us wh e n we l east e x p e c t it. But She c a n be
h e a r d a n d o b e y e d onl y wh e n He r voi ce falls u p o n a s oul t ha t i s
o p e n t o He r a n d p r e p a r e d t o l i st en. An d t ha t still d o e s n ' t ma k e
it all easy or s i mpl e . I al so s ugge s t e d in The Road Less Traveled
t ha t Go d c a n r eveal He r s e l f t o us t h r o u g h o u r d r e a ms . Th e y a r e
gifts f r om t h e u n c o n s c i o u s . Bu t we ma y n o t wa n t t o b e c o me
cons ci ous of o u r d r e a ms or ha ve mu c h t ast e f or di s c e r ni ng rev-
el at i ons .
I mysel f h a d a d r e a m t ha t p r o v e d t o be a r evel at i on. I t was
a r o u n d a t i me i n my life wh e n I was j u s t b e g i n n i n g t o l e a r n t h e
r eal me a n i n g of wha t i s i nvol ved i n t r ul y s u r r e n d e r i n g t o Go d .
The Road Less Traveled h a d j u s t b e e n a c c e p t e d f or publ i c a t i on
a n d I fel t I de s e r ve d a vacat i on, b u t I d i d n ' t wa n t t o sit on a
be a c h s ome pl a c e . So I we n t off f or t wo weeks t o a c onve nt , my
92 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
first "r et r eat , " s o me t h i n g I kne w wo u l d be a t ot al l y di f f er ent ex-
p e r i e n c e .
I h a d a n u mb e r of a g e n d a i t e ms f or t hi s r e t r e a t , b u t my
l ar ges t i t e m was t o d e c i d e wha t t o do i f by s o me d i m c h a n c e The
Road Less Traveled b e c a me a p o p u l a r best -sel l er. Sh o u l d I gi ve up
my pr i vacy a n d go o u t on t h e l e c t ur e ci r cui t , or s h o u l d I r et i r e
i nt o t h e woods l i ke J . D. Sal i nger a n d ge t a n unl i s t e d p h o n e
n u mb e r ? I d i d n ' t k n o w whi c h way I wa n t e d t o go. An d I d i d n ' t
k n o w whi c h way Go d wa n t e d me t o go. T h e st akes s e e me d hi gh,
s o a t t h e t o p of my a g e n d a was t h e h o p e t ha t i n t h e qui e t ne s s of
t h e r e t r e a t a n d t h e hol i ne s s of t h e a t mo s p h e r e , I mi g h t get a
r evel at i on f r om Go d a b o u t h o w t o de a l wi t h t hi s d i l e mma . I r e-
c o u n t e d my e x p e r i e n c e in Further Along the Road Less Traveled.
T h e d r e a ma l t h o u g h i ni t i al l y obs c ur e wa s t o give me a
whol e ne w per s pect i ve on life.
I was an o n l o o k e r i n a di st i nct l y mi ddl e- cl ass h o me . I n
t hi s t wo-car fami l y t h e r e was a s event een- year - ol d boy
wh o was t h e ki nd of s on ever y mo t h e r a n d f a t he r
woul d l ove t o have. He was p r e s i d e n t of t h e s e ni or
class i n h i g h s chool , he was g o i n g t o be val edi ct or i an
a t g r a d u a t i o n t i me , he was c a pt a i n of t h e h i g h s c hool
f oot bal l t e a m, he was good- l ooki ng, he wo r k e d h a r d
af t er s c hool at a pa r t - t i me j o b , a n d i f all t ha t wa s n' t
e n o u g h , he h a d a gi r l f r i end wh o was sweet a n d de -
mu r e . Mor eover , t h e boy h a d hi s dr i ver ' s l i cens e, a n d
was an unus ua l l y r e s pons i bl e , ma t u r e dr i ver f or hi s
age. Onl y hi s f a t he r wo u l d n ' t l et h i m dr i ve. I ns t e a d,
t h e f a t he r i ns i s t ed on dr i vi ng t hi s boy whe r e ve r he h a d
t o gof oot ba l l pr a c t i c e , j o b , dat es , p r o ms . An d t o a d d
i ns ul t t o i nj ury, t h e f a t he r i nsi st ed t ha t t h e boy pay
h i m f i ve dol l ar s a we e k o u t of hi s h a r d - e a r n e d aft er-
s chool e a r n i n g s f or t h e pr i vi l ege of b e i n g dr i ven
a r o u n d , whi c h he was qui t e c a pa bl e of d o i n g hi msel f.
I awoke f r om t hi s d r e a m wi t h a s ens e of a bs ol ut e fury a n d
o u t r a g e at wha t an a ut oc r a t i c c r e e p t h e f a t he r was. I d i d n ' t
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 93
know wha t t o ma k e of t h e d r e a m. I t d i d n ' t s e e m t o ma k e any
s ens e at all. But t h r e e days af t er I h a d wr i t t e n i t d o wn , wh e n I
was r e r e a d i n g wha t I h a d wr i t t en, I n o t i c e d t ha t I h a d capi t al -
i zed t h e " F" i n "fat her. " So I sai d t o myself, ' You d o n ' t h a p p e n
t o s u p p o s e t h a t t h e f a t he r i n t hi s d r e a m i s Go d t h e Fat her , do
you? An d i f t hat ' s t he case, you d o n ' t s u p p o s e t ha t I mi g h t be
t ha t s event een- year - ol d boy?" An d t h e n I f i nal l y r eal i z ed t ha t I
h a d g o t t e n a r evel at i on. Go d was sayi ng t o me , "Hey, Scotty, you
j us t pay y o u r d u e s a n d l eave t h e dr i vi ng t o me . "
I t i s i nt e r e s t i ng t ha t I h a d always t h o u g h t of Go d as b e i n g
t he ul t i ma t e g o o d guy. Yet i n my d r e a m I h a d cast Hi m i n t h e
r ol e of a ut oc r a t i c , ove r c ont r ol l i ng vi l l ai n, or at l east I was r e-
s p o n d i n g t o Hi m a s s uc h, wi t h fury a n d o u t r a g e a n d h a t r e d .
T h e p r o b l e m, of c our s e , was t ha t t hi s was n' t t h e r evel at i on I h a d
h o p e d for. I t wa s n' t wha t I wa n t e d t o hear . I wa n t e d s o me l i t t l e
bi t of advi ce f r om Go d s uc h as I mi g h t get f r om my l awyer or ac-
c o u n t a n t , whi c h I woul d be f r ee t o a c c e pt or r ej ect . I d i d n ' t
wa nt a big r evel at i on, par t i cul ar l y n o t o n e i n whi c h Go d sai d,
"Leave t h e dr i vi ng t o me . " Ma ny year s l at er I am still t r yi ng t o
live up t o t hi s r evel at i on, t o a b a n d o n mysel f t o Go d by l e a r n i n g
t he s u r r e n d e r t h a t we l c ome s Hi s o r He r b e i n g i n t h e dr i ver ' s
seat of my st i l l - adol escent life.
IF, AS I HAVE SAID OVER a n d agai n, we a r e n o t h e r e to necessar i l y
be happy, ful fi l l ed, or c omf or t a bl e all t h e t i me , t h e n wha t a r e
we h e r e for? Wh a t i s t h e me a n i n g of life?
I bel i eve t h e r e a s o n we ar e h e r e i s t o l e a r n, whi c h i s t o say,
t o evol ve. By "evol ve" I me a n t o pr ogr e s s . Wh e n p e o p l e l e a r n,
t hey a r e i n a pos i t i on t o pr o- gr es s ( move f or war d) as o p p o s e d t o
r e- gr ess ( move b a c k wa r d ) . An d I defy you i n your i ma g i n a t i o n
t o c ons t r uc t a mo r e i deal e n v i r o n me n t f or h u ma n l e a r n i n g
t h a n t hi s life. It i s a life fi l l ed wi t h vi ci ssi t udes, uncer t ai nl y, a n d
h a r d l es s ons . I n o u r g l o o mi e r mo me n t s , life ma y s e e m l i ke
s o me s or t of a cel est i al b o o t c a mp . But i n Be nj a mi n Fr a nkl i n' s
wor ds , q u o t e d i n The Road Less Traveled, " Thos e t hi ngs t ha t h u r t ,
i ns t r uct . " Le a r n i n g i s a pr oc e s s i next r i cabl y i nt e r wove n wi t h
t h i n k i n g a n d cons ci ous nes s . An d l i ke b o t h t h i n k i n g a n d c on-
sci ousness, t h e bus i nes s of l e a r n i n g i s n e i t h e r s i mpl e n o r e n-
t i rel y s t r ai ght f or war d. It, t oo, i s fi l l ed wi t h myst ery.
My p r i ma r y i dent i t y i s t ha t of a sci ent i st , a n d we sci ent i st s
ar e empi r i ci s t s , wh o bel i eve t ha t t h e bes t r o u t e t o k n o wl e d g e i s
t h r o u g h e x p e r i e n c e . I n o t h e r wor ds , e x p e r i e n c e i s d e e me d t h e
best way t o l e a r n, a l t h o u g h i t i s cl ear l y n o t t h e onl y r out e . So we
scientists c o n d u c t e x p e r i me n t s , or c ont r ol l e d e xpe r i e nc e s , t o
gai n ne w k n o wl e d g e a n d f i nd t r ut h i n t h e wor l d.
By t h e s a me t oke n, I am a s pi r i t ual p e r s o n . I k n o w of Go d
not onl y b e c a u s e of f ai t h, b u t al so on t h e basi s of e vi de nc e ,
CHAP TE R 3
Learning and Growth
96 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
na me l y my e x p e r i e n c e s of gr ace. I gave e x a mp l e s of t he s e ex-
p e r i e n c e s in The Road Less Traveled a n d In Search of Stones. An d I
have pr evi ous l y t al ked a b o u t gr a c e as mu c h as pos s i bl e i n t e r ms
of st at i st i cal me t h o d s of pr oof . On e of t h e mo s t usef ul ways t o
est abl i sh s o me t h i n g sci ent i fi cal l y i s t o appl y wha t a r e cal l ed t h e
st at i st i cs of i mpr obabi l i t y. Th a t me a n s t ha t t h e l ower t he ma t h -
emat i cal l y c a l c ul a t e d pr obabi l i t y, t h e g r e a t e r t h e i mpr obabi l i t y,
a n d t h e saf er we feel c o n c l u d i n g t ha t a n e ve nt was n o t t h e r es ul t
of c h a n c e a l one . Th u s , we ma y c o n c l u d e t ha t s o me t h i n g oc-
c u r r e d be c a us e of a si gni f i cant r e a s on, even i f i t ma y or ma y n o t
b e e xpl a i na bl e .
Th a t i s why I have c o mmo n l y s p o k e n a b o u t gr a c e i n t e r ms
of a " pa t t e r n of hi ghl y i mp r o b a b l e event s wi t h a benef i ci al out -
c o me . " I t i s al so why I have c o n c l u d e d t ha t i n s uc h p a t t e r n s we
c a n s ee t h e f i nger pr i nt s i f n o t t h e act ual h a n d o f Go d . So I
a m ver y mu c h l i ke Car l J u n g wh o , t owa r d t he e n d of hi s life, was
i nt e r vi e we d on f i l m. T h e cl i max of t ha t f i l m, f or me , c a me a t its
c onc l us i on wh e n t h e i nt er vi ewer a s ke d J u n g , " Do you bel i eve i n
Go d ? " J u n g , wh o was a b o u t ei ght y- t hr ee a t t h e t i me , puf f ed on
hi s pi pe a n d r epl i ed, i f I r e me mb e r cor r ect l y, "Bel i eve i n God?
We us e t h e wo r d ' bel i eve' wh e n we t hi nk of s o me t h i n g a s t r u e
b u t f or whi c h we do n o t yet have a s ubs t ant i al body of e vi de nc e .
No , n o , I d o n ' t bel i eve i n Go d . I know t h e r e i s a God. "
THE ROLE OF THE SOUL
My as s er t i on t h a t t hi s wor l d i s an i deal e n v i r o n me n t f or h u ma n
l e a r n i n g suggest s t h e possi bi l i t y t ha t i t mi g h t have b e e n c on-
s t r uc t e d by Go d f or t h a t p u r p o s e , whi c h i mme di a t e l y br i ngs us
t o a di s cus s i on a b o u t t h e n o t i o n of t he soul . In People of the Lie,
I q u o t e d Keat s as r e f e r r i ng t o t hi s wor l d as " t he val e of soul - mak-
i ng, " whi c h me a n s we ' r e h e r e t o l e a r n a n d b e p r e p a r e d . Thi s
bel i ef i s o n e t ha t Chr i s t i ani t y a n d o t h e r r el i gi ons ha ve i n c om-
mo n wi t h r e i n c a r n a t i o n t heor y, whi c h suggest s t ha t we ' r e h e r e
t o get r i d of " ba d k a r ma " a n d t o l e a r n l es s ons t ha t a r e neces s ar y
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 97
s o t ha t we c a n event ual l y ma k e t h e t r ans i t i on b e y o n d t hi s wor l d
of r e bi r t h.
Gi ven t ha t we ' r e h e r e t o cont i nual l y l e a r n on t h e j o u r n e y
of life, i t s e e ms t ha t t h e ul t i ma t e goal of l e a r n i n g i s t h e pe r f e c -
t i on of o u r soul s. To p r o p o s e t h e i de a of b e c o mi n g p e r f e c t e d i s
n o t t h e s a me a s sayi ng t ha t we h u ma n s c a n be per f ect , or t h a t
we s h o u l d t ry t o be pe r f e c t i n ever yt hi ng. I t onl y me a n s t ha t we
ar e c a pa bl e o f l e a r ni ng, c h a n g i n g , a n d gr owi ng t h r o u g h o u t t h e
s pa n of o u r ear t hl y life.
I c a n n o t pr ove t h e e xi s t e nc e of t h e s oul , any mo r e t h a n I
c a n pr ove t h e e xi s t e nc e of Go d t o a d i e h a r d secul ar i st . I c a n of-
fer ma n y hi nt s t ha t s ugges t its exi s t ence, a n d ha ve d o n e s o i n all
of my books . But t ha t d o e s n ' t me a n t ha t e ve r yone i s o p e n t o t h e
s a me s or t of e vi de nc e t ha t i mp r e s s e d J u n g or l ed Keat s t o hi s
c onc l us i on. Th u s my l at est book, on t he s ubj ect of e ut ha na s i a ,
i s e nt i t l e d Denial of the Soul. An d I wo u l d n o t ha ve us e d t h e wo r d
" de ni a l " unl es s I h a d t h e s ens e t ha t ma n y secul ar i st s a r e n o t
onl y i g n o r a n t of t h e e vi de nc e of t h e exi s t ence of t h e s oul but ,
f or o n e r e a s on or a not he r , a r e s t r ongl y i mmu n e or cl os ed t o it.
But wh a t i s t h e soul ? On c e agai n, we f i nd our s el ves i n-
vol ved wi t h s o me t h i n g t ha t i s act ual l y mu c h l a r ge r t h a n we a r e ,
a n d t he r e f or e c a n n o t be s u b mi t t e d t o any s i ngl e, a d e q u a t e , or
si mpl i st i c def i ni t i on. Th a t d o e s n ' t me a n , however , t ha t we c a n' t
us e an o p e r a t i n g def i ni t i on, i mpe r f e c t t h o u g h i t mi g h t b e . I be-
l i eve s uc h a def i ni t i on c a n at t h e ver y l east faci l i t at e o u r pr og-
ress i n l ooki ng at t h e equal l y mys t er i ous s ubj ect of l e a r ni ng.
I de f i ne t h e s oul as "a God- c r e a t e d, Go d - n u r t u r e d , u n i q u e ,
de ve l opa bl e , i mmo r t a l h u ma n spi ri t . " Ea c h of t he s e modi f i er s
i s cr uci al , b u t f or t h e mo me n t l et me f ocus u p o n t h r e e . I have
al r eady s ugge s t e d t ha t t hi s wor l d i s s uc h an i deal e n v i r o n me n t
f or h u ma n l e a r n i n g t ha t i t has act ual l y b e e n d e s i g n e d f or t ha t
p u r p o s e . No w I am sayi ng t ha t we ar e c r e a t e d by Go d , a n d fur-
t h e r s ugges t t ha t we a r e c r e a t e d t o l e a r n. By " Go d - n u r t u r e d " I
me a n t ha t n o t onl y di d Go d c r e a t e u s f r om t h e mo me n t o f o u r
c o n c e p t i o n b u t al so t ha t God, t h r o u g h gr a c e , c o n t i n u e s t o nur -
t ur e u s t h r o u g h o u t o u r lives. T h e r e wo u l d b e n o p u r p o s e i n
98 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
He r d o i n g s o unl es s She wa n t e d s o me t h i n g f r om us. Wh a t d o e s
She want ? She want s us t o l e a r n a n d mo s t of gr a c e s e e ms t o be
de vot e d t o t ha t e n d .
T h e o t h e r key wo r d f or t h e mo me n t i s " de ve l opa bl e . "
Th e r e wo u l d be no p o i n t i n God' s wa n t i n g us t o l e a r n unl es s we
could l e a r n, unl es s we we r e c a pa bl e of d e v e l o p me n t . We a r e
evol vi ng c r e a t ur e s , n o t onl y as an e nt i r e r a c e b u t as i ndi vi dual s .
As physi cal be i ngs , we have bodi e s t h a t s t op de ve l opi ng a n d
i nevi t abl y decay. But o u r ps ychos pi r i t ual d e v e l o p me n t c a n c on-
t i nue unt i l t he mo me n t we di e ( a nd, I s us pect , l ong, l o n g aft er-
wa r d ) . For t hi s ps ychos pi r i t ual d e v e l o p me n t , I will f r equent l y
us e t h e wo r d " gr owt h, " a n d gr owt h i s i next r i cabl y d e p e n d e n t
u p o n l e a r ni ng.
I ha ve r e pe a t e dl y sai d t ha t we have a c hoi c e of wh e t h e r t o
gr ow or not , wh e t h e r t o l e a r n or n o t t o l e a r n. On e of t h e gr eat -
est ps ychol ogi s t s of t hi s cent ur y, Ab r a h a m Masl ow, c o i n e d t he
t e r m "sel f - act ual i zat i on, " by whi c h he me a n t h u ma n b e i n g s ' ca-
paci t y t o gr ow a n d evol ve i nt o h i g h e r l evel s of ps ychos oci al a n d
s pi r i t ual f unc t i oni ng, a u t o n o my , a n d p e r s o n a l power . On c e
p e o p l e ha ve a c hi e ve d t h e me a n s t o me e t basi c n e e d s of survi val ,
t hey c a n move on t o h i g h e r l evel s of awar enes s , Mas l ow sug-
ges t ed.
Mu c h as I am i n d e b t e d t o Masl ow, I t ake i ssue wi t h t h e
t e r m "sel f - act ual i zat i on. " I do n o t bel i eve t h a t we c a n act ual i ze
our s el ves any mo r e t h a n we c a n c r e a t e our s el ves . I c a n no mo r e
c r e a t e mysel f t h a n I c a n an iris or a n o t h e r flower. Wh a t I c a n do
i s s t ewar d t h e f l ower g a r d e n t ha t Go d ha s ma d e i t pos s i bl e f or
us t o enj oy. Wh a t t hi s me a n s i s t ha t whi l e we c a n n o t c r e a t e o u r
own soul s, we c a n s t ewar d t h e m wel l or badl y. I n t h e c hoi c e we
ma k e t o grow, we c a n b e c o me c oc r e a t or s of our sel ves, whe r e a s
wh e n e v e r we resi st gr owt h, we a r e r ej ect i ng t h e r ol e of b e i n g
c oc r e a t or wi t h Go d .
Th e r e f o r e , I bel i eve t ha t wh a t Masl ow cal l ed sel f-act ual i za-
t i on s houl d be vi ewed i ns t e a d as pe r c e i vi ng life as a ser i es of op-
por t uni t i e s f or l e a r n i n g a n d ma k i n g choi ces , a n d o p t i n g t o
c hoos e gr owt h mo s t of t h e t i me . Typically, t h e h a r d wo r k of
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 99
c oc r e a t i ng ( or coact ual i z i ng) our s el ves wi t h Go d ' s g u i d a n c e i s
a n o n g o i n g pr oc e s s of unf ol di ng, d e v e l o p me n t , a n d b l o o mi n g .
But t h e de l i be r a t e c hoi c e t o l e a r n a n d gr ow i s pr i mar i l y o n e
t ha t we ma k e or fail t o ma k e a s adul t s . Du r i n g o u r c h i l d h o o d ,
mos t of o u r l e a r n i n g i s "passi ve. " I n o t h e r wor ds , f or t h e mo s t
p a r t i t j u s t h a p p e n s .
PASSIVE LEARNING
Sci ent i st s do n o t fully u n d e r s t a n d h o w we l e a r n, any mo r e t h a n
t hey fully u n d e r s t a n d t h i n k i n g or cons ci ous nes s . Back wh e n I
was a ps ychol ogy ma j or i n col l ege, we h a d t o s t udy a ver y i m-
p o r t a n t ( a n d f or me , s o me wh a t di ffi cul t ) subj ect , l e a r n i n g t he -
ory. At t ha t t i me , mo s t of l e a r n i n g t he or y h a d t o do wi t h t h e
pr oc e s s of c ondi t i oni ng, whi c h h a d b e e n r e c ogni z e d a n d s t ud-
i ed by Pavl ov wi t h hi s e x p e r i me n t a l dogs . I t was t h o u g h t t ha t we
l e a r n e d pr i mar i l y t h r o u g h r e wa r d a n d p u n i s h me n t , j u s t a s r at s
ma y be t a u g h t t o r u n a ma z e by e i t h e r p u n i s h me n t ( el ect r i c
s hocks ) or r e wa r d ( f ood pel l et s ) .
I t was f ur t he r a s s u me d t ha t t h e way c h i l d r e n l e a r n e d l an-
gua ge was t h r o u g h t hi s "behavi or i s t " pr oc e s s of c ondi t i oni ng.
But t h e n t h e gr e a t t h i n k e r Ar t h u r Koest l er , i n hi s b o o k The
Ghost in the Machine, t ot al l y d e mo l i s h e d t h e behavi or i s t t h e o r y
of h o w we l e a r n l a n g u a g e , as ki ng doz e ns of que s t i ons a b o u t l an-
gua ge acqui s i t i on t ha t be ha vi or i s m i n no way c o u l d answer .
Koes t l er hi ms el f ma d e l i t t l e a t t e mp t t o e xpl a i n h o w we l e a r n
l a ngua ge , b u t he di d pr ove t ha t we k n o w ha r dl y a n y t h i n g a b o u t
t he subj ect . To t hi s day, h o w c h i l d r e n l e a r n t o s pe a k t he i r l an-
gua ge r e ma i n s most l y a myst er y.
On e fact we do k n o w i s t ha t one ' s abi l i t y t o l e a r n i s n o t
necessar i l y fully d e p e n d e n t on ha vi ng all of one ' s f i ve s ens es ac-
tive. He l e n Kel l er, f or e x a mp l e , was de a f a n d bl i nd, yet l e a r n e d
n o t onl y l a n g u a g e b u t al so a s t oni s hi ng wi s dom. On t h e o t h e r
h a n d , we ha ve l e a r n e d t ha t de pr i va t i on of s ens or y n e e d s c a n se-
ver el y i nt e r f e r e wi t h a chi l d' s l e a r ni ng. I nf ant s r ai s ed wi t h o u t
100 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
me a ni ngf ul h u ma n c ont a c t or pl ay i n a Ge r ma n o r p h a n a g e i n
t h e 1920s t a u g h t us t ha t we n e e d a c e r t a i n f o u n d a t i o n of sen-
sor y r e l a t i ons wi t h o t h e r s ( t h r o u g h t o u c h we feel c o n n e c t e d ,
for e x a mp l e ) t o t hr i ve physi cal l y or achi eve any me n t a l gr owt h
what s oever . F u r t h e r mo r e , t h e r e a r e cri t i cal pe r i ods i n chi l -
d r e n ' s d e v e l o p me n t , wh e n de pr i va t i on or ne gl e c t of s o me ar eas
of n e e d c a n l i mi t t he i r a d v a n c e me n t i f no a p p r o p r i a t e i nt er -
ve nt i on t akes pl ace. Tha t ' s why He a d St ar t p r o g r a ms wor k s o
wel l . As p a r t of c hi l dr e n' s ear l y l e a r ni ng, s uc h p r o g r a ms p r o -
vi de c ons i s t e nt s t i mul a t i on t o h e l p de ve l op t h e soci al a n d me n -
t al c o mp e t e n c e of c hi l dr e n.
But l i ke t h e l e a r n i n g of l a n g u a g e , mo s t l e a r n i n g i n chi l d-
h o o d s e e ms t o be a fairly passi ve affair. For i ns t a nc e , even be -
f or e c h i l d r e n l e a r n l a ngua ge , t hey l e a r n wha t psychol ogi st s call
t he i r e g o b o u n d a r i e s . Th e r e i s r e a s o n t o bel i eve t ha t t h e new-
b o r n i nf a nt c a n n o t di s t i ngui s h hi ms el f f r om t h e wor l d. But
s ome how, d u r i n g t h e first n i n e mo n t h s of life, t h e c hi l d l e a r ns
t h a t hi s a r m i s hi s a n d t ha t i t i s di f f er ent f r om Mo mmy ' s a r m,
a n d hi s f i nge r s a r e di s t i ngui s ha bl e f r om Da ddy' s f i nge r s . He
l e a r ns t ha t wh e n he has a s t o ma c h a c h e , t ha t d o e s n ' t me a n t h e
whol e wor l d mu s t have a s t o ma c h a c h e , t oo. Suc h l e a r n i n g d o e s
n o t s e e m t o be a ma t t e r of c hoi c e , whi c h i s why I cal l i t passi ve.
But t h e r e ma y be a g o o d de a l of activity i nvol ved as t h e i n-
f ant t r i es o u t its a r ms a n d f i nger s . I n a ver y r eal s ens e, t hi s l ear n-
i ng of e go bounda r i e s i s a d e v e l o p me n t of cons ci ous nes s , becaus e
i t i s by t h e age of a b o u t n i n e mo n t h s t ha t we see t h e f i r s t evi-
d e n c e of sel f - consci ousness. Up unt i l t h a t t i me , wh e n a s t r a nge r
c o me s i nt o t h e r o o m, t h e i nf ant will lie i n its cr i b peacef ul l y ex-
p l o r i n g its e g o b o u n d a r i e s a s i f n o t h i n g h a d h a p p e n e d . But
s uddenl y, a r o u n d n i n e mo n t h s of age, wh e n a s t r a nge r c o me s
i nt o its r o o m, t h e c hi l d will st ar t s c r e a mi n g i n t e r r o r or ot he r -
wi se b e c o me agi t at ed. I t has d e v e l o p e d wha t psychol ogi st s cal l
s t r a nge r anxi et y. Why? We c a n d e d u c e f r om t hi s t ha t t h e c hi l d
has now b e c o me awar e of itself as a separate ent i t y, o n e t ha t i s t er-
r i bl y smal l , rel at i vel y hel pl es s , a n d e xt r e me l y vul ne r a bl e . F r o m
t hi s d e mo n s t r a t i o n of t h e t e r r o r of vul ner abi l i t y, we c a n de -
d u c e t ha t t h e chi l d has d e v e l o p e d t he f i r s t r u d i me n t s of self-
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 101
cons ci ous nes s . On e ' s awar enes s of self i s a c c o mp a n i e d by a
s ens e of r eal i t y t ha t al l ows us t o per cei ve our s el ves as s e pa r a t e
a n d di f f er ent f r om ot he r s .
T h e passi ve l e a r n i n g of l a n g u a g e a n d e go b o u n d a r i e s
s e e ms t o be a pai nl es s s or t of affair. Thi s d o e s n o t me a n t ha t all
passi ve l e a r n i n g i s s o pai nl es s . Pe r h a p s no t i me i s mo r e pai nf ul
i n t h e life of a y o u n g h u ma n b e i n g t h a n t h e t er r i bl e t wos. By
t he t i me a chi l d c o mp l e t e s its s e c o n d year, he has l e a r n e d hi s
e go b o u n d a r i e s ver y wel l . But he has n o t yet l e a r n e d t h e b o u n d -
ar i es of hi s power . Cons e que nt l y, t h e chi l d a s s ume s t ha t t hi s i s
t he bes t of all pos s i bl e wor l ds a n d t ha t he has all t h e power .
Th u s , you will see a chi l d j u s t s h o r t of t wo bos s i ng a r o u n d hi s
pa r e nt s , hi s si bl i ngs, a n d t h e f ami l y d o g a n d cat as i f t hey we r e
all l i t t l e mi n i o n s i n hi s own pr i vat e r oyal ar my. Bu t t h e n wh a t
h a p p e n s , n o w t ha t he i s a bl e t o wal k a n d t h r o w t hi ngs a n d pul l
t he b o o k s off t h e shel ves, i s t ha t hi s mo t h e r a n d f a t he r will say,
" No. No . No , you c a n' t d o t hat , J o h n n y . No . No , you c a n ' t d o
t ha t ei t her . No , y o u ' r e n o t t h e boss. No . No . We l ove you ver y
mu c h . You' r e ver y i mp o r t a n t . But n o , y o u ' r e n o t t h e boss.
Mo mmy a n d Da d d y a r e t h e bosses. No . No . No . "
Wh a t essent i al l y h a p p e n s i s t ha t i n t h e c our s e of no mo r e
t h a n t wel ve mo n t h s or s o t h e c hi l d i s psychol ogi cal l y d e mo t e d
f r om a f our - st ar g e n e r a l t o a pr i vat e. No wo n d e r i t i s a t i me of
de pr e s s i on a n d t e mp e r t a n t r u ms ! Yet pai nf ul t h o u g h t h e t er r i -
bl e t wos a r e , t hey a r e a ver y i mp o r t a n t p e r i o d of l e a r ni ng. An d
i f t h e chi l d i s n o t b u r d e n e d wi t h an excess of h u mi l i a t i o n by t h e
e n d of hi s t hi r d year, he will have t a ke n hi s f i r s t gi a nt s t ep o u t of
"i nf ant i l e nar ci ssi sm. " I t i s a t i me t ha t has l ai d t h e e nt i r e f oun-
d a t i o n f or wha t Er i c h F r o mm cal l ed soci al i zat i on, whi c h he de -
f i ned i t as t h e pr oc e s s of " l e a r ni ng t o l i ke t o do wha t you ha ve
t o d o . "
As c h i l d h o o d c ont i nue s , t h e chi l d ma y wor k i n c e r t a i n ways
a t l e a r ni ng, b u t gener al l y onl y be c a us e of out s i de pr e s s ur e i n
t h e f or m of h o me wo r k a s s i gnme nt s , t est s, gr a de s , a n d e xpe c t a -
t i ons at h o me . Ot he r wi s e , mo s t of a chi l d' s l e a r n i n g c o n t i n u e s
t o be passi ve. An e x a mp l e of t hi s i s J e nny, my ei ght - year - ol d
h e r o i n e in The Friendly Snowflake. She lives in a he a l t hy family,
102 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
a n d h e r left a n d r i ght br a i ns o p e r a t e i n sync; o n e c a n s ee h e r
l e a r n i n g l i ke crazy. But s he i s n o t wor ki ng at it. She i s n o t del i b-
er at el y i n t e r p r e t i n g t hi ngs . She i s j u s t d o i n g wha t c o me s na t u-
rally, t h i n k i n g away a mi l e a mi n u t e .
Pe r h a p s t h e mo s t i mp o r t a n t l e a r n i n g of c h i l d h o o d i s t ha t
whi c h c o me s f r om o u r r ol e mo d e l s . I n a n i nt act family, t h e pr i -
ma r y r ol e mo d e l s will aut omat i cal l y be t h e pa r e nt s . T h e c hi l d
has a na t ur a l t e n d e n c y t o a s s ume t ha t t h e way p a r e n t s do t hi ngs
i s t he way t hey s h o u l d be d o n e . Thi s i s par t i cul ar l y t r ue i n t h e
ma t t e r of sel f-di sci pl i ne. I f t h e chi l d sees h e r p a r e n t s b e h a v i n g
wi t h sel f - di sci pl i ne, s he will be l i kel y at an ear l y a ge t o si mpl y,
unc ons c i ous l y c h o o s e t o b e c o me sel f - di sci pl i ned hersel f. On
t h e o t h e r h a n d , i f t he mo t h e r a n d f a t he r be ha ve wi t h a l ack of
sel f - di sci pl i ne, t h e c hi l d will t hi nk t ha t t hi s i s t he way t o be ha ve
a n d will l i kel y fail t o l e a r n t o de ve l op si gni f i cant sel f - di sci pl i ne.
Th a t i s par t i cul ar l y t h e case i f he or s he has " Do as I say, n o t as
I d o " pa r e nt s . Al t h o u g h i t i s passi ve, l e a r n i n g d u r i n g c h i l d h o o d
i s e xt r e me l y i mp o r t a n t . I t i s al so t h e t i me wh e n , i f we a r e f or t u-
na t e , we will be gi n t o gai n e mo t i o n a l as wel l as i nt el l ect ual i n-
t el l i gence.
Ma ny have st eadfast l y b o u g h t i nt o t h e n o t i o n t ha t i nt el l i -
g e n c e c a n onl y be g a u g e d by n u me r i c a l me a s ur e s . Th a t i s per -
ha ps t r u e of anal yt i cal i nt el l i gence. But as a r esul t , o t h e r as pect s
of i nt el l i gence have t e n d e d t o be ove r l ooke d or downpl a ye d,
par t i cul ar l y t hos e i nvol vi ng i nt a ngi bl e f act or s s uc h as self-
awar enes s , e mpa t hy, a n d soci al cons ci ous nes s . Th e r e i s n o w
gr owi ng d e b a t e over t h e l ong- s t a ndi ng t est s u s e d t o d e t e r mi n e
t h e so- cal l ed i nt e l l i ge nc e quot i e nt . Al t h o u g h I Q t est s a r e he l p-
ful a n d have posi t i ve as pect s , t hey al so have l i mi t at i ons . On e
p r o b l e m i s t he i r t e n d e n c y t o be cul t ur al l y bi as ed, whi c h has r e-
s ul t ed i n ma n y s t ude nt s b e i n g academi cal l y mi s l a be l e d a n d has
l ed t o t h e mi s a ppl i c a t i on of s o me s t a nda r di z e d t est s.
Th u s , I f i nd qui t e p r o mi s i n g s o me ne w r e s e a r c h s ugge s t i ng
t ha t h o w s o me o n e h a n d l e s e mo t i o n s i s as a c c u r a t e a n d i m-
p o r t a n t a n i ndi c a t i on of h u ma n i nt e l l i ge nc e a s i nt el l ect ual
skills. T h e skills t ha t ma k e up e mo t i o n a l i nt e l l i ge nc e a r e c om-
pl e x a n d mul t i f acet ed. O n e e x a mp l e o f e mo t i o n a l i nt e l l i ge nc e
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 103
ci t ed i n t hi s r e s e a r c h i s t he abi l i t y t o del ay gr at i f i cat i on, whi c h I
mysel f wr ot e a b o u t in The Road Less Traveled. Th e r e I de s c r i be d
i t as a pr oces s of s c h e d u l i n g t h e p a i n a n d pl e a s ur e of life i n
s uc h a way as t o e n h a n c e t h e pl e a s ur e by me e t i n g a n d e xpe r i -
e n c i n g t h e p a i n f i r s t a n d ge t t i ng i t over wi t h.
Time ma g a z i n e de vot e d a l e ngt hy ar t i cl e t o t hi s mo s t r e c e n t
r e s e a r c h. No t sur pr i si ngl y, t h e r e s e a r c h al so f o u n d t ha t a cor -
n e r s t o n e of e mo t i o n a l i nt el l i gence, on whi c h mo s t o t h e r e mo -
t i onal skills d e p e n d , i s a s ens e of sel f - awar eness. For e x a mp l e , i n
r e l a t i on t o sel f - awar eness, psychol ogi st s r ef er t o t h e i mp o r t a n c e
of " me t a mo o d , " or t h e abi l i t y t o pul l ba c k a n d r e c ogni z e wha t
o n e i s f e e l i ngwhe t he r t h e e mo t i o n i s anger , s h a me , or sor-
r owbe f or e t a ki ng act i on. Thi s i s e qui va l e nt t o wh a t I de -
s c r i be d i n t h e pr evi ous c h a p t e r a s ha vi ng a n obs e r vi ng a n d
t r a n s c e n d e n t e go. On c e a n e mo t i o n a l r e s p o n s e c o me s i nt o
awar enes s , t h e c ha nc e s of h a n d l i n g i t a ppr opr i a t e l y i mp r o v e i f
o n e i s e mot i ona l l y as t ut e. T h e sel f - awar eness t ha t a c c o mp a n i e s
s uc h i nt el l i gence i s mo s t cr uci al of al l , be c a us e i t i s t h e ver y
t h i n g t ha t al l ows us t o exer ci s e mo r e sel f - cont r ol .
T h e i mp e d i me n t s t o de ve l opi ng e mo t i o n a l i nt el l i gence
ar e f or mi da bl e i n a c ul t ur e t ha t e mpha s i z e s l eft -brai n ( i nt el l ec-
t ual ) over r i ght - br ai n ( i nt ui t i ve) r e a s oni ng. I t i s no wo n d e r t ha t
we f i nd t h e b e g i n n i n g s of e mo t i o n a l n u mb n e s s i n c h i l d h o o d ,
wh e n c h i l d r e n l e a r n t o r e pr e s s f eel i ngs or s h u t off compl et el y.
Adul t s wh o a r e u n c o mf o r t a b l e wi t h e mo t i o n s ma y cons t ant l y
cr i t i ci ze c h i l d r e n a b o u t f eel i ngs or s col d t h e m t o " not feel t ha t
way," r e s ul t i ng i n t h e r e pr e s s i on of e mo t i o n a l awar enes s .
An i nabi l i t y t o h a n d l e f r us t r at i on or r e c ogni z e di s t r es s i ng
f eel i ngs has l ed ma n y c h i l d r e n on t h e p a t h of des t r uct i ve be -
h a v i o r i n c l u d i n g e a t i ng di s or de r s a n d bul l yi ng or o t h e r ant i -
soci al b e h a v i o r b e c a u s e t hey l a c ke d g u i d a n c e f r om ma t u r e
adul t s a b o u t ma n a g i n g t he i r e mo t i o n s . I bel i eve i t wo u l d be
mo r e hel pf ul i f t e a c he r s a n d p a r e n t s b e g a n t e a c h i n g c h i l d r e n
t ha t i t i s okay t o feel h o w t hey feel . ( Thi s d o e s n o t me a n chi l -
d r e n c a n o r s h o u l d a c t o n e ve r yt hi ng t hey t hi nk a n d feel . )
Vi t al t h o u g h t h e passi ve l e a r n i n g of c h i l d h o o d i s bot h
e mot i ona l l y a n d i nt el l ect ual l yt he act i ve l e a r n i n g of adul t -
104 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
h o o d , i f i t oc c ur s at all, i s ul t i mat el y even mo r e i mp o r t a n t .
Amo n g s o me psychol ogi st s, t h e r e has b e e n a t e n d e n c y t o t hi nk
t ha t by a dol e s c e nc e " t he d a ma g e has b e e n d o n e " a n d t hat , f or
b e t t e r or f or ill, t he per s onal i t y i s set . Whi l e t hi s i s qui t e fre-
que nt l y t h e case, i t i s n o t necessar i l y so. An d , i f we ha ve t h e will,
i t i s i n t he last 75 p e r c e n t of o u r lives t ha t we c a n ma k e t h e
gr eat es t c h a n g e s a n d l eaps of gr owt h. Amo n g o t h e r t hi ngs i t i s
pos s i bl e t hat , as J o n a t h a n Swift sai d, " t he l at t er p a r t of a ma n ' s
life i s t a ke n up i n c u r i n g all of t h e fol l i es, pr e j udi c e s a n d false
o p i n i o n s he has c o n t r a c t e d i n t h e f o r me r par t . " T h e act i ve
l e a r n i n g of a d u l t h o o d i s n o t onl y pos s i bl e b u t i nf i ni t el y desi r -
abl e.
GROWTH AND WILL
I n s o me ways we u n d e r s t a n d mu c h mo r e cl ear l y h o w p e o p l e
can l e a r n i n a d u l t h o o d by act i ve, de l i be r a t e c hoi c e . Wh a t we do
n o t u n d e r s t a n d i s why. We a r e n o w c o n f r o n t e d wi t h t h e ext r a-
o r d i n a r y myst er y of t he h u ma n will.
As I have wr i t t en, c e r t a i n p e o p l e (for i ns t a nc e , all t h e
me mb e r s of my i mme d i a t e fami l y) s e e m t o have b e e n b o r n wi t h
a s t r ong will whi l e o t h e r s s e e m t o be rel at i vel y weak- wi l l ed. T h e
subj ect , however , has ne ve r b e e n s t udi e d scientifically. We do
n o t act ual l y k n o w wh e t h e r t h e r e a r e di f f er ences i n t h e s t r e ngt h
of will or wh e t h e r t hey a r e ge ne t i c or t o wha t e x t e n t t hey a r e de -
ve l ope d or l e a r ne d. I t i s a n e xt r e me l y mys t er i ous ma t t e r a n d
r e pr e s e nt s a wi de - ope n f r ont i er for ps ychol ogi cal r e s e a r c h.
I n any case, I bel i eve t ha t a s t r ong will i s o n e of t h e t wo
gr eat es t bl essi ngs t ha t c a n be be s t owe d u p o n a h u ma n be i ng. I
bel i eve t hi s n o t be c a us e a s t r o n g will necessar i l y g u a r a n t e e s suc-
cessi t may backf i r e a n d c r e a t e a Hi t l er , f or e x a mp l e b u t be -
caus e a weak will pr e t t y mu c h g u a r a n t e e s f ai l ur e. For i ns t a nc e ,
i t i s st r ong- wi l l ed p e o p l e t h o s e wi t h t h e mys t er i ous will t o
gr owwho do wel l i n ps yc hot he r a py no ma t t e r wha t t he i r
c h i l d h o o d or b a c k g r o u n d was l i ke, no ma t t e r wha t t h e odds .
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 105
On t h e o t h e r h a n d , o t h e r p e o p l e wh o s e e m t o l ack t hi s myst e-
r i ous will t o gr ow ma y possess all ma n n e r of as s et s gr eat i deas
a n d t a l e n t s a n d yet sit on t he i r duffs, ge t t i ng n o p l a c e . Still, as
I c ont i nua l l y p o i n t out , all bl essi ngs a r e pot e nt i a l cur s es , a n d
o n e downs i de of a s t r ong will i s a b a d t e mpe r . It i s st r ong- wi l l ed
p e o p l e wh o wr a p gol f cl ubs a r o u n d t r ees be c a us e t ha t d a mn lit-
t l e bal l wo n ' t go wh e r e t hey want i t t o go. St r ong- wi l l ed p e o p l e
have a l ot of l e a r n i n g t o do t o effectively ma n a g e t he i r anger .
In Further Along the Road Less Traveled, I wr ot e t ha t I us e d to
e xpl a i n t o my pa t i e nt s t ha t ha vi ng a we a k will i s l i ke ha vi ng a lit-
t l e d o n k e y i n your backyar d. I t c a n' t h u r t you ver y mu c h ; a b o u t
t he wor s t i t c a n do i s c h o mp on y o u r t ul i ps. But i t c a n' t h e l p you
t ha t mu c h ei t her , a n d you c oul d e n d up wi t h a life of r egr et s f or
n o t d o i n g t hi ngs you t h o u g h t you s h o u l d d o . Ha vi ng a s t r ong
will, on t h e o t h e r h a n d , i s l i ke ha vi ng a d o z e n Cl ydes dal es i n
your backyar d. Th o s e hor s e s a r e massi ve a n d e xt r e me l y s t r ong,
a n d i f t hey a r e n o t pr ope r l y t r a i ne d, di s ci pl i ned, a n d har -
nes s ed, t hey will k n o c k y o u r h o u s e down. On t h e o t h e r h a n d , i f
t hey a r e p r o p e r l y t r a i ne d, di s ci pl i ned, a n d ha r ne s s e d, t h e n wi t h
t h e m you c a n l i t eral l y move mo u n t a i n s . Th u s t h e di s t i nct i on
be t we e n t h e h a r n e s s e d a n d u n h a r n e s s e d will i s i mp o r t a n t . But
t o wh a t i s t h e will t o be ha r ne s s e d? Your will c a n n o t be har -
ne s s e d s i mpl y t o yoursel f. I t has t o be h a r n e s s e d t o a p o we r
h i g h e r t h a n yoursel f.
In hi s b o o k Will and Spirit, t h e first c h a p t e r of whi c h i s en-
t i t l ed "Wi l l i ngness a n d Wi l l f ul ness, " Ge r a l d May wr i t es t h a t will-
f ul ness char act er i z es t h e u n h a r n e s s e d h u ma n will, whe r e a s
wi l l i ngness i dent i f i es t h e s t r ong will of a p e r s o n wh o i s wi l l i ng t o
go wh e r e he or s he i s cal l ed or l ed by a h i g h e r power . Fur t he r -
mo r e , gi ven t h e r e l a t i ons hi p b e t we e n wi l l i ngness a n d a h i g h e r
power , it is no c o i n c i d e n c e t ha t I wr ot e in The Road Less Traveled
t ha t t h e will t o gr ow i s i n es s ence t h e s a me p h e n o me n o n as
l ove. I de f i ne d l ove as t h e will t o e x t e n d ones el f f or one ' s own
spi r i t ual gr owt h or a n o t h e r ' s . Ge n u i n e l y l ovi ng p e o p l e a r e , by
def i ni t i on, gr owi ng p e o p l e . I ha ve s p o k e n a b o u t h o w t h e ca-
paci t y t o l ove i s n u r t u r e d i n o n e by l ovi ng pa r e nt s , b u t I ha ve
106 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
al so n o t e d t ha t p a r e n t a l n u r t u r i n g a l o n e fails t o a c c o u n t f or t h e
e xi s t e nc e of t hi s capaci t y i n all p e o p l e . Th u s , I have c o me t o be -
l i eve t ha t p e o p l e ' s capaci t y t o l ove, h e n c e t he i r will t o gr ow, i s
n u r t u r e d n o t onl y d u r i n g c h i l d h o o d by l ovi ng p a r e n t s b u t al so
t h r o u g h o u t t he i r lives by gr a c e , or Go d ' s l ove.
Yet we a r e left wi t h t h e que s t i on of why onl y s o me p e o p l e
c o n t i n u e t o s how a will t o gr ow t h r o u g h o u t life, whi l e ma n y
s h u n n o t onl y gr owt h b u t t h e r es pons i bi l i t y t ha t c o me s wi t h
l e a r ni ng. Mys t er i ous t h o u g h i t is, t h e c hoi c e t o act i vel y l e a r n as
a n a dul t a n d de vot e one ' s will cons ci ous l y t o gr owt h a n d l ear n-
i ng i s t he mo s t cr uci al deci s i on o n e ever ma k e s i n life. But wh e n
i s t hi s c hoi c e ma d e ? Agai n, t h e i ssue has n o t b e e n sci ent i fi cal l y
s t udi e d t h e way i t s h o u l d be . As I ha ve s ugges t ed, t h e r e i s no ev-
i d e n c e t ha t t h e c hoi c e i s ma d e i n c h i l d h o o d . But i t c a n be ma d e
as ear l y as mi d- a dol e s c e nc e . I have r ecei ved l et t er s f r om p e o p l e
a s y o u n g a s f i f t e e n a n d s i xt een i n r e s pons e t o my books wh o
cl ear l y have al r eady ma d e t ha t c hoi c e .
My d a u g h t e r s h a d ma d e t h e deci s i on by t h e t i me t hey en-
t e r e d col l ege a n d c hos e t o ma j or i n t h e h a r d s ci ences a n d
ma t h e ma t i c s , even t h o u g h t hey f o u n d t hos e subj ect s qui t e dif-
f i cul t . Agoni z i ng over t he i r difficulty, I a s ke d t h e m why t hey
d i d n ' t ma j or i n t h e h u ma n i t i e s , subj ect s a t whi c h t hey we r e
g o o d a n d t o whi c h t hey t ook l i ke duc ks t o wat er . Bot h an-
s wer ed, "But , Da d, wha t ' s t he p o i n t of ma j or i ng i n s o me t h i n g
t hat ' s easy f or you? " I t i s cl ear t o me t ha t t hey we r e , i n s o me ways
at l east , mo r e a d v a n c e d i n t he i r will t o l e a r n t h a n I was at t he i r
s a me age.
But whi l e t h e c hoi c e t o be a l e a r n e r ma y be ma d e as ear l y
as a dol e s c e nc e , t hi s doe s n o t necessar i l y me a n t ha t i t i s ma d e
t h e n . I ha ve k n o wn p e o p l e whos e cri t i cal mo me n t s of ma k i n g
t ha t c hoi c e s e e me d t o c o me i n t he i r t hi r t i es, f or t i es, f i f t i e s , or
si xt i es, or e ve n i n t h e mo n t h or t wo p r e c e d i n g t he i r d e a t h . I
al so d o n ' t me a n t o i mpl y t ha t i t i s a si ngl e c hoi c e . So me s e e m t o
ma k e t h e c hoi c e b u t d o s o onl y hal f hear t edl y a n d n o t b e r e-
ma r ka bl y act i ve l e a r ne r s f or t h e r es t of t he i r lives. Ot h e r s wh o
ma k e t h e c hoi c e i n mi dl i f e ma y b e c o me t h e mo s t f er vent of
l e a r ne r s . So me t i me s i t c o me s d u r i n g p e r i o d s of t a ki ng st ock, as
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 107
i n a mi dl i f e crisis. In mo s t cases, as far as I c a n di s c e r n, t h e
c hoi c e i s ma d e r epeat edl y. T h e deci s i on t h e n b e c o me s s t r onge r
a n d s t r o n g e r as i t i s r e ma d e a n d r e ma d e . Cer t ai nl y t ha t ha s
b e e n my own p a t t e r n . I c a n n o t r e me mb e r any o n e pa r t i c ul a r
mo me n t wh e n I f i r s t c hos e t o b e c o me an act i ve l ear ner , b u t I
can r ecal l ma n y mo me n t s wh e n I c hos e t o c e me n t t ha t c hoi c e .
My own pe r s ona l style has b e e n , f or mo s t of my life, l ear n-
i ng f r om e x p e r i e n c e , a n d par t i cul ar l y t h r o u g h t h e c o n t e mp l a -
t i on of my own life e xpe r i e nc e s . Th a t ' s why I de s c r i be t h e
c ont e mpl a t i ve as s o me o n e wh o t akes a l i t t l e bi t of e x p e r i e n c e
a n d mi l ks i t f or all i t ' s wor t h. It ' s n o t si mpl y a ma t t e r of h o w
mu c h e x p e r i e n c e you have i n life b u t wh a t you do wi t h it. We all
k n o w p e o p l e wh o have a c c o mp l i s h e d ma n y t asks, or d o n e t hi s
a n d t ha t whi c h s e e m t o a mo u n t t o a b r o a d r a n g e of e xpe r i -
e nc e s , b u t wh o s e e m as nai ve or c onf us e d as ever. J u s t g o i n g
a r o u n d ha vi ng di f f er ent e x p e r i e n c e s i s wor t hl es s i f o n e d o e s
n o t l e a r n s o me t h i n g a b o u t ones el f a n d t h e r es t of t h e wor l d
f r om t hos e e xpe r i e nc e s . Tha t ' s why i t ' s i mp o r t a n t t o be a l e r t
n o t onl y t o e xt e r na l b u t t o i nt e r na l e x p e r i e n c e s t h a t s er ve o u r
s pi r i t ual gr owt h. Th u s a l ar ge p a r t of t h e wi l l i ngness t o l e a r n
mu s t i n c l u d e l e a r n i n g by l ooki ng wi t hi n. Speci fi c t o t h e p o i n t i s
a q u o t e f r om t h e p h i l o s o p h e r S 0 r e n Ki e r ke ga a r d, wh o sai d: " A
ma n ma y p e r f o r m a s t oni s hi ng feat s a n d c o mp r e h e n d a vast
a mo u n t of knowl e dge , a n d yet ha ve no u n d e r s t a n d i n g of hi m-
self. But suf f er i ng di r ect s a ma n t o l ook wi t hi n. I f i t s uc c e e ds ,
t h e n t he r e , wi t hi n h i m, i s t h e b e g i n n i n g of hi s l e a r ni ng. "
Ul t i mat el y, s o me o n e whos e will has b e c o me d e v o t e d t o
l e a r n i n g a n d gr owt h i s s o me o n e whos e will i s cl ear l y i n al i gn-
me n t wi t h God' s p u r p o s e . Th a t d o e s n o t me a n , however , t ha t
s uc h a p e r s o n i s c ons c i ous of t hi s fact, or t ha t he sees hi ms el f as
b e i n g "i n h a r mo n y wi t h a n u n s e e n o r d e r of t hi ngs . " He ma y
c ons i de r hi ms el f t o be agnos t i c. Yet e ve n ma n y wh o do n o t
i dent i f y Go d as t he i r h i g h e r p o we r ma y s how a wi l l i ngness t o
s ubmi t t hems el ves t o s o me t h i n g t hey c ons i de r g r e a t e r t h a n
t he ms e l ve s pe r ha ps t h e i deal s of l ove, l i ght , a n d t r ut h. I n t h e
e nd, of c our s e , all t he s e qual i t i es have s o me t h i n g t o do wi t h
God. None t he l e s s , i t i s my i mpr e s s i on t ha t as s uc h p e o p l e c on-
108 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
t i n u e over t h e year s a n d d e c a d e s t o de vot e t he i r will t o l e a r n i n g
a n d gr owt h, t he y a l mos t i nevi t abl y will fall i nt o t h e h a n d s of t h e
l i vi ng Go d , a n d t he i r s oul will be i n a p e r s o n a l r e l a t i ons hi p wi t h
its c r e a t o r a n d nur t ur e r .
OUT OF NARCISSISM
We have all h e a r d a b o u t p e o p l e s o s el f - cent er ed t h a t t hey won-
d e r h o w t h e wor l d wo u l d ma n a g e t o survi ve wi t hout t h e m. For
ot he r s , nar ci s s i s m ma y n o t r u n t ha t d e e p . But f or e a c h of us o n e
of t h e mo s t di f f i cul t and mo s t i mp o r t a n t t h i n g s t o l e a r n a n d
c o me t o t e r ms wi t h i s t ha t t h e wor l d doe s n o t si mpl y r evol ve
a r o u n d any o n e of us .
I have pr evi ous l y s p o k e n of nar ci s s i s m as a t h i n k i n g di sor -
der . In In Search of Stones, I wr ot e t ha t t h e p r i ma r y r e a s on Lily
a n d I ha ve unl i s t e d p h o n e n u mb e r s a n d o t h e r e l a bor a t e secu-
ri t y devi ces i s t o p r o t e c t us f r om t h e narci ssi st s of t h e wor l d. Be-
f or e we a c q u i r e d t he s e pr ot e c t i ons a d o z e n year s a go, i t was
b e c o mi n g i ncr eas i ngl y c o mmo n f or t h e p h o n e t o r i ng a t 2: 00
A. M. T h e cal l er wo u l d be a s t r a nge r wa n t i n g t o di scuss wi t h me
s o me f i ne p o i n t of wh a t I h a d wr i t t en. "But i t ' s t wo o' cl ock i n
t h e mo r n i n g , " I woul d pr ot es t . "Wel l , i t ' s onl y el even o u t h e r e i n
Cal i f or ni a, " t h e voi ce a t t h e o t h e r e n d of t h e l i ne woul d ex-
pl ai n, " a n d bes i des , t h e r at es a r e c h e a p e r now. "
Nar ci ssi st s c a n n o t or will n o t t hi nk a b o u t o t h e r p e o p l e . I
bel i eve t ha t we a r e all b o r n narci ssi st s. He a l t hy p e o p l e gr ow o u t
of t he i r na t ur a l nar ci ssi sm, a gr owt h t ha t c a n be a c c o mp l i s h e d
onl y a s t hey b e c o me mo r e c ons c i ous a n d l e a r n t o c ons i de r ot h-
er s, a n d t h i n k a b o u t t h e m mo r e . Thi s l e a r n i n g bui l ds o n i t sel f
be c a us e t h e mo r e we l e a r n, t h e mo r e c ons c i ous we b e c o me .
I have a l r e a dy s ugge s t e d t h a t t h e t er r i bl e t wos a r e a t i me
wh e n c hi l dr e n t ake t he i r first gi a nt s t ep o u t of i nf ant i l e nar ci s -
si sm. We do n o t k n o w wh a t caus es p e o p l e t o fail t o gr ow o u t of
nar ci ssi sm, b u t I have s t r o n g r e a s ons t o s us pe c t t ha t t h e f ai l ur e
be gi ns i n t hi s vul ne r a bl e p e r i o d of life, t h e t er r i bl e t wos, whi c h
i s an i nevi t abl y humi l i a t i ng t i me . I t i s t h e t ask of p a r e n t s t o be
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 109
ge nt l e wi t h a chi l d i n t ha t humi l i a t i on as mu c h as real i st i cal l y
pos s i bl e. No t all p a r e n t s do t hi s, however . T h e r e a r e p a r e n t s
wh o , d u r i n g t h e t er r i bl e t wos a n d t h r o u g h o u t a c h i l d h o o d , will
do e ve r yt hi ng t ha t t hey c a n t o humi l i a t e t he i r c h i l d r e n b e y o n d
wha t i s neces s ar y f or t h e m t o b e c o me h u mb l e . I ha ve an i nkl i ng
t ha t t h e f ai l ur e t o gr ow o u t of nar ci s s i s m ma y be r o o t e d i n s uc h
excessi ve humi l i a t i on.
I s us pe c t t ha t c h i l d r e n wh o have b e e n s o de e pl y humi l i -
a t e d t e n d t o be gi n c l i ngi ng de s pe r a t e l y t o a s el f - cent er ed wor l d-
view. On e r e a s on f or t hi s i s t ha t t hey ma y l i t eral l y feel as i f
t he y' r e h o l d i n g on t o d e a r life. Nar ci s s i s m i s t h e onl y t h i n g t h a t
pr ovi des a s ens e of secur i t y i n an ot he r wi s e t u mu l t u o u s pe r i od.
Si nce t hey have b e e n s h a me d i n s uc h a way t ha t t he i r egos be -
c o me i ncr edi bl y fragi l e, t hey b e g i n t o e q u a t e t he i r ver y survi val
wi t h vi ewi ng life t h r o u g h a nar ci ssi st i c f r a me of r e f e r e nc e .
Whi l e i t i s d u r i n g t h e t er r i bl e t wos t ha t we t ake o u r first gi-
a nt s t ep o u t of i nf ant i l e nar ci s s i s m, t h a t d o e s n ' t s ugges t by any
me a n s t h a t i t i s t h e onl y or t h e f i nal s t ep. I n d e e d , a f l ar e- up of
nar ci ssi sm c a n c o mmo n l y be s e e n i n a dol e s c e nc e f or e xa m-
pl e, wh e n t h e a d o l e s c e n t ne ve r e ve n s t ops t o t hi nk t h a t any
o t h e r me mb e r of t h e f ami l y mi g h t possi bl y n e e d t h e car.
None t he l e s s , i t ma y al so be i n a d o l e s c e n c e t ha t we t ake o u r
n e x t gi a nt s t ep. I r e c o u n t an e x a mp l e in A World Waiting to Be
Born of a t u r n i n g p o i n t i n my own life d u r i n g ear l y a dol e s c e nc e .
On e mo r n i n g , at t h e a ge of f i f t een, I was wal ki ng d o wn a
r o a d at my b o a r d i n g s c hool a n d s pi ed a cl as s mat e f i f t y yar ds
away. He was s t r ol l i ng t owa r d me , a n d wh e n we c a me abr eas t ,
we s poke t o e a c h o t h e r f or f i ve mi n u t e s a n d t h e n we n t o u r s ep-
ar at e ways. Fifty yar ds f a r t he r d o wn t h e r oa d, by Go d ' s gr a c e , I
was s t r uck by a r evel at i on. I s udde nl y r eal i z ed t ha t f or t h e e nt i r e
t e n- mi nut e p e r i o d f r om wh e n I h a d f i r s t s e e n my a c q u a i n t a n c e
unt i l t h a t ver y mo me n t , I h a d b e e n t ot al l y s el f - pr eoccupi ed. For
t he t wo or t h r e e mi n u t e s be f or e we me t , all I was t h i n k i n g a b o u t
was t h e cl ever t hi ngs I mi g h t say t ha t woul d i mpr e s s h i m. Dur -
i ng o u r f i ve mi n u t e s t oge t he r , I was l i s t eni ng t o wh a t he h a d t o
say onl y so t ha t I mi g h t t u r n i t i nt o a cl ever r ej oi nder . I wa t c h e d
hi m onl y s o t h a t I mi g h t s ee wha t effect my r e ma r k s we r e ha vi ng
110 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
u p o n h i m. An d f or t h e t wo or t h r e e mi n u t e s af t er we s e pa r a t e d,
my sol e t h o u g h t was of t hos e t hi ngs I c o u l d have sai d t ha t mi g h t
have i mpr e s s e d h i m e ve n mo r e .
I h a d n o t c a r e d a whi t f or my cl as s mat e. I h a d n o t c on-
c e r n e d mysel f wi t h wha t hi s j oys or s or r ows mi g h t have b e e n or
wha t I c o u l d have sai d t ha t mi g h t have ma d e hi s life a l i t t l e less
b u r d e n s o me . I h a d c a r e d a b o u t h i m onl y as a foil f or my wi t a n d
a mi r r o r f or my gl ory. By t h e gr a c e of Go d , i t was n o t onl y r e-
veal ed t o me h o w s el f - cent er ed a n d sel f - absor bed I was, b u t al so
how, i f I c o n t i n u e d wi t h t h a t k i n d of cons ci ous nes s , i t woul d i n-
evi t abl y l e a d me i nt o a f ear f ul , e mp t y a n d l onel y "mat ur i t y. " So
at t h e age of fi ft een I b e g a n t o do bat t l e wi t h my nar ci s s i s m.
But t ha t was j u s t t h e b e g i n n i n g . Gi ven t h e t e na c i ous ne s s of
o u r nar ci s s i s m, its t ent acl es c a n be s ubt l e a n d p e n e t r a t i n g . We
mu s t c o n t i n u e t o h a c k away at t h e m day by day, we e k af t er
week, mo n t h af t er mo n t h , a n d year af t er year. An d t h e r e a r e all
ma n n e r of pi t fal l s on t h e j our ne y, s uc h a s b e i n g p r o u d of h o w
h u mb l e you have b e c o me . As I' ve gr own i n cons ci ous nes s , nat -
ur al l y I ' m l e a r n i n g t o be l ess nar ci ssi st i c a n d mo r e e mp a t h e t i c
t owa r d o t h e r p e o p l e . But i n l ooki ng back, o n e of my r e gr e t s i s
h o w u n e mp a t h e t i c I was wi t h my own p a r e n t s as t hey we r e ag-
i ng. I t t o o k my own pe r s ona l s t r uggl es wi t h t h e a gi ng pr oc e s s t o
b e t t e r u n d e r s t a n d wha t my own p a r e n t s mu s t have e n d u r e d ,
a n d n o w I feel a g r e a t e r s ens e of ki ns hi p wi t h t h e m t h a n ever
be f or e .
Le a r n i n g my way o u t of nar ci s s i s m has b e e n t h e si ngl e
gr eat es t t h e me of my life a n d , a ga i n l ooki ng back, ma r r i a g e has
b e e n my gr e a t e s t t eacher . In A World Waiting to Be Born, I wr ot e
t ha t be c a us e of my own nar ci s s i s m ear l y i n o u r r e l a t i ons hi p, i t
b e g a n t o da wn on me onl y af t er t wo year s of ma r r i a g e t ha t Lily
mi g h t b e s o me t h i n g mo r e t h a n my a p p e n d a g e , s o me t h i n g
mo r e t h a n my "it." I t was t h e f r i ct i on i n o u r r e l a t i ons hi p t ha t
o p e n e d my eyes. I f o u n d mysel f r e pe a t e dl y a n n o y e d at h e r f or
b e i n g away f r om h o me , s h o p p i n g , a t t i mes wh e n I n e e d e d h e r
a n d equal l y a n n o y e d a t h e r f or " pe s t e r i ng" me a t h o me wh e n I
fel t i n n e e d of s ol i t ude. Gr a dua l l y I b e g a n t o r eal i ze t ha t mo s t
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 111
of my i r r i t at i on was t h e r es ul t of a bi z ar r e a s s u mp t i o n i n my
mi n d . I a s s u me d t h a t Lily s h o u l d s o me h o w be t h e r e f or me
wh e n e v e r I wa n t e d her , a n d n o t be t h e r e wh e n e v e r h e r pr es -
e n c e was i nc onve ni e nt . F u r t h e r mo r e , I a s s u me d t ha t s he
s h o u l d s o me h o w n o t onl y know whi c h t i me was whi c h b u t al so
know i t wi t hout my ha vi ng t o tell her . I t was p e r h a p s a n o t h e r
d e c a d e be f or e I was abl e t o fully c u r e mysel f of t ha t pa r t i c ul a r
i nsani t y.
But t ha t was onl y t h e b e g i n n i n g . O n e of t h e r e a s ons my
ma r r i a g e t o Lily ha s sur vi ved i s t ha t we b o t h , i n o u r own way, a r e
de e pl y c ons i de r a t e p e o p l e . At f i r s t , however , o u r c ons i de r a t i on
was r a t h e r pr i mi t i ve a n d h a d mo r e t o do wi t h o u r sel f-i mage
t h a n a n y t h i n g el se. We wa n t e d t o t hi nk of our s el ves as g o o d
p e o p l e , s o we t r i ed t o be g o o d . Be i n g g o o d me a n t b e i n g c on-
s i der at e, a n d we k n e w t h e gr e a t r ul e of g o o d n e s s or c ons i de r a -
t i on was " Do u n t o ot he r s a s you woul d have t h e m do u n t o you. "
So we t r i ed ver y h a r d t o t r e a t e a c h o t h e r t h e way we wa n t e d t o
be t r e a t e d. Onl y i t d i d n ' t wor k o u t ver y wel l be c a us e t h e r eal i t y
i s t h a t Lily a n d I , l i ke ma n y c oupl e s , e n t e r e d ma r r i a g e as r el a-
tively mi l d narci ssi st s. We we r e n o t l i ke t h e 2: 00 A. M. p h o n e
cal l er s. We we r e exqui si t el y p o l i t e b u t n o t yet wi se, be c a us e we
we r e o p e r a t i n g u n d e r t h e nar ci ssi st i c a s s u mp t i o n t h a t t he o t h e r
was j u s t l i ke us or el se mi s gui de d.
Wh a t we event ual l y l e a r n e d was t ha t t h e Go l d e n Rul e i s
j u s t t h e b e g i n n i n g . To grow, we h a d t o l e a r n t o r e c ogni z e a n d
r e s pe c t t h e otherness of e a c h ot her . I n d e e d , t hi s i s t h e a d v a n c e d
c our s e of ma r r i a ge , whi c h t eaches : Do u n t o o t h e r s a s you wo u l d
have t h e m do u n t o you i f you we r e i n t he i r par t i cul ar , u n i q u e ,
a n d di f f er ent s hoes . I t i s n o t easy l e a r ni ng. Af t er mo r e t h a n six
de c a de s of l i vi ng, Lily a n d I a r e still l e a r n i n g i t a n d s o me t i me s
feel l i ke b e g i n n e r s . We a r e l e a r n i n g t ha t o u r di f f er ences c r e a t e
t he s pi ce of o u r ma r r i a g e as wel l as t h e wisdom of it. T h e ex-
pr es s i on "Two h e a d s a r e b e t t e r t h a n o n e " woul d be me a n i n g -
less i f b o t h h e a d s we r e exact l y t h e s a me . Be c a us e Lily' s a n d my
h e a d s a r e s o di f f er ent , wh e n we p u t t h e m t o g e t h e r a s we' ve
d o n e i n chi l d- r ai si ng, mo n e y ma n a g e me n t , t h e p l a n n i n g of va-
112 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
cat i ons , a n d t h e l i ke t he o u t c o me i s i nvar i abl y wi ser t h a n i f ei-
t he r of us h a d a c t e d a l one . So gr owi ng o u t of nar ci s s i s m al l ows
for t h e pr oc e s s k n o wn as c ol l a bor a t i on, i n whi c h p e o p l e l a bor
t o g e t h e r wi t h wits as wel l as br a wn.
NARCISSISM VERSUS SELF-LOVE
Yet we a r e c o n f r o n t e d wi t h a p a r a d o x . Whi l e gr owi ng o u t of
na r c i s s i s mour s el f - cent er ednes s a n d of t en excessi ve s ens e of
i mp o r t a n c e i s mo r e t h a n a nyt hi ng el se wha t life i s a bout , i t i s
equal l y vi t al t ha t we al so s i mul t a ne ous l y l e a r n t o c o me t o t e r ms
wi t h j u s t h o w i mp o r t a n t a n d val uabl e we a r e .
Humi l i t y me a n s ha vi ng t r u e knowl e dge of ones el f a s o n e
is. I n my o p i n i o n , i t i s cri t i cal for us t o be r eal i st i c a b o u t our -
selves a s we a r e , a n d be abl e t o r e c ogni z e b o t h t h e g o o d a n d
b a d par t s of our sel ves. But t ha t d o e s n o t me a n a s ma n y falsely
c o n c l u d e t h a t we s h o u l d gi ve mo r e e mpha s i s t o t h e negat i ve
pa r t s of wh o we a r e a n d downpl a y or a l t o g e t h e r di smi ss t h e
g o o d par t s as s econdar y. Yet ma n y do so, t r yi ng t o di spl ay a
ps e udo- humi l i t y t ha t ma y e x t e n d t o a n i nabi l i t y t o r ecei ve c om-
pl i me nt s or asser t ones el f wh e n a p p r o p r i a t e t o do so.
Fur t he r , t h e r e i s a di s t i nct i on t o be ma d e b e t we e n self-love
( whi ch I p r o p o s e i s always a g o o d t hi ng) a n d sel f - est eem ( whi ch
I p r o p o s e c a n of t en be q u e s t i o n a b l e ) . As I wr ot e i n Further
Along the Road Less Traveled, t h e t wo a r e of t en c onf us e d be c a us e
we do n o t have a r i ch e n o u g h voc a bul a r y t o cover t he s e p h e -
n o me n a . I h o p e t ha t event ual l y t h e p r o b l e m will be r es ol ved by
de ve l opi ng n e w wor ds t ha t a r e mo r e a d e q u a t e , b u t for t h e mo -
me n t we a r e s t uck wi t h t h e ol d one s .
For e x a mp l e , t h e r e a r e t i mes wh e n we act i n ways t ha t a r e
u n b e c o mi n g . I f we d e n y t ha t o u r be ha vi or i s " bad" a n d fail t o
s eek ways t o c or r e c t i t or r e d e e m our s el ves by l e a r n i n g f r om
wha t we have d o n e wr o n g , t h e n we a r e pr i mar i l y c o n c e r n e d
wi t h sel f - est eem. On t h e o t h e r h a n d , i f we a r e o p e r a t i n g f r om a
s ens e of self-love, t h e h e a l t h i e r t h i n g t o do woul d be t o ac-
knowl e dge o u r mi s t akes a n d chast i se our sel ves i f we mu s t a s
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 113
wel l as have t h e abi l i t y t o di s c e r n t ha t o u r f ai l ur e at any gi ven
mo me n t d o e s n o t t ot al l y de f i ne o u r wor t h or wh o we a r e as a
pe r s on. We n e e d mo me n t s wh e n we r eal i ze t ha t we do n o t have
i t all t o g e t h e r a n d t ha t we a r e n o t per f ect . Suc h mo me n t s a r e
cr uci al t o o u r gr owt h be c a us e l ovi ng our s el ves r e qui r e s t h e ca-
paci t y t o r e c ogni z e t ha t t h e r e i s s o me t h i n g a b o u t us we n e e d t o
wor k o n .
So t h e r e i s a di f f er ence b e t we e n i nsi st i ng t ha t we always
feel g o o d a b o u t our s el ves ( whi ch i s narci ssi st i c a n d s ynonymous
wi t h cons t ant l y pr e s e r vi ng o u r sel f - est eem) a n d i nsi st i ng t ha t
we r e g a r d our s el ves as i mp o r t a n t or val uabl e ( whi ch i s he a l t hy
sel f-l ove). Un d e r s t a n d i n g a n d ma k i n g t hi s di s t i nct i on i s a pr e -
r equi s i t e for ma t u r e me n t a l he a l t h. I n o r d e r t o be good, he a l t hy
p e o p l e , we have t o pay t h e pr i c e of s et t i ng as i de o u r sel f - est eem
o n c e i n a whi l e a n d n o t always f eel i ng g o o d a b o u t our s el ves .
But we s h o u l d always be abl e t o l ove a n d val ue our sel ves, even i f
we s h o u l d n ' t always e s t e e m our s el ves .
Ab o u t t went y year s a go, I saw a s event een- year - ol d p a t i e n t
wh o h a d b e e n o n hi s own s i nce t h e a ge o f f our t e e n. He h a d h a d
a t r oc i ous p a r e n t i n g , a n d I t ol d h i m d u r i n g o n e sessi on, "Jack,
your bi gges t p r o b l e m i s t ha t you d o n ' t l ove yoursel f, t ha t you
d o n ' t val ue yoursel f. " Th a t s a me n i g h t I h a d t o dr i ve f r om Con-
ne c t i c ut t o Ne w Yor k i n t h e mi d d l e of a t er r i bl e s t or m. Sheet s of
r ai n we r e s we e pi ng acr os s t h e hi ghway, a n d t h e visibility was s o
p o o r t ha t I c o u l d n ' t even s ee t h e s i de of t h e r o a d or t h e yel l ow
l i ne. I h a d t o k e e p my a t t e nt i on abs ol ut el y g l u e d on t h e r oa d,
even t h o u g h I was ver y t i r ed. I f I h a d l ost my c o n c e n t r a t i o n f or
even a s e c ond, I wo u l d have g o n e off t h e r oa d. An d t h e onl y way
I was abl e t o ma k e t h e ni net y- mi l e t r i p i n t h a t t er r i bl e s t or m was
t o k e e p sayi ng t o myself, over a n d over agai n, "Thi s l i t t l e Vol ks-
wa ge n i s c a r r yi ng e xt r e me l y val uabl e c a r go. I t i s e xt r e me l y i m-
p o r t a n t t ha t t hi s val uabl e c a r go ge t t o Ne w Yor k safely." An d s o
it di d.
T h r e e days l at er , ba c k i n Co n n e c t i c u t , I saw J a c k a ga i n a n d
l e a r n e d t ha t i n t h e s a me r a i ns t or m, n o t near l y as t i r ed as I was
a n d on a mu c h s h o r t e r j o u r n e y , he h a d dr i ven hi s car off t h e
r oa d. For t unat el y, he h a d n ' t b e e n ser i ousl y hur t . I do n o t be -
114 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
l i eve he h a d d o n e t hi s be c a us e he was cover dy s ui ci dal al -
t h o u g h t h e l ack of self-love c a n l e a d t o s ui c i de but s i mpl y be -
caus e he was n o t abl e t o c onvi nc e hi ms el f t ha t hi s l i t t l e
Vol ks wagen was car r yi ng e xt r e me l y val uabl e c a r go.
An o t h e r e x a mp l e i nvol ves a wo ma n I b e g a n t r e a t i ng
s hor t l y af t er The Road Less Traveled was publ i s he d. She h a d to
t ravel f r om c e nt r a l Ne w J er s ey t o wh e r e I l i ved i n Co n n e c t i c u t .
She was a wo ma n wh o h a d s p e n t all of h e r life i n t h e Chr i s t i an
c h u r c h ; s he h a d b e e n r ai s ed i n t h e c h u r c h a n d h a d e ve n ma r -
r i e d a c l e r gyma n. We wo r k e d t o g e t h e r o n c e a we e k f or t h e first
year a n d got abs ol ut el y n o wh e r e , ma d e no pr ogr e s s a t all. An d
t h e n o n e day s he o p e n e d t h e sessi on by sayi ng, ' You know, dr i -
vi ng up h e r e t hi s mo r n i n g , I s u d d e n l y r eal i z ed t ha t wh a t i s mos t
i mp o r t a n t i s t h e d e v e l o p me n t of my own s oul . " I b r o k e o u t i n a
r o a r of j oyf ul l a u g h t e r at t h e fact t ha t s he h a d finally g o t t e n it,
b u t al so l a u g h t e r at t h e i r ony of t h e fact t ha t I h a d a s s u me d t ha t
t hi s wo ma n wh o h a d c o me t o s ee me be c a us e s he l i ked my
book, wh o was wi l l i ng t o ma k e a s i x- hour r o u n d t r i p o n c e a
we e k t o see me , a n d wh o h a d s p e n t t h e ent i r et y of h e r life i n t h e
c h u r c h a l r e a d y k n e w t h a t wh a t was mo s t i mp o r t a n t was t h e
d e v e l o p me n t of h e r own soul . But s he di dn' t , a n d I s us pe c t
ma n y fail t o i dent i f y h o w c e nt r a l t hi s i s t o t he i r lives. On c e s he
r eal i z ed it, however , h e r pr ogr e s s i n t h e r a p y was l i ke l i ght ni ng.
I f we val ue our sel ves, we a r e l i kel y t o bel i eve t ha t we a r e
wo r t h wha t e ve r effort we n e e d t o ma k e f or our s el ves . T h e deci -
s i on t o g o i n t o t h e r a p y t o ge t u n s t u c k a n d h e l p o u r pr ogr e s s , o r
t o t ake t h e t i me t o pr a c t i c e safet y i n c e r t a i n s i t uat i ons t ha t a r e
wi t hi n o u r c o n t r o l t h e s e a r e a mo n g t h e me a s u r e s o f wh e t h e r
we t r ul y val ue our s el ves . An d , as I wr ot e in The Road Less Trav-
eled, t h e p r i ma r y d e t e r mi n a n t of wh e t h e r we c ons i de r our s el ves
val uabl e a n d i mp o r t a n t i s wh e t h e r o u r p a r e n t s t r e a t e d us as i f
we we r e t r ul y val uabl e a n d i mp o r t a n t . Thi s d e t e r mi n e s s o mu c h
of how we r e g a r d our s el ves f r om t h e n o n , be c a us e t hos e y o u n g
a n d i mpr e s s i ona bl e year s a r e cr uci al t o o u r s ens e of wor t h.
None t he l e s s , e i g h t e e n year s af t er wr i t i ng t ha t book, I be -
l i eve I was u n d u l y pessi mi st i c wh e n I de s c r i be d t h e p r o b l e m of
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 115
s o me o n e wh o e nt e r s a d u l t h o o d wi t h a de e p- s e a t e d l ack of self-
val ue. I h a d sai d i t was cl ose t o i mpos s i bl e f or s uc h a p e r s o n ever
t o de ve l op a he a l t hy s ens e of wor t h. But I n o w k n o w t h e r e a r e
at l east t wo ways t ha t a si gni f i cant n u mb e r wh o ne ve r l e a r n e d t o
val ue t hems el ves wh e n t hey we r e c h i l d r e n c a n l e a r n t o do so.
On e i s l ong- t e r m ps yc hot he r a py, d u r i n g whi c h t h e t he r a pi s t
can, a n d of t en doe s , b e c o me a s ubs t i t ut e p a r e n t of sor t s a n d
heal s by per s i s t ent l y d e mo n s t r a t i n g h e r or hi s s ens e of t h e pa-
t i ent ' s val ue. Cer t ai nl y t h e mo s t c o mmo n r e s pons e I have r e-
cei ved f r om my own pa t i e nt s at t h e c onc l us i on of a l e ngt hy
c our s e of p s y c h o t h e r a p y wh e n successf ul was ' You know, Dr.
Peck, you t r e a t e d me as i f I was mo r e i mp o r t a n t t h a n I t h o u g h t
I was. "
Th e r e i s al so a n o t h e r way: s o me t i me s Go d act ual l y s e e ms
t o di r ect l y i n t e r v e n e i n p e o p l e ' s lives t o gi ve t h e m a me s s a ge of
t he i r val ue. Be c a us e of t h e p o we r of s uc h an e x p e r i e n c e , its
benef i ci ar i es r e ma i n puz z l e d a n d a we d by it. Al t h o u g h a p p r e -
ci at i ve a n d h u mb l e d , t hey of t en c o n t i n u e t o ask, "Why me ? "
year s af t er t h e fact, be c a us e t hey still wo n d e r wha t t hey h a d
d o n e t o de s e r ve s uc h a bl es s i ng. I t i s i n d e e d an e x p e r i e n c e of
o v e r wh e l mi n g gr a c e wh e n o n e wh o f or ver y l o n g has de va l ue d
hi ms el f i s g r a n t e d a di vi ne r evel at i on t ha t he d o e s i n d e e d ma t -
t er af t er all.
Al t h o u g h I have n o t de s c r i be d s uc h event s i n my wor ks of
nonf i c t i on, I have f o r me r pa t i e nt s a n d f r i ends wh o ha ve r e-
cal l ed s uc h r adi cal c h a n g e s i n t he i r s ens e of sel f-wort h. So me -
t i mes t he s e r evel at i ons o c c u r r e d i n t h e c o n t e x t of a h o r r e n d o u s
life e x p e r i e n c e , a n d f or s ome l i ke a wo ma n wh o d e c i d e d s he
va l ue d her s el f e n o u g h t o l eave a physi cal l y abus i ve r el at i on-
s h i p wh e n t he i r ver y lives we r e at risk. I have wr i t t en a b o u t
s uc h event s in b o t h my novel s. In A Bed by the Window, Mr s . Si-
mo n t o n , a si xt y-year-ol d n u r s i n g h o me a dmi ni s t r a t or , r ecei ves
j u s t s uc h a l e a r n i n g me s s a ge . As d o e s Ti s h i n pur ga t or y, as de -
s cr i bed in In Heaven as on Earth. Whi l e b o t h a c c ount s a r e fic-
t i onal , t hey r ef l ect t h e r eal i t y of act ual p e o p l e wh o m I ha ve me t
a n d wh o have t ol d me o f s uc h e xpe r i e nc e s .
116 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
NARCISSISM, DEATH, AND THE LEARNING OF DYING
Ou r i n b o r n nar ci s s i s m i s a n e xt r a or di na r i l y c o mp l e x p h e n o me -
n o n , be c a us e s o me of i t i s neces s ar y as t h e ps ychol ogi cal si de of
o u r survi val i ns t i nct . But u n b r i d l e d nar ci s s i s m i s t h e pr i nc i pa l
p r e c u r s o r of ps ychos pi r i t ual i l l ness. T h e he a l t hy s pi r i t ual life
consi st s of pr ogr essi vel y gr owi ng o u t of nar ci ssi sm. T h e f ai l ur e
t o gr ow o u t of nar ci ssi sm, a l t h o u g h e xt r e me l y c o mmo n , i s al so
e xt r e me l y des t r uct i ve.
T h e p r o s p e c t o f o u r d e a t h a n d t h e pr oc e s s o f o u r dyi ng
physi cal l y c a n be o n e of t h e gr e a t e s t s t i mul i t o s uc h he a l t hy
gr owt h. Th e y ma y even be t h e gr e a t e s t s uc h s t i mul us . Wh e n
psychi at r i st s t al k a b o u t i nj ur i es t o pr i de , we cal l t h e m narci ssi s-
t i c i nj ur i es. An d on any scal e of nar ci ssi st i c i nj ur i es, d e a t h i s t h e
ul t i ma t e . We suffer l i t t l e nar ci ssi st i c i nj ur i es all t h e t i me : a class-
ma t e cal l s us s t upi d, f or e x a mp l e ; we ' r e t h e l ast t o be c h o s e n f or
s o me o n e ' s vol l eybal l t e a m; col l eges t u r n us down; e mpl oye r s
cr i t i ci ze us ; we ge t f i r ed; o u r c h i l d r e n r ej ect us. As a r es ul t of
t he s e nar ci ssi st i c i nj ur i es, we e i t h e r b e c o me e mb i t t e r e d or we
gr ow. But d e a t h i s t h e bi g o n e . No t h i n g t h r e a t e n s o u r narci ssi s-
t i c a t t a c h me n t t o our s el ves a n d o u r sel f - concei t mo r e t h a n o u r
i mp e n d i n g obl i t e r a t i on.
So i t i s ut t er l y na t ur a l t ha t we s h o u l d f ear d e a t h a n d every-
t h i n g t ha t be gi ns t o b e c o me a r e mi n d e r of d e a t h . Th e r e a r e t wo
ways t o de a l wi t h t h a t fear: t h e c o mmo n way a n d t h e s ma r t way.
T h e c o mmo n way i s t o p u t i t o u t of o u r mi n d , l i mi t o u r awar e-
ness of it, t r y n o t t o t hi nk a b o u t it. T h e s ma r t way i s t o f ace
d e a t h as ear l y as pos s i bl e. I n d o i n g so, we c a n r eal i ze s o me t h i n g
r eal l y r a t h e r s i mpl e . Th a t is, i ns of ar as we c a n o v e r c o me o u r
nar ci ssi sm we c a n o v e r c o me o u r f ear of d e a t h . For p e o p l e wh o
l e a r n t o do t hi s, t h e p r o s p e c t of d e a t h b e c o me s a ma gni f i c e nt
s t i mul us f or t he i r ps ychol ogi cal a n d s pi r i t ual gr owt h. "Si nce I
a m goi ng t o di e anyway, " t hey t hi nk, "what ' s t h e p o i n t of pr e -
s er vi ng t hi s a t t a c h me n t I have t o my silly ol d self?" An d so t hey
set f or t h on a j o u r n e y t owa r d sel fl essness.
I t i s n o t an easy j o u r n e y , b u t wha t a wor t hwhi l e j o u r n e y i t is.
Be c a us e t he f ur t he r we p r o c e e d i n d i mi n i s h i n g o u r nar ci ssi sm,
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 117
o u r s el f - cent er ednes s a n d s ens e of s el f - i mpor t ance, t h e mo r e
we di s cover our sel ves b e c o mi n g n o t onl y l ess f ear f ul of d e a t h
b u t al so less f ear f ul of life. An d t hi s i s t h e basi s f or l e a r n i n g t o
b e c o me mo r e l ovi ng. No l o n g e r b u r d e n e d b y t h e n e e d t o c on-
st ant l y p r o t e c t a n d d e f e n d our s el ves , we a r e a bl e t o lift o u r eyes
off our s el ves a n d t r ul y r e c ogni z e ot he r s . An d we be gi n t o e xpe -
r i e nc e a s us t ai ned, u n d e r l y i n g s ens e of h a p p i n e s s t h a t we have
ne ve r e x p e r i e n c e d be f or e a s we b e c o me pr ogr essi vel y mo r e
sel f-forget ful a n d h e n c e mo r e a bl e t o r e me mb e r Go d a n d n o -
t i ce He r i n t h e det ai l s of life.
Aga i n a n d a ga i n all of t h e g r e a t r el i gi ons t el l us t ha t t h e
p a t h away f r om nar ci s s i s m i s t h e p a t h t owa r d me a n i n g i n life.
An d t hi s i s t he i r c e nt r a l mes s age: Le a r n h o w t o di e . Buddhi s t s
a n d Hi n d u s s pe a k of t hi s i n t e r ms of t h e necessi t y f or self-
d e t a c h me n t ; i n d e e d , f or t h e m even t h e n o t i o n of t h e sel f i s a n
i l l usi on. J e s us s poke of i t i n si mi l ar t e r ms : " Whos oe ve r will save
hi s life [ t ha t is, whos oe ve r will h o l d on t o hi s nar ci s s i s m] shal l
l ose it: a n d whos oe ve r will l ose hi s life f or my sake shal l f i nd it. "
In h e r cl assi c On Death and Dying, El i s abet h Kbl er - Ross
was t h e f i r s t sci ent i f i c p e r s o n wh o ever d a r e d t o ask p e o p l e wh a t
t hey we r e e x p e r i e n c i n g as t hey f aced t he i r physi cal d e a t h . Do-
i ng so, s he di s c e r ne d t ha t f i ve e mo t i o n a l st ages a r e i nvol ved i n
t he pr oc e s s of dyi ng. An d s he f o u n d t ha t p e o p l e we n t t h r o u g h
t he s e st ages i n t hi s or de r : de ni a l , anger , ba r ga i ni ng, de pr e s -
s i on, a n d f i n a l l y a c c e p t a n c e .
I n t h e f i r s t st age, de ni a l , t hey mi g h t say, " Th e l a b mu s t have
g o t t e n my t est s mi x e d up wi t h s o me b o d y el se' s. I t c a n' t be me ,
i t c a n ' t be h a p p e n i n g t o me . " But d e n y i n g d o e s n ' t wor k f or ver y
l ong. So t he y get angr y. Th e y ge t a ngr y a t t h e doc t or s , a ngr y a t
t h e nur s e s , a ngr y a t t h e hos pi t al , a ngr y a t t he i r r el at i ves, a ngr y
a t Go d . Wh e n a n g e r d o e s n ' t ge t t h e m a nywhe r e , t hey st ar t t o
ba r ga i n. Th e y say, " Maybe i f I go ba c k t o c h u r c h a n d st ar t pr ay-
i ng agai n, my c a n c e r will go away." Or , "Maybe i f I st ar t b e i n g
ni c e r t o my c h i l d r e n f or a c h a n g e , my ki dneys will i mpr ove . "
An d wh e n t ha t d o e s n ' t ge t r esul t s, t he y be gi n t o r eal i ze t h e j i g
i s up a n d t he y' r e r eal l y g o i n g t o di e. At t h a t poi nt , t hey b e c o me
de pr e s s e d.
118 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
I f t hey c a n h a n g i n t h e r e a n d do wha t we t her api s t s cal l t h e
wor k o f de pr e s s i on, t hey c a n e me r g e a t t h e o t h e r e n d a n d e n t e r
t he fifth st age, a c c e p t a n c e . Thi s i s a st age of gr e a t s pi r i t ual c a l m
a n d t r anqui l l i t y, a n d e ve n of l i ght for many. Pe o p l e wh o have
a c c e p t e d d e a t h have a l i ght i n t h e m. It ' s a l mos t as i f t hey h a d al-
r e a dy di e d a n d we r e r e s u r r e c t e d i n s o me ps ychos pi r i t ual s ens e.
It ' s a beaut i f ul t h i n g t o see, b u t i t i s n o t ver y c o mmo n . Mos t
p e o p l e do n o t di e i n t hi s st age of a c c e pt a nc e . Th e y di e still
de nyi ng, still angr y, still ba r ga i ni ng, or still de pr e s s e d. T h e r ea-
s on i s t ha t t h e wor k of de pr e s s i on i s s o pai nf ul a n d di ffi cul t t ha t
wh e n t hey hi t i t mo s t p e o p l e r e t r e a t i nt o de ni a l or a n g e r or bar -
ga i ni ng.
Th e s e st ages a r e n o t always g o n e t h r o u g h i n exact l y t h e
way Kbl er - Ross de s c r i be d, b u t t hey a r e n o n e t h e l e s s n o t onl y
gener al l y a ppl i c a bl e t o t h e e mo t i o n a l p a i n t ha t i s i nvol ved i n
dyi ng b u t gener al l y equal l y val i d ( a l t h o u g h s he di d n o t r eal i ze
i t at t h e t i me ) t o all ma n n e r of life' s l e a r ni ngs wh e r e u n l e a r n i n g
is i nvol ved.
UNLEARNING AND FLEXIBILITY
I ha ve wr i t t e n a b o u t an e x p e r i e n c e wi t h my d a u g h t e r i n whi c h
s uc h u n l e a r n i n g was neces s ar y f or my gr owt h. O n e n i g h t I de -
c i de d t o s p e n d s o me f r ee t i me b u i l d i n g a h a p p i e r a n d cl os er r e-
l a t i ons hi p wi t h my da ught e r , wh o was f o u r t e e n a t t h e t i me . For
sever al weeks s he h a d b e e n u r g i n g me t o pl ay ches s wi t h her , s o
I s ugge s t e d a g a me a n d s he eager l y a c c e pt e d. We s et t l ed d o wn
t o a mo s t e ve n a n d c ha l l e ngi ng ma t c h . I t was a s c hool ni ght ,
however , a n d at n i n e o' c l oc k my d a u g h t e r a s ke d i f I c oul d h u r r y
my moves be c a us e s he n e e d e d t o go t o be d; s he h a d t o ge t up a t
six i n t he mo r n i n g . I k n e w h e r t o be ri gi dl y di s ci pl i ned i n h e r
s l e e pi ng habi t s , a n d i t s e e me d t o me t ha t s he o u g h t t o be abl e
t o give up s o me of t hi s ri gi di t y. I t ol d her , " Co me o n , you c a n go
t o b e d a l i t t l e l at er f or o n c e . You s h o u l d n ' t s t ar t g a me s t ha t you
c a n' t f i ni s h. We ' r e ha vi ng f un. "
We pl ayed on for a n o t h e r f i f t e e n mi n u t e s , d u r i n g whi c h
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 119
t i me s he b e c a me visibly di s comf i t ed. Finally, s he p l e a d e d ,
"Pl ease, Daddy, pl eas e h u r r y your moves . " " No, g o d d a mmi t , " I
r e pl i e d. "Ches s i s a s er i ous g a me . I f y o u ' r e g o i n g t o pl ay i t wel l ,
y o u ' r e g o i n g t o pl ay i t slowly. I f you d o n ' t wa nt t o pl ay i t seri -
ously, you mi g h t as wel l n o t pl ay i t at al l . " An d so, wi t h h e r feel -
i ng mi s e r a bl e , we c o n t i n u e d f or a n o t h e r t e n mi n u t e s , unt i l
s udde nl y my d a u g h t e r bur s t i nt o t ear s, yel l ed t ha t s he c on-
c e d e d t h e s t upi d g a me , a n d r a n we e p i n g u p t h e st ai rs.
My f i r s t r e a c t i on was o n e of de ni a l . No t h i n g was ser i ousl y
wr o n g . My d a u g h t e r was j u s t i n a fragi l e mo o d . Cer t ai nl y, i t h a d
n o t h i n g t o do wi t h me . But t ha t d i d n ' t r eal l y wor k. T h e fact of
t he ma t t e r was t ha t t h e e ve ni ng h a d t u r n e d o u t exact l y oppos i t e
f r om wha t I h a d i n t e n d e d . So my n e x t r e a c t i on was t o b e c o me
angr y. I b e c a me a ngr y at my d a u g h t e r f or h e r r i gi di t y a n d t h e
fact t ha t she c o u l d n ' t give up a l i t t l e s l eep t i me t o wor k on o u r
r e l a t i ons hi p as wel l . I t was h e r faul t . But t ha t d i d n ' t wor k ei t her .
T h e fact i s t ha t I , t oo, was r i gi d i n my s l e e pi ng habi t s . So I
t h o u g h t I mi g h t r u n ups t ai r s , k n o c k on h e r door , a n d say, " I ' m
sorry, hone y. Pl eas e f or gi ve me f or b e i n g r i gi d. Ha ve a g o o d
ni ght ' s s l eep. " Yet I h a d s o me s ens e at t hi s p o i n t t ha t I was bar -
ga i ni ng. I t woul d be a " c h e a p apol ogy. " Finally, i t b e g a n t o da wn
on me t ha t I h a d ser i ousl y goof ed. I h a d s t ar t ed t he e ve ni ng
wa n t i n g t o have a h a p p y t i me wi t h my da ught e r . Ni ne t y mi n u t e s
l at er, s he was i n t ear s a n d s o a ngr y at me s he c oul d ha r dl y
s peak. Wh a t h a d g o n e wr ong? I b e c a me de pr e s s e d.
For t unat el y, al bei t r el uct ant l y, I was a bl e t o h a n g i n t h e r e
a n d do t h e wor k of de pr e s s i on. I b e g a n t o face t h e fact t ha t I
h a d b o t c h e d t h e e ve ni ng by al l owi ng my des i r e t o wi n a ches s
g a me b e c o me mo r e i mp o r t a n t t h a n my des i r e t o bui l d a r el a-
t i ons hi p wi t h my da ught e r . I was d e p r e s s e d i n e a r n e s t t h e n .
Ho w h a d I g o t t e n s o o u t of ba l a nc e ? Gr a dua l l y I b e g a n t o ac-
c e pt t ha t my des i r e t o wi n was t oo gr e a t a n d t ha t I n e e d e d t o
give up s o me of t hi s des i r e. Yet e ve n t hi s l i t t l e gi vi ng up s e e me d
i mpos s i bl e. All my life my des i r e t o wi n h a d s er ved me i n g o o d
st ead, f or I h a d wo n ma n y t hi ngs . Ho w was i t pos s i bl e t o pl ay
chess wi t hout wa n t i n g t o wi n? I h a d ne ve r b e e n c omf or t a bl e do-
i ng t hi ngs unent hus i as t i cal l y. Ho w c oul d I concei vabl y pl ay
120 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
ches s ent hus i as t i cal l y b u t n o t seri ousl y? Yet s o me h o w I h a d t o
c h a n g e , f or I k n e w t ha t my c ompe t i t i ve ne s s a n d my s er i ous nes s
we r e p a r t of a be ha vi or p a t t e r n t ha t was wo r k i n g a n d woul d
c o n t i n u e t o wor k t owa r d a l i e na t i ng my c h i l d r e n f r om me . An d
i f I was n o t a bl e t o modi f y t hi s p a t t e r n , t h e r e wo u l d be o t h e r
t i mes of unne c e s s a r y t ear s a n d bi t t er nes s .
Si nce I have gi ven up p a r t of my des i r e t o wi n at ga me s ,
t ha t l i t t l e de pr e s s i on i s l o n g over. I ki l l ed t h e des i r e t o wi n at
ga me s wi t h my des i r e t o wi n at p a r e n t i n g . Wh e n I was a chi l d
my des i r e t o wi n at g a me s s er ved me wel l . As a p a r e n t , I r ecog-
ni z e d t ha t i t got i n my way. I h a d t o give i t u p . I do n o t mi ss it,
even t h o u g h I t h o u g h t I woul d.
Ma t u r e me n t a l h e a l t h d e ma n d s t h e abi l i t y t o be f l exi bl e.
We mu s t be abl e t o c ont i nua l l y s t r i ke a nd r e s t r i ke a del i cat e
ba l a nc e a mo n g conf l i ct i ng n e e d s , goal s, dut i es , a n d r es pons i -
bi l i t i es. T h e e s s e nc e of t hi s di s ci pl i ne of b a l a n c i n g i s u n l e a r n -
i ng a n d "gi vi ng u p " s o me t h i n g i n our s el ves i n o r d e r t o c ons i de r
ne w i nf or ma t i on. Whi l e i t ma y s e e m s t r a nge t o c h o o s e s t agna-
t i on over fl exi bi l i t y i n o r d e r t o avoi d t h e pa i n of gi vi ng up par t s
of t he self, i t i s u n d e r s t a n d a b l e gi ven t he d e p t h of e mot i ona l pa i n
t ha t ma y be i nvol ved i n d o i n g so. I n its ma j or f or ms , gi vi ng up
i s t he mos t pai nf ul of h u ma n e xpe r i e nc e s . Wh e n gi vi ng up par t s
of our s el ves ent ai l s gi vi ng up per s onal i t y t r ai t s, wel l - est abl i shed
a n d l e a r n e d pa t t e r ns of behavi or , i deol ogi es , a n d even whol e
lifestyles, t he pa i n can be e xc r uc i a t i ng. Yet t he s e ma j or f or ms of
gi vi ng up a r e r e q u i r e d i f o n e i s t o t ravel ver y far on t h e j o u r n e y
of life t owa r d ever - i ncr eas i ng ma t ur i t y a n d s pi r i t ual gr owt h. As
wi t h any gi vi ng u p , t h e bi gges t f ear i s t ha t o n e will be left t ot al l y
empt y. Thi s i s t h e exi s t ent i al f ear of n o t h i n g n e s s , of b e i n g n o t h -
i ng. But whi l e a ny c h a n g e f r om o n e way t o a n o t h e r r e pr e s e nt s
a d e a t h of t h e ol d way, i t al so ma ke s r o o m f or t h e bi r t h of a n e w
o n e .
I c a n n o t e mp h a s i z e h o w i mp o r t a n t t he s e st ages of dyi ng
a r e t o t h e pr oc e s s of u n l e a r n i n g a n d ne w l e a r ni ng. Th e y a r e
r out i nel y g o n e t h r o u g h n o t onl y by i ndi vi dual s b u t al so by gr oups
a n d even e nt i r e na t i ons . Cons i der , f or i ns t a nc e , t h e be ha vi or of
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 121
t h e Un i t e d St at es i n Vi e t na m. Wh e n e vi de nc e f i r s t b e g a n t o ac-
c u mu l a t e i n 1963 a n d 1964 t ha t o u r pol i ci es i n Vi e t n a m we r e
n o t wor ki ng, wha t was o u r na t i on' s f i r s t r e a c t i on? Deni al . No t h -
i ng was r eal l y wr ong. All we n e e d e d was a few mo r e Speci al
For ces t r oops a n d a few mo r e mi l l i ons of dol l ar s . Th e n , i n 1966
a n d 1967, a s e vi de nc e c o n t i n u e d t o a c c u mu l a t e t ha t o u r pol i -
ci es we r e n o t wo r k i n g a n d obvi ousl y ser i ousl y fl awed, wha t was
t h e g o v e r n me n t ' s r eact i on? Anger . T h e day of t h e b o d y c o u n t
b e g a n . An d My Lai . An d t or t ur e . An d b o mb i n g s uc h t ha t we
we r e g o i n g t o t u r n No r t h Vi e t n a m i nt o a n Ame r i c a n p a r k i n g
l ot . By 1969 a n d 1970, wh e n t h e e vi de nc e was n o w massi ve t ha t
o u r pol i ci es i n Vi e t n a m we r e a f ai l ur e, o u r n e x t r e s p o n s e was t o
a t t e mp t t o " ba r ga i n" o u r way o u t of Vi e t n a m. We sel ect i vel y
s t o p p e d b o mb i n g h e r e a s a c a r r ot a n d s t ar t ed b o mb i n g t h e r e a s
a st i ck, t h i n k i n g t ha t we c oul d s o me h o w b r i n g No r t h Vi e t n a m
t o t h e ne got i a t i ng t abl e. But i t c o n t i n u e d t o fail.
Al t h o u g h s o me of us as i ndi vi dual s at t he t i me we nt t h r o u g h
a si gni f i cant de pr e s s i on over t h e war, o u r g o v e r n me n t l ed t h e
maj or i t y of Ame r i c a n s t o bel i eve t ha t s o me h o w we s u c c e e d e d i n
b a r g a i n i n g o u r way o u t of Vi e t na m. We di d n o t ba r ga i n o u r way
o u t of Vi e t n a m. We we r e de f e a t e d. We f l ed wi t h over hal f a mi l -
l i on me n . Be c a us e , as a na t i on, we gener al l y f ai l ed at t h e t i me
t o do t h e wor k of de pr e s s i on i nvol ved i n t hi s t r agedy, t h e r e was
l i t t l e e vi de nc e t ha t we l e a r n e d any l esson as a r esul t . Onl y r e-
cent l y, twenty-five year s af t er t h e fact, d o e s i t l ook as i f we ma y
have d o n e s o me p o r t i o n of t h e wor k of t ha t de pr e s s i on a n d
c o me t o a mo d i c u m of humi l i t y i n o u r i nt e r na t i ona l r el at i ons .
To l e a r n s o me t h i n g new, we s o of t en have t o e mp t y our -
selves of t h e ol d. Thi s c a n be b o t h an i ndi vi dual a n d a g r o u p
pr oces s , a n d i n The Different Drum I de s c r i be i t i n s o me d e p t h as
" e mpt i ne s s , " o n e of t h e st ages of c ommuni t y- ma ki ng. Th e r e , I
wr ot e t ha t a g r o u p g o i n g t h r o u g h t he s t age of e mp t i n e s s t h e
mo s t cr i t i cal s t age of its l e a r n i n g s e e ms f or all t h e wor l d l i ke
a n o r g a n i s m g o i n g t h r o u g h its d e a t h t hr oe s . Thi s p e r i o d c a n be
excr uci at i ngl y pai nf ul . I t i s al so t h e p e r i o d wh e n t h e g r o u p
c o mmi t s itself t o l e a r n i n g wh i c h i s al so t o c o mmi t i t sel f t o u n -
122 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
l e a r n i n g t ha t whi c h i s obs t r uct i ve a n d o u t d a t e d a n d unwor k-
abl e.
Wh e n we a r e g o i n g t h r o u g h p a i n i ndi vi dual l y or col l ec-
tively, we of t en feel as i f t h e p a i n will last forever. But i n t he cy-
cl e of life, t h e r e i s always o p p o r t u n i t y for r e ne wa l . Ho p e i s t he
f o u n d a t i o n of t h e r e b i r t h i n g t ha t ma y fol l ow d e a t h a n d c h a n g e .
So wh e n i t i s wo r k e d t h r o u g h , t h e s t age of de pr e s s i on i s i n-
evi t abl y f ol l owed by t h e s t age of a c c e p t a n c e . S o me o n e i n an au-
di e nc e o n c e as ked me wh e t h e r l ong- t e r m ma r r i a ge s g o t h r o u g h
t he s e st ages, a n d I sai d t hey do i n d e e d . Ini t i al l y, as di f f er ences
be t we e n p a r t n e r s e me r g e , o u r first t e n d e n c y i s t o t ry t o d e n y
t hos e di f f er ences a n d d e n y t ha t we have f al l en o u t of l ove.
Wh e n we c a n no l o n g e r d e n y t hat , we ge t a ngr y a t o u r s pous e
f or b e i n g di f f er ent f r om us . Wh e n t ha t event ual l y d o e s n ' t get us
a nywhe r e a n d o u r s pous e d o e s n ' t c h a n g e , we t ry t o b a r g a i n i n
s o me ma n n e r or a not he r " I ' l l c h a n g e i n t hi s way i f you' l l
c h a n g e i n t ha t way." Wh e n t ha t d o e s n ' t wor k, t h e n we t e n d t o
b e c o me d e p r e s s e d a n d t h e ma r r i a g e l ooks ver y doubt f ul .
But i f we c a n h a n g i n t h e r e o f t e n for a p e r i o d of ma n y
year s , a n d i n t h e case of my ma r r i a g e t o Lily i t was cl ose t o
t went y year s we c a n f i na l l y l e a r n h o w t o a c c e pt o u r s pous e a n d
c a n c o me , as Lily a n d I have d o n e , t o a r e l a t i ons hi p t ha t i s bet -
t er t h a n r o ma n t i c l ove a n d even s e e ms t o p a r t a k e of gl ory. But
ma n y p e o p l e s e e m t o bel i eve a ma r r i a g e t ha t e x p e r i e n c e s t he s e
st ages i s n o t a g o o d o n e at al l , as i f l ong- t e r m r e l a t i ons hi ps mu s t
be t ot al l y s mo o t h sai l i ng. I n fact, t hi s i s o n e of t h e p r i ma r y illu-
si ons we mu s t o v e r c o me . I am r e mi n d e d of a wo ma n wh o r e-
ma r k e d , "Scotty, I ver y mu c h l i ked In Search of Stones, b u t it was
so sad. " I wa s n' t s ur e wh a t s he me a n t by "sad, " b u t I i ma g i n e
s he t h o u g h t i t was s ad be c a us e s he bel i eved t ha t a ma r r i a g e
s h o u l d n ' t go t h r o u g h all of t h e downe r s I wr ot e a b o u t t h e r e . Yet
I bel i eve t h a t In Search of Stones is ul t i mat el y a t r i u mp h a n t b o o k .
I n d e e d , de s pi t e all t h e u p s a n d d o wn s t h r o u g h t h e d e a t h of il-
l us i ons a n d t h e r e bi r t hs of t r us t a n d a c c e p t a n c e t h a t Lily a n d
I e x p e r i e n c e d , we ha ve e me r g e d wi t h a gr e a t e r d e g r e e of un-
d e r s t a n d i n g t h a n e i t h e r of us c oul d have ever envi s i oned.
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 123
So t h e s t age of dyi ng i s f ol l owed by t h e s t age of r e bi r t h,
whi ch i ni t i al l y ma y be as pai nf ul as t h e dyi ng. I n Ch a p t e r 1, I r e-
c o u n t e d h o w ma n y of my pa t i e nt s we n t t h r o u g h a " t h e r a p e u t i c
de pr e s s i on" wh e n t h e ol d way was no l o n g e r t e n a b l e a n d t h e
ne w ways s e e me d i mpos s i bl y di ffi cul t , wh e n t hey c o u l d n o t go
ba c kwa r d b u t we r e unwi l l i ng t o go f or war d be c a us e t h e ne w way
s e e me d so i ncr edi bl y risky. I de s c r i be t hi s r i sk in A Bed by the
Window, wh e r e , i n t h e c our s e of t her apy, He a t h e r ma ke s t he t er -
ri fyi ng deci s i on t o f i nal l y di s car d h e r "ol d t a pe s " or ma l a da pt i ve
ways of r e l a t i ng t o me n a n d e x p e r i me n t wi t h " new t apes . "
Th e s e t wo pr oces s es a r e i next r i cabl e, b u t e x p e r i me n t i n g wi t h a
ne w t a pe i s j u s t as t er r i f yi ng as di s c a r di ng an ol d o n e . Al t h o u g h
an ol d t a pe ma y be de mons t r a t i ve l y i neffect i ve, i t ma y still feel
c omf or t a bl e , f i t t i ng l i ke a n ol d s hoe . T h e ne w t a p e wh i c h ma y
r e q u i r e us t o do t hi ngs i n ways t ot al l y di f f er ent f r om t hos e t ha t
we r e i ni t i al l y c omf or t a bl e , a n d t h a t o u r p a r e n t s t a u g h t us , a n d ,
i n d e e d , t ha t o u r whol e c ul t ur e has e n d o r s e d ma y s e e m i n-
cr edi bl y d a n g e r o u s .
But l e a r n i n g i s an a d v e n t u r e . We mu s t have a t ast e f or i t t o
s o me e xt e nt , s i nce all a d v e n t u r e i s goi ng i nt o t h e u n k n o wn . I f
we always k n o w exact l y wh e r e we ' r e goi ng, h o w t o get t he r e ,
a n d wh a t we' l l see or e x p e r i e n c e a l o n g t h e way, i t i s n' t an ad-
ve nt ur e . I t i s h u ma n a n d s ma r t t o be af r ai d of t h e u n k n o wn ,
t o be at l east a t i ny bi t s c a r e d wh e n e mb a r k i n g on an a d v e n t u r e .
But i t i s onl y f r om a d v e n t u r e s t ha t we l e a r n mu c h of signifi-
c a nc e , wh e r e we c a n be e x p o s e d t o t h e ne w a n d u n e x p e c t e d .
LEARNING AS ADVENTURE
En t e r i n g ps yc hot he r a py i s of t en o n e of t h e gr e a t e s t a d v e n t u r e s
i n life. For o n e wo ma n I' l l cal l Tammy, i t was a b o u t wi t h life-
t h r e a t e n i n g de pr e s s i on i n h e r mi d- t went i es t ha t c o mp e l l e d h e r
t o s eek he l p. T h e s our c e of h e r de pr e s s i on a n d t h e dyna mi c s of
h e r case we r e a cl assi c e x a mp l e of an i ndi vi dual o p e r a t i n g un-
d e r t h e i l l usi on of pe r f e c t i oni s m. For mu c h of h e r y o u n g life,
124 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
Ta mmy h a d unknowi ngl y d e v e l o p e d sel f - i mposed, unr eal i s t i c
s t a nda r ds a n d t r i ed t o live up t o e x a g g e r a t e d e xpe c t a t i ons s he
t h o u g h t ot he r s h a d of her .
T h e s eeds o f pe r f e c t i oni s m h a d b e e n p l a n t e d e a r l ya nd
we r e costly. As i s t ypi cal of ma n y s uc h pa t i e nt s , Ta mmy h a d
gr own up i n an al cohol i c family. As a chi l d, s he was i n ma n y
ways f or ced t o t ake on a dul t r es pons i bi l i t i es , be c a us e of t h e
e mo t i o n a l a b s e n c e of h e r mo t h e r , wh o was i nc a pa c i t a t e d by de -
pr es s i on a n d a s er i ous d r i n k i n g p r o b l e m, a n d be c a us e h e r fa-
t h e r was mos t l y a bs e nt . I n t h e a t t e mp t t o ri se t o t h e occas i on,
s he was r e q u i r e d t o h e l p r ai se h e r y o u n g e r si bl i ngs. Thi s me a n t ,
of c our s e , t h a t s he d i d n ' t have mu c h of a life of h e r own i n el e-
me n t a r y s c hool a n d h e r ear l y h i g h s c hool year s. Gi ven t h e c on-
f usi on of h o me life, s c hool b e c a me t h e pl a c e wh e r e Ta mmy fel t
mo s t c o mp e t e n t . I t was al so t h e o n e pl a c e s he r ecei ved n u r t u r -
i ng a s t h e chi l d s he t r ul y was, r a t h e r t h a n b e i n g r e q u i r e d t o p r o -
vi de i t t o ot he r s . Thi s l ed t o h e r excel l i ng academi cal l y;
ul t i mat el y, s he b e c a me t h e f i r s t i n h e r fami l y t o g r a d u a t e f r om
col l ege.
Al t h o u g h i t was a n u n s p o k e n a s s umpt i on, Ta mmy i nt er -
p r e t e d l i vi ng up t o a sel f-i mage t h a t e nt a i l e d pe r f e c t i oni s m as
r e q u i r i n g t ha t s he "have i t all t oget her . " I t s e e me d t o h e r t ha t
h e r fami l y' s e xpe c t a t i on was t h a t s he n o t onl y ha ve i t t oge t he r ,
b u t have i t t o g e t h e r at all t i mes . I t was an i nc r e di bl y st ressful
s t a n d a r d t o live up t o, a n d i n ma n y ways a n oppr es s i ve o n e .
De e p wi t hi n, on s o me l evel , Ta mmy k n e w s he c o u l d n ' t possi bl y
me e t t h e s t a n d a r d s of pe r f e c t i oni s m. But i n a t t e mp t i n g t o
ma i n t a i n t hi s i l l usi on, s he s i mul t a ne ous l y f o u n d i t di ffi cul t t o
a c knowl e dge t h e r eal i t y of h e r l i mi t at i ons . T h e pr e s s ur e , b o t h
e xt e r na l a n d i nt e r na l , event ual l y l ed n o t onl y t o physi cal s ymp-
t oms of di st r ess b u t t o t r e me n d o u s anxi et y over sever al year s. At
o n e p o i n t Ta mmy c o n t e mp l a t e d s ui ci de, a l t h o u g h s he ne ve r
a c t e d on it.
Du r i n g l ong- t e r m t her apy, s he l e a r n e d t ha t t h e pr i ma r y
s our c e of h e r de pr e s s i on was h e r a t t e mp t t o live up t o a st an-
d a r d t oo h i g h t o me e t a n d h e r l ack of h e r own t r u e i dent i t y. Al-
t h o u g h on t he s ur f ace s he s e e me d sel f-assured a n d i n d e p e n d e n t
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 125
t o mo s t wh o me t her , h e r sel f - i mage h a d b e e n c e n t e r e d pr i ma r -
ily a r o u n d wh a t o t h e r p e o p l e t h o u g h t or e x p e c t e d of her .
Initially, mu c h of Ta mmy' s c onve r s a t i on d u r i n g t h e r a p y r e-
vol ved a r o u n d h e r p e r c e p t i o n of her s el f as a vi ct i m. She gave a
l i t any o f c ompl a i nt s a b o u t wh a t ot he r s h a d d o n e t o h e r o r n o t
d o n e f or her . Af t er a c o u p l e of mo n t h s g o i n g ba c k a n d f or t h
a b o u t t hi s, s he f i na l l y b e g a n t o c ons i de r wh a t h e r own r ol e i n
h e r vi ct i mi zat i on h a d b e e n . I n d o i n g so, s he e x p e r i e n c e d a dr a-
ma t i c t u r n i n g poi nt . She r eal i z ed s he h a d a c hoi c e af t er all.
Thi s was a c c o mp a n i e d by a deci s i on t o a c k n o wl e d g e t h a t s he
h a d s o me l i mi t at i ons , e ve n i f o t h e r s wa n t e d t o c o n t i n u e pl a c i ng
h e r on a pe de s t a l be c a us e s he was t h e f i r s t i n h e r f ami l y t o go t o
col l ege. As s he s t o p p e d t al ki ng s o mu c h a b o u t " t h e m" a n d
s t a r t e d o wn i n g h e r own f eel i ngs , us i ng "I " s t a t e me nt s , s he fel t a
s ens e of pe r s ona l p o we r s he h a d ne ve r k n o wn . On c e , a s h a r d a s
i t was t o a dmi t , s he sai d s he r eal i z ed t ha t a f o r me r boyf r i end
h a d t a k e n a dva nt a ge o f h e r k i n d n e s s n o t s i mpl y a n d onl y be -
caus e he was a j e r k , b u t al so i n l ar ge p a r t b e c a u s e s he k e p t giv-
i ng mu c h mo r e t h a n s he r ecei ved i n t h e r e l a t i ons hi p.
As Ta mmy got mo r e i n t o u c h wi t h t h e ways s he h a d b e e n
soci al i zed s i nce c h i l d h o o d t o t ake on t h e r ol e of fami l y r e s c ue r
a n d mar t yr , s he b e c a me c l e a r e r a b o u t h o w a s a n a dul t s he h a d
c ont i nua l l y b a s e d h e r sel f - i mage on t hi s r ol e . Eve n mo r e sur -
p r i s i n g a n d h u mb l i n g wa s h e r di scover y t ha t s he s o me wh a t
e nj oye d t h e ps ychol ogi cal payoff. I t e n h a n c e d h e r e g o t o be t h e
fami l y savi or a n d t h e gi r l f r i end wh o t r i e d t o be " good" all t h e
t i me . Still, t h e pr i c e s he pa i d was t o o gr eat .
I n hi nds i ght , Ta mmy was a bl e t o di s c e r n t ha t s he h a d a t
l east passi vel y c o mp l i e d wi t h h e r own p r e d i c a me n t . T h e n s he
f aced t h e fact t ha t s he h a d felt us e d, a n d b e c a me a ngr y a t h e r
family, f r i ends , a n d pr evi ous boyf r i ends f or t h e d e ma n d s t hey
pl a c e d on her . Co mp l i c a t i n g ma t t e r s , however , was t h e gui l t s he
felt at t i mes : af t er al l , i t s e e me d t ha t h e r p r o b l e ms we r e i r r el e-
vant a n d mi n o r i n c o mp a r i s o n t o t h e p r o b l e ms of pover t y a n d
p o o r e d u c a t i o n t ha t be s e t mo s t i n h e r family. Even mo s t of h e r
boyf r i ends up t o t ha t p o i n t h a d n o t a c hi e ve d a s mu c h a s s he
ha d.
126 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
As h e r pr oc e s s of he a l i ng c o n t i n u e d , Ta mmy d e c i d e d t o r e-
de f i ne wh a t e xpe c t a t i ons s he s h o u l d real i st i cal l y have f or he r -
self. " I c a me t o t h e r eal i z at i on t ha t ma k i n g mi s t akes onl y ma d e
me h u ma n , n o t a t ot al di s gr ace. I' ve l e a r n e d t ha t n o t b e i n g per -
fect d o e s n ' t me a n t ha t I am t ot al l y i mpe r f e c t , ei t her . I t i s n o t a
bl ack or whi t e mat t er , b u t has ma n y s ha de s of gray. I k n o w I c a n
be okay even wh e n I ma k e mi s t akes . I c a n still val ue myself,
s t r e ngt hs , war t s, a n d al l , " s he sai d, t h e n c huc kl e d.
As h u mb l i n g as t h e " ba d stuff" s he l e a r n e d a b o u t her s el f
was, i t was equal l y upl i f t i ng t o h e r a n d s ur pr i s i ngt o r eal i ze
h e r r eal s t r e ngt hs , t h e " good stuff" s he l e a r n e d i n t h e pr oc e s s
of t her apy. For o n e t hi ng, a s s he l o o s e n e d t h e gr i p of pe r f e c -
t i oni s m, Ta mmy b e c a me less h a r s h a n d less st r i ct a b o u t j u d g i n g
hersel f. She e x p e r i e n c e d a c a t ha r t i c mo me n t wh e n , as ked dur -
i ng t h e r a p y t o pi c t ur e her s el f as a chi l d, s he c r i e d wh e n s he fel t
e mp a t h y t owa r d hersel f. She l e a r n e d t o give her s el f c r e di t f or
ha vi ng sur vi ved a di ffi cul t c h i l d h o o d a n d f or ha vi ng t hr i ved i n
s pi t e of it.
An even g r e a t e r b r e a k t h r o u g h c a me a s s he r eal i z ed t ha t
t h e u n h e a l t h y n e e d of pe r f e c t i oni s m h a d g o t t e n i n t h e way of
a d mi t t i n g h e r n e e d s f or af f ect i on a n d s u p p o r t f r om ot he r s .
" Maybe i t h a s n ' t s i mpl y b e e n a ma t t e r of my f r i ends a n d fami l y
n o t b e i n g wi l l i ng t o h e l p me . Pe r h a p s I d i d n ' t al l ow t h e m t o do
s o s i nce I s e e me d t o ha ve i t all t oget her , " s he sai d. So s he ma d e
a goal t o pr a c t i c e asser t i veness by as ki ng f or h e l p f r om o t h e r s
per i odi cal l y, a n d t o wor k on h e r difficulty wi t h r ecei vi ng s i nce
s he h a d b e c o me s o a c c u s t o me d t o gi vi ng. She was e l a t e d t o r e-
p o r t t ha t o n e day, wh e n s o me o n e t ol d h e r h e t h o u g h t s he was
b o t h s ma r t a n d pr et t y, s he was abl e t o r e s p o n d wi t h a gr a c i ous
t hank- you r a t h e r t h a n r eci t e r e a s ons t o di smi ss t h e c ompl i -
me n t .
Al t h o u g h s he f i r s t e n t e r e d t he r a py wh e n s he fel t s he h a d
no o t h e r c hoi c e " I was l ost , I was b r o k e n , " s he s a i d Ta mmy
f o u n d t he pr oc e s s q u i t e r e wa r di ng, even spi r i t ual l y r e ne wi ng.
"As I b e c a me c ons c i ous of my own l i mi t at i ons , I no l o n g e r h e l d
h i g h e xpe c t a t i ons f or me t o me e t i n ever y a r e a of life. No w I ' m
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 127
mo r e likely t o give my be s t i n t hos e t hi ngs t h a t a r e i mp o r t a n t t o
me , a n d l et o t h e r p e o p l e pul l t he i r own we i ght s o I wo n ' t feel
r e s pons i bl e f or t h e whol e wor l d, " s he sai d. " Wh e n I t hi nk a b o u t
it, h o w a r r o g a n t i t was of me t o t hi nk I h a d t o be i nvol ved i n
e ve r yt hi ng f or i t t o t u r n o u t r i ght . No w I' ve l e a r n e d t o sit i n t he
b a c k g r o u n d mo r e a n d n o t feel I ha ve t o t ake c a r e of e ve r yt hi ng
a n d ever ybody. It ' s ver y l i ber at i ng. In a ver y r eal s ens e, I feel I' ve
b e e n abl e t o gr adual l y r e s t or e my huma ni t y, a s o d d a s t h a t ma y
s ound. "
The Spirituality of Imperfection, by Er ne s t Kur t z a n d Kat her -
i ne Ke t c h a m, s peaks di r ect l y t o t h e j o u r n e y of t hos e l i ke Ta mmy
wh o a r e r e c ove r i ng f r om pe r f e c t i oni s m. Suc h i ndi vi dual s , i n
f aci ng t h e t r u t h of t he i r l i mi t at i ons , b e c o me mo r e spi r i t ual l y
awar ei f t hey a r e o p e n t o i t t h r o u g h t h e humi l i t y of c o mi n g
c l e a n a n d ge t t i ng r eal .
So me t i me s i t ' s h a r d t o di s t i ngui s h wh e t h e r i t i s c o u r a g e or
d e s p e r a t i o n ( t he u r g e n c y t ha t c o me s f r om hi t t i ng r oc k b o t t o m)
t ha t l eads s o me o n e t o e mb a r k on t h e a d v e n t u r e of ps yc hot he r -
apy. I am r e mi n d e d of s o me t h i n g sai d by t h e gr e a t e s t t e a c h e r I
k n o w of n e x t t o J e s us : J al al ad- Di n ar - Rumi , a t hi r t e e nt h- c e nt ur y
Mus l i m myst i c. Ru mi sai d: " Or g a n s evol ve i n r e s pons e t o neces -
sity. Th e r e f o r e , i nc r e a s e y o u r necessi t y. " So I bel i eve t h a t t h e ac-
c e p t a n c e of necessi t y i s an act of c o u r a g e itself. Th u s , e ve n
wh e n neces s i t yor f eel i ng d e s p e r a t e s e e ms t h e c o n s u mi n g
mot i vat i on, i t still t akes c o u r a g e t o e n t e r t h e r a p y be c a us e i t i s
t r ul y a s t ep i nt o t h e u n k n o wn . On e i s e x p o s i n g one s e l f t o t h e
t he r a pi s t a n d has no i de a wha t c ha l l e nge s o n e will r ecei ve.
Wh e n p e o p l e e n t e r t her apy, o p e n i n g t hems el ves t o c ha l l e nge ,
t hey d o n o t k n o w wha t t hey a r e g o i n g t o l e a r n a b o u t t h e m-
selves, b u t t hey a r e gener al l y c e r t a i n t ha t t hey a r e g o i n g t o di s-
cover s o me " ba d t hi ngs . " I n my e x p e r i e n c e wi t h pa t i e nt s , j u s t as
i t i s t r u e t ha t i n t h e c our s e of t h e r a p y t hey l e a r n u n a n t i c i p a t e d
" bad t hi ngs , " t hey al so vi rt ual l y always l e a r n u n a n t i c i p a t e d
" good t hi ngs " a b o u t t hems el ves .
On e t h i n g t ha t ne ve r ceases t o a ma z e me i s h o w rel at i vel y
few p e o p l e u n d e r s t a n d wh a t c o u r a g e is. Mos t p e o p l e t h i n k i t i s
128 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
t he a bs e nc e of fear. T h e a bs e nc e of f ear i s n o t c o u r a g e ; t h e ab-
s e nc e of f ear i s s o me ki nd of br a i n d a ma g e . Co u r a g e i s t h e ca-
paci t y t o go a h e a d i n spi t e of fear, or i n spi t e of pa i n. Wh e n you
do t hat , you will f i nd t ha t o v e r c o mi n g t h e f ear will n o t onl y
ma k e you s t r onge r b u t will be a bi g s t ep f or war d t owa r d ma t u-
rity.
Wh e n I wr ot e The Road Less Traveled, I ne ve r gave a def i ni -
t i on of mat ur i t y, b u t I di d de s c r i be i n t h e b o o k a n u mb e r of i m-
ma t u r e p e o p l e . I t s e e ms t o me t ha t wh a t mo s t c ha r a c t e r i z e s
i mma t u r e p e o p l e i s t ha t t hey sit a r o u n d c o mp l a i n i n g t ha t life
d o e s n ' t me e t t he i r d e ma n d s . On t h e o t h e r h a n d , wha t c ha r a c -
t er i zes t hos e r el at i ve few wh o a r e fully ma t u r e i s t ha t t he y r e-
ga r d i t as t he i r r es pons i bi l i t yeven as an o p p o r t u n i t y t o me e t
life' s d e ma n d s . I n d e e d , wh e n we r eal i ze t ha t e ve r yt hi ng t ha t
h a p p e n s t o us has b e e n d e s i g n e d t o t e a c h us wha t we n e e d t o
k n o w on o u r j o u r n e y of life, we be gi n t o s ee life f r om an en-
t i rel y di f f er ent per s pect i ve.
A u n i q u e a n d ma t u r e p e r s p e c t i v e i s def i ni t el y neces -
sary for f aci ng life' s ul t i ma t e a d v e n t u r e . Th e r e i s onl y o n e ad-
v e n t u r e I k n o w of g r e a t e r t h a n t h a t of e n t e r i n g s er i ous
ps yc hot he r a py: t h e f i n a l a d v e n t u r e o f d e a t h . No ma t t e r wha t
o u r bel i ef syst em, we do n o t k n o w f or cer t ai n wh e r e or h o w we
shal l f i nd our s el ves wh e n t h e a d v e n t u r e of d e a t h i s c o mp l e t e d .
Wh a t a g o i n g i nt o t h e u n k n o wn i t is!
Si nce d e a t h a n d dyi ng ma k e up t h e gr e a t e s t of all life' s ad-
ve nt ur e s , i t i s no a c c i de nt t ha t t hi s t i me i s n o t onl y o u r f i nal
o p p o r t u n i t y for l e a r n i n g b u t o u r gr eat es t o n e . As a ps yc hot he r -
api st , I ha ve f o u n d t h a t my mo s t ful fi l l i ng o p p o r t u n i t y has b e e n
wo r k i n g wi t h dyi ng pa t i e nt s . Thi s ma y s e e m pa r a doxi c a l unt i l i t
i s r eal i z ed t ha t t hos e wh o a r e cl ear l y dyi ng ma y be awar e t ha t
t hey do n o t have mu c h t i me left. I say "may" be c a us e t h e awar e-
ness i s a c hoi c e . As I have al r eady i ndi c a t e d, mo s t c h o o s e t o
d e n y t he i r dyi ng, a n d h e n c e d e n y t hems el ves t h e l e a r n i n g i n-
vol ved. But wh e n t hey c h o o s e t o a c c e pt t ha t t hey a r e d y i n g
t h a t t hey ha ve ver y l i t t l e t i me l ef t t hey ma y ma k e t h e mo s t
e xt r a or di na r y l eaps of gr owt h wi t hi n t he i r f i nal days or weeks
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 129
on e a r t h. We have al l h e a r d t al es n o t onl y of d e a t h b e d conf es-
si ons a n d conver s i ons , b u t al so of dr a ma t i c r e p e n t a n c e , for-
gi veness, a n d r e c onc i l i a t i on. We h e a r t he s e t al es be c a us e t hey
a r e t r ue . Dyi ng ma y be t h e t i me of o u r gr e a t e s t gl ory.
I n d e e d , t hi s s ubj ect i s so i mp o r t a n t t ha t I will r e t u r n t o i t i n
t h e n e x t c ha pt e r , " Pe r s ona l Li fe Choi ces . " Le t i t si mpl y be sai d
h e r e t ha t t h e c hoi c e t o di e wel l c a n be ma d e onl y by t hos e wh o
have ma d e t h e c hoi c e f or l e a r ni ng, wh o ha ve d e v e l o p e d t h e at-
t i t ude t ha t l e a r n i n g i s c e n t r a l e v e n as essent i al as s he l t e r t o
l i vi ng. Ch o o s i n g t o di e wel l i s an i n h e r e n t p a r t of c h o o s i n g t o
l e a r n h o w t o live wel l .
VALUES AND LEARNING CHOICES
Th r e e f act or s pl ay c e nt r a l r ol es i n o u r l e a r ni ng: a t t i t ude , t em-
p e r a me n t , a n d val ues. Al t h o u g h i nt e r r e l a t e d, i nsof ar a s t hey
c a n be s e pa r a t e d, e a c h i s a val uabl e a n d s e pa r a t e c o mp o n e n t i n
l e a r n i n g i n a n d of itself.
Be c a us e a t t i t ude i s o n e ' s a c q u i r e d di s pos i t i on or g e n e r a l
a p p r o a c h t o vi ewi ng t hi ngs , i t u n d o u b t e d l y affect s o n e ' s abi l i t y
t o l e a r n. An at hei s t ha s an " a t t i t ude " a b o u t r el i gi on t ha t will af-
fect hi s p e r c e p t i o n of t hi ngs . An al cohol i c ma n wh o i s s uper f i -
cially r el i gi ous ma y still have a negat i ve a t t i t ude t owa r d AA i n
g e n e r a l be c a us e t h e n o t i o n "t o b e c o me power l es s " i s a n a t h e ma
t o h i m.
To wh a t e x t e n t an a t t i t ude i s l e a r n e d or i n b o r n i s h a r d t o
d e t e r mi n e , b u t t h e r e i s r e a s on t o bel i eve t ha t mu c h of i t i s nur -
t u r e d by o u r e n v i r o n me n t . Ever ybody has a n " a t t i t ude " p r o b -
l e m i n t h o s e a r e a s wh e r e he d o e s n ' t t h i n k wel l or i s mos t l y
negat i ve. We t e n d t o l e a r n b e t t e r i n ar eas wh e r e we ha ve a pos -
itive a t t i t ude . For e x a mp l e , t he mo r e f r i ght e ne d you a r e i f you
feel y o u ' r e always ha vi ng t o d e f e n d or p r o t e c t your s el f t he less
likely you a r e t o be o p e n t o l e a r n i n g a b o u t a pa r t i c ul a r s ubj ect
or e x p e r i e n c e . Th u s , p a r t of l e a r n i n g i s b e c o mi n g c ons c i ous of
o u r a t t i t ude s a n d cal l i ng t h e m i nt o que s t i on. Of c our s e , we
130 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
c a n' t do t hi s all t h e t i me . But j u s t as a p a t i e n t will set as i de t i me
f or t her apy, we c a n set as i de t i me t o q u e s t i o n a n d t hi nk a b o u t
o u r own a t t i t ude s wi t h i mp u n i t y i n an a t mo s p h e r e of safety.
T e mp e r a me n t r ef er s t o t h e bi ol ogi cal p a r t of o u r pe r s ona l -
ity. It ' s i n o u r ge ne s . Tha t ' s why, e ve n wh e n c h i l d r e n a r e ver y
y o u n g , p a r e n t s a n d o t h e r s wh o s p e n d a gr e a t de a l of t i me wi t h
t h e m c a n ma k e fairly a c c ur a t e as s es s ment s a n d pr e di c t i ons
a b o u t h o w a n i ndi vi dual chi l d ma y r e s p o n d t o cer t ai n si t ua-
t i ons . Wh e t h e r t e mp e r a me n t s a r e i r r et r i evabl y es t abl i s hed by a
c e r t a i n age or set i n s t one at bi r t h i s a ma t t e r of d e b a t e .
Val ues a r e t hos e qual i t i es we d e e m i mp o r t a n t . An d t hos e
t ha t we d e e m mo r e i mp o r t a n t t h a n o t h e r s affect t h e c hoi c e s we
ma k e a n d t h e o p t i o n s we per cei ve i n life. Si nce we c a n n o t l e a r n
e ve r yt hi ng t h e r e i s t o know, we a r e f aced wi t h t h e o n g o i n g
p r o b l e m of ma k i n g c hoi c e s ba s e d pr i mar i l y on wh a t we val ue
t h e mos t . Cons e que nt l y, t h r o u g h o u t life we mu s t ma k e c hoi c e s
a b o u t wha t we a r e g o i n g t o l e a r ni f we ha ve ma d e t h e deci s i on
t o l e a r n at all. As t h e Sufi Mus l i m I dr i es Sh a h sai d ( a n d I pa r a -
p h r a s e h i m) , "It i s n o t e n o u g h t o st udy. Fi r st o n e mu s t de t e r -
mi n e wha t t o s t udy a n d wh a t n o t t o st udy. Wh e n t o s t udy a n d
wh e n n o t t o st udy. An d wh o t o s t udy wi t h a n d wh o n o t t o s t udy
unde r . "
Thi s appl i es n o t onl y t o f ocus ed, a c a d e mi c l e a r n i n g b u t
al so t o life e x p e r i e n c e s a n d t o c hoi c e s a b o u t wh a t t o gi ve o u r
t i me a n d a t t e n t i o n t o. I n par t , I dr i es Sha h was r e f e r r i ng t o a
ma t t e r of pr i or i t i es , a n d n o wh e r e do I s p e n d mo r e of my pr a ye r
t i me t h a n t r yi ng t o s or t o u t my pr i or i t i es . So me of t hos e pr i or i -
t i es ha ve t o do wi t h wh a t t o s t udy a n d wh a t n o t t o st udy. But
pr oba bl y my mo s t i mp o r t a n t c hoi c e has b e e n t ha t of di s c e r ni ng
my val ues. For i ns t a nc e , t h e val ue of i nt egr i t y ha s c o me t o be
ver y h i g h on my list of pr i or i t i es . F r o m The Road Less Traveled, i t
c a n be d i s c e r n e d t h a t a n o t h e r t wo of my p r i ma r y val ues a r e
de di c a t i on t o r eal i t y or t r u t h a n d t h e a c c e p t a n c e of a p p r o p r i a t e
r esponsi bi l i t y. Cr i t i cal t o t hi s i ssue of a c c e pt i ng r es pons i bi l i t y
has b e e n t h e deci s i on t o a c c e pt t h e pa i n i nvol ved i n l e a r ni ng.
T h e de di c a t i on t o t r u t h i s o n e p a r t of my b e i n g a sci ent i st .
Wh a t we cal l t h e sci ent i fi c me t h o d i s n o t h i n g mo r e t h a n a ser i es
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 131
of c onve nt i ons a n d p r o c e d u r e s t ha t we have a d o p t e d over t h e
c e nt ur i e s i n o r d e r t o c o mb a t o u r ver y h u ma n t e n d e n c y t o wa nt
t o decei ve our s el ves . We pr a c t i c e t hi s me t h o d o u t of a dedi ca-
t i on t o s o me t h i n g h i g h e r t h a n o u r i mme d i a t e i nt el l ect ual or
e mo t i o n a l c omf or t : namel y, t h e t r ut h. Sci ence, t he r e f or e , i s an
activity s u b mi t t e d t o a h i g h e r p o we r ( except , of c our s e , i n t hos e
i ns t ances wh e n t h e egos of sci ent i st s ge t i n t h e way of t he i r
s ear ch f or t r u t h ) . Si nce I bel i eve Go d i s t h e e p i t o me of o u r
h i g h e r p o we r Go d i s l i ght , Go d i s l ove, Go d i s t r ut ha ny-
t hi ng t ha t seeks t he s e val ues i s hol y. Th u s , whi l e i t c a n n o t an-
swer all que s t i ons , s ci ence, i n its p r o p e r pl ace, i s a ver y hol y
activity.
Hu n t e r Lewi s' s b o o k A Question of Values d e mo n s t r a t e s t ha t
p e o p l e ha ve qui t e di f f er ent pr i ma r y val ues u p o n whi c h t hey
bas e t he i r deci s i ons a n d t h r o u g h whi c h t hey i n t e r p r e t t h e
wor l d. He lists t hos e val ues as e x p e r i e n c e , s ci ence, r e a s on, au-
t hor i t y, a n d i nt ui t i on. Lewi s i s u n c l e a r a b o u t wh e n we ma k e o u r
c hoi c e of a p r i ma r y val ue. Pe r h a p s i t i s n o t a c hoi c e at all b u t i s
s o me t h i n g ge ne t i c . I n any case, i f i t i s a c hoi c e , i t s e e ms t o be
ma d e b o t h unc ons c i ous l y a n d passively, d u r i n g c h i l d h o o d . Nev-
er t hel es s , we have i t wi t hi n o u r p o we r d u r i n g a d u l t h o o d t o c on-
t i nual l y r eassess o u r val ues a n d pr i or i t i es .
As an empi r i ci s t , I pr i mar i l y val ue e x p e r i e n c e as t h e bes t
r o u t e t o k n o wl e d g e a n d u n d e r s t a n d i n g . But Lewi s goe s on t o
t al k a b o u t " hybr i d val ue syst ems, " a n d h e r e , t o me , i s t h e i m-
p o r t a n c e of hi s b o o k . I f we c a n b e c o me awar e of o u r p r i ma r y
val ues, t h e n , i n a d u l t h o o d , we c a n del i ber at el y go a b o u t nur -
t ur i ng o t h e r val ues. For i ns t a nc e , t h e " aut hor i t y of t h e Scr i p-
t ur es " was n o t a gr e a t val ue f or me d u r i n g my c h i l d h o o d . Eve n
t oday, I do n o t c ons i de r t h e Sc r i pt ur e s t o be " per f ect " i n t he i r
aut hor i t y, b u t I de l i ght i n s t udyi ng t h e m, l e a r n i n g t h e m, a n d
p u t t i n g t h e m t o us e. I t i s al so i n a d u l t h o o d t h a t I have del i ber -
at el y c h o s e n t o l e a r n f r om Lily h e r i nt ui t i ve skills, whi c h I di d
n o t possess wh e n I was younge r . J u s t as I e xt ol l e d us i ng b o t h t h e
r i ght br a i n a n d t h e left br a i n, s i nce t h e r e i s mo r e t h a n o n e way
t hat we c a n l e a r n, so I ext ol l us i ng mul t i pl e val ues by de ve l op-
i ng as c o mp l e x a hybr i d val ue syst em as pos s i bl e.
132 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
So we a r e ba c k t o t h e s ubj ect of i nt egr i t y a n d whol e ne s s .
Unl i ke c hi l dr e n, adul t s c a n pr a c t i c e i nt egr i t y by c ons c i ous
c hoi c e . So me p e o p l e f i nd t he y' r e g o o d a t l e a r n i n g i nf or ma t i on
or c o n t e n t skills ( whi ch t e nds t o be a ma s c ul i ne i nc l i na t i on)
a n d o t h e r s feel mo r e a d e p t a t r el at i onal skills ( whi ch t e n d s t o
be a f e mi n i n e i nc l i na t i on) . Wh e n we ' r e g o o d a t o n e t h i n g a n d
n o t s o g o o d at a not he r , we t e n d t o avoi d t h e o n e t ha t i s di ffi cul t ,
or t o ne gl e c t as pect s of our s el ves t h a t we f i nd u n c o mf o r t a b l e
be c a us e t hey a r e unf a mi l i a r o r s e e m t h r e a t e n i n g . Ma ny me n
t e n d t o r u n f r om t he i r f e mi ni ne si de, a n d ma n y wo me n t e n d t o
avoi d exer ci s i ng t he i r ma s c ul i ne qual i t i es .
I n l e a r n i n g whol e ne s s , we mu s t be o p e n t o andr ogyny, t o
e n c o mp a s s i n g b o t h f e mi ni ne a n d ma s c ul i ne c o mp o n e n t s . We
a r e cal l ed t o be whol e p e o p l e . T h e wor ds " heal t h, " " whol enes s , "
a n d " hol i nes s " all have t h e s a me r oot . I t i s b o t h o u r ps ychol ogi -
cal a n d o u r s pi r i t ual t as kpar t i cul ar l y d u r i n g t h e s e c o n d hal f
of o u r l i f et o wor k t owa r d t h e ful l est e xpr e s s i on of o u r p o t e n -
tial a s h u ma n be i ngs , t o b e c o me t h e bes t t ha t we c a n b e . Be-
c o mi n g whol e i nvol ves us i ng o u r l a t e nt t al ent s , whi c h c a n be
l e a r n e d or de ve l ope d, b u t usual l y onl y wi t h a gr e a t de a l of pr a c -
t i ce a n d of t en onl y wi t h t h e ma t ur i t y r e q u i r e d f or t h e humi l i t y
t o wor k on o u r weak si des.
I have t ol d t h e st or y of my l e a r n i n g e x p e r i e n c e as a t e nni s
pl ayer. I h a d b e c o me qui t e a d e c e n t t e nni s pl ayer by ear l y a do-
l es cence. I h a d a r eas onabl y g o o d ser ve, a n d whi l e my b a c k h a n d
was ver y weak, I h a d an e xt r a or di na r i l y power f ul f o r e h a n d .
Wh a t I di d, t h e n , was de ve l op a p a t t e r n of " r u n n i n g a r o u n d "
my b a c k h a n d . I wo u l d s t a nd t o t h e left of t h e c o u r t a n d t ake
ever y pos s i bl e s hot I c o u l d wi t h my f o r e h a n d . I n t hi s f as hi on I
was a bl e t o wi pe 95 p e r c e n t of my o p p o n e n t s off t h e c our t . T h e
onl y p r o b l e m was t h e o t h e r 5 p e r c e n t . Th e y wo u l d i mme di a t e l y
r eal i ze my we a kne s s a n d hi t t o my b a c k h a n d , pul l i ng me far-
t he r a n d f a r t he r t o t h e left, t h e n hi t cr os s - cour t o u t of r e a c h of
my f o r e h a n d a n d wi pe me off t h e c our t . At t h e a ge of t hi rt y-t wo,
I r eal i z ed t ha t i f I was ever g o i n g t o fulfill my pot e nt i a l as a t en-
ni s pl a ye r t o be t h e bes t t ha t I c oul d be i n t h e g a me I was go-
i ng t o have t o wor k on my b a c k h a n d . I t was a h u mb l i n g bus i nes s .
THE ROAD LESS TRAWLED AND BEYOND 133
I t me a n t t ha t I h a d t o do wha t h a d b e c o me pr of oundl y u n n a t -
ur al : s t a nd t o t h e r i ght of t h e c e n t e r of t h e bas el i ne a n d t ake
ever y pos s i bl e s hot I c o u l d on my b a c k h a n d . I t me a n t l os i ng r e-
pe a t e dl y t o i nf er i or pl ayer s. An d i t me a n t t ha t onl ooke r s wh o
h a d c o me d o wn t o t h e c our t s t o see me pl ay t e nni s wa t c h e d me
hi t bal l s t wo c our t s down, over t h e f ence, or dr i bbl e t h e m i nt o
t h e ne t . But wi t hi n t h r e e mo n t h s I h a d a d e c e n t b a c k h a n d
for t h e f i r st t i me i n my life a n d , wi t h a whol e t e nni s g a me , I be -
c a me t h e be s t pl ayer i n t h e l i t t l e i s l and c o mmu n i t y wh e r e I t h e n
l i ved. At whi c h poi nt , I t ook up golf. Th a t was r eal l y h u mb l i n g .
For me , gol f i s s o humi l i a t i ng ( or h u mb l i n g ) t ha t I c a n nei -
t h e r pl ay i t n o r enj oy i t unl es s I r e g a r d i t as a l e a r n i n g o p p o r t u -
nity. I have, i n fact, l e a r n e d an e x t r a o r d i n a r y a mo u n t a b o u t
myself, s uc h as t h e out r a ge ous ne s s of my own pe r f e c t i oni s m
a n d t h e d e p t h s of sel f - hat r ed I i n d u l g e i n wh e n I fail t o be per -
fect . T h r o u g h golf, I am slowly he a l i ng mysel f of my pe r f e c t i on-
i sm a n d my ma n y o t h e r i mpe r f e c t i ons . An d I d o n ' t t hi nk t h e r e
c a n b e any h e a l t h i e r o r mo r e i mp o r t a n t wa y t o b e c o me
whol e p e r s o n s t h a n wo r k i n g o n o u r weak si des.
LEARNING FROM ROLE MODELS
Ou r r e l a t i ons wi t h o t h e r s a n d l e a r n i n g f r om t h e mc a n b e
o n e of life' s gifts. As a bl essi ng, r ol e mo d e l s h e l p p r e v e n t us
f r om ha vi ng t o l e a r n e ve r yt hi ng f r om s cr at ch, s o t o s peak, s i nce
i f we a r e g o o d l i s t ener s a n d obs er ver s we c a n avoi d s o me of t h e
pi t fal l s s o me o n e el se has f o u n d on t h e p a t h we a r e h e a d i n g .
But we mu s t c h o o s e wisely wh o m we e mu l a t e , be c a us e r ol e
mo d e l s ma y be d e t r i me n t a l a t t i mes . I n c h i l d h o o d , o n e of t h e
r out e s f or l e a r ni ng, for b e t t e r or f or wor s e, i s t h r o u g h o u r par -
ent s a s p r i ma r y r ol e mo d e l s . I n a d u l t h o o d , we have t h e o p p o r -
t uni t y t o ma k e a de l i be r a t e c hoi c e of r ol e mo d e l s ; we c a n n o t
onl y d e c i d e on g o o d r ol e mo d e l s b u t e ve n us e negat i ve r ol e
mo d e l s appr opr i at el y, a s e x a mp l e s of wh a t n o t t o d o .
A bi g p a r t of my l e a r n i n g c a me a b o u t t h r o u g h a negat i ve
r ol e mo d e l I h a d i n my ear l y pr of es s i onal year s. I' l l cal l h i m Dr.
134 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
Bumbl e s . Dr. Bu mb l e s was a s uper vi s i ng psychi at r i st a n d a ni ce
e n o u g h ma n . But all hi s ps ychi at r i c i ns t i nct s we r e wr o n g . I was
i n t r a i ni ng a t t h e t i me , a n d t h e f i r s t c o u p l e of mo n t h s of my r es-
i de nc y we r e t er r i bl y c onf us i ng unt i l I r eal i z ed t ha t Dr. Bu mb l e s
was usual l y wr o n g . As s oon as I di s cover ed t hat , he b e c a me ver y
usef ul t o me as a negat i ve r ol e mo d e l a n e x a mp l e of wh a t n o t
t o d o .
Usual l y, I c o u l d t el l wha t was t h e r i ght t h i n g t o do by c om-
p a r i n g my pr of es s i onal j u d g me n t s t o Dr. Bumbl e s ' s t hi nki ng. I f
I we n t t o h i m a n d sai d, "Wel l , t hi s ma n i s d i a g n o s e d as schi zo-
p h r e n i c a n d h e ki nd o f l ooks s c hi z ophr e ni c , b u t h e d o e s n ' t
qui t e act l i ke a s c hi z ophr e ni c . . . " a n d Dr. Bu mb l e s sai d, " Oh ,
def i ni t el ya cl assi c case of s c hi z ophr e ni a , " I kne w I was r i ght t o
d o u b t t h e di agnos i s . Or i f I sai d, "Thi s p a t i e n t d o e s n ' t l ook
s c hi z ophr e ni c , b u t I wo n d e r i f he ma y be , be c a us e of h o w he
act s, " a n d Dr. Bu mb l e s r e s p o n d e d , " Oh , no que s t i on, he i s n o t
s c hi z ophr e ni c , " I kne w t h e n I was r i ght t o s us pe c t s c hi z ophr e -
ni a.
So i n l e a r n i n g f r om ot he r s , o n e mu s t keenl y per cei ve t h e
n u a n c e s t ha t al l ow us t o di s t i ngui s h be t we e n g o o d a n d b a d
t e a c he r s . Becaus e t hey fail t o ma k e s uc h di s t i nct i ons , ma n y p e o -
pl e de ve l op n e u r o s e s wh e n t hey have h a d b a d r ol e mo d e l s b u t
feel t hey mu s t be ha ve t h e s a me way as t he i r p a r e n t s or o t h e r i n-
f l uent i al adul t s di d. F r o m s o me el der l y pa t i e nt s , f or e x a mp l e , I
have l e a r n e d a gr e a t de a l a b o u t wha t I d o n ' t wa n t f or myself. To
me , o n e of t h e s a dde s t si ght s i n t h e wor l d i s ol d p e o p l e still try-
i ng t o live life as us ual a n d c ont r ol t he i r affairs wh e n t he y' r e no
l o n g e r c o mp e t e n t t o do so. Usual l y t he s e p e o p l e ha ve i n no way
p r e p a r e d f or s er i ous a gi ng a n d d e a t h . Th e y have b e c o me st uck.
Ma ny will c o n t i n u e t o t ry t o ma i n t a i n a h o u s e wi t hout mu c h
he l p. Th e y will have p a p e r wo r k s t r ewn all over t h e pl a c e , a n d
t he i r affairs Will be i n t ot al di s or der .
Al mos t par adoxi cal l y, i t was t he s e pa t i e nt s , wh o c o u l d n o t
give up c ont r ol , wh o m I of t en h a d t o s e n d i nt o n u r s i n g h o me s
agai ns t t he i r will. I t was a t er r i bl y pai nf ul t h i n g t o ha ve t o d o .
Ha d t hes e pa t i e nt s b e e n wi l l i ng t o sit ba c k a n d l e a r n t o l et ot h-
er s do f or t h e m, t hey c o u l d have enj oyed t he i r l ast year s at
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 1 3 5
h o me . But i t was pr eci s el y be c a us e t hey r ef us ed t o l e a r n h o w t o
give up any c ont r ol t ha t t he i r lives b e c a me s uc h s ha mbl e s . I a n d
t he i r f ami l i es h a d t o wr est c ont r ol f r om t h e m a n d pl a c e t h e m i n
i ns t i t ut i onal s et t i ngs wh e r e t hey wo u l d be t a ke n c a r e of wh e t h e r
t hey l i ked i t or not .
I t i s f r om t he s e p o o r soul s, as negat i ve r ol e mode l s , t ha t I
have l e a r n e d t o pr ay al mos t dai l y t ha t wh e n my t i me c o me s I will
be b e t t e r p r e p a r e d a n d a bl e t o gi ve up wha t e ve r c ont r ol I n e e d
t o. I n fact , I ha ve a l r e a dy b e g u n t o l e a r n t o do so. I onl y wor r y
t ha t t hi s l e a r n i n g will n o t c o n t i n u e .
GROUP LEARNI NG
Co n t i n u i n g t o l e a r n i s a ma t t e r of gr e a t i mp o r t a n c e n o t onl y f or
i ndi vi dual s b u t al so f or gr oups . I have s p o k e n of t h e " e mpt i -
nes s " i nvol ved i n g r o u p l e a r ni ng, a n d t h e d e a t h t h r o e s t ha t e n-
t i r e g r o u p s will go t h r o u g h i n t h e pr oc e s s of " unl e a r ni ng. " I t i s
a p h e n o me n o n I have wi t nes s ed ma n y t i mes . For t h e pas t d o z e n
year s, t h e gr e a t e s t a d v e n t u r e of my pr of es s i onal l i f e a nd l ear n-
i n g h a s c o me f r om wo r k i n g wi t h o t h e r s i n t h e Fo u n d a t i o n f or
Co mmu n i t y E n c o u r a g e me n t ( FCE) . I t i s t h e mi s s i on of FCE t o
t e a c h t h e pr i nc i pl e s of c ommuni t y, by whi c h we me a n t h e pr i n-
ci pl es of he a l t hy c o mmu n i c a t i o n wi t hi n a n d b e t we e n g r o u p s .
FCE t eaches gr oups h o w t o be he a l t hy a n d " whol e" even "holy."
Wh e n g r o u p s ar e. heal t hy, t he i r i ndi vi dual me mb e r s a r e
i n a n e n v i r o n me n t wh e r e t hey c a n l e a r n mo r e effect i vel y a n d
ef f i ci ent l yabout t hems el ves a n d o t h e r p e o p l e t h a n i n any
o t h e r pl a c e . T h e g r o u p i t sel f al so l ear ns . Al t h o u g h i t t akes a
gr e a t de a l of wor k, i n c l u d i n g t h e wor k of u n l e a r n i n g , a g r o u p
can de ve l op a c ons c i ous ne s s of its own whi c h i s wi ser a n d
gr e a t e r t h a n t h e s u m of its i ndi vi dual me mb e r s . Suc h g r o u p s
can b e c o me e xt r a or di na r i l y effect i ve de c i s i on- ma ki ng bodi e s .
Be c a us e he a l t hy g r o u p s c a n be s o e xt r a or di na r i l y p r o d u c -
tive i n a ddr e s s i ng e xt r e me l y c o mp l e x i ssues, FCE i s wo r k i n g
mo r e a n d mo r e i n bus i nes s es a n d o t h e r or ga ni z a t i ons . We ha ve
l e a r n e d t o bui l d t e mp o r a r y c o mmu n i t i e s i n s uc h or ga ni z a t i ons
136 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
for t h e p u r p o s e of col l abor at i ve deci s i on ma k i n g . I n d e e d , we
have l e a r n e d t o do t hi s ver y wel l . Wh a t we a r e s t r uggl i ng wi t h
n o w i s l e a r n i n g h o w t o h e l p t he s e or ga ni z a t i ons de ve l op t h e ca-
paci t y t o ma i n t a i n t h e i ngr e di e nt s of c o mmu n i t y on t he i r own
after FCE' s i n t e r v e n t i o n t o be wha t we call a s us t ai nabl e c om-
muni t y, s o t ha t s uc h deci s i on ma k i n g a n d he a l t hy g r o u p f unc-
t i oni ng c a n a n d will c o n t i n u e t o o c c u r r out i nel y.
Ou r wor k a t FCE has dovet ai l ed wi t h t ha t of Pe t e r Se n g e a t
t h e Or ga ni z a t i ona l Le a r n i n g Ce n t e r of t h e Mas s achus et t s Inst i -
t ut e of Technol ogy. In hi s book, The Fifth Discipline, Se nge
c o i n e d t h e t e r m " l e a r ni ng or ga ni z a t i on, " whi c h i s s ynonymous
wi t h wha t we at FCE call s us t ai nabl e c ommuni t y. A l e a r n i n g or -
ga ni z a t i on mu s t be a c ommuni t y. A s us t ai nabl e c o mmu n i t y will
be a l e a r n i n g or ga ni z a t i on. T h e key i ssue, however , i s t hi s mat -
t er of c o n t i n u i n g l e a r ni ng. I t i s compar at i vel y easy t o h e l p or-
ga ni z a t i ons l e a r n t empor ar i l y, wh e n t hey a r e f aci ng s o me ki nd
of cri si s. Wh a t i s n o t s o easy i s t o t e a c h t h e m h o w t o l e a r n c on-
t i nual l y. We bel i eve t ha t g r o u p s c a n be gi n t o i nt e gr a t e a n e w
per s pect i ve a b o u t l e a r n i n g wh e n i t i s s e e n as an o p p o r t u n i t y f or
i ndi vi dual a n d col l ect i ve gr owt h, n o t s i mpl y as a b u r d e n t o be
t ol e r a t e d s uc h as t h e e qui va l e nt of e nr ol l i ng i n ma n d a t o r y
cl asses o n c e a year. We have g a i n e d gl i mps es of h o w t o t e a c h
t hi s, b u t onl y gl i mps es ; t h e f i el d i s a t r u e f r ont i er .
Th e r e i s gr e a t r e a s o n t o bel i eve t ha t t h e ma t t e r of g r o u p
h e a l t h i s even mo r e si gni f i cant t h a n t ha t of i ndi vi dual he a l t h.
J u s t a s i ndi vi dual s mu s t c o n t i n u e t o l e a r n i n o r d e r t o survi ve
wel l , s o mu s t o u r or ga ni z a t i ons a n d i ns t i t ut i ons . T h e survi val of
o u r ci vi l i zat i on ma y wel l d e p e n d u p o n wh e t h e r o u r i ns t i t ut i ons
c a n evol ve i nt o s us t ai nabl e c o mmu n i t i e s a n d h e n c e b e c o me
o n g o i n g l e a r n i n g or ga ni z a t i ons .
P A R T I I
Wrestling with the
Complexity of
Everyday Life
PART OF THE COMPLEXITY OF LIFE is t ha t at o n e a n d t h e s a me t i me
we a r e i ndi vi dual s , me mb e r s of fami l y a n d wor k or ga ni z a t i ons ,
a n d me mb e r s of soci et y. I n d e e d , i t i s a l mos t ar bi t r ar y t o sepa-
r at e t he s e cat egor i es . But i t i s s o me t i me s neces s ar y t o ma k e
s uc h ar bi t r ar y di s t i nct i ons i n o r d e r t o t al k a b o u t a nyt hi ng i n de -
tail a n d d e p t h . Th e r e f o r e , l et me f ocus first u p o n wha t I bel i eve
t o be t h e mo s t cri t i cal of t h e ma n y c hoi c e s t ha t we ma k e as i n-
di vi dual s i n o u r he a r t s a n d mi n d s .
As always, c ons c i ous ne s s p r e c e d e s c hoi c e ; wi t hout it, t h e r e
i s no c hoi c e . Th u s , t h e si ngl e mo s t i mp o r t a n t p e r s o n a l c hoi c e
t ha t we c a n ma k e i n o u r lives i s t h e c hoi c e f or ever - i ncr eas i ng
cons ci ous nes s . Cons c i ous ne s s , however , d o e s n o t ma k e choi ces
easy. To t h e cont r ar y, i t mul t i pl i es t h e opt i ons .
To gi ve an e x a mp l e of t h e c ompl e xi t y of choi ces , c ons i de r
h o w we mi g h t de a l wi t h o u r anger . I n t h e mi d b r a i n , t h e r e a r e
col l ect i ons of ne r ve cel l s or c e nt e r s t ha t n o t onl y gove r n b u t ac-
t ual l y p r o d u c e o u r power f ul e mo t i o n s . O n e of t he s e i s a n a n g e r
cent er . In Further Along the Road Less Traveled, I wr ot e t ha t t h e
a n g e r c e n t e r i n h u ma n s wor ks i n exact l y t h e s a me way as i t d o e s
i n o t h e r c r e a t ur e s . I t i s basi cal l y a t er r i t or i al me c h a n i s m, f i r i ng
off wh e n any o t h e r c r e a t u r e i mp i n g e s u p o n o u r t er r i t or y. We
ar e no di f f er ent f r om a d o g f i ght i ng a n o t h e r d o g t h a t wa n d e r s
i nt o its t er r i t or y, e xc e pt t h a t f or h u ma n be i ngs def i ni t i ons of
t e r r i t or yor b o u n d a r i e s a r e s o c o mp l e x a n d mul t i f a c e t e d.
No t onl y do we have a ge ogr a phi c a l t er r i t or y a n d b e c o me a ngr y
CHAP TER 4
Personal Life Choices
140 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
wh e n s o me o n e c o me s uni nvi t e d o n t o o u r p r o p e r t y a n d st ar t s
pi c ki ng o u r f l ower s , b u t we al so have a ps ychol ogi cal t er r i t or y,
a n d we b e c o me a ngr y wh e n e v e r a n y o n e cr i t i ci zes us . We al so
have a t heol ogi cal or an i deol ogi cal t er r i t or y, a n d we t e n d t o be -
c o me a ngr y wh e n e v e r a n y o n e cast s a s pe r s i ons on o u r bel i ef sys-
t ems , even wh e n t he cr i t i c i s a s t r a nge r t o us a n d s pe a ki ng i nt o
a mi c r o p h o n e t h o u s a n d s of mi l es away.
Si nce o u r a n g e r c e n t e r i s f i r i ng mu c h of t h e t i me, a n d of-
t e n ver y i n a p p r o p r i a t e l y s o me t i me s on t h e basi s of pe r c e i ve d,
r a t h e r t h a n act ual , i nf r i nge me nt s we n e e d t o be f l e xi bl e i n
de a l i ng wi t h s i t uat i ons t ha t easily pr ovoke o u r wr a t h. We mu s t
l e a r n a whol e c o mp l e x set of ways of de a l i ng wi t h anger . Some -
t i me s we n e e d t o t hi nk, "My a n g e r i s silly a n d i mma t u r e . It ' s my
faul t . " Or s o me t i me s we s h o u l d c o n c l u d e , "Thi s p e r s o n di d i m-
p i n g e u p o n my t er r i t or y, b u t i t was a n a c c i de nt a n d t he r e ' s no
r e a s o n t o get a ngr y a b o u t it." Or , "Well, he di d vi ol at e my t er r i -
t or y a l i t t l e bi t , b u t i t ' s no bi g de a l . It ' s n o t wor t h bl owi ng up
a bout . " But ever y o n c e i n a whi l e, af t er we t hi nk a b o u t i t f or a
c o u p l e of days, we ma y di s c e r n t ha t s o me o n e r eal l y di d seri -
ousl y vi ol at e o u r t er r i t or y. T h e n i t ma y be neces s ar y t o go t o
t ha t p e r s o n a n d say, "Li st en, I' ve got a r eal b o n e t o pi ck wi t h
you. " An d s o me t i me s i t mi g h t e ve n be neces s ar y t o ge t a ngr y
i mme di a t e l y a n d bl as t t h a t p e r s o n r i ght o n t h e s pot .
So t h e r e a r e at l east f i ve di f f er ent ways t o r e s p o n d wh e n
we ' r e angr y. An d n o t onl y do we n e e d t o k n o w t h e m, we al so
have t o l e a r n whi c h r e s p o n s e i s a p p r o p r i a t e i n any gi ven si t ua-
t i on. Thi s r e qui r e s e x t r a o r d i n a r y c ons c i ous ne s s of wha t i s g o i n g
on b o t h i ns i de a n d out s i de of our sel ves. I t i s no wo n d e r t ha t
ver y few p e o p l e l e a r n h o w t o de a l wel l wi t h t he i r a n g e r be f or e
t hey a r e i nt o t he i r t hi r t i es or f or t i es, a n d ma n y ne ve r l e a r n t o
do s o const r uct i vel y.
I n fact, i t i s t h e abi l i t y t o l e a r n h o w t o de a l wi t h all t h e
p r o b l e ms a n d c ha l l e nge s of life i n a cons t r uct i ve ma n n e r t ha t
def i nes ps ychos pi r i t ual pr ogr e s s . Conver sel y, t ha t whi c h r ef uses
pr ogr e s s i s i n oppos i t i on t o o u r gr owt h a n d ul t i mat el y self-
des t r uct i ve.
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 141
THE PATH OF SMART SELFISHNESS VERSUS
THE PATH OF STUPI D SELFISHNESS
To grow, we mu s t l e a r n t o di s c e r n b e t we e n t ha t whi c h i s self-
des t r uct i ve a n d t ha t whi c h i s sel f - const r uct i ve. Wh e n I was i n
pr a c t i c e , I woul d no l o n g e r al l ow any of my pa t i e nt s t o us e t h e
wo r d "unsel f i sh" af t er a b o u t f i ve sessi ons. I wo u l d tell t h e m t ha t
I was a t ot al l y selfish h u ma n b e i n g wh o h a d ne ve r d o n e any-
t h i n g f or a n y o n e or a n y t h i n g el se. Wh e n I wa t e r e d my fl owers,
I di d n o t say t o t h e m, " Oh , l ook, fl owers, wh a t I ' m d o i n g f or
you. You o u g h t t o be gr at ef ul t o me . " I was d o i n g i t be c a us e I
l i ked pr e t t y fl owers. Si mi l arl y, wh e n I e x t e n d e d mysel f f or o n e
of my c h i l d r e n i t was be c a us e I l i ked t o ha ve an i ma g e of mysel f
i n my mi n d as a r e a s ona bl y d e c e n t f a t he r a n d a r e a s ona bl y h o n -
est ma n . I n o r d e r t o ma i n t a i n t hos e t wo i ma ge s si de by si de wi t h
any i nt egr i t y, ever y s o of t en I h a d t o e x t e n d mysel f b e y o n d wha t
I mi g h t nor ma l l y feel l i ke d o i n g . Besi des, I al so l i ke pr e t t y chi l -
d r e n .
T h e t r u t h i s t ha t we r ar el y do a n y t h i n g wi t hout s o me gai n
or be ne f i t t o our sel ves, howe ve r smal l or s ubt l e. Ma k i n g a do-
n a t i o n t o char i t y he l ps me feel g o o d . S o me o n e wh o cl ai ms t o
be "sacr i f i ci ng" a wel l - payi ng j o b r i ght o u t of u n d e r g r a d u a t e
s chool i n o r d e r t o go on t o l aw s c hool s o s he c a n " be t t e r ser ve
soci et y" i s al so b e t t e r s er vi ng hersel f. A wo ma n wh o "sacri fi ces"
by st ayi ng a t h o me t o r ai se h e r c h i l d r e n r a t h e r t h a n g o i n g o u t
t o wor k ma y do s o be c a us e s he "bel i eves i n family, " b u t s he al so
per s onal l y benef i t s f r om t hi s deci s i on. We c a n l ook a t mo n k s
a n d n u n s a n d t hi nk, " God, h o w unsel f i sh t hey a r e . Lo o k a t all
t hat t hey have sacr i f i ced: sex, fami l y life, pe r s ona l p r o p e r t y
owne r s hi p, a n d , i n s o me ways, even a u t o n o my over t he i r own
lives. " But t hey a r e i n i t f or t h e s a me selfish r e a s o n as a n y o n e
el se. Th e y ha ve d e c i d e d t ha t f or t h e m t ha t i s t h e be s t p a t h t o-
war d j oy.
So sel f i shness i s n' t always a s i mpl e mat t er . Wh a t I wo u l d do
was ask of my pa t i e nt s t ha t t hey di s t i ngui s h b e t we e n t h e p a t h of
s mar t sel f i shness a n d t he p a t h of s t upi d sel f i shness. T h e p a t h of
142 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
s t upi d sel f i shness i s t r yi ng t o avoi d all pa i n. T h e p a t h of s ma r t
sel f i shness i s t r yi ng t o di s c e r n whi c h pa i n or suf f er i ng, par t i cu-
l arl y e mo t i o n a l suf f er i ng, i s cons t r uct i ve a n d whi c h i s u n c o n -
st r uct i ve. Be c a us e I wr i t e a gr e a t de a l a b o u t pa i n a n d suf f er i ng
a n d di sci pl i ne, a l ot of p e o p l e t hi nk I am s o me ki nd of pa i n freak.
I am n o t a p a i n f r eak, I am a j o y f r eak. I see no val ue wha t s oe ve r
i s unc ons t r uc t i ve suf f er i ng. I f I have an o r d i n a r y h e a d a c h e t h e
ver y f i r s t t h i n g I am g o i n g t o do i s ge t mysel f t wo s upe r - s t r e ngt h
unc a ps ul i z e d a c e t a mi n o p h e n s . Th e r e i s no vi r t ue i n h e r e n t i n
t ha t h e a d a c h e , e i t h e r p e r s e or t o me . I s ee abs ol ut el y no val ue
i n s uc h unc ons t r uc t i ve suf f er i ng. On t he o t h e r h a n d , t h e r e a r e
t ypes of suf f er i ng i n t hi s life f r om whi c h we have ma n y c on-
st r uct i ve t hi ngs t o l e a r n.
My p r e f e r r e d wor ds f or " cons t r uct i ve" a n d " u n c o n s t r u c -
t i ve" a r e , respect i vel y, "exi st ent i al " a n d " ne ur ot i c . " Exi s t ent i al
suf f er i ng i s a n i n h e r e n t p a r t of exi s t ence a n d c a n n o t be l egi t i -
ma t e l y a voi de df or e x a mp l e , t h e suf f er i ng i nvol ved i n gr ow-
i ng u p a n d l e a r n i n g t o b e i n d e p e n d e n t ; t h e suf f er i ng i nvol ved
i n l e a r n i n g h o w t o b e c o me i n t e r d e p e n d e n t a n d even d e p e n -
d e n t agai n; t h e suf f er i ng t ha t i s as s oci at ed wi t h loss a n d gi vi ng
u p ; t h e suf f er i ng of ol d age a n d dyi ng. F r o m all t he s e ki nds of
suf f er i ng we have a gr e a t de a l t o l e a r n. Ne u r o t i c suf f er i ng, on
t he o t h e r h a n d , i s t ha t e mo t i o n a l suf f er i ng whi c h i s n o t an i n-
h e r e n t p a r t of exi s t ence. I t i s unc ons t r uc t i ve a n d unneces s ar y,
a n d r a t h e r t h a n e n h a n c i n g o u r e xi s t e nc e i mp e d e s it. Wh a t we
n e e d t o do wi t h n e u r o t i c suf f er i ng i s ge t r i d of i t j u s t as qui ckl y
as possi bl e be c a us e i t i s l i ke car r yi ng ni net y- ei ght gol f cl ubs
a r o u n d t h e c our s e wh e n all you n e e d i s t e n or t wel ve t o pl ay a
per f ect l y g o o d g a me . I t i s j u s t s o mu c h excess ba gga ge .
Fifty year s a go, wh e n Fr e ud' s t he or i e s f i r s t f i l t er ed d o wn t o
t he i nt el l i gent s i a ( a n d we r e mi s i nt e r pr e t e d, as s o of t en h a p -
pe ns ) , t h e r e we r e a l ar ge n u mb e r of avant - gar de p a r e n t s wh o ,
havi ng l e a r n e d t ha t gui l t f eel i ngs c oul d have s o me t h i n g t o do
wi t h ne ur os e s , r es ol ved t ha t t hey we r e g o i n g t o r ai se gui l t - f r ee
c hi l dr e n. Wh a t an awful t h i n g t o do t o a chi l d. Ou r j ai l s a r e
f i l l e d wi t h p e o p l e wh o a r e t h e r e pr eci sel y be c a us e t hey do n o t
have any gui l t , or do n o t ha ve e n o u g h of it. We n e e d a c e r t a i n
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 143
a mo u n t of gui l t i n o r d e r t o exi st i n soci et y, a n d t hat ' s wh a t I cal l
exi s t ent i al gui l t . I ha s t e n t o st ress, however , t ha t t oo mu c h gui l t ,
r a t h e r t h a n e n h a n c i n g o u r exi s t ence, h i n d e r s it. Ne u r o t i c gui l t
i s unne c e s s a r y a n d de pl e t e s o u r lives of j o y a n d ser eni t y.
Take a n o t h e r pai nf ul f eel i ng: anxi et y. Al t h o u g h i t ma y be
pai nf ul , we n e e d a c e r t a i n a mo u n t of anxi et y t o f unc t i on wel l .
For i ns t a nc e , i f I h a d t o give a s pe e c h i n Ne w Yor k City, I mi g h t
be a nxi ous a b o u t h o w t o ge t t h e r e , a n d my anxi et y wo u l d pr o-
pel me t o l ook at a ma p . I f I h a d no anxi et y, I mi g h t j u s t t ake off
a n d e n d up i n Qu e b e c . Me a nwhi l e , t h e r e a r e a t h o u s a n d p e o -
pl e wai t i ng t o h e a r me gi ve a t al k i n Ne w Yor k City. So we n e e d
a c e r t a i n a mo u n t of anxi et y i n o r d e r t o exi st we l l t he k i n d of
exi s t ent i al anxi et y t ha t p r o p e l s us t o c ons ul t ma p s .
But o n c e agai n, t h e r e c a n be a n a mo u n t of anxi et y above
a n d b e y o n d t hat , whi ch, r a t h e r t h a n e n h a n c i n g o u r exi s t ence,
i mp e d e s it. So I c oul d t hi nk t o myself, " Suppos i ng I h a d a flat
t i r e or got i nt o a n a c c i de nt . Th e y dr i ve awfully fast on t h e r oa ds
n e a r Ne w Yor k City. An d even i f I do ma n a g e t o ge t t o t h e pl a c e
I was s u p p o s e d t o l e c t ur e , I pr oba bl y wo n ' t be abl e t o f i nd a
p a r k i n g pl a c e . I ' m sorry, p e o p l e i n Ne w York, b u t i t ' s b e y o n d
me . " Thi s k i n d of p h o b i c anxi et y, r a t h e r t h a n e n h a n c i n g my ex-
i s t ence, l i mi t s i t a n d i s cl ear l y ne ur ot i c .
We a r e nat ur al l y pai n- avoi di ng c r e a t ur e s . But j u s t as i t
woul d be s t upi d t o we l c o me all suf f er i ng, so i t i s s t upi d t o t ry t o
avoi d all suf f er i ng. On e of t h e basi c choi ces we ma k e i n life i s
wh e t h e r t o fol l ow t h e p a t h of s ma r t sel f i shness or t ry t o avoi d all
p r o b l e ms a n d t ake t h e p a t h of s t upi d sel f i shness. To do so, we
mu s t l e a r n h o w t o ma k e t hi s di s t i nct i on b e t we e n n e u r o t i c a n d
exi s t ent i al suf f er i ng.
As I wr ot e in The Road Less Traveled, life is di ffi cul t be c a us e
i t i s a ser i es of p r o b l e ms , a n d t h e pr oc e s s of c o n f r o n t i n g a n d
sol vi ng p r o b l e ms i s a pai nf ul o n e . Pr o b l e ms , d e p e n d i n g on
t he i r n a t u r e , evoke i n us ma n y u n c o mf o r t a b l e f eel i ngs: f r ust r a-
t i on, grief, s adnes s , l onel i nes s , gui l t , r e gr e t , anger , fear, anxi et y,
a ngui s h, or des pai r . Th e s e f eel i ngs a r e of t en as pai nf ul as any
ki nd of physi cal suf f er i ng. I n d e e d , i t i s because of t h e p a i n t ha t
event s or conf l i ct s e n g e n d e r i n us t h a t we cal l t h e m p r o b l e ms .
144 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
Yet i t i s i n t hi s whol e pr oces s of me e t i n g a n d sol vi ng p r o b l e ms
t ha t life f i nds its me a n i n g . Pr o b l e ms cal l f or t h o u r c o u r a g e a n d
wi s dom; i n d e e d , t hey c r e a t e o u r c o u r a g e a n d o u r wi s dom.
Pr o b l e ms a r e t h e c ut t i ng e d g e t h a t di s t i ngui s hes b e t we e n suc-
cess a n d f ai l ur e. I t i s onl y be c a us e of p r o b l e ms t ha t we gr ow
me nt a l l y a n d spi ri t ual l y.
T h e a l t e r na t i ve not t o me e t t h e d e ma n d s of life on life' s
t e r ms me a n s we will e n d up l os i ng mo r e of t en t h a n not . Mos t
p e o p l e a t t e mp t t o ski r t p r o b l e ms r a t h e r t h a n me e t t h e m h e a d -
o n . We a t t e mp t t o ge t o u t of t h e m r a t h e r t h a n suffer t h r o u g h
t h e m. I n d e e d , t h e t e n d e n c y t o avoi d p r o b l e ms a n d t h e e mo -
t i onal suf f er i ng i n h e r e n t i n t h e m i s t he pr i ma r y basi s of all psy-
chol ogi cal i l l ness. An d s i nce mo s t of us have t hi s t e n d e n c y t o a
g r e a t e r or l esser d e g r e e , mo s t of us l ack c o mp l e t e me n t a l
he a l t h. Th o s e wh o a r e mo s t he a l t hy l e a r n n o t t o d r e a d b u t ac-
t ual l y t o we l c o me p r o b l e ms . Al t h o u g h t r i u mp h i s n' t g u a r a n -
t e e d e a c h t i me we face a p r o b l e m i n life, t hos e wh o a r e wi se a r e
awar e t h a t i t i s onl y t h r o u g h t h e p a i n of c o n f r o n t i n g a n d r e-
sol vi ng p r o b l e ms t ha t we l e a r n a n d grow.
CHOI CES OF RESPONSIBILITY
Mos t p e o p l e wh o c o me t o see a ps yc hot he r a pi s t a r e suf f er i ng
f r om e i t h e r a ne ur os i s or wha t i s cal l ed a c h a r a c t e r di s or der . As
i ndi c a t e d i n The Road Less Traveled, t he s e c o n d i t i o n s a r e at r o o t
di s or de r s of r esponsi bi l i t y: t h e n e u r o t i c a s s ume s t oo mu c h r e-
sponsi bi l i t y a n d t he pe r s on wi t h a c ha r a c t e r di s or de r n o t e n o u g h .
As s uch, t hey a r e oppos i t e styles of r e l a t i ng t o t h e wor l d a n d its
p r o b l e ms . Wh e n ne ur ot i c s a r e i n conf l i ct wi t h t h e wor l d, t hey
aut omat i cal l y a s s ume t h a t t hey a r e a t faul t . Wh e n t hos e wi t h
c ha r a c t e r di s or de r s a r e i n conf l i ct wi t h t h e wor l d, t hey a ut o-
mat i cal l y a s s ume t ha t t h e wor l d i s at faul t .
Even t h e s p e e c h p a t t e r n s of ne ur ot i c s a n d of t hos e wi t h
c ha r a c t e r di s or de r s a r e di f f er ent . T h e s p e e c h of t h e n e u r o t i c i s
not a bl e for s uc h e xpr e s s i ons as "I o u g h t t o, " "I s houl d, " a n d "I
s houl dn' t , " i ndi c a t i ng, t o s o me e xt e nt , a sel f - i mage of an i nfe-
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 145
r i or p e r s o n wh o bel i eves he or s he i s always f al l i ng s h o r t of t h e
ma r k, always ma k i n g t h e wr o n g choi ces . T h e s p e e c h of a p e r s o n
wi t h a c ha r a c t e r di s or der , however , r el i es heavi l y on "I can' t , " "I
c oul dn' t , " "I have t o, " a n d "I h a d t o, " d e mo n s t r a t i n g a sel f-i mage
of a b e i n g wh o bel i eves he or s he has no p o we r of c hoi c e , a n d
whos e be ha vi or i s c ompl e t e l y d i r e c t e d by e xt e r na l f or ces t ot al l y
b e y o n d hi s or h e r c ont r ol .
Bef or e 1950, t h e t e r m " c ha r a c t e r di s or de r " d i d n ' t exi st as a
s e pa r a t e di agnos i s or cat egor y. Mos t psychi at r i c di s or de r s we r e
cal l ed n e u r o s e s , a n d n e u r o s e s we r e gener al l y di vi ded i nt o t wo
cat egor i es : ego- al i en a n d ego- s ynt oni c. An ego- al i en ne ur os i s
was o n e i n whi c h t h e p e r s o n ' s e g o f ought agai ns t a p r o b l e ma t i c
c ondi t i on. Si nce t h e i ndi vi dual d i d n ' t wa nt t o have t h e c ondi -
t i on, he was wi l l i ng t o wor k t owar d al l evi at i ng it. An ego- synt oni c
ne ur os i s , on t h e o t h e r h a n d , i nvol ves a c o n d i t i o n a p e r s o n ' s e go
d o e s n ' t even wa nt t o i dent i fy, mu c h less see as p r o b l e ma t i c i n
hi s life.
Whi l e I was an Ar my psychi at r i st on t h e i s l and of Oki na wa ,
I me t t wo wo me n , b o t h of wh o m h a d s t r ong f ear s of s nakes .
Ma ny p e o p l e ha ve a f ear of s nakes , so t hi s wa s n' t u n u s u a l i n it-
self. Wh a t ma d e t he i r f ear p r o b l e ma t i c a n d phobi c wa s t h e
d e g r e e of i nc a pa c i t a t i on c a us e d by it. To say t he l east , wh e n
dai l y r o u t i n e s a r e i n t e r r u p t e d or ne gl e c t e d be c a us e of fear, i t
cr eat es di ffi cul t i es i n ma n y as pect s of t h e pe r s on' s life.
Ok i n a wa was a na t ur a l pl a c e t o s ee s uc h p h o b i a s be c a us e of
t he d r e a d e d h a b u , a s na ke u n i q u e t o t h e i s l and. It ' s p o i s o n o u s ,
a n d its size falls s o me wh e r e b e t we e n t ha t of a l ar ge r at t l er a n d a
smal l p y t h o n . I t al so s l eeps onl y d u r i n g t h e day, whi c h me a n s
t hat i t d o e s its r o a mi n g at ni ght . Th e r e we r e a b o u t 100, 000
Ame r i c a ns a t Ok i n a wa a t t h e t i me ; onl y a b o u t o n c e i n t wo year s
was o n e bi t t e n by a h a b u , a n d hal f of t hos e bi t t e n h a d b e e n
wal ki ng o u t i n t h e j u n g l e a t ni ght , n o t a r o u n d t he Ar my h o u s i n g
sect i ons. Ad e q u a t e i nf or ma t i on was di s pe ns e d. All Ame r i c a n s
wer e t ol d a b o u t t h e s nake, a n d all t h e hos pi t al s h a d t h e neces -
sary a nt i t oxi ns t o t r e a t bi t es. Over al l , n o t o n e Ame r i c a n h a d ac-
t ual l y b e e n ki l l ed by a s na ke f or year s.
T h e f i r s t wo ma n , wh o was i n h e r ear l y t hi r t i es, c a me t o see
146 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
me at my offi ce. "I ' ve got t hi s f ear of s nakes a n d I k n o w i t ' s
r i di cul ous , " s he sai d. "But I wo n ' t go o u t at ni ght . I c a n ' t t ake
my c h i l d r e n o u t t o t h e movi es at n i g h t a n d I wo n ' t go t o a c l ub
wi t h my h u s b a n d at ni ght . It ' s r eal l y silly of me , be c a us e I k n o w
t ha t ha r dl y a n y o n e get s bi t t e n. I feel s o s t upi d. " As h e r l a n g u a g e
s ugges t ed, h e r p h o b i a was ego- al i en: i t d i d n ' t f i t wi t h h e r self-
i ma g e a n d was t he r e f or e conf l i ct ual t o her . Al t h o u g h s he was
h o u s e b o u n d mo s t of t h e t i me a n d especi al l y f ear f ul of g o i n g
o u t at ni ght , s he was wi l l i ng t o a c knowl e dge t ha t t hi s was a p r o b -
l e m i n h e r life, a n d s he wa n t e d t o f i nd ways t o l essen h e r f ear s o
t ha t i t wo u l d n o t i nt e r f e r e wi t h all h e r act i vi t i es.
Fr e u d f i r s t p o i n t e d o u t t ha t p h o b i a s a r e of t en di s pl ace-
me n t s f r om a r eal fear. Wh a t we f o u n d i n t h e r a p y was t ha t t hi s
wo ma n h a d ne ve r f aced up t o exi s t ent i al i ssues i nvol vi ng h e r
f ear of d e a t h a n d f ear of evil. On c e s he s t a r t e d de a l i ng wi t h
s uc h i ssues, a l t h o u g h s he still r e ma i n e d t i mi d, s he was abl e t o
go o u t a t n i g h t wi t h h e r h u s b a n d a n d c hi l dr e n. Th a n k s t o t r eat -
me n t , by t h e t i me s he was p r e p a r i n g t o l eave Oki na wa , s he was
on t h e p a t h of gr owt h.
I l e a r n e d a b o u t t h e s e c o n d wo ma n ' s f ear of s nakes onl y
wh e n I b e g a n t al ki ng t o h e r t owa r d t h e e n d of a d i n n e r par t y
s he hos t e d. She was i n h e r f or t i es a n d t h e wife of an execut i ve.
I n t al ki ng wi t h her , I l e a r n e d t ha t s he h a d b e c o me a r ecl us e.
She me n t i o n e d wi t h e n t h u s i a s m h o w mu c h s he l o o k e d f or wa r d
t o g o i n g ba c k t o t h e Un i t e d St at es, s i nce s he was h o u s e b o u n d
i n Oki na wa . " I c a n' t go o u t be c a us e of t hos e h o r r i b l e s nakes , "
s he sai d. She kne w t h a t o t h e r p e o p l e ma n a g e d t o go o u t a t
ni ght , b u t sai d, "If t hey wa n t t o be s t upi d, t hat ' s t he i r p r o b l e m. "
Mor eover , s he b l a me d t h e Ame r i c a n g o v e r n me n t a n d t h e is-
l a nd f or h e r p r o b l e m be c a us e "t hey s h o u l d b e d o i n g mo r e
a b o u t t hos e h o r r i b l e s nakes . " As i s t ypi cal of t hos e wi t h p h o b i a s
t ha t ar e ego- s ynt oni c, s he d i d n ' t see t h e f ear as b e i n g her p r o b -
l e m. She ne ve r s o u g h t o u t t r e a t me n t even t h o u g h t h e c r i ppl i ng
c o n s e q u e n c e s of h e r f ear we r e evi dent . She h a d al l owed h e r
p h o b i a t o t ot al l y ge t i n t h e way of l i vi ng a f ul l er life. She r ef us ed
t o a t t e nd any soci al g a t h e r i n g s away f r om h o me e v e n t hos e
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 147
t ha t we r e i mp o r t a n t t o h e r h u s b a n d ' s j o b a n d s he d i d n ' t s e e m
t o c ons i de r h o w t hi s mi g h t j e o p a r d i z e hi s car eer .
As t he s e t wo cases d e mo n s t r a t e , ne ur ot i c s a r e rel at i vel y
easy t o wor k wi t h i n ps yc hot he r a py be c a us e t hey a s s ume r e-
sponsi bi l i t y for t he i r di ffi cul t i es a n d t he r e f or e s ee t hems el ves as
ha vi ng p r o b l e ms . Th o s e wi t h c h a r a c t e r di s or de r s a r e mu c h
mo r e di ffi cul t t o wor k wi t h, be c a us e t hey d o n ' t see t hems el ves
a s t h e s our c e of t he i r p r o b l e ms ; t hey see t h e wor l d r a t h e r t h a n
t hems el ves as b e i n g i n n e e d of c h a n g e , a n d t he r e f or e fail t o r ec-
ogni z e t h e necessi t y f or s el f - exami nat i on.
Th u s , a si gni f i cant p a r t of t h e exi s t ent i al suf f er i ng of life i s
t he suf f er i ng i nvol ved i n cons t ant l y d i s c e r n i n g o r c h o o s i n g
wha t we a r e r e s pons i bl e f or a n d wha t we a r e n o t r e s pons i bl e f or
a n d ma i n t a i n i n g a he a l t hy ba l a nc e . Obvi ousl y, t h e char act er -
d i s o r d e r e d p e r s o n avoi ds t ha t exi s t ent i al suf f er i ng. Wh a t ma y
n o t be s o obvi ous i s t ha t t h e n e u r o t i c al so doe s . By si mpl y as-
s u mi n g t ha t e ve r yt hi ng i s h e r r esponsi bi l i t y, s he will ul t i mat el y
suffer mo r e t h r o u g h n e u r o t i c s uf f er i ngeven t h o u g h s he d o e s
avoi d t h e exi s t ent i al suf f er i ng of ha vi ng t o ma k e choi ces , t h e
ki nd of suf f er i ng t ha t ma y be i nvol ved i n sayi ng t o p e o p l e , " No!
I ' m dr a wi ng a l i ne. "
T h e p r o b l e m o f di s t i ngui s hi ng wha t we a r e a n d a r e n o t r e-
s pons i bl e f or i n t hi s life i s o n e of t h e c o n t i n u i n g c ha l l e nge s of
h u ma n e xi s t e nc e . I t i s ne ve r c ompl e t e l y r es ol ved f or all t i me .
We mu s t c ont i nua l l y assess a n d r eassess wh e r e o u r r es pons i bi l i -
t i es lie i n t h e e ve r - c ha ngi ng c our s e of event s t ha t s h a p e o u r
lives. Th e r e i s no f o r mu l a f or h o w t o do it. Ea c h s i t uat i on i s ne w
a n d we mu s t di s cer n all over agai n t h e c hoi c e of wha t we a r e a n d
ar e n o t r e s pons i bl e for. I t i s o n e t ha t we mu s t ma k e t h o u s a n d s
u p o n t h o u s a n d s of t i me s , a l mos t up unt i l t h e ver y day we di e.
CHOI CES OF SUBMI SSI ON
Di s ci pl i ne i s t h e me a n s f or sol vi ng life' s p r o b l e ms . All di s ci pl i ne
i s a f or m of s ubmi s s i on. T h e di s ci pl i ne t o di s c e r n wha t we a r e or
148 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
ar e n o t r e s pons i bl e for i s mos t cr uci al , s i nce we mu s t go t h r o u g h
t h e exi s t ent i al suf f er i ng of c h o o s i n g wh e n a n d wh a t t o s ubmi t
t o a n d wh a t n o t t o s ubmi t t o, wh e t h e r t ha t i s o u r own e go, l ove,
Go d , or even t h e f or ces of evil.
For i ns t a nc e , wh e n we a r e y o u n g , we mo r e or l ess ha ve t o
s u b mi t t o o u r p a r e n t s or o t h e r c a r e t a ke r s . But a s we gr ow i nt o
a d u l t h o o d , we have t o ma k e deci s i ons a b o u t wh e n a n d h o w
t o s u b mi t t o o u r p a r e n t s a n d wh e n a n d h o w n o t t o a n d par -
t i cul ar l y t o t he i r val ues. No t all s ubmi s s i on i s g o o d . To t ot al l y
s u b mi t t o o n e ' s p a r e n t s i n a d u l t h o o d woul d be des t r uct i ve,
ever y bi t as des t r uct i ve as t o s ubmi t t o a cul t . We mu s t f i gur e o u t
t o wha t e x t e n t we a r e g o i n g t o s u b mi t t o soci et y a n d t o wha t
e x t e n t we a r e g o i n g t o di s a gr e e wi t h soci et y, j u s t as we
mu s t c h o o s e o u r val ues ever y s t ep of t he way. Ul t i mat el y, we
ha ve t o c h o o s e wh e t h e r or n o t t o s ubmi t t o Go d a n d , i n d e e d ,
e ve n c h o o s e t h e k i n d of Go d t ha t we a r e g o i n g t o s u b mi t t o.
T h e t e r m " h i g h e r powe r " f i r s t a p p e a r e d i n, or a t l east was
i ni t i al l y p o p u l a r i z e d by, t h e Twel ve St eps of Al cohol i cs Anony-
mo u s . In A World Waiting to Be Born, I wr ot e t ha t t h e t e r m i m-
pl i es t ha t t h e r e i s s o me t h i n g " hi ghe r " t h a n us as i ndi vi dual s a n d
t ha t i t i s a p p r o p r i a t e t o s ubmi t our s el ves t o t ha t s o me t h i n g
hi gher , be i t l ove, l i ght , t r ut h, or Go d . " Thy will, n o t mi n e , be
d o n e " i s a gl or i ous e xpr e s s i on of des i r e for s uc h s ubmi s s i on,
a n d t h e key wo r d i s "will." Submi s s i on i mpl i es an effect i ve s ub-
mi s s i on of t h e h u ma n will t o s o me t h i n g h i g h e r t h a n itself. " God
i s l i ght , Go d i s l ove, Go d i s t r ut h. " Pe o p l e n e e d n o t be bel i ever s
i n Go d , b u t i f t hey a r e t o be heal t hy, t hey mu s t s ubmi t t h e m-
selves t o t he s e a t t r i but e s of Go d .
Submi s s i on t o t h e l i ght mi g h t be de f i ne d as s ubmi s s i on t o
t h e c hoi c e of c ons c i ous ne s s a n d h e n c e , s i g h t b o t h e xt e r na l
si ght a n d , par t i cul ar l y, i ns i ght . T h e n t h e r e i s t h e c hoi c e of
wh e t h e r t o s u b mi t t o l ove or n o t t h a t is, t h e deci s i on wh e t h e r
t o e x t e n d or n o t e x t e n d onesel f . Thi s i s n o t si mpl i st i c. Love i s
of t en very s ubt l e a n d mys t er i ous . In The Road Less Traveled, I de -
f i ned l ove as t h e will t o e x t e n d ones el f f or t h e p u r p o s e of nur -
t u r i n g one ' s own or a n o t h e r ' s s pi r i t ual gr owt h. Thi s def i ni t i on
i s an a c k n o wl e d g me n t t ha t l ove i s far b r o a d e r t h a n r o ma n c e ,
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 149
ma r r i a g e , o r p a r e n t i n g . Mo n k s a n d n u n s , f or e x a mp l e , d o n ' t
have t hos e , b u t ma n y a r e gr e a t l over s i n t h e t r ue s ens e of t h e
wor d.
Th e r e a r e n u me r o u s p a r a d o x e s r e l a t e d t o l ove t ha t t est t h e
myt hs a n d c o mmo n t h i n k i n g i n o u r c ul t ur e . I n t h e s ect i on o n
l ove in The Road Less Traveled, I f o u n d I h a d to be gi n by s peak-
i ng of all t h e t hi ngs t ha t g e n u i n e l ove i s not ( s uch as r o ma n c e )
i n o r d e r t o c o mb a t o u r cul t ur al s t er eot ypes . For i ns t a nc e , we
have all b e e n t ol d t ha t i t ' s b e t t e r t o gi ve t h a n t o r ecei ve. I be -
l i eve i t wo u l d be mo r e a p p r o p r i a t e t o say t ha t i t ' s j u s t as g o o d t o
r ecei ve as i t i s t o gi ve. Yet ma n y have n e u r o t i c gui l t over t hi s is-
s ue a n d feel c o mp e l l e d t o live up t o cul t ur al or r el i gi ous i deal s
a b o u t char i t y t ha t pot ent i al l y p r o mo t e mo r e bi t t er nes s a n d fric-
t i on t h a n l ove i n t h e t r ue s ens e.
On e r e a s on p e o p l e have a h a r d t i me r ecei vi ng i s t ha t t hey
feel ma n i p u l a t e d , as i f t hey will f or ever owe s o me o n e . I n t h e
ear l i er year s of o u r ma r r i a g e Lily a n d I ma i n t a i n e d wha t we
c a me t o cal l a gui l t b a n k . Wh e n e v e r I di d s o me t h i n g f or Lily,
t ha t me a n t I h a d mo n e y i n t h e gui l t b a n k . Wh e n s he di d s ome -
t hi ng f or me , my a c c o u n t ( my wor t h) d r o p p e d . Li ke ma n y cou-
pl es, i t t ook us year s t o l e a r n our s el ves o u t of t hi s si l l i ness. For
s o me p e o p l e , i t ' s even obl i gat or y t o di s c ount any c o mp l i me n t s
o r g o o d news d u e t o u p b r i n g i n g a n d c ul t ur e . T h e i nabi l i t y t o
r ecei ve l ove i s a l mos t as des t r uct i ve as t h e i nabi l i t y t o gi ve it.
We have al so b e e n t a ught t hat "love i s gent l e, l ove i s ki nd"
a n d yet t h e r e a r e t i mes wh e n we mu s t di spl ay wh a t i s cal l ed
t o u g h l ove. Love i s of t en a mb i g u o u s ; s o me t i me s i t r e qui r e s t en-
de r ne s s a n d s o me t i me s i t r e qui r e s b e i n g s t er n. T h e r eal i t y i s
t ha t we c a n n o t l ove well i f we a r e cons t ant l y e x t e n d i n g our -
selves t o o t h e r s a n d n o t n u r t u r i n g our s el ves . Submi s s i on t o l ove
doe s n o t me a n b e i n g a d o o r ma t . J u s t a s t h r o u g h o u t o u r lives we
mus t c h o o s e wh a t i s a n d wh a t i s n o t o u r r esponsi bi l i t y, s o we
mus t al so c hoos e , even i f we a r e s u b mi t t e d t o l ove, wh e n t o l ove
ot he r s a n d wh e n t o l ove our s el ves .
I bel i eve t h e key of l ovi ng i s t o wor k on onesel f . We c a n' t
begi n t o l ove o t h e r s wel l unt i l we l ovi ngl y wor k on our s el ves . I n
many r el at i ons hi ps , you will f i nd p e o p l e t r yi ng t o he a l a n d c on-
150 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
ver t e a c h o t h e r i n t h e n a me of l ove. Ou r a t t e mp t s t o he a l a n d
c onve r t a n o t h e r a r e usual l y selfish, c ont r ol l i ng, a n d n o n l o v i n g
de s pi t e all t h e ways we mi g h t t hi nk ot he r wi s e . Agai n, over t h e
year s of o u r own ma r r i a g e , Lily a n d I h a d t o wor k qui t e h a r d on
h e a l i n g our s el ves of o u r n e e d t o c h a n g e e a c h o t h e r t o ar r i ve a t
t h a t ki nd of l ove whi c h c o mb i n e s a c c e p t a n c e a n d u n d e r s t a n d -
i ng.
Be c a us e of cul t ur al i ndoc t r i na t i on, ma n y p e o p l e e q u a t e
l ove wi t h d o i n g : t hey feel t hey ha ve t o do s o me t h i n g si mpl y be -
caus e of t he i r own or o t h e r s ' e xpe c t a t i ons . T h e p a r a d o x i s t ha t
ma n y t i mes j u s t d o i n g not hi ngj us t b e i n g wh o you a r e r a t h e r
t h a n cons t ant l y f ocus i ng on wha t you doi s t h e mo r e l ovi ng
a p p r o a c h . For e x a mp l e , n o t h i n g i s mo r e f un f or me t h a n di s-
cus s i ng t heol ogy, b u t o n e of t h e l ovi ng t hi ngs I di d was r ef r ai n
f r om t al ki ng t o my c h i l d r e n mu c h a b o u t t he ol ogy be c a us e i t
wo u l d ha ve b e e n p r e a c h i n g t o t h e m i n a way t h a t was i nt r us i ve.
I n my novel The Friendly Snowflake, t h e p r e t e e n J e n n y asks h e r
f a t he r i f he bel i eves i n an aft erl i fe. Hi s r epl y i s " Th e r e a r e cer -
t ai n que s t i ons s o i mp o r t a n t t h a t p e o p l e o u g h t t o f i gur e o u t t h e
ans wer f or t hems el ves . " I n t hi s case, hi s wi t h h o l d i n g of hi s opi n-
i on was a ver y l ovi ng a n d r es pect f ul act t owa r d hi s da ught e r .
An d t h e n t h e r e i s t h e ma t t e r of s ubmi s s i on t o t r ut h, whi c h
i s far mo r e c o mp l e x a n d d e ma n d i n g t h a n me r e l y a c c e pt i ng
sci ent i fi cal l y p r o v e n facts or f ol l owi ng t h e sci ent i fi c me t h o d i n
a l abor at or y. In The Road Less Traveled, I l i st ed d e d i c a t i o n to r e-
al i t yt o t h e t r u t h a s o n e of t h e f our basi c di s ci pl i nes of l i vi ng
wel l . Sp e a k i n g of t hi s di s ci pl i ne, I n o t e d t ha t occas i onal l y wi t h-
h o l d i n g a p o r t i o n of t h e t r u t h ma y be t h e l ovi ng t h i n g t o d o .
But e ve n t hi s t i ny bi t of " f udgi ng" wi t h t he t r ut h i s so pot ent i al l y
d a n g e r o u s t ha t I fel t c o mp e l l e d t o offer s t r i nge nt cr i t er i a f or
t hos e rel at i vel y few t i mes wh e n t h e t el l i ng of l i t t l e whi t e l i es
mi g h t be per mi s s i bl e. T h e fact i s t ha t wi t h h o l d i n g a key pi e c e of
t r ut h f r om o t h e r s i s of t en at l east as de c e pt i ve as an o u t r i g h t
bl ack l i e. Suc h l yi ng i s n o t j u s t unl ovi ng; i t i s ul t i mat el y hat ef ul .
Ever y i ns t a nc e of i t a d d s t o t h e da r kne s s a n d c onf us i on i n t h e
wor l d. Conver sel y, s p e a k i n g t h e t r ut hpa r t i c ul a r l y wh e n i t r e-
qui r e s s o me ri sk t o do soi s an act of l ove. I t di mi ni s he s t h e
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 151
da r kne s s a n d conf us i on, i nc r e a s i ng t he l i ght t h e wor l d s o des -
per at el y n e e d s .
Wh e n we l i e, we a r e usual l y a t t e mp t i n g t o avoi d r es pons i -
bi l i t y f or o u r act i ons a n d wha t we i ma g i n e t o be t he i r pai nf ul
c o n s e q u e n c e s . I am f or ever gr at ef ul t o my p a r e n t s f or t e a c h i n g
me d u r i n g c h i l d h o o d a mo s t pi t hy a n d power f ul e xpr e s s i on:
"face t h e mus i c. " Me a n i n g , face up t o t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s ; d o n ' t
cover u p ; d o n ' t l i e; live i n t h e l i ght . Whi l e t h e me a n i n g i s cl ear,
i t onl y oc c ur s t o me n o w t h a t i t i s a s o me wh a t s t r a nge e xpr e s -
s i on. Wh y "musi c"? Wh y s h o u l d f aci ng up t o s o me t h i n g p o t e n -
tially pai nf ul be cal l ed f aci ng mus i c wh e n we nor ma l l y t hi nk of
mus i c as pl e a s ur a bl e a n d lovely? I d o n ' t know. I d o n ' t k n o w h o w
t h e e xpr e s s i on or i gi na t e d. But p e r h a p s t h e c hoi c e of wo r d i s
d e e p a n d myst i cal l y a p p r o p r i a t e . For wh e n we d o s u b mi t our -
selves t o t h e di ct at es of hones t y, we a r e i n h a r mo n y wi t h real i t y,
a n d o u r lives, a l t h o u g h ne ve r pai nl es s , will b e c o me i ncr eas i ngl y
me l odi c .
I ha ve b e e n s pe a ki ng of t h e c hoi c e f or t r u t h as i f l yi ng we r e
s o me t h i n g we pr i mar i l y do t o ot he r s . No t so. Ou r e ve n g r e a t e r
pr ocl i vi t y i s f or l yi ng t o our s el ves . Of c our s e t h e t wo t ypes of di s-
hone s t y f eed off e a c h o t h e r i n an ever - escal at i ng or gy of d e c e p -
t i on. But whi l e we c a n decei ve s o me of t h e p e o p l e s o me of t h e
t i me , o u r capaci t y f or s el f - decept i on i s pot ent i al l y u n l i mi t e d as
l o n g as we a r e wi l l i ng t o pay t h e pr i c e of evil or i nsani t y. An d
t he s e a r e ul t i mat el y t h e cost s. Sel f - decept i on i s n o t a ma t t e r of
b e i n g ki nd or ge nt l e wi t h onesel f; on t h e cont r ar y, i t i s as ha t e -
ful as l yi ng t o ot he r s , a n d f or t h e s a me r e a s on: i t a d d s t o t h e
da r kne s s a n d conf us i on of t h e self, a u g me n t i n g t h e Sh a d o w
l ayer by layer. Conver sel y, t h e c hoi c e t o be h o n e s t wi t h ones el f
i s t h e c hoi c e f or ps ychos pi r i t ual h e a l t h a n d , t he r e f or e , t h e si n-
gl e mo s t l ovi ng c hoi c e we c a n ever ma k e f or our s el ves .
I n t h e r e a l m of pe r s ona l belief, we a r e f aced wi t h ma n y
c o mp l e x c hoi c e s , a n d t h e cer t ai nt i es of s ci ence c a n n o t r eadi l y
be r el i ed u p o n . I f we c h o o s e t o bel i eve s o me t h i n g i s t r ue , i s i t
t he r e f or e t r ue? I f so, s u b mi t t i n g t o t h e t r u t h woul d be n o t h i n g
mo r e t h a n s ubmi t t i ng t o our s el ves . Si nce Go d i s s ynonymous
wi t h t r ut h, i n c h o o s i n g t o s u b mi t t o Go d we a r e s ubmi t t i ng t o a
152 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
t r u t h h i g h e r t h a n our s el ves . In People of the Lie, I wr ot e t ha t s i nce
we ar e e n d o we d wi t h t h e f r e e d o m t o c h o o s e , we c a n s u b mi t t o
t h e wr o n g t hi ngs . I al so e x p l a i n e d t ha t t h e r e a r e onl y t wo st at es
of be i ng: s ubmi s s i on t o Go d a n d goodne s s , or t h e refusal t o
s ubmi t t o a n y t h i n g b e y o n d o n e ' s will, whi c h aut omat i cal l y en-
slaves o n e t o t h e f or ces of evil, t o " t he Fa t h e r of Li es. " An d I
q u o t e d C. S. Lewi s: " Th e r e i s no n e u t r a l g r o u n d i n t h e uni ver s e:
ever y s qua r e i nc h, ever y spl i t s e c o n d i s c l a i me d by Go d a n d
c o u n t e r c l a i me d by Sat an. " Pe r h a p s we ma y feel t ha t we c a n
s t a nd exact l y b e t we e n Go d a n d t h e devi l , u n c o mmi t t e d e i t he r
t o g o o d n e s s or t o evil. But " Not t o c hoos e i s t o c hoos e . " Fe nc e -
s t r a ddl i ng event ual l y b e c o me s i nt ol e r a bl e a n d t he c hoi c e of un-
s ubmi s s i on i s ul t i mat el y i nval i d.
CHOI CES OF VOCATI ON
To mo s t p e o p l e , " vocat i on" si mpl y me a n s wh a t o n e d o e s f or a
l i vi ng, o n e ' s o c c u p a t i o n or car eer . T h e s ecul ar def i ni t i on of "vo-
c a t i on" usual l y i mpl i es onl y i n c o me - p r o d u c i n g activity. T h e r e-
l i gi ous def i ni t i on, however , i s mo r e l i t er al a n d yet far mo r e
c ompl e x. "Vocat i on" l i t eral l y me a n s cal l i ng. T h e r el i gi ous me a n -
i ng of "vocat i on, " t he r e f or e , i s wha t o n e i s cal l ed t o d o , whi c h
ma y or ma y n o t c oi nc i de wi t h o n e ' s oc c upa t i on, wi t h wh a t o n e
i s act ual l y doi ng.
I n t hi s s ens e vocat i on i mpl i es a r e l a t i ons hi p. For i f s o me -
o n e i s cal l ed, s o me t h i n g mu s t be d o i n g t h e cal l i ng. I bel i eve
t hi s s o me t h i n g i s Go d . Go d cal l s us h u ma n b e i n g s wh e t h e r
skept i cs or bel i ever s , wh e t h e r Chr i s t i an or n o t t o c e r t a i n, of-
t e n ver y speci fi c act i vi t i es. F u r t h e r mo r e , s i nce Go d r el at es wi t h
us as i ndi vi dual s , t hi s ma t t e r of cal l i ng i s ut t er l y i ndi vi dual i z ed.
Wh a t Go d cal l s me t o do i s n o t at all necessar i l y wh a t Go d i s call-
i ng you t o d o .
I t i s qui t e obvi ous t h a t whi l e o n e p e r s o n ma y be cal l ed t o
be a h o me ma k e r , a n o t h e r ma y be cal l ed t o be a lawyer, a sci ent i st ,
or a n adver t i s i ng execut i ve. T h e r e a r e di f f er ent ki nds of c a r e e r
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 153
cal l i ngs; f or ma n y p e o p l e , t h e r e a r e s e que nt i a l cal l i ngs. Mi dl i f e
i s of t en a t i me wh e n t h e r e i s a c h a n g e i n car eer . But wha t i s less
obvi ous a r e t h e s pi r i t ual a n d et hi cal i ssues r el evant t o o n e ' s vo-
cat i on, caus e, or p r o d u c t . As a sci ent i st , am I cal l ed t o wor k on
we a p o n s d e v e l o p me n t ? As a lawyer, am I cal l ed t o d e f e n d s ome -
o n e I s us pe c t i s gui l t y? As a gynecol ogi s t , do I or do I n o t per -
f or m a bor t i ons ?
J u s t as s o me di s cover t ha t c e r t a i n as pect s of t he i r voc a t i on
do n o t fit or feel r i ght t o t h e m, ot he r s s p e n d ye a r s e ve n a life-
t i me f l e e i ng t he i r t r u e vocat i on. A fort y-year-ol d s e r ge a nt ma -
j o r i n t h e Ar my o n c e c ons ul t e d me f or a mi l d de pr e s s i on t ha t
he as cr i bed t o hi s r e a s s i g n me n t t o Ge r ma ny, u p c o mi n g i n t wo
weeks . He a n d hi s fami l y we r e si ck a n d t i r ed of movi ng, he
c l a i me d. I t was u n u s u a l for t op- r a nki ng enl i s t ed me n ( or offi-
cer s) t o s eek psychi at r i c c ons ul t a t i on, especi al l y f or s uc h a mi -
n o r c o n d i t i o n . Sever al o t h e r t hi ngs we r e al so e x t r a o r d i n a r y
a b o u t t hi s ma n . Pe o p l e do n o t ge t t o be s e r ge a nt s ma j or wi t h-
o u t c ons i de r a bl e i nt e l l i ge nc e a n d c o mp e t e n c e , b u t my p a t i e n t
e x u d e d wi t a n d gent i l i t y as wel l . S o me h o w I was n o t s ur pr i s e d t o
l e a r n t ha t p a i n t i n g was hi s hobby. He s t r uck me a s b e i n g art i s-
tic. Af t er he t ol d me he h a d b e e n i n t h e ser vi ce f or t went y-t wo
year s, I as ked hi m, "Si nce y o u ' r e s o f ed up wi t h movi ng, why
d o n ' t you r et i r e? "
" I wo u l d n ' t k n o w wha t t o do wi t h myself," he r e pl i e d.
' You c oul d p a i n t as mu c h as you wa nt e d, " I s ugges t ed.
" No, t hat ' s j u s t a hobby, " he sai d. "It ' s n o t s o me t h i n g I
c oul d ma k e a l i vi ng at . "
Ha vi ng no i de a of hi s t al ent , I was n o t i n a pos i t i on t o r e b u t
h i m on t ha t s cor e, b u t t h e r e we r e o t h e r ways t o p r o b e hi s resi s-
t a nc e . ' Yo u ' r e an obvi ousl y i nt el l i gent ma n wi t h a f i ne t r ack
r e c or d, " I c o u n t e r e d . ' You c o u l d get l ot s of g o o d j o b s . "
" I h a v e n ' t b e e n t o col l ege, " he sai d, " a nd I ' m n o t c ut o u t
for sel l i ng i ns ur a nc e . " At t h e s ugges t i on t ha t he c ons i de r g o i n g
back t o col l ege a n d live on hi s r e t i r e me n t pay, he r e s p o n d e d :
" No, I ' m t oo ol d. I wo u l d n ' t feel r i ght a r o u n d a b u n c h of ki ds. "
I r e q u e s t e d t ha t he b r i n g s a mpl e s of hi s mo s t r e c e n t pai nt -
154 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
i ngs t o o u r n e x t a p p o i n t me n t t h e f ol l owi ng week. He b r o u g h t
t wo, an oi l a n d a wat er col or . Bot h we r e ma gni f i c e nt . Th e y we r e
mo d e r n , i magi nat i ve, even f l amboyant , wi t h a n e xt r a or di na r i l y
effect i ve us e of s h a p e , s h a d e , a n d col or . Wh e n I i nqui r e d, he
sai d t ha t he di d t h r e e or f our pa i nt i ngs a year b u t ne ve r at-
t e mp t e d t o sell any of t h e m, onl y gave t h e m away t o f r i ends .
" Look, " I sai d, "you' ve got r eal t al ent . I k n o w i t ' s a c o mp e t -
itive fi el d, b u t t he s e a r e sal abl e. Pa i nt i ng o u g h t t o be mo r e t h a n
j u s t a h o b b y f or you. "
"Tal ent ' s a subj ect i ve j u d g me n t , " he d e mu r r e d .
"So I ' m t h e onl y o n e who' s ever t ol d you you ha ve r eal tal-
e nt ? "
" No, b u t i f you k e e p l ooki ng up i n t h e sky, y o u r f eet a r e
b o u n d t o s t umbl e . "
I t h e n t ol d h i m i t s e e me d obvi ous t ha t he h a d a p r o b l e m
wi t h u n d e r a c h i e v e me n t , pr oba bl y r o o t e d i n f ear of f ai l ur e, or
f ear of success, or b o t h . I of f er ed t o obt a i n f or h i m a me di c a l r e-
l eas e f r om hi s a s s i g n me n t s o t ha t he c oul d stay on pos t f or us t o
wor k t o g e t h e r e x p l o r i n g t he r oot s of hi s p r o b l e m. But he was
a d a ma n t t ha t i t was hi s "dut y" t o p r o c e e d t o Ge r ma ny. I advi s ed
h i m h o w t o get ps yc hot he r a py over t h e r e , b u t I d o u b t he t ook
my advi ce. I s us pe c t hi s r es i s t ance t o hi s obvi ous voc a t i on was so
gr e a t t ha t he wo u l d ne ve r fol l ow t h e cal l no ma t t e r h o w cl ear or
l oud.
Gi ven o u r f r ee will, we ha ve a c hoi c e t o r ef use t o h e e d
Go d ' s cal l i ng f or us . T h e fact t ha t we have a voc a t i on d o e s n ' t
necessar i l y me a n t ha t we will fol l ow it. Conver sel y, t h e fact t ha t
we wa n t t o do s o me t h i n g o r even ha ve a t a l e nt f or i t d o e s n ' t
necessar i l y me a n i t i s wh a t Go d want s us t o d o .
S o me p e o p l e ha ve a cal l i ng t o ma r r i a g e a n d f ami l y life;
ot he r s have a cal l i ng t o s i ngl e or even mo n a s t i c life. Wh e t h e r
o n e bel i eves i n f at e or not , t h e e mb r a c e of a cal l i ng of t en c o me s
onl y af t er mu c h a mbi va l e nc e . On e wo ma n i ni t i al l y e x p e r i e n c e d
a goni z i ng unc e r t a i nt y wh e n f aced wi t h t h e p r o s p e c t of pa r e nt -
h o o d af t er s he h a d a l r e a dy es t abl i s hed h e r c a r e e r a n d h a d sev-
er al pr of es s i onal o p t i o n s wi t h t wo col l ege d e g r e e s i n di f f er ent
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 155
fi el ds. At t h e a ge of t hi r t y- t hr ee s he b e c a me p r e g n a n t a n d
al so open t o t h e p r o s p e c t of mo t h e r h o o d f o r t h e first t i me .
"Bef or e, I ne ve r c o u l d pi c t ur e mysel f t i ed d o wn t o a n y o n e n o t
o n e ma n a n d cer t ai nl y n o t t h e l i f el ong c o mmi t me n t t o a chi l d, "
s he t ol d me . " I h a d vi gor ousl y r e be l l e d agai ns t t h e i de a of b e i n g
r e s pons i bl e f or t h e l ong- t e r m wel l - bei ng of a n y o n e o t h e r t h a n
myself. I h a d b e c o me a d d i c t e d t o t h e ' f r e e d o m' of u n c o mmi t -
me n t , t o l i vi ng a c c o r d i n g t o my own whi ms a n d des i r es . I d i d n ' t
wa n t t o b e d e p e n d e n t o n a n y o n e el se a n d d i d n ' t wa nt a n y o n e
d e p e n d e n t o n me . "
T h r o u g h h e r o p e n n e s s a n d wi l l i ngness t o v e n t u r e t h r o u g h
unc e r t a i nt y a n d d o u b t , s he slowly e me r g e d wi t h a n e w s ens e of
hersel f. " I f o u n d mysel f b e i n g p r i e d i nt o ' gi vi ng u p ' my t ot al l y
i n d e p e n d e n t lifestyle a n d b e g a n l e a r n i n g t o l i ke t h e i de a of i n-
t e r d e p e n d e n c e t ha t ma d e r o o m f or my ma t e a n d chi l d, " s he
sai d. " Th e n I c o u l d n ' t i ma g i n e n o t ha vi ng t h e chi l d. I c a n' t
qui t e p u t my f i nger on t hi s f or ce t ha t p u s h e d me t owa r d ac-
c e p t i n g t hi s n e w i ma g e of mysel f as a mo t h e r a n d a c o mmi t t e d
pa r t ne r . But s ome how, wh e n I f i nal l y s t o p p e d r es i s t i ng it, I be -
c a me t r a n s f o r me d i n a way t ha t fel t j u s t r i ght . "
I t i s cl ear t ha t whi l e t h e f ul f i l l ment of a voc a t i on d o e s n o t
g u a r a n t e e h a p p i n e s s a s i n t h e case of t h e t o r t u r e d ar t i st van
Go g h i t d o e s of t en set t h e s t age f or t h e p e a c e of mi n d t h a t
ma y r es ul t f r om f ul f i l l ment . I t i s t he r e f or e f r e que nt l y a pl e a s ur e
t o wi t ness a h u ma n b e i n g d o i n g wh a t s he or he was me a n t t o
d o . We d e l i g h t wh e n we see a p a r e n t wh o t r ul y l oves t a ki ng c a r e
of c hi l dr e n. Th e r e i s s uc h a s ens e of f i t . Conver sel y, t h e r e i s al-
ways a s ens e of di s-ease wh e n we s ee p e o p l e whos e wor k a n d
lifestyles do n o t f i t t he i r vocat i ons . I t s e e ms s uc h a s h a me , a
wast e. I bel i eve Go d ' s u n i q u e voc a t i on f or e a c h of us i nvar i abl y
calls us t o p e r s o n a l success, b u t n o t necessar i l y i n t h e wor l d' s
s t er eot ypi cal t e r ms or me a n s of me a s u r i n g success. I ha ve s e e n
wo me n wh o ma r r i e d i nt o gr e a t weal t h, f or i ns t a nc e , wh o wo u l d
be c o n s i d e r e d successf ul i n t h e wor l d' s t e r ms , whos e j ewel s a n d
pos i t i on we r e t h e envy of mul t i t ude s , b u t wh o l i ved i n de s pa i r
be c a us e t hey we r e ne ve r cal l ed t o ma r r i a g e i n t h e f i r s t pl a c e .
156 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
THE CHOI CE OF GRATI TUDE
A d e c a d e a go, I r ecei ved t wo checks , o n e i n p a y me n t by c on-
t r act for a l e c t ur e I h a d gi ven a n d t h e o t h e r an unas ked- f or ,
u n a n t i c i p a t e d d o n a t i o n f or FCE. I gener al l y s u p p o r t t h e ex-
pr e s s i on " The r e ' s no s uc h t h i n g as a f r ee l u n c h . " But t hi s was
o n e of t hos e mo me n t s of e xc e pt i on wh e n I sat wi t h an e a r n e d
me a l on o n e k n e e a n d a del i ci ous , s ur pr i s i ng gift on t h e ot he r .
For whi c h do you s u p p o s e I was t h e mo r e gr at ef ul ?
I t i s easy t o t ake a l ot f or g r a n t e d i n c l u d i n g g o o d l uck
a n d u n e x p e c t e d gi f t si n t hi s life. I n d e e d , i n t hi s r e ma r ka bl y
s ecul ar age, we a r e act ual l y e n c o u r a g e d t o t hi nk i n t e r ms of
l uck, as i f g o o d f o r t u n e ha s no mo r e me a n i n g t h a n a r ol l of t h e
di ce. We i ma g i n e e ve r yt hi ng t o be a ma t t e r of me r e a c c i de nt or
c h a n c e , a s s u mi n g t ha t g o o d l uck a n d b a d l uck a r e e qua l , t ha t
t hey ba l a nc e o u t a n d a d d u p t o z e r o o r n o t h i n g . Thi s a t t i t ude
easily l eads t o t h e phi l os ophy of de s pa i r cal l ed ni hi l i s m ( de-
r i ved f r om nihil, t he La t i n wo r d f or " n o t h i n g " ) . Wh e n i t i s
b r o u g h t t o its l ogi cal c onc l us i on, ni hi l i s m ul t i mat el y hol ds t ha t
t h e r e i s n o t h i n g of any wor t h.
Yet t h e r e i s a n o t h e r way t o l ook at g o o d l uck a n d u n e x -
p e c t e d gifts. Thi s t h e o r y posi t s a s u p e r h u ma n giver, Go d , wh o
l i kes t o give gifts t o h u ma n c r e a t ur e s be c a us e He par t i cul ar l y
l oves us . Wh e t h e r t hi s Go d has a n y t h i n g t o do wi t h t h e down-
p o u r s i n o u r lives i s u n c e r t a i n , a l t h o u g h i n r e t r os pe c t t he y of-
t e n s e e m t o have b e e n bl essi ngs i n di s gui s e. As t o t hos e t hi ngs
t ha t a r e r e c ogni z a bl e gifts, s o me of us s ee a p a t t e r n of benef i -
c e n c e t o t h e m far g r e a t e r a n d mo r e c o n s t a n t t h a n a ny p a t t e r n
of mi s f or t une . For t hi s b e n e f i c e n t p a t t e r n of gift-giving we ha ve
a n a me : gr ace. If s o me t h i n g i s e a r n e d i t i s n o t a t r ue gift. Gr a c e ,
however , i s u n e a r n e d . I t i s f r ee. I t i s gr at i s. T h e wor ds gr a c e ,
gr at i s, a n d gr a t i t ude flow i nt o o n e a n o t h e r . I f you per cei ve
gr ace, you will nat ur al l y feel gr at ef ul .
A st or y t ol d t o me by a f a mo u s p r e a c h e r i nvol ved a y o u n g
Yankee wh o , on a bus i nes s t r i p, h a d t o dr i ve t h r o u g h t h e So u t h
f or t h e f i r s t t i me i n hi s life. He h a d dr i ven al l n i g h t a n d was i n a
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 157
hur r y. By t he t i me he ar r i ved i n So u t h Ca r ol i na , he was r eal l y
hungr y. St o p p i n g at a r oa ds i de di ner , he o r d e r e d a br eakf as t of
s c r a mb l e d eggs a n d s aus age, a n d was t a k e n by s ur pr i s e wh e n hi s
o r d e r c a me ba c k a n d t h e r e was a whi t e b l o b of s o me t h i n g on
t h e pl at e.
" What ' s t hat ? " he as ked t h e wai t r ess.
" Th e m' s gr i t s, s uh, " s he r e pl i e d i n h e r s t r ong s o u t h e r n ac-
c e nt .
"But I d i d n ' t o r d e r t h e m, " he sai d.
' You d o n ' t o r d e r gr i t s, " s he r e s p o n d e d . " The y j u s t c o me . "
An d t hat , sai d t h e pr e a c he r , i s ver y mu c h l i ke gr ace. You
d o n ' t o r d e r it. I t j u s t c ome s .
I n my e x p e r i e n c e , t h e abi l i t y t o a p p r e c i a t e pl e a s a nt sur -
pr i ses a s gifts t e n d s t o be g o o d f or o n e ' s me n t a l he a l t h. Th o s e
wh o per cei ve gr a c e i n t he wor l d a r e mo r e l i kel y t o be gr at ef ul
t h a n t hos e wh o d o n ' t . An d gr at ef ul p e o p l e a r e mo r e l i kel y t o b e
h a p p y t h a n ungr a t e f ul one s . Th e y a r e al so mo r e likely t o ma k e
ot he r s happy. Fe e l i ng gi ven t o by t h e wor l d, t hey feel pr edi s -
p o s e d t o gi ve ba c k t o t h e wor l d.
Wh y do s o me p e o p l e have s uc h obvi ousl y gr at ef ul he a r t s
whi l e o t h e r s have di st i nct l y ungr a t e f ul ones ? An d why do still
ot he r s fall i n be t we e n, s e e mi n g rel at i vel y b l a n d i n b o t h t he i r
gr a t i t ude a n d t he i r r e s e n t me n t ? I d o n ' t know. I t wo u l d be si m-
pl e t o bel i eve t ha t c h i l d r e n f r om n u r t u r i n g h o me s will a ut o-
mat i cal l y gr ow up t o be gr at ef ul adul t s , a n d t ha t de pr i ve d
h o me s r egul ar l y t u r n o u t ma l c o n t e n t s . T h e p r o b l e m i s t he r e ' s
n o t mu c h e vi de nc e t o s u p p o r t t hi s. Exc e pt i ons a b o u n d . I' ve
k n o wn ma n y wh o we r e r ai s ed i n t h e mi ds t of negl ect , pover t y,
a n d e ve n br ut al i t y wh o s e e me d t o qui t e nat ur al l y live t he i r a dul t
lives pr a i s i ng t h e Lor d, or at l east pr a i s i ng life itself. Conver sel y,
I' ve k n o wn a few f r om h o me s of l ove a n d c o mf o r t wh o s e e me d
b o r n i ngr at es . A gr at ef ul h e a r t i s a mys t er i ous t hi ng, a n d ma y
even be ge ne t i c i n or i gi n.
So an " at t i t ude of gr a t i t ude " ma y n o t ent i r el y be a ma t t e r
of c hoi c e . I n d e e d , i t i s my bel i ef t ha t a gr at ef ul h e a r t i s i t sel f a
gift. In o t h e r wor ds , t h e capaci t y t o a p p r e c i a t e gifts i s a gift. It i s
158 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
al so t h e gr e a t e s t bl es s i ng a h u ma n b e i n g ma y possess o t h e r
t h a n a s t r ong will. But t ha t d o e s n ' t me a n t ha t a gr at ef ul h e a r t
c a n n o t b e n u r t u r e d b y c hoi c e .
I o n c e s uper vi s ed a lay t he r a pi s t i n hi s wor k wi t h a ma n i n
hi s f or t i es, wh o h a d c o me t o see h i m be c a us e of c h r o n i c de -
pr es s i on. As de pr e s s i ons go, hi s was r a t h e r mi l d. Pe r h a p s a
mo r e a c c ur a t e de s c r i pt i on of t h e pa t i e nt ' s c o n d i t i o n was dys-
peps i a, an ol d- f as hi oned lay t e r m f or i ndi ge s t i on. I t was as i f t h e
whol e wor l d gave h i m i ndi ge s t i on a n d ma d e h i m wa n t t o b u r p
a n d be l c h. No t mu c h c h a n g e d i n hi s di s pos i t i on f or qui t e a
whi l e. Towa r d t h e e n d of t h e s e c o n d year, however , t h e t her a-
pi st I was s uper vi s i ng t ol d me , "At t he l ast sessi on, my cl i ent
c a me h e r e ver y exci t ed. He was e xc l a i mi ng at t h e be a ut y of a
s uns e t h e ' d s e e n whi l e dr i vi ng over t h e hi l l s. "
" Congr a t ul a t i ons ! " I r e s p o n d e d .
" Wha t d o you me a n ? " h e as ked.
' Your pa t i e nt ' s ove r t he h u mp , " I sai d. " He ' s ge t t i ng b e t t e r
r api dl y. It ' s t h e f i r s t t i me I' ve h e a r d t ha t t hi s ma n t ook a ny de -
l i ght i n life. He ' s n o t s o a b s o r b e d i n negat i vi t y or s o sel f-focused
t ha t h e c o u l d n ' t not i c e be a ut y a r o u n d h i m a n d b e gr at ef ul for
it. Thi s r e pr e s e nt s an e x t r a o r d i n a r y shi ft . " I l at er l e a r n e d t ha t
my p r e d i c t i o n was on t ar get . Wi t hi n a few mo n t h s , t h e p a t i e n t
was basi cal l y b e h a v i n g l i ke a n e w ma n , hi s t he r a pi s t r e p o r t e d .
I n d e e d , h o w o n e r e s p o n d s t o adver si t y a n d g o o d o r b a d
l uck ma y be o n e of t h e t r ues t me a s u r e s of o u r abi l i t y t o gr ow
i nt o gr at ef ul nes s . We c a n l ook at s o me b a d l uck as a bl es s i ng i n
di sgui se. We c a n al so ma i n t a i n a s ens e of humi l i t y a n d n o t t ake
g o o d l uck f or g r a n t e d . Do we c o mp l a i n a b o u t h o w b a d t h e
we a t h e r i s mo s t of t h e t i me or c a n we l e a r n t o a p p r e c i a t e t h e
be a ut y a n d di versi t y of we a t h e r as a gift t o us? I f we a r e s t uck i n
a traffic j a m on a bl us t er y wi nt e r day, do we sit a n d stew, even
wa nt t o c he w o u t t h e dr i ver s a h e a d of us, or do we c o n c e n t r a t e
on t he fact t ha t we a r e bl es s ed t o have a car i n t h e mi ds t of a
s nows t or m? Ar e we i nc l i ne d t o c o mp l a i n a b o u t o u r j o b s r a t h e r
t h a n wor k on ways t o i mp r o v e o u r skills?
Wh e n I was a c hi l d a f r i e nd of my f at her ' s gave me a n u m-
b e r of Ho r a t i o Al ger , Jr . , books t ha t we r e al r eady o u t of pr i nt . I
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 159
d e v o u r e d t h e m. T h e b o o k s ' h e r o e s we r e gr at ef ul f or wh a t t hey
got . Th e y d i d n ' t c o mp l a i n a b o u t adversi t y, b u t a c t e d a l mos t as i f
i t we r e an o p p o r t u n i t y i ns t e a d of a c ur s e t o t h e m. Re a d i n g
t hos e books i n c h i l d h o o d was, I s us pect , a p r o f o u n d l y posi t i ve
i nf l ue nc e i n my y o u n g life. I wor r y a b o u t o u r soci et y t he s e days
wh e n s uc h books a r e n o t onl y o u t of p r i n t but , by many,
d e e me d cor ny.
THE CHOI CE TO DI E GRACEFULLY
T h e f i na l c hoi c e of o u r lives on t hi s e a r t h i s wh e t h e r or n o t we
go o u t i n style. For i t ' s n o t a ma t t e r of wh e t h e r t o di e b u t how.
We have a l i f et i me t o p r e p a r e . Unf or t unat el y, t h e de ni a l of ag-
i ng i n o u r c ul t ur e goes hand- i n- gl ove wi t h t h e de ni a l of d e a t h .
For many, t hi s de ni a l c i r c umve nt s t h e gr e a t e s t l e a r n i n g of ol d
age: h o w t o a c c e pt l i mi t s. Ou r c ul t ur e suggest s t h a t t h e r e a r e no
l i mi t s a nd f u r t h e r mo r e , s e e ms t o s ugges t t ha t t h e r e shouldn't
be any. Of c our s e , r eal life c ha l l e nge s t hi s n o t i o n on ever y l evel .
Yet no- l i mi t s t h i n k i n g i s at t h e h e a r t of mu c h of t el evi si on ad-
ver t i si ng. O n e a d t ha t par t i cul ar l y a n n o y e d me s h o we d a
wo ma n i n h e r si xt i es ( who, of c our s e , l o o k e d f or t yi sh) pl ayi ng
t e nni s . T h e me s s a ge was t ha t be c a us e of s o me me d i c i n e s he
t ook, h e r ar t hr i t i s d i d n ' t k e e p h e r off t h e c our t s . T h e a d c on-
c l u d e d wi t h an i nvi si bl e voi ce f r om t h e s i del i nes j oyous l y ex-
cl ai mi ng: "Li ve wi t hout l i mi t s! "
T h e r eal i t y i s t ha t we mu s t live wi t h l i mi t at i ons , even f r om
t h e t i me we a r e y o u n g , qui t e expl or at or y, a n d gener al l y vi br ant .
As we age, we face far g r e a t e r l i mi t at i ons . We have by t h e n ma d e
s o me c hoi c e s s uc h a s wh e t h e r t o be si ngl e or ma r r i e d , t o wor k
or t o r e t i r e t h a t e xc l ude o t h e r opt i ons . I f s o me o n e b e c o me s
c onf i ne d t o a wheel chai r , i t woul d be f ool i sh f or h i m t o bel i eve
t ha t h e c a n j u s t h o p o n a n a i r pl a ne easily a n d g o a b o u t bus i nes s
as us ual .
I t wo u l d be u n n a t u r a l t o we l c o me a gi ng. A mo d i c u m of de -
pr es s i on r e l a t e d t o t h e l osses i n h e r e n t i n gr owi ng o l d o r fac-
i ng any c h a n g e , f or t ha t ma t t e r i s na t ur a l . But j u s t be c a us e i t
160 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
wo u l d be u n n a t u r a l t o i nvi t e a gi ng d o e s n o t me a n we s h o u l d
d e n y t he r eal i t i es of a gi ng a n d its pai nf ul pr oc e s s of s t r i ppi ng
away. Agi ng event ual l y i nvol ves t h e s t r i ppi ng away of every-
t hi ng, i n c l u d i n g agility, s exual pot ency, physi cal beaut y, a n d p o -
l i t i cal power . Ou r o p t i o n s a n d c hoi c e s b e c o me ever mo r e
l i mi t e d a n d we a r e c h a l l e n g e d t o l e a r n t o live wi t h t he s e l i mi t a-
t i ons .
Dyi ng, of c our s e , i s t h e f i nal s t r i ppi ng away. I' ve h e a r d
ma n y p e o p l e say t ha t "if" t hey have got t o goa s i f t hey r eal l y
h a d a c h o i c e t h e y woul d r a t h e r di e s uddenl y. T h e r e a s o n t ha t
c a n c e r a n d AI DS ar e s o d r e a d e d i s t ha t wi t h s uc h di seases o n e
di es slowly. T h e g r a d u a l de t e r i or a t i on i nvol ves e x p e r i e n c i n g a
t ot al loss of c ont r ol , a n d f or mo s t p e o p l e t hi s pr oc e s s i s e q u a t e d
wi t h a loss of di gni t y. T h e s ens e of i ndi gni t y i nvol ved i n st r i p-
p i n g away i s ver y r eal . But a di s t i nct i on c a n be ma d e b e t we e n
false di gni t y a n d t r u e di gni t y, a n d t h e r e i s a t r e me n d o u s differ-
e n c e b e t we e n t h e r e s pons e s of t h e e g o a n d t hos e of t h e soul t o
t h e pr oc e s s of dyi ng. Ou r egos of t en c a n ' t b e a r t h e l oss of di g-
ni t y f r om wa t c hi ng o u r bodi e s wast e away. Tha t ' s be c a us e di g-
ni t y has e ve r yt hi ng t o do wi t h t h e e go a n d n o t h i n g t o do wi t h
t h e soul . I n c onf r ont i ng t h e c hoi c e t o gi ve up c ont r ol , t h e e g o
vi gor ousl y r e be l s de s pi t e a n i nevi t abl e l os i ng bat t l e. T h e s oul ,
on t h e o t h e r h a n d , we l c ome s t h e s t r i ppi ng- away pr oces s . We
c a n l e a r n t ha t as we give up c ont r ol , we a r e al so gi vi ng up false
di gni t y, s o t ha t we ma y di e gr acef ul l y wi t h t r ue di gni t y.
By dyi ng gr acef ul l y I do n o t me a n t a ki ng t h e r o u t e of eu-
t hanas i a. Eut ha na s i a basi cal l y i nvol ves t r yi ng t o ma k e s ome -
t h i n g c l e a n t ha t i s i n h e r e n t l y messy. I t is, i n my o p i n i o n , an
a t t e mp t t o s h o r t c u t t he exi s t ent i al a n d l egi t i mat e s uf f er i ng of
dyi ng, t h e r e b y s hor t c ut t i ng t h e o p p o r t u n i t y for l e a r n i n g a n d
gr owt h. Ne i t h e r do I me a n e n g a g i n g i n de ni a l . I n di f f er ent
f or ms of de ni a l s o me p e o p l e r ef use t o ma k e o u t wills, c h o o s e
n o t t o t al k a b o u t t he i r f eel i ngs a b o u t d e a t h , or bl ock i t o u t al-
t o g e t h e r by ma k i n g di s t a nt f ut ur e pl a ns even wh e n t hey s h o u l d
know t he i r t i me i s l i mi t ed. De ni a l ma y h e l p eas e t h e p a i n of be-
i ng cons ci ous of o n e ' s i nevi t abl e d e a t h , b u t i t al so ke e ps us
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 161
st uck. I t n o t onl y bl ocks me a ni ngf ul c o mmu n i c a t i o n , i t al so ob-
st r uct s all l e a r n i n g t owa r d life' s cl ose.
To di e graceful l y, I bel i eve, i s t o ma k e t h e c hoi c e t o see dy-
i ng as a l e a r n i n g o p p o r t u n i t y a n d t o we l c o me t h e s t r i ppi ng
away as a c l e a ns i ng so t h a t t h e t r u e di gni t y of t he soul c a n s hi ne
t h r o u g h . In my novel A Bed by the Window, I de s c r i be s o me dyi ng
pa t i e nt s a t a n u r s i n g h o me wh o s e e m t o ha ve ha l oe s a r o u n d
t h e m. Thi s p h e n o me n o n i s n o t r es t r i ct ed t o f i c t i on. I n d e e d ,
ma n y p e o p l e have not i c e d o r h e a r d a b o u t t h e "l i ght nes s "
a r o u n d t hos e wh o have t r ul y wo r k e d t h r o u g h t h e st age of de -
pr e s s i on a n d ar r i ved a t a c c e p t a n c e .
I f we a r e wi l l i ng t o do so, we c a n b e c o me t r a n s f o r me d
n o t by bi t t e r ne s s , b u t by humi l i t yas we de a l wi t h t h e ma j or
l osses t ha t a r e a n i nevi t abl e p a r t of a gi ng a n d t h e j o u r n e y t o-
wa r d d e a t h . Pe r h a p s t h e c hoi c e t o di e gr acef ul l y oc c ur s wh e n
we f i nal l y l e a r n a n d a c c e pt t ha t all i s a c c o r d i n g t o h o w i t s h o u l d
b e . Wh e t h e r o n e bel i eves i n a n aft erl i fe or not , t o p r o c e e d
gr acef ul l y i nt o t h e a r ms of d e a t h i s t h e ul t i ma t e a c qui e s c e nc e t o
a n a b i d i n g c onvi c t i one ve n i n t h e mi ds t of pa r a doxi c a l unc e r -
t a i nt yt ha t ever y a s pe c t of life c ont r i but e s t o t h e me a n i n g of
t h e whol e . An d , al so par adoxi cal l y, t h e mo s t i mp o r t a n t c hoi c e
we ma k e t h e c hoi c e t o di e gr acef ul l yi s t o c h o o s e t o give up
all choi ces a n d pl a c e o u r soul s t ot al l y i n t h e h a n d s of t h e Real
Power .
THE CHOI CE OF EMPTI NESS
De a t h i s t h e ul t i ma t e e mpt i ne s s . We a r e t er r i f i ed of t h e voi d of
d e a t h e ve n i f we bel i eve we will c o me o u t t h e o t h e r s i de. Yet we
d o n ' t know what t h e o t h e r si de will be l i ke.
T h e r e a r e ma n y var i et i es of e mpt i ne s s , b u t t h e mo s t i m-
p o r t a n t ( a n d t h e easi est t o s pe a k a b o u t wi t hout ge t t i ng t oo mys-
t i cal ) i s t h e " e mpt i ne s s of n o t knowi ng. " Des pi t e l i vi ng i n a
soci et y t ha t a p p e a r s t o p u s h a "know-i t -al l " me nt a l i t y a n d l abel
i n c o mp e t e n t t hos e wh o d o n ' t always s e e m t o be i n t h e know, we
162 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
still have a c hoi c e t o n o t k n o w wi t hout f eel i ng i n c o mp e t e n t or
gui l t y a b o u t it. I n fact, t h e r e a r e t i mes i n e a c h of o u r lives wh e n
i t i s n o t onl y p r o p e r b u t h e a l i n g t o give up t h i n k i n g we k n o w all
t h e ans wer s .
T h e mo s t h e a l i n g e x p e r i e n c e of my a dol e s c e nc e was a gift
by a ma n wh o r e l a t e d t o me o u t of t h e e mpt i ne s s of n o t know-
i ng, a n d wh o s er ved as a wonder f ul l y posi t i ve r ol e mo d e l t o
boot . In A World Waiting to Be Born, I de s c r i be d how, at t h e a ge
of f i f t een a n d i n t h e mi d d l e of my j u n i o r year, I d e c i d e d t o l eave
Exet er . As I l ook ba c k on t ha t t u r n i n g p o i n t i n my life, I am
a ma z e d a t t h e gr a c e t ha t gave me t h e c o u r a g e t o do it. Af t er al l ,
n o t onl y was I d r o p p i n g o u t of a pr es t i gi ous p r e p s c hool agai ns t
my p a r e n t s ' wi shes, b u t I was wal ki ng away f r om a g o l d e n WASP
t r ack t ha t h a d all b e e n l ai d o u t f or me . Ha r dl y awar e a t t ha t a ge
j u s t wh a t I was d o i n g , I was t a ki ng my f i r st gi a nt s t ep o u t of my
e n t i r e c ul t ur e . Th a t c ul t ur e of t h e " e s t a bl i s hme nt " was wh a t
o n e was s u p p o s e d t o as pi r e t o, a n d I was t hr owi ng i t away. An d
wh e r e was I t o go? I was f or gi ng i nt o t he t ot al u n k n o wn . I was so
t er r i f i ed t ha t I t h o u g h t I s h o u l d s e e k t h e advi ce of s o me of Ex-
e t e r ' s facul t y be f or e f i nal i zi ng s uc h a dr e a df ul deci s i on. But
whi c h of t h e facul t y?
T h e f i r s t wh o c a me t o mi n d was my advi ser. He h a d bar el y
s p o k e n t o me f or t wo a n d a hal f year s, b u t he was r e p u t e d l y
ki nd. A s e c o n d obvi ous c a n d i d a t e was t h e cr ust y ol d d e a n of t h e
s chool , k n o wn t o be be l ove d by t h o u s a n d s of a l u mn i . But I
t h o u g h t t ha t t h r e e was a g o o d n u mb e r , a n d t h e t hi r d c hoi c e
was mo r e difficult. I f i nal l y hi t u p o n Mr. Lynch, my ma t h t e a c he r
a n d a s o me wh a t y o u n g e r ma n . I c hos e h i m n o t be c a us e we h a d
any r e l a t i ons hi p or be c a us e he s e e me d t o be a par t i cul ar l y
wa r m s or t of p e r s o n i n d e e d , I f o u n d h i m a r a t h e r col d, ma t h -
emat i cal ki nd of f i s hbut be c a us e he h a d a r e p u t a t i o n as t h e
facul t y ge ni us . He h a d b e e n i nvol ved wi t h s o me ki nd of hi gh-
level ma t h e ma t i c s on t h e Ma n h a t t a n Pr oj ect , a n d I t h o u g h t I
s h o u l d c he c k o u t my deci s i on wi t h a " geni us . "
I we nt f i r s t t o my ki ndl y advi ser, wh o l et me t al k for a b o u t
t wo mi n u t e s a n d t h e n gent l y b r o k e i n. "It ' s t r ue t ha t y o u ' r e un-
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 163
de r a c hi e vi ng h e r e at Exet er , Scotty, " he sai d, " but n o t s o seri -
ousl y t ha t you wo n ' t be abl e t o g r a d u a t e . I t woul d be pr e f e r a bl e
for you t o g r a d u a t e f r om a s c hool l i ke Exe t e r wi t h l esser gr a de s
t h a n f r om a l esser s c hool wi t h b e t t e r gr a de s . I t wo u l d al so l ook
b a d on y o u r r e c o r d t o swi t ch hor s e s i n mi d s t r e a m. Besi des, I ' m
s ur e your p a r e n t s woul d be qui t e ups et . So why d o n ' t you j u s t
g o a l o n g a n d d o t h e bes t you can? "
Ne x t I we n t t o t he cr ust y ol d d e a n . He l et me s pe a k f or
t hi r t y s e c onds . " Exe t e r i s t h e bes t s c hool i n t he wor l d, " he har -
r u mp h e d . " Da mn f ool t h i n g y o u ' r e t h i n k i n g of doi ng. No w you
j u s t pul l your s el f up by t h e boot s t r a ps , y o u n g ma n ! "
Fe e l i ng wor s e a n d wor s e, I we n t t o s ee Mr. Lync h. He l et
me t al k mysel f out . I t t ook a b o u t f i ve mi n u t e s . T h e n he sai d he
d i d n ' t yet u n d e r s t a n d a n d as ked i f I woul d j u s t t al k s o me
mo r e a b o u t Exet er , a b o u t my family, a b o u t Go d ( he act ual l y
gave me pe r mi s s i on t o t al k a b o u t Go d ! ) , a b o u t a n y t h i n g t ha t
c a me i nt o my h e a d . So I r a mb l e d on f or a n o t h e r t e n mi n u t e s
f i f t een mi n u t e s i n all, whi c h was pr e t t y g o o d f or a de pr e s s e d,
i na r t i c ul a t e f i f t e e n- ye a r - ol d. Wh e n I was d o n e , he i n q u i r e d
wh e t h e r I wo u l d mi n d i f he as ked me s o me que s t i ons . Thr i vi ng
on t hi s a dul t a t t e nt i on, I r e pl i e d, " Of c our s e not , " a n d he
q u e r i e d me a b o u t ma n y di f f er ent t hi ngs f or t h e n e x t hal f - hour .
Finally, af t er forty-five mi n u t e s i n al l , t hi s s uppos e dl y c ol d
f i s h sat ba c k i n hi s c ha i r wi t h a p a i n e d e xpr e s s i on on hi s face
a n d sai d, " I ' m sorry. I c a n' t h e l p you. I d o n ' t have any advi ce t o
give you.
' You know, " he c o n t i n u e d , "it' s i mpos s i bl e f or o n e p e r s o n
t o ever c ompl e t e l y p u t hi ms el f i n a n o t h e r pe r s on' s s hoes . But
i nsof ar as I c a n p u t mysel f i n your s h o e s a n d I ' m gl ad I ' m n o t
t h e r e I d o n ' t k n o w wh a t I woul d do i f I we r e you. So, you s ee,
I d o n ' t k n o w h o w t o advi se you. I ' m s or r y t ha t I' ve b e e n u n a b l e
t o he l p. "
I t i s j u s t pos s i bl e t ha t t ha t ma n saved my life. For wh e n I en-
t e r e d Mr. Lync h' s office t ha t mo r n i n g s o me forty-five year s a go,
I was cl ose to sui ci dal . An d wh e n I left, I felt as if a t h o u s a n d
p o u n d s h a d b e e n t a ke n off my back. Be c a us e i f a genius d i d n ' t
164 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
k n o w wha t t o d o , t h e n i t was all r i ght f or me n o t t o k n o w wh a t
t o d o . An d i f I was c ons i de r i ng a mo v e t ha t s e e me d so i ns a ne i n
t he wor l d' s t e r ms , a n d a genius c o u l d n ' t tell me t ha t i t was
cl earl y, obvi ousl y d e me n t e d we l l , t h e n , ma ybe , j u s t ma ybe , i t
was s o me t h i n g Go d was cal l i ng me t o.
So i t was t ha t t ha t ma n , wh o d i d n ' t ha ve any ans wer s or
qui c k f or mul as , wh o d i d n ' t k n o w wha t I s h o u l d do a n d c hos e t o
pr a c t i c e e mpt i ne s s i t was t ha t ma n wh o pr ovi de d t h e h e l p I
n e e d e d . I t was t ha t ma n wh o l i s t ened t o me , wh o gave me hi s
t i me , wh o t r i ed t o p u t hi ms el f i n my s hoes , wh o e x t e n d e d hi m-
self a n d sacr i f i ced hi ms el f f or me . I t was t ha t ma n wh o l oved
me . An d i t was t ha t ma n wh o h e a l e d me .
Th e r e a r e no s i mpl e or easy f or mul as . I n h a n d l i n g all life
e xpe r i e nc e s , we mu s t e n d u r e a d e g r e e of e mpt i ne s s a n d t h e
a gony of n o t knowi ng. As I wr ot e in Further Along the Road Less
Traveled, t h e r e a r e ma n y t hi ngs we of t en go t h r o u g h life bl a m-
i ng o t h e r s for. Si nce a bi g p a r t of gr owi ng up i s l e a r n i n g t o for-
gi ve, e a c h t i me we mu s t r e c ons i de r a n d d e b a t e , " Shoul d I
b l a me or s h o u l d I f or gi ve?" Or , "Am I b e i n g l ovi ng or am I be -
i ng a d o o r ma t ? " Or si mpl y, " Wha t i s t h e t h i n g t o do? " I t i s a de -
ci si on t ha t mu s t be ma d e a ga i n i n e a c h s i t uat i on a n d ever y
di f f er ent t i me .
Al t h o u g h t h e r e i s no c e r t a i n f or mul a , t h e r e i s a gui de l i ne
t o h e l p i n s uc h deci s i on ma k i n g , whi c h I f i r s t wr ot e a b o u t i n
The Different Drum. It is to r e c ogni z e t ha t t h e u n c o n s c i o u s is al-
ways o n e s t ep a h e a d of t h e c ons c i ous mi n d . T h e p r o b l e m i s we
d o n ' t k n o w wh e t h e r i t ' s a h e a d i n t h e r i ght di r e c t i on or t h e
wr o n g di r e c t i on. We d o n ' t always k n o w i f t h a t still smal l voi ce
we h e a r i s t h e voi ce of t h e Hol y Spi r i t , or Sat an, or ma ybe j u s t
o u r gl a nds . I t is, t he r e f or e , i mpos s i bl e ever t o k n o w t ha t wh a t
we a r e d o i n g i s r i ght at t h e t i me , s i nce k n o wi n g i s a f unc t i on of
cons ci ous nes s .
However , i f your will i s st eadfast l y t o t h e g o o d a n d i f you
a r e wi l l i ng t o suffer fully wh e n t h e g o o d s e e ms a mb i g u o u s
( whi ch t o me s e e ms a b o u t 98. 7 p e r c e n t of t h e t i me ) , t h e n y o u r
u n c o n s c i o u s will always be o n e s t ep a h e a d of y o u r c ons c i ous
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 1 6 5
mi n d i n t h e r i ght di r e c t i on. I n o t h e r wor ds , you will do t h e
r i ght t hi ng. But you wo n ' t have t h e l uxur y of k n o wi n g i t at t h e
t i me you a r e d o i n g it. I n d e e d , you will do t h e r i ght t h i n g pr e -
cisely be c a us e you' ve b e e n wi l l i ng t o f or go t ha t l uxur y. An d i f
t hi s gui de l i ne s e e ms obs c ur e , t h e n you mi g h t wa nt t o r e me m-
b e r t ha t a l mos t all t h e evil i n t hi s wor l d i s c o mmi t t e d by p e o p l e
wh o a r e absolutely c e r t a i n t ha t t hey know wha t t hey a r e d o i n g .
WE MAY THINK THAT WE MAKE p e r s o n a l life c hoi c e s as i ndi vi dual s ,
as i f t h e i ndi vi dual exi s t ed mo r e or less i n i s ol at i on. But t h e r e-
ality i s t h a t we do n o t s o exi st . We h u ma n be i ngs a r e soci al cr ea-
t ur es , a n d vi r t ual l y all o u r c hoi c e s a r e ma d e u n d e r t h e
i nf l ue nc e , a n d i n t h e c o n t e x t of, t h e var i ous or ga ni z a t i ons i n
whi c h we pa r t i c i pa t e . By or ga ni z a t i ons , I do n o t si mpl y me a n
bus i nes s or ga ni z a t i ons . Fami l i es a r e or ga ni z a t i ons , a n d ma n y of
t h e pr i nc i pl e s t ha t h o l d t r u e f or f ami l i es al so h o l d t r u e f or busi -
nes s es , a n d vi ce ver sa. On t h e l ar ges t scal e, o u r whol e soci et y i s
a n or ga ni z a t i on. On t h e smal l est , ever y si ngl e soci al r el at i on-
s hi p we ha ve i s an or ga ni z a t i on. Anyt i me t h e r e i s a r e l a t i ons hi p
be t we e n t wo or mo r e p e o p l e , an or ga ni z a t i on of s o me s or t i s i n-
vol ved.
Cons e que nt l y, t h e s ubj ect of or ga ni z a t i ona l be ha vi or e n-
c ompa s s e s vi r t ual l y t h e e nt i r e f i e l d of h u ma n psychol ogy, s i nce
vi rt ual l y all h u ma n be ha vi or oc c ur s i n t h e c o n t e x t of o n e or
mo r e or ga ni z a t i ons . Or ga ni z a t i ona l be ha vi or i nc l ude s n o t onl y
how i ndi vi dual s be ha ve i n t e mp o r a r y g r o u p s b u t al so h o w
g r o u p s a n d e ve n t h e or ga ni z a t i ons t he ms e l ve s f unc t i on.
T h e f i el d i s e n o r mo u s , b u t I wo u l d l i ke t o f ocus on or gani z a-
CHAP TER 5
Organizational Life
Choices
168 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
t i onal choi ces t ha t s e e m t o me mo s t i mp o r t a n t , t h e deci s i ons
we ma k e a n d t h e act i ons we t ake t h a t i mp i n g e u p o n o t h e r p e o -
p l e a n d h o w we t r eat o t h e r s as wel l as our s el ves f or g o o d or
ill. I f t h e deci s i ons we ma k e affect onl y our s el ves , we c a n si mpl y
do wha t e ve r we wa nt t o do, t ake r es pons i bi l i t y f or it, a n d de a l
wi t h t he c o n s e q u e n c e s of o u r act i ons . But wh e n o t h e r s a r e i n-
vol ved, t hi s br i ngs us ver y cl ear l y i nt o t h e r e a l m of et hi cs a n d
t he ma t t e r of civility.
CIVILITY
I ha ve s p e n t mu c h of t h e pas t f i f t een year s i n t h e a t t e mp t t o res-
u r r e c t t wo cr i t i cal wor ds f r om a me a ni ngl e s s de a t h: c o mmu n i t y
a n d civility. Wh e n we s pe a k of c o mmu n i t y i n o u r c u r r e n t soci -
ety, we usual l y me a n any c o n g l o me r a t i o n of p e o p l e . For i n-
s t a nc e , we will r ef er t o Mor r i s t own, Ne w J er sey, as a c ommuni t y.
But t h e fact of t h e ma t t e r i s t ha t Mor r i s t own, Ne w J er sey, i s
n o t h i n g b u t a ge ogr a phi c a l a ggr e ga t e of p e o p l e wi t h a c e r t a i n
t ax bas e a n d a few soci al ser vi ces i n c o mmo n , b u t pr e c i ous l i t t l e
el sei f a n y t h i n g t h a t l i nks t h e m t o g e t h e r a s h u ma n be i ngs .
Or we will r ef er t o t h e Th i r d Pr e s byt e r i a n Ch u r c h of s o me t own
as a c o mmu n i t y wh e n , mo r e of t en t h a n not , t h e r eal i t y i s t h a t
t h e p e o p l e si t t i ng i n t h e pews n e x t t o e a c h o t h e r a r e u n a b l e t o
t al k t o e a c h o t h e r a b o u t t h e t hi ngs t ha t ar e mo s t t r o u b l i n g a n d
i mp o r t a n t i n t he i r lives. I ha ve c o me t o r ef er t o s uc h a ggr e ga t e s
of p e o p l e as p s e u d o c o mmu n i t i e s .
For me , c o mmu n i t y ha s t o d o wi t h c o mmu n i c a t i o n , a n d
r eal c o mmu n i t y s h o u l d i mpl y a s us t a i ne d a n d h i g h qual i t y of
c o mmu n i c a t i o n a mo n g its me mb e r s . I f i r s t wr ot e a b o u t c om-
muni t y in The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace. But
t he ma j or f ocus of my life t he s e year s has b e e n n o t wr i t i ng b u t
wor ki ng wi t h o t h e r s i n t h e e s t a bl i s hme nt a n d d e v e l o p me n t of
t h e Fo u n d a t i o n f or Co mmu n i t y En c o u r a g e me n t ( FCE) . I t i s
t h e mi s s i on of t hi s e d u c a t i o n a l f o u n d a t i o n t o t e a c h t h e pr i nci -
pl es of c ommuni t y, by whi c h we me a n he a l t hy a n d a u t h e n t i c
c o mmu n i c a t i o n wi t hi n a n d b e t we e n g r o u p s .
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 1 6 9
SYSTEMS
Th e mo s t enj oyabl e p a r t of my me d i c a l s c hool e d u c a t i o n was
t he s t udy of mi c r os c opi c a na t omy. All e xt e r na l a p p e a r a n c e s t o
t he cont r ar y, o u r bodi e s a r e most l y wat er . Cons e que nt l y, wh e n
you l ook at t hi n sl i ces of o u r o r g a n s u n d e r a mi c r o s c o p e you
c a n n o t see mu c h e x c e p t pal l i d, i ndi s t i ngui s ha bl e f i l a me nt s . But
i f you t ake t he s e s a me slices, s oak t h e m f or a whi l e i n s el ect ed
dyes, a n d l ook agai n, s udde nl y you ha ve e n t e r e d a f ai r yl and, a
g a r d e n of del i ght s c o mp a r e d t o whi c h Di s ne yl a nd i s d o wn r i g h t
My wor k wi t h FCE l ed me , at a t i me of soci al b r e a k d o wn
a n d i nc r e a s i ng adver s ar i al i s m, t o a n a t t e mp t t o r e s ur r e c t an-
o t h e r wo r d f al l en i nt o me a ni ngl e s s ne s s : "civility." All t ha t i s ge n-
er al l y me a n t t he s e days by "civility" i s super f i ci al pol i t enes s . But
t h e fact i s t ha t p e o p l e have b e e n pol i t el y s t a bbi ng e a c h o t h e r i n
t h e ba c k a n d pol i t el y h u r t i n g e a c h o t h e r f or Go d knows h o w
l ong. I was h e l p e d t o ar r i ve at a mo r e me a n i n g f u l def i ni t i on of
civility by an Engl i s h g e n t l e ma n of t h e l ast cent ur y, Ol i ver He r e -
f or d, wh o i s f a me d f or sayi ng, "A g e n t l e ma n i s s o me o n e wh o
ne ve r h u r t s a n o t h e r pe r s on' s f eel i ngs uni nt e nt i ona l l y. " Wh a t
t ha t me a n s t o me i s t ha t s o me t i me s i t ma y be neces s ar y t o h u r t
a n o t h e r pe r s on' s f eel i ngs, b u t t h e key i s i n t e n t i o n , me a n i n g
awar enes s of wha t you a r e doi ng. Suc h a wa r e ne s s r e qui r e s c on-
sci ousness. So in my b o o k on t h e subj ect , A World Waiting to Be
Born: Civility Rediscovered, I de f i ne d "civility" n o t as me r e s uper -
f i ci al pol i t enes s , b u t as "cons ci ous l y mot i va t e d or ga ni z a t i ona l
be ha vi or t ha t i s et hi cal i n s ubmi s s i on t o a h i g h e r power . "
I t c a n be a s s u me d t ha t a n y o n e wh o has ma d e t h e c hoi c e t o
be c ons c i ous want s t o be a civil p e r s o n . But t h e r e i s a ma j or
p r o b l e m h e r e : i n o r d e r t o be civil, we mu s t be c ons c i ous n o t
onl y of o u r own mot i va t i ons b u t al so of t h e o r g a n i z a t i o n o r
s ys t emi n whi c h we a r e act i ng. Civility r e qui r e s or ga ni z a t i ona l
as wel l as i ndi vi dual cons ci ous nes s . Cons e que nt l y, i f we as pi r e t o
ever g r e a t e r civility, we mu s t i ncr eas i ngl y t h i n k i n t e r ms of sys-
t ems .
170 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
i ns i pi d. No ma t t e r wha t o u r age, s t at i on, or e ve n st at e of he a l t h,
at t hi s l evel we a r e all ver y beaut i f ul on t h e i ns i de.
Gr adual l y, as I p e e r e d at o n e beaut i f ul cel l af t er a not he r ,
mi c r os c opi c sl i de af t er sl i de, mo n t h af t er mo n t h , s o me t h i n g
even mo r e i mp o r t a n t d a wn e d on me . Ea c h a n d ever y cel l was
n o t onl y a syst em i n itself, b u t al so a mi n u s c u l e p a r t of a l ar ger ,
e ve n mo r e c o mp l e x syst em. T h e a b s o r b i n g villi cel l s, t h e
s mo o t h mus c l e cel l s, a n d t h e c onne c t i ve t i s s ue cel l s h o l d i n g
t h e m t o g e t h e r we r e all a n i n t e g r a t e d p a r t of a n o r g a n i n t hi s
case, t h e smal l i nt es t i ne. T h e smal l i nt e s t i ne , i n t u r n , was a p a r t
of t h e di gest i ve syst em. An d t h e di gest i ve syst em was i n t e g r a t e d
wi t h o t h e r syst ems of t h e body. T h e f i ne f i l a me nt s of t h e a ut o-
n o mi c ne r ve cel l s t h a t s t i mul a t e d t h e di gest i ve mus c l e s t o r el ax
or c o n t r a c t a n d t h e gl a nds t o r es t or s e c r e t e we r e mi n u t e par t s
of t h e ne r vous syst em, c o n n e c t i n g all t h e way up t h r o u g h t h e
s pi nal c o r d t o o t h e r cel l s i n t h e br a i n. T h r o u g h o u t e a c h o r g a n
we r e t h e t i ny cel l s of ar t er i es or vei ns, all c o n n e c t e d t o t h e h e a r t
as p a r t of t h e ci r cul at or y syst em. An d i n e a c h a r t e r y or vei n I
c oul d spy var i et i es of b l o o d cel l s, or i gi nal l y ma n u f a c t u r e d i n
t h e b o n e ma r r o w as l i t t l e t i ny pa r t s of t h e h e ma t o p o i e t i c sys-
t e m.
Act ual l y, I h a d " known" f or year s t h a t t h e h u ma n b o d y
a n d t h e b o d y of ever y o t h e r l i vi ng t hi ng, a n i ma l or pl a nt wa s
a syst em. But p r i o r t o me di c a l s chool , I h a d n o t b e e n awar e of
t h e e x t r a o r d i n a r y c ompl e xi t y a n d be a ut y of s uc h syst ems. I t was
at t hi s p o i n t I was abl e t o ma k e a n o t h e r l e a p of c ons c i ous ne s s t o
s o me t h i n g , o n c e agai n, I h a d l o n g " known, " b u t onl y di ml y.
Si nce e a c h i ndi vi dual cel l was a c o mp o n e n t of an o r g a n , a n d
e a c h i ndi vi dual o r g a n a c o mp o n e n t of a b o d y syst em, a n d e a c h
s uc h syst em a c o mp o n e n t of t h e body as a whol e , was i t n o t pos -
si bl e t ha t my b o d y was al so p a r t of a l ar ger syst em still? I n o t h e r
wor ds , mi g h t I my i ndi vi dual sel f be b u t a s i ngl e cel l of an
o r g a n of s o me gi gant i c or ga ni s m? Of c our s e . As a f l edgl i ng
phys i ci an, I was c o n n e c t e d , di r ect l y or i ndi r ect l y, t o c ount l e s s
o t h e r i ndi vi dual h u ma n cel l s. To my pa r e nt s , wh o pa i d my t u-
i t i on. To t h e ol de r phys i ci ans wh o t a u g h t me . To t h e l a bor a t or y
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 171
t e c hni c i a ns wh o c o n d u c t e d t he t est s I o r d e r e d . To hos pi t al ad-
mi ni s t r at or s . To ma n u f a c t u r e r s wh o ma d e t h e e q u i p me n t I
us ed. To t h e pa t i e nt s I us e d t ha t e q u i p me n t on. To gr owe r s i n
Mi ssi ssi ppi a n d Cal i f or ni a wh o sol d c o t t o n t o t h e No r t h Car -
ol i na t ext i l e wor ke r s wh o ma d e t h e c l ot he s I wor e . To r a n c h e r s
i n Kansas wh o gr ew t h e beef, a n d f a r me r s i n Ne w J er s ey wh o
gr e w t h e l et t uce I at e. To t h e t r uc k dr i ver s wh o t r a n s p o r t e d all
t he s e t hi ngs t o me . To my l a ndl or d. To t h e b a r b e r wh o c ut my
hai r . An d o n a n d on.
So i t was ( a l t h o u g h I h a d n o t yet even h e a r d t h e t e r m) t ha t
I b e c a me a f our s qua r e bel i ever i n "syst ems t heor y. " T h e basi c
t e n e t of syst ems t h e o r y ( whi ch i s act ual l y n o t a t h e o r y b u t a
fact ) i s t ha t e ve r yt hi ng i s a syst em. On a l evel mo r e ma c r os c opi c
t h a n t ha t of a cel l or an o r g a n or an o r g a n syst em or an i ndi -
vi dual , all of us a r e c o mp o n e n t par t s of t h e f abr i c of h u ma n so-
ciety. We a r e j u s t b e g i n n i n g t o wake up t o t h e fact t h a t t h e
whol e of t ha t soci et y i s c o n n e c t e d t o t h e wat er s , t o t h e l a nd, t o
t h e f or est s, a n d t h e a t mo s p h e r e : t h e "ecosyst em. " I n d e e d , sys-
t e ms t heor i s t s of t en envi s i on t h e e nt i r e p l a n e t as a s i ngl e or -
ga ni s m. Ou r e a r t h is, of c our s e , a p a r t of t h e s ol ar syst em. An d
as we be gi n t o r e a c h e ve n f a r t he r i nt o o u t e r s pa c e , we will p r o b -
abl y pe r c e i ve a syst emi c n a t u r e t o t h e gal axi es a n d t h e uni ver s e
itself.
Be yond t h e fact t ha t e ve r yt hi ng t ha t exi st s i s p a r t of a sys-
t e m, syst ems t h e o r y al so hol ds t ha t i f you c h a n g e o n e c o mp o -
n e n t of t h e syst em, all t h e o t h e r pa r t s mu s t al so c h a n g e . Onl y i n
t he pas t few d e c a d e s have we b e c o me s o me wh a t awar e of t hi s
fact i n o u r soci et y. We have c o me t o r eal i ze t h a t vi r t ual l y every-
t h i n g we d o ha s a n effect u p o n o u r e n v i r o n me n t , a n d t ha t t he s e
effects have t h e pot e nt i a l t o e i t he r n u r t u r e us or des t r oy us.
As an e x a mp l e , vi rt ual l y e ve r yone wh o owns a car ha s h a d
t he e x p e r i e n c e of t a ki ng i t t o a s h o p f or a mi n o r r e pa i r onl y t o
have i t c o n k o u t on t h e way ba c k h o me . Wh e n t hi s h a p p e n s ,
you ma y c ur s e t h e me c h a n i c f or ha vi ng d o n e s o me evil d e e d .
But as a r ul e , no evil d e e d has b e e n d o n e at all. I t i s j u s t t ha t t h e
p r e s e n c e of a b r a n d - n e w p a r t has c a us e d a s ubt l e c h a n g e i n t h e
172 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
e n g i n e t h e e nt i r e s ys t emwhi ch r e qui r e s a n a d j u s t me n t i n
t h e o t h e r par t s , s o me t i me s a n a d j u s t me n t t hos e o l d e r pa r t s a r e
n o t a bl e t o ma k e wi t hout t hems el ves b r e a k i n g down.
H u ma n r e l a t i ons hi ps a r e al so a syst em: ma r r i a ge , i n par t i c-
ul ar. I n o u r wor k as ps yc hot he r a pi s t s wi t h c oupl e s , Lily c o i n e d
t h e t e r m " t e nuous ne s s , " by whi c h s he me a n t t ha t i n a ma r r i a g e
e a c h p a r t n e r ' s def i ni t i on o f t h e o t h e r s h o u l d b e t e n u o u s
namel y, f l exi bl e r a t h e r t h a n f i xe d. Aga i n a n d a ga i n i n o u r pr a c -
t i ce we saw t ha t wh e n e v e r o n e ma r i t a l p a r t n e r si gni f i cant l y
c h a n g e d or gr e w as a r es ul t of ps yc hot he r a py, t h e o t h e r p a r t n e r
woul d have t o c h a n g e or gr ow i n r e s pons e , or el se t h e s ys t em
t h e ma r r i a g e wo u l d fall a pa r t .
I do n o t me a n t o s ugges t t ha t ps yc hot he r a py i s t h e onl y
var i abl e i n t h e e q u a t i o n . All ma n n e r of t hi ngs c a n c h a n g e t h e
n a t u r e of a ma r r i a g e . T h e n a t u r e of my ma r r i a g e t o Lily
c h a n g e d a s s o o n a s we h a d c hi l dr e n. I t c h a n g e d a ga i n wh e n t h e
c h i l d r e n we r e o u t o f di a pe r s . I t c h a n g e d o n c e mo r e wh e n t h e
c h i l d r e n e n t e r e d a dol e s c e nc e . An d i t c h a n g e d a ga i n wh e n t hey
left h o me . Al o n g t h e way, i t h a d t o c h a n g e wh e n o u r f i na nc i a l
s i t uat i on c h a n g e d a n d we mo v e d f r om b e i n g t h e r e c i pi e nt s of
p h i l a n t h r o p y t o r oughl y t went y year s of b r e a k i n g even t o b e i n g
si gni f i cant c o n t r i b u t o r s t o c ha r i t a bl e caus es . I t has cer t ai nl y
c h a n g e d a ga i n a s we mo v e d f r om mi d d l e a ge i nt o ol d a ge a n d
my r e t i r e me n t .
So syst ems t h e o r y i mpl i es t h a t we mu s t be abl e t o adj us t
s o me t i me s ver y qui c kl yor t h e syst em ma y b r e a k d o wn . But t o
ha ve t h e capaci t y t o ma k e s uc h r a pi d c ha nge s , we mu s t have a n
a c ut e c ons c i ous ne s s of t h e syst ems t o whi c h we b e l o n g . An d
t he r e ' s t h e r u b . We h u ma n s a r e c ons c i ous t o var yi ng de gr e e s .
An d whi l e a l mos t e ve r yone i s c ons c i ous of hi ms el f as an ent i t y
a n d i s awar e of hi s mo r e u r g e n t n e e d s a n d des i r es , we l ack s uc h
cl ear a wa r e ne s s of o u r soci al mot i vat i ons a n d of t h e Sh a d o w
f r om whi c h t hos e mot i va t i ons ma y s pr i ng. Eve n wi t h a rel at i vel y
a d v a n c e d d e g r e e of c ons c i ous ne s s , mo s t of us r e ma i n r e ma r k-
abl y unc ons c i ous of t h e c o mp l e x or ga ni z a t i ons a n d soci al sys-
t e ms t o whi c h we b e l o n g .
Thi s l ack of or ga ni z a t i ona l a n d soci al c ons c i ous ne s s i s s uc h
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 173
a d r a ma t i c p h e n o me n o n t ha t I have c o me t o call i t t h e hol e i n
t h e mi n d . An d whi l e t hi s hol e i s of t en ga pi ng, s ome t i me s i t i s
mo r e l i ke a sl i ce of Swiss c he e s e . For i ns t a nc e , a bus i nes s exec-
ut i ve i s l i kel y t o have c o me t o t h e awar enes s t h a t hi s c o mp a n y i s
a c o mp l e x syst em, b u t he ma y ne ve r o n c e ha ve s t o p p e d t o t hi nk
of hi s own fami l y as a syst em. Ot h e r s ma y be qui t e awar e of t he i r
fami l y as a syst em, b u t ha ve l i t t l e c ons c i ous ne s s a b o u t t h e or ga-
ni z at i on t h a t e mpl oys t h e m.
Thi s h o l e i n t h e mi n d t h i s unc ons c i ous ne s s c o n c e r n i n g
o u r or ga ni z a t i ons i s f r equent l y f ed by o u r nar ci s s i s m. For i n-
s t ance, i n a l ar ge ma n u f a c t u r i n g c ompa ny, i t i s p r o b a b l e t ha t
mos t of t h e wor ke r s on t h e as s embl y l i ne t hi nk of t hems el ves a s
t h e c o r e of t h e c o mp a n y a n d gi ve l i t t l e or no t h o u g h t t o t h e
o t h e r e mpl oye e s a n d t he i r r ol es . Af t er al l , t he y' r e t h e o n e s wh o
act ual l y ma k e t he p r o d u c t , a r e t hey not ? T h e s a l e s pe opl e ma y
al so t hi nk of t hems el ves as t h e c o r e of t h e c ompa ny. Af t er al l ,
t hey a r e t h e o n e s wh o sell t h e p r o d u c t , a n d i f i t d i d n ' t ge t sol d
t h e r e wo u l d b e n o c ompa ny. But t h e ma r k e t i n g p e o p l e a r e
l i kel y t o t h i n k of t hems el ves as t h e c e n t e r of t h e c o mp a n y be -
caus e t h e sal es staff wo u l d n ' t be a bl e t o sell t h e p r o d u c t i f t hey
d i d n ' t ma r k e t i t wel l . Th o s e i n t h e f i nanci al di vi si on ma y t h i n k
t hey a r e t h e c e n t e r of t h e c ompa ny, be c a us e t hey ba l a nc e t he
books a n d k e e p t he c o mp a n y sol vent . An d t hos e i n ma n a g e -
me n t ma y t h i n k of t hems el ves a s t h e mo s t i mp o r t a n t , be c a us e
t hey c r e a t e t h e pol i ci es t ha t gui de t h e c o r p o r a t i o n , b u t t hey
ma y have pr e c i ous l i t t l e e mp a t h y f or t h e o t h e r s i n di f f er ent
r ol es wh o c o n t r i b u t e t o t h e whol e .
T h e s a me i s t r ue of o u r soci et y gener al l y, a n d of t h e r aci s m
a n d cl assi sm t h a t p e r v a d e it. T h e f ai l ur e t o be awar e of o t h e r s '
c o n t r i b u t i o n s has l ed t o a l ack of civility, p e r h a p s be c a us e we
feel o v e r wh e l me d si mpl y t r yi ng t o b e c o me mo r e c ons c i ous of
our sel ves a n d ha ve no e ne r gy left over t o de ve l op o u r or gani z a-
t i onal a n d soci al cons ci ous nes s . Never t hel es s , t h e r e i s no way
t ha t we c a n evol ve i nt o a mo r e civil soci et y unt i l ever g r e a t e r
n u mb e r s of us a r e wi l l i ng t o ma k e t h e c hoi c e n o t onl y t o be per -
sonal l y c ons c i ous b u t al so t o t hi nk i n t e r ms of whol e syst ems
a n d e x p a n d o u r awar enes s i n o r d e r t o fill t h e h o l e i n t h e mi n d .
174 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
ETHI CS
I have a f r i end wh o was o n e of t h e f i r st Ame r i c a n pi l ot s s hot
d o wn a n d c a p t u r e d by t h e No r t h Vi e t na me s e . I n t h e ear l y days
of hi s seven- year captivity, he a n d hi s fel l ow pr i s one r s of war
we r e syst emat i cal l y t or t ur e d. I n a n e x t r a o r d i n a r y b o o k a b o u t
hi s e xpe r i e nc e s , he ma k e s i t qui t e cl ear t ha t hi s c a pt or s we r e e n-
ga gi ng i n fully c ons c i ous or ga ni z a t i ona l behavi or . Th e y kne w
exact l y wh a t t hey we r e d o i n g . Th e y we r e c ons c i ous of t he i r i n-
t e n t a n d t h e effect t he i r be a t i ngs a n d even mo r e br ut a l pr a c -
t i ces h a d on t he i r vi ct i ms. Th e y kne w t ha t a n y o n e will b r e a k
u n d e r e n o u g h pa i n a n d t ha t t he i r t o r t u r e woul d e xt r a c t con-
f e s s i ons no ma t t e r h o w f al seusef ul f or p r o p a g a n d a pur -
pos e s a n d s er vi ng t he i r or ga ni z a t i ona l mi s s i on. Yet, even t hos e
Ame r i c a n s wh o we r e hor r i f i ed by t h e incivility of o u r pr os e c u-
t i on of t h e Vi e t n a m Wa r woul d ne ve r c ons i de r t o r t u r e t o have
b e e n a civil r e s pons e or i n any way j us t i f i ed.
So civility i s s o me t h i n g mo r e t h a n or ga ni z a t i ona l be ha vi or
t ha t i s me r e l y "consci ousl y mot i vat ed. " I t mu s t be ethical as wel l .
An d all b u t t h e mor a l l y i ns a ne woul d a g r e e t ha t t o r t u r e i s i n-
he r e nt l y a n d grossl y une t hi c a l . I us e t hi s e x a mp l e be c a us e i t i s
s o gr oss, n o t t o s i des t ep t h e fact t ha t a mu c h mo r e s ubt l e i nci -
vility i s t h e r eal , per vasi ve p r o b l e m i n o u r soci et y. An d it, t oo, i s
une t hi c a l . To be et hi cal is, at t h e ver y l east , t o be " huma ni s t i c , "
whi c h by def i ni t i on me a n s ha vi ng t he a t t i t ude t ha t p e o p l e a r e
pr e c i ous a n d s h o u l d be t r e a t e d a c c or di ngl y i nsof ar a s pos s i bl e.
We do n o t t o r t u r e p e o p l e i f we t hi nk of t h e m as pr e c i ous .
Recent l y t h e r e has b e e n mu c h cr i t i ci sm of " s ecul ar hu-
ma n i s m" by t h e r el i gi ous r i ght . I bel i eve t ha t ma n y of t he s e cri t -
ics woul d be wel l advi s ed t o b e c o me mo r e h u ma n i s t i c
t hems el ves . Never t hel es s , I al so bel i eve t hey have a poi nt . Secu-
l ar h u ma n i s m i s l i ke a h o u s e bui l t on s and. Wh e n t h e g o i n g get s
r o u g h wh e n bus i nes s i s b a d or strife i s a b r o a d s e c u l a r hu-
mani s t i c a t t i t ude s ma y easi l y be bl own away. For e x a mp l e , t h e
me d i a have b e e n r e c o g n i z e d t o be a par t i cul ar l y s e c ul a r r e a l m.
An d t hos e wh o wor k i n t h e me d i a n o t onl y gener al l y r e g a r d
t hems el ves a s h u ma n i s t s b u t al so t hi nk t ha t t he i r wor k t o k e e p
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 175
p e o p l e i n f o r me d i s i mp o r t a n t i n k e e p i n g soci et y at l east bar el y
civil a n d huma ni s t i c . Th e r e i s s o me t r ut h i n t hi s. However , I
k n o w all t oo ma n y i ns t ances of r e p o r t e r s easi l y a n d qui ckl y
t h r o wi n g t he i r h u ma n i s m o u t t h e wi ndow i n t he i r e a ge r ne s s t o
get a st ory.
T h e p r o b l e m wi t h s ecul ar h u ma n i s m i s t ha t i t says n o t h i n g
a b o u t why h u ma n be i ngs a r e pr e c i ous , n o r why t hey s h o u l d be
t r e a t e d accor di ngl y. Cons e que nt l y, s ecul ar h u ma n i s m, b e i n g
u n r o o t e d i n any k i n d of t heol ogy, i s of t en a f ai r - weat her p h e -
n o me n o n . Th a t i s why I de f i ne civil be ha vi or n o t si mpl y as "et h-
i cal , " b u t speci fi cal l y as "et hi cal i n s ubmi s s i on t o a h i g h e r
power . " For if, as I ha ve sai d, l i ght , t r ut h, a n d l ove a r e all syn-
onyms of a s or t for Go d , a n d i f we a r e truly s u b mi t t e d t o t he s e
t hi ngs , o u r be ha vi or will be godl y even t h o u g h we ma y n o t
t hi nk of our s el ves as r el i gi ous .
As a n e x a mp l e of s uc h s ubmi s s i on, l et me r e t u r n t o t h e r e-
p o r t e r wh o ma y t hr ow hi s h u ma n i s m o u t t h e wi ndow i n o r d e r
t o ge t a st ory. Al t h o u g h t ha t r e p o r t e r ma y ( not always) t ake
pa i ns n o t t o l i e (l est he be s ue d) a n d will, t he r e f or e , "st i ck t o
t he fact s, " he i s l i kel y t o r e t a i n c o mp l e t e l i cens e t o d e c i d e u p o n
whi c h fact s he will r e p o r t a n d whi c h he will not . I n t hi s s ens e,
facts a r e l i ke st at i st i cs. Th e y c a n be u s e d t o say a n y t h i n g you
want . I n ma n y s i t uat i ons , a r e p o r t e r i s c ompl e t e l y f r ee t o dr a w a
bl ack pi c t ur e , a whi t e pi c t ur e , or a gr ay pi c t ur e . Unl es s he i s a
ver y c ons c i e nt i ous i ndi vi dual , i t i s qui t e l i kel y t ha t hi s c hoi c e
will be d e t e r mi n e d n o t by any d e e p s ubmi s s i on t o t h e t r u t h s o
mu c h as by wh a t s e e ms t o ma k e a g o o d st ory. Even i f t h e r e-
p o r t e r i s d e v o t e d t o t r ut h, t h e r e i s a c h a i n of c o mma n d i n-
vol ved i n t h e pr oc e s s of h o w a st or y get s i n t e r p r e t e d . Af t er t h e
r e p o r t e r has wr i t t en it, hi s e d i t o r s wh o a r e n o t di r ect l y i n-
vol ved i n t h e i ni t i al g a t h e r i n g of i nf or ma t i onwi l l a d d t he i r
own per s pect i ves . Th e y do s o by me a n s of t h e h e a d l i n e a n d by
t he l e n g t h a n d p l a c e me n t of t h e st ory. F r o m my p o i n t of view,
t he be s t st or i es a r e t hos e t ha t a r e gray, be c a us e t h e t r u t h i s ge n-
eral l y c o mp l e x . But i t i s my e x p e r i e n c e t ha t ma n y r e p o r t e r s
woul d r a t h e r n o t s ubmi t t hems el ves t o s uc h compl exi t y, be -
caus e i t d o e s n ' t ma k e f or good, e nt i c i ng he a dl i ne s . Even t he y
176 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
will a d mi t t o l ooki ng for a "sl ant " on a story, a p p a r e n t l y f or get -
t i ng t ha t t h e r e i s a di f f er ence b e t we e n s l a nt e d st or i es a n d t h e
t r ut h.
I n de a l i ng wi t h s uc h et hi cal c ompl e xi t i e s , I have f o u n d t h e
di s t i nct i on b e t we e n c o d e et hi cs a n d s i t uat i on et hi cs t o be he l p-
ful, a l mos t essent i al . Co d e et hi cs a r e de r i ve d f r om var i ous et hi -
cal pr e s c r i pt i ons t ha t have b e e n i n us e t h r o u g h o u t hi st or y.
T h e ear l i es t k n o wn i s t h e Co d e of Ha mmu r a b i . Far b e t t e r
k n o wn t o u s a r e t h e Te n Co mma n d me n t s . Wh a t s uc h c ode s d o
i s t o p r o n o u n c e c e r t a i n act s t o be ba d, wr ong, or i mpe r mi s -
si bl e u n d e r any c i r c ums t a nc e s . For i ns t a nc e , o n e of t h e Te n
Co mma n d me n t s i s " Th o u s hal t n o t kill. " I t i s n' t " Th o u s hal t
n o t kill e x c e p t i n t i me of war, " or " Th o u s hal t n o t kill e x c e p t i n
sel f - def ense"; i t i s " Th o u s hal t n o t ki l l , " pe r i od. No ifs, a nds , or
but s .
T h e basi c t e n e t of s i t uat i on et hi cs , however , i s t ha t no et h-
ical j u d g me n t c a n b e ma d e a b o u t a n act wi t hout c ons i de r a t i on
of t h e c i r c ums t a nc e s i n whi c h i t oc c ur s . Unl i ke t h e Te n Com-
ma n d me n t s , s i t uat i on et hi cs woul d al l ow f or ki l l i ng i n s uc h ci r-
c u ms t a n c e s a s wa r t i me a n d sel f - def ense.
Ou r soci et y ha s evol ved away f r om si mpl i st i c c o d e et hi cs t o-
wa r d s i t uat i onal et hi cs . Thi s i s dr amat i cal l y vi si bl e i n o u r l egal
syst em. Go visit y o u r l awyer a n d you a r e l i kel y t o see t h a t h e r of-
fice i s f i l l ed wi t h books hel ves full of wei ght y t ome s . Wh a t mo s t
of t hos e heavy b o o k s c o n t a i n a r e l egal p r e c e d e n t s of a si t ua-
t i onal n a t u r e . Suc h p r e c e d e n t s will st at e, " Th o u s hal t n o t b r e a k
a c ont r a c t , e x c e p t as i n t h e case of Jones v. Smith, wh e r e s uc h a n d
s uc h c i r c ums t a nc e s pr evai l ed, " or " Th o u s hal t n o t b r e a k a c on-
t r act e x c e p t i n t h e k i n d of s i t uat i on t ha t o c c u r r e d i n Brown v.
Taylor"
To live by s i t uat i onal et hi cs , i t i s neces s ar y f or t h e i ndi vi d-
ual t o have t h e capaci t y t o ser ve as an e nt i r e l egal syst em wi t hi n
hi msel f. To be he a l t hy a n d whol e , we mu s t possess wi t hi n o u r
own mi n d s a c o mp e t e n t de f e ns e at t or ney, a c o mp e t e n t pr os e -
c ut i ng at t or ney, a n d a g o o d j u d g e . Pe o p l e wi t h c h a r a c t e r di sor -
de r s t e n d t o have a ver y s t r ong i nt e r na l de f e ns e at t or ney, b u t a
ver y weak c ons c i e nc e or i nt e r na l p r o s e c u t i n g at t or ney. Th o s e
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 177
wi t h n e u r o s e s t e n d t o have a ver y s t r ong p r o s e c u t i n g a t t or ne y
b u t a weak de f e ns e at t or ney, wh o i s u n a b l e t o s pe a k up f or hi s
cl i ent . Finally, t h e r e a r e t hos e wh o have i n t he i r h e a d s b o t h a
r e a s ona bl y c o mp e t e n t de f e ns e a t t or ne y a n d p r o s e c u t i n g at t or -
ney b u t t h e n , for o n e r e a s on or a not he r , have gr e a t di ffi cul t y
c o mi n g t o deci s i ons be c a us e t hey l ack a g o o d j u d g e .
I hear t i l y s u p p o r t t h e mo v e me n t of soci et y ( a n d of i ndi vi d-
ual s i n t he i r own p e r s o n a l deci s i on ma k i n g ) t owa r d s i t uat i onal
et hi cs . As a psychi at r i st , I am ver y f ami l i ar wi t h t he fact t h a t
r i gi d c o d e et hi cs of t en have i n h u ma n e c ons e que nc e s . But t h e r e
a r e t wo caveat s t o be c ons i de r e d. On e i s t ha t t h e us e of s i t uat i on
et hi cs me a n s t ha t t h e r e a r e no f or mul a s , s o he a l t hy i ndi vi dual s
have t h e r es pons i bi l i t y t o r e c o n s i d e r t he i r be ha vi or e a c h a n d
ever y t i me t h e s i t uat i on c h a n g e s ever s o slightly. Whi l e i t mi g h t
be t h e r i ght t h i n g t o b l a me s o me o n e i n o n e s i t uat i on, i t mi g h t
be t h e r i ght t h i n g t o f or gi ve h i m i n a subt l y di f f er ent o n e . Wi t h-
o u t f or mul a s , we ne ve r k n o w a t t h e t i me t ha t wh a t we a r e d o i n g
i s r i ght . We mu s t have t h e capaci t y t o o p e r a t e o u t of t h e " e mp -
t i ness of n o t knowi ng. "
My o t h e r caveat i s t ha t I do n o t wa nt t o i mpl y t ha t c o d e
et hi cs a r e usel ess. Agai n, i n r e c e n t year s , t h e r el i gi ous r i ght ha s
b e c o me mo r e a n d mo r e cr i t i cal o f s i t uat i onal et hi cs , a n d a ga i n
t hey ma y ha ve a smal l p o i n t a l t h o u g h I s us pe c t t h a t t he i r pr o-
posal s wo u l d be r egr essi ve. Cons i der , f or i ns t a nc e , t h e c o n c e p t
of a j u s t war. Gi ven t h e c u r r e n t st at e of h u ma n evol ut i on, i n
whi c h i t s e e ms b e y o n d us t o get r i d of war, I bel i eve i t was a p-
p r o p r i a t e f or t h e Ca t hol i c Ch u r c h t o us e s i t uat i onal et hi cs i n
d e v e l o p i n g t h e c o n c e p t of a j u s t war. But I ' m n o t s ur e we woul d
even a t t e mp t t o di s c r i mi na t e b e t we e n j u s t a n d unj us t war s we r e
i t n o t for t h e e xi s t e nc e of a per s i s t i ng c o d e e t hi c t ha t st at es,
" Th o u s hal t n o t ki l l . "
I NTERDEPENDENCE AND COLLABORATI ON
In The Road Less Traveled, I n o t e d t ha t we all ha ve d e p e n d e n c y
n e e d s a n d f eel i ngs, b u t t ha t t he s e d o n o t c ons t i t ut e l ove a n d
178 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
t ha t t o be dr i ven by t h e m i s t o fall i nt o t h e t er r i bl e t r a p of de -
pe nde nc y. I t i s a t r a p be c a us e i t l eaves t h e d e p e n d e n t i ndi vi dual
c ont i nua l l y f eel i ng t ha t h e c a n n o t b e whol e o r h a p p y wi t hout
t h e a l mos t c o n s t a n t a t t e nt i on of o t h e r p e o p l e . J u s t o n e of t h e
ma n y p r o b l e ms s uc h d e p e n d e n c y c a n caus e i s pa t hol ogi c a l j e a l -
ousy. No t h i n g t ha t I sai d a b o u t d e p e n d e n c y was wr o n g , b u t I
s h o u l d have b a l a n c e d my cas t i gat i on of i t wi t h a h y mn i n pr ai s e
of i n t e r d e p e n d e n c e .
At t h e time I wr ot e The Road Less Traveled, I was still ope r a t -
i ng t o s o me d e g r e e u n d e r t h e e t hi c of g o o d ol d Ame r i c a n
r u g g e d i ndi vi dual i s m, whi c h hol ds t ha t we a r e all cal l ed t o be -
c o me i n d e p e n d e n t , t o s t a nd on o u r own t wo feet , a n d t o be cap-
t ai ns of o u r own s hi p, i f n o t necessar i l y ma s t e r s of o u r own
dest i ny. All t ha t i s f i ne; I bel i eve t ha t we a r e cal l ed t o i n d e p e n -
d e n c e wh e n pos s i bl e. But t h e h u g e p r o b l e m wi t h t h e e t hi c of
r u g g e d i ndi vi dual i s m i s t ha t i t negl ect s t h e o t h e r si de of t h e
coi n: t ha t we a r e al so cal l ed t o c o me t o t e r ms wi t h o u r own si n,
o u r i nevi t abl e i mpe r f e c t i on a n d i na de qua c y, a n d o u r mu t u a l
i n t e r d e p e n d e n c e . I t i s be c a us e t h e i ndi vi dual i s t e t hi c i s onl y a
hal f - t r ut h t ha t i t e n c o u r a g e s us t o h i d e o u r weaknes s es a n d fail-
ur e s a n d t o feel a s h a me d of o u r l i mi t at i ons . I t dr i ves us t o at-
t e mp t t o be s u p e r wo me n a n d s u p e r me n , n o t onl y i n t h e eyes of
ot he r s b u t al so i n o u r own eyes. I t p u s h e s us , day i n a n d day out ,
t o l ook as i f we " ha d i t all t oget her , " a n d i t l eads t o s uc h p h e -
n o me n a a s p e o p l e si t t i ng i n t h e s a me pe w b u t n o t abl e t o t al k t o
e a c h o t h e r a b o u t t he i r p a i n a n d y e a r n i n g a n d d i s a p p o i n t me n t s ,
h i d i n g b e h i n d t he i r mas ks of c o mp o s u r e s o t ha t t hey c a n l ook
as i f t hey a r e i n t ot al c ont r ol of t he i r lives.
In The Different Drum, wr i t t en seven year s l at er, I de -
n o u n c e d t hi s si mpl i st i c, one- s i ded, n o n p a r a d o x i c a l , a n d t he r e -
f or e f al l aci ous e t hi c a n d , i n t al ki ng a b o u t c ommuni t y, b e g a n t o
c h a mp i o n i n t e r d e p e n d e n c e . My mo s t dr a ma t i c e x a mp l e s of t h e
vi r t ues of i n t e r d e p e n d e n c e ha ve c o me f r om my wor k i n h e l p i n g
g r o u p s bui l d c ommuni t y. But l et me al so s i ng its pr ai s es i n t h e
smal l est of or ga ni z a t i ons : ma r r i a g e , a n d my ma r r i a g e t o Lily, i n
par t i cul ar . I n o u r ma r r i a g e , Lily' s p r i ma r y r ol e has b e e n t ha t of
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 179
h o me ma k e r a n d mi n e t ha t of br e a dwi nne r . For s o me year s we
wor r i e d a b o u t t h e d e g r e e t o whi c h t he s e r ol es we r e di c t a t e d by
cul t ur al , s exual s t er eot ypes . Onl y gr adual l y di d we c o me t o t h e
peacef ul r eal i z at i on t ha t t hey we r e , i n fact , n o t di c t a t e d by
s t er eot ypes b u t mo r e by o u r own ver y di f f er ent per s onal i t i es .
F r o m t h e b e g i n n i n g of o u r ma r r i a g e I n o t e d t ha t Lily was
mi l dl y di s or ga ni z e d. No t i nf r e que nt l y s he wo u l d b e c o me s o en-
gr os s ed i n s mel l i ng t h e f l owe r s t ha t s he woul d f or get a n a ppoi nt -
me n t or ne gl e c t t o wr i t e a p r o mi s e d l et t er. I , on t h e o t h e r h a n d ,
f r om t h e b e g i n n i n g , was wha t c a n be cal l ed goa l - or i e nt e dt o
p u t i t mi l dl y. I ne ve r h a d t i me t o sniff a f l ower unl es s its b l o o m
h a p p e n e d t o c oi nc i de wi t h my s c h e d u l e , a c c o r d i n g t o whi c h
ever y t hi r d Th u r s d a y a f t e r n o o n f r om 2: 00 t o 2: 30 was desi g-
n a t e d f or fl ower-sni ffi ng, b a r r i n g r ai n.
F u r t h e r mo r e , I us e d t o b e r a t e Lily f or h e r i nc l i na t i on t o
s pe a k i n wha t I c o n s i d e r e d i r r el evanci es det ai l s t h a t got i n t h e
way of s e e i ng t h e "bi g pi c t ur e " a s wel l as h e r t e n d e n c y t o ig-
n o r e ci vi l i zat i on' s mo s t si gni f i cant i n s t r u me n t , t he cl ock. She
was equal l y h a r s h a b o u t my ma d d e n i n g punct ual i t y, my st odgi -
nes s , a n d my i ns i s t ence on s pe a ki ng i n p a r a g r a p h s t ha t b e g a n
"Fi rst of all . . ." " Se c ond . . ." " Thi r d . . . ," a n d "I n c onc l u-
s i on. . . . " Lily bel i eved he r s was t h e s upe r i or a p p r o a c h , a n d I
u p h e l d t h e e xc e l l e nc e of mi n e . Lily b o r e t h e chi ef r es pons i bi l -
ity f or r ai s i ng o u r c hi l dr e n. I do n o t me a n t o i mpl y I h a d n o t h -
i ng wha t s oe ve r t o do wi t h t h e m, b u t I c a n n o t p r e t e n d t ha t I was
an i deal l y at t ent i ve p a r e n t . I was par t i cul ar l y i n a d e q u a t e wh e n
i t c a me t o pl ayi ng wi t h t h e m. Ha ve you ever t r i ed t o pl ay wel l
wi t h c h i l d r e n on s c he dul e ? Or wh e n you ge t off s c h e d u l e a n d
all you c a n t hi nk a b o u t i s t he unf i ni s he d c h a p t e r you have t o
wr i t e? Lily, however , pl ayed wi t h o u r c h i l d r e n wi t h an u n e n d i n g
gr a c e . She al so c o n t r i b u t e d t o my books . I n d e e d , as I wr ot e i n
t h e i n t r o d u c t i o n t o The Road Less Traveled, " s he has b e e n so giv-
i ng t ha t i t i s ha r dl y pos s i bl e t o di s t i ngui s h h e r wi s dom . . . f r om
my own. " But s he c oul d n o t have or ga ni z e d h e r t i me wel l
e n o u g h t o wr i t e ( a n d r ewr i t e) s e nt e nc e s , p a r a g r a p h s , a n d c h a p -
t er s we e k af t er week, mo n t h af t er mo n t h .
180 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
Slowly, t he r e f or e , Lily a n d I a g r e e d t o a c c e pt wh a t o n c e
l o o k e d l i ke vi ces as vi r t ues, cur s es as bl essi ngs, l i abi l i t i es as as-
set s. Lily has t h e gift of f l owi ng; I have t h e gift of or ga ni z a t i on.
Ov e r t h e year s I have l e a r n e d a bi t a b o u t h o w t o go wi t h t h e
f l o w a n d t o b e mo r e p a t i e n t a n d at t ent i ve i n de a l i ng wi t h o u r
c h i l d r e n a n d ot he r s . Li kewi se, Lily r eal i z ed t ha t a l t h o u g h s he
h a d ma d e i mp r o v e me n t s , s he wo u l d ne ve r b e c ompl e t e l y or ga-
ni z ed. But we have c o me t o a p p r e c i a t e e a c h o t h e r ' s ver y differ-
e n t styles as gifts a n d have slowly b e g u n t o i n c o r p o r a t e t h e
ot he r ' s gift i nt o our s el ves . As a c o n s e q u e n c e , s he a n d I a r e gr ad-
ual l y b e c o mi n g mo r e whol e a s i ndi vi dual s . But t hi s wo u l d n o t
have b e e n pos s i bl e h a d we n o t first c o me t o t e r ms wi t h o u r i n-
di vi dual l i mi t at i ons a n d r e c ogni z e d t h e val ue of o u r i nt e r de -
p e n d e n c e .
T h e onl y p r o b l e m wi t h t h e wo r d " i n t e r d e p e n d e n c e " i s t ha t
t o s o me i t ma y s ugges t " c ode pe nde nc y. " A f a s hi ona bl e wo r d
t hi s pas t d e c a d e , " c o d e p e n d e n c y " r ef er s t o a r e l a t i ons hi p i n
whi c h t h e p a r t n e r s c a t e r t o a n d t h e r e b y e n c o u r a g e e a c h
ot he r ' s weaknes s es . Of t e n i t i s p r o p e r l y de c r i e d. But I bel i eve
we n e e d t o be c a ut i ous a b o u t t hi s, be c a us e a ver y r eal p a r t of
t h e l e a r n i n g of ma r r i a g e i s l e a r n i n g h o w t o wor k a r o u n d e a c h
o t h e r ' s l i mi t at i ons . Wh e n i t i s p r o p e r t o wor k a r o u n d s uc h l i m-
i t at i ons , a n d wh e n t o cr i t i ci ze or t o c onf r ont t h e m, i s a de c i s i on
t ha t c a n be ma d e , agai n, onl y o u t of t he a goni z i ng " e mpt i ne s s
of n o t knowi ng. "
Whi l e I do n o t wi sh t o di s car d t h e wo r d " i n t e r d e p e n -
d e n c e , " i t ma y be hel pf ul t o t hi nk i n t e r ms of a n o t h e r wor d,
" col l abor at i on" : l a bor i ng t oge t he r . I n o u r wor k wi t h l a r ge r or-
ga ni z a t i ons , Lily a n d I ha ve r eal i z ed t ha t s uc h or ga ni z a t i ons of-
t e n have a l ot t o l e a r n a b o u t c ol l a bor a t i on. But as we l ook at t h e
or ga ni z a t i on of o u r ma r r i a g e , we have c o n c l u d e d t ha t we have
act ual l y d o n e a pr e t t y g o o d j o b a t l a bor i ng t oge t he r . Wh e n col -
l a bor a t i on i s p o o r i n an or ga ni z a t i on, t he syst em c a n l ook qui t e
ugly. But wh e n t h e c ol l a bor a t i on i s g o o d , n o t onl y i s t h e or ga-
ni z at i on effi ci ent , b u t its syst em c a n be s o beaut i f ul t o b e h o l d
t ha t i t a p p r o a c h e s a ki nd of myst i cal gl ory.
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 181
ACCOUNTABI LI TY AND STRUCTURE
I n t e r d e p e n d e n c e d o e s n o t necessar i l y me a n t ha t t h e col l abo-
r a t i ng i ndi vi dual s have di f f er ent r ol es . Usual l y, however , i t doe s ;
a n d , as de s c r i be d, Lily a n d I ha ve h a d ver y di f f er ent r ol es i n t h e
t hi r t y- seven- year - ol d or ga ni z a t i on of o u r ma r r i a ge . An d wh e n -
ever t h e r e a r e di f f er ent r ol es i n an or ga ni z a t i on, t wo i mp o r t a n t
f act or s i mme di a t e l y c o me i nt o pl ay: account abi l i t y a n d st r uc-
t ur e .
I a m abl e t o d e p e n d u p o n Lily f or mo s t of t h e h o me ma k -
i ng be c a us e s he n o t onl y d o e s i t b u t doe s i t wel l . An d s he c a n
d e p e n d u p o n me f or t h e mo n e y ma k i n g f or t h e s a me r e a s on.
We pl ay t he s e r ol es wel l be c a us e we c ons i de r our s el ves r e s pon-
si bl e f or d o i n g so. I n o t h e r wor ds , we h o l d our s el ves a n d e a c h
o t h e r a c c o u n t a b l e . On t h e negat i ve si de, account abi l i t y i mpl i es
t ha t s o me o n e i s s ubj ect t o b e i n g j u d g e d . On t h e posi t i ve si de, i t
i mpl i es t h a t t h e a c c o u n t a b l e p e r s o n i s t r us t ed. We r e Lily t o sig-
ni f i cant l y fail a t h e r h o me ma k i n g r ol e we r e s he no l o n g e r ac-
c o u n t a b l e I c o u l d no l o n g e r t r us t h e r t o fulfill t ha t r ol e a n d
woul d have t o s t ep i n t o t ake over. Suc h a t a ke ove r woul d be
na t ur a l a n d s i mpl e i f h e r loss of account abi l i t y was d u e t o a t em-
p o r a r y physi cal i l l ness. For i ns t a nc e , wh e n s he h a d a br e a s t ab-
scess f ol l owi ng t h e bi r t h of o u r t hi r d chi l d, i t was t h e mo s t
na t ur a l t h i n g i n t h e wor l d f or me t o t ake over t h e c a r e of t ha t
i nf ant a n d o u r t wo o t h e r y o u n g c hi l dr e n. Ha d t ha t n o t b e e n a
t e mp o r a r y c o n d i t i o n , however , i t wo u l d have me a n t a ma j or r e-
s t r uc t ur i ng of o u r ma r r i a g e .
So di f f er i ng r ol es a n d account abi l i t i es i mpl y s t r uc t ur e .
Wi t hi n a smal l ( but n o t necessar i l y at all s i mpl e) or ga ni z a t i on
l i ke ma r r i a g e , r ol es a n d s t r uc t ur e ma y be rel at i vel y i nf or ma l .
But t h e l a r ge r a n d mo r e c o mp l e x a n or ga ni z a t i on b e c o me s , t h e
mo r e i t i s essent i al t ha t t h e account abi l i t y s t r uc t ur e be f or mal -
i zed. Wr i t t e n j o b de s c r i pt i ons (or, a s t hey a r e n o w s o me t i me s
cal l ed, r es pons i bi l i t y pr of i l es) a r e n o w r e q u i r e d , a n d we have
e n t e r e d t h e r e a l m of f or mal or ga ni z a t i ons .
Vi r t ual l y ever y bus i nes s s c hool has a ma n d a t o r y c our s e en-
182 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
t i t l ed s o me t h i n g l i ke " Or ga ni z a t i ona l The or y. " An d a s t a n d a r d
a n d e n o r mo u s l y t hi ck t e xt book wi t h t h e s a me t i t l e will lay o u t
t h e full r a n g e of pos s i bl e or ga ni z a t i ona l s t r uc t ur e s f or t h e busi -
ness execut i ve t o c h o o s e f r om. Whi l e t hi s r a n g e c a n be vast a n d
c ompl i c a t e d, t h e s ubj ect i s act ual l y a l mos t out r a ge ous l y s i mpl e .
I t has b u t o n e u n d e r l y i n g pr i nc i pl e , whi c h i s " c ont i nge nc y t he -
ory. " Co n t i n g e n c y t he or y ( whi ch, l i ke syst ems t heor y, i s n o t a
t h e o r y b u t a fact ) si mpl y st at es t h a t t h e r e i s no o n e bes t t ype of
or ga ni z a t i on. T h e bes t s t r uc t ur e f or a pa r t i c ul a r or ga ni z a t i on
or e n d e a v o r i s contingent upon t h e p u r p o s e of t h e col l ect i ve, col -
l abor at i ve e nde a vor , as wel l as o t h e r f act or s.
Amo n g t he s e o t h e r f act or s i s t h e n a t u r e of t h e p e o p l e i n-
vol ved. A t hi nk- t a nk or ga ni z a t i on i s n o t g o i n g t o dr a w t h e s a me
ki nd of p e o p l e as a mo r e t r a di t i ona l ma n u f a c t u r i n g c ompa ny.
Ma r k e t i n g d e p a r t me n t s a r e n o t g o i n g t o dr a w t h e s a me ki nd of
p e o p l e a s sal es d e p a r t me n t s . No wh e r e c o u l d t hi s be mo r e evi-
d e n t t h a n i n t h e or ga ni z a t i on of ma r r i a g e . I n a c c o r d a n c e wi t h
c o n t i n g e n c y t heor y, t h e r e i s no o n e bes t or ga ni z a t i on of a ma r -
r i age. Al t h o u g h Lily' s a n d my ma r r i a g e has b e e n o r g a n i z e d ac-
c o r d i n g t o wha t s e e m t o be st er eot ypi cal r ol es, t hat or gani z at i on,
as I have s ugges t ed, i s act ual l y t h e p r o d u c t of o u r ver y di f f er ent
per s onal i t i es a n d cal l i ngs a n d i s n o t i n any way s o me t h i n g t h a t
we h o l d f or t h as a c o r r e c t mo d e l . Go o d n e s s c a n n o t be s t er eo-
t yped. I c oul d offer you s t er eot ypi cal f or mul a s f or b a d ma r -
r i ages; I c a n n o t offer an or ga ni z a t i ona l f o r mu l a f or a g o o d
ma r r i a ge . Ea c h s i t uat i on i s di f f er ent be c a us e of t h e ver y differ-
e n t p a r t n e r s i nvol ved.
Wh e n e v e r t h e r e i s account abi l i t y s t r uc t ur e d i n t o a syst em,
be i t as smal l as a ma r r i a g e or as h u g e as a c o r p o r a t i o n , t h e r e i s
al so a n a ut hor i t y s t r uc t ur e . Thi s d o e s n ' t me a n t ha t a ut hor i t y
c a n' t be s ha r e d. For i ns t a nc e , t h e mo n e y Lily a n d I save i s spl i t
equal l y b e t we e n us. Any i mp o r t a n t deci s i on a b o u t t h e c h i l d r e n
a n d a b o u t ma j or i nve s t me nt s or e xpe ns e s we ha ve always ma d e
conj oi nt l y. None t he l e s s , as i ndi vi dual s , we e a c h ha ve l i mi t e d au-
t hor i t y wi t hi n o u r own d o ma i n s .
A c o r p o r a t i o n p r e s i d e n t on t h e b o a r d of di r e c t or s of FCE
has t a u g h t us t h e t e r m " t he a ut hor i t y of knowl e dge . " Lily c a n
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 183
fulfill h e r h o me ma k i n g r ol e wi t hout any day-t o-day over s i ght
f r om me pr eci s el y be c a us e s he has s uc h aut hor i t y. For e x a mp l e ,
a c o u p l e of weeks a go, wh e n I was a b o u t t o do a few l ocal er-
r a nds , Lily a s ke d me i f I wo u l d pi ck up a b u n c h of par s l ey at t h e
s t or e. Al t h o u g h t h e onl y par s l ey t h e r e was sever el y wi l t ed, I
b o u g h t a b u n c h r a t h e r t h a n ma k e a fort y-mi l e r o u n d t r i p t o
p u r c h a s e s o me t h a t was f r esh. None t he l e s s , I p r e s e n t e d t hi s
wi l t ed st uff t o Lily wi t h s o me c ha gr i n. She i mme di a t e l y sai d,
" Oh , t hat ' s no p r o b l e m; you j u s t s oak i t i n wat er . " Wi t hi n a day,
t ha t par s l ey l o o k e d as f r esh as wh e n i t was pi c ke d. Lily knows
t h e t r i cks of h e r t r a de .
Ou r ma r r i a g e i s i n no way hi e r a r c hi c a l . Al t h o u g h t h e r e i s a
syst em of account abi l i t y, n e i t h e r of us i s t h e over al l boss. But
t h e r e i s no way i n l a r ge r syst ems, s uc h as bus i nes s es , t ha t you
c a n have a s t r uc t ur e of account abi l i t y wi t hout a c h a i n of c om-
ma n d . Wh a t t ha t c h a i n of c o mma n d will l ook l i ke c a n var y c on-
s i der abl y f r om bus i nes s t o bus i nes s , c o n t i n g e n t u p o n t h e
n a t u r e of t h e bus i nes s , b u t s o me wh e r e t h e b u c k has t o s t op. Be-
caus e t hey have h a d u n p l e a s a n t e x p e r i e n c e s wi t h hi e r a r c hi c a l
a ut hor i t y syst ems, ma n y p e o p l e t e n d t o di s t r us t al l s t r uc t ur e .
Th e y n e e d t o g u a r d agai ns t t hi s t e nde nc y. T h e r e c a n be hi ghl y
dys f unct i onal s t r uc t ur e s , b u t s t r uc t ur e i s by no me a n s all ba d.
Mos t of i t i s g o o d . I n d e e d , over t h e year s I have c o me t o l e a r n
t ha t n o t onl y c h i l d r e n b u t adul t s ver y mu c h n e e d s t r uc t ur e .
Empl oye e s of t en suffer gr i evousl y f r om a l ack of s t r uc t ur e .
I first r eal i z ed t hi s wh e n , at t h e a ge of t hi r t y- one, I was as s i gned
t o be t h e d i r e c t o r of ps ychi at r y a t t h e U. S. Ar my Me di c a l Ce n-
t er on Oki na wa . I n t hi s pos i t i on I was t o ma n a g e a d e p a r t me n t
of a p p r o x i ma t e l y fort y p e o p l e . Unt i l t ha t t i me I h a d ne ve r ma n -
a g e d anybody. No r h a d I ever r ecei ved a n y t h i n g fai nt l y r e s e m-
bl i ng ma n a g e me n t t r a i ni ng. Yet f r om t h e mo me n t I t ook ove r
t h e d e p a r t me n t , I was per f ect l y cl ear i n my own mi n d a b o u t
wha t my ma n a g e me n t style wo u l d be . I was g o i n g t o be j u s t as
di f f er ent f r om ever y a u t h o r i t a r i a n boss wh o h a d ever b e e n i n
c h a r g e of me as I c o u l d possi bl y be .
I h a d no i de a h o w t o de f i ne c ons e ns us , b u t I was g o i n g t o
st ri ve f or it. Cer t ai nl y my mo d e l was a hi ghl y cons ul t at i ve o n e .
184 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
No t onl y di d I ne ve r ma k e an admi ni s t r at i ve deci s i on wi t hout
c ons ul t i ng e ve r yone i nvol ved, I di d my ver y be s t t o s ee t hat ,
wi t hi n t h e c ons t r a i nt s of pr of es s i onal c o mp e t e n c e , t h e p e o p l e
u n d e r me ma d e t he i r own deci s i ons wh e n e v e r pos s i bl e a b o u t
t h e ma t t e r s t h a t af f ect ed t he i r own lives. Be c a us e our s was a
me di c a l , "pr of es s i onal , " d e p a r t me n t , I fel t we c o u l d i g n o r e t h e
ma t t e r of r a nk. I di s c our a ge d t h e m f r om a ddr e s s i ng me as Ma-
j o r Peck. So o n e ve r yone was cal l i ng me Scotty. I was Mr. Ni c e
Guy. An d i t wor ke d. T h e mo o d was e u p h o r i c . Ever ybody s poke
gl owi ngl y a b o u t wh a t a g o o d l e a d e r I was a n d h o w r el i eved t hey
we r e t o be f r ee of t ha t s t upi d ol d l i e u t e n a n t c ol one l , t he i r pr e -
vi ous c o mma n d e r . T h e wor k r a n s moot hl y. T h e d e p a r t me n t
mo r a l e was s u p e r b .
Af t er j u s t a b o u t six mo n t h s , however , t hi ngs b e g a n t o go
sour . T h e c h a n g e was a l mos t i mp e r c e p t i b l e a t f i r s t . T h e e u p h o -
r i a was g o n e . T h e me n s t o p p e d t al ki ng a b o u t wha t a gr e a t pl a c e
i t was t o wor k. "All r i ght , " I t ol d myself, " t he h o n e y mo o n ' s over.
Wh a t el se c oul d you expect ? No w i t ' s wor k a s us ual , b u t n o t h -
i ng' s wr ong. " But by t h e n i n e - mo n t h ma r k t hi ngs b e g a n t o get
wor s e. Whi l e t he wor k we n t o n , pet t y bi c ke r i ng s t ar t ed. I won-
d e r e d wh e t h e r t h e r e mi g h t be a p r o b l e m, b u t I c oul d see n o t h -
i ng t o a c c o u n t f or it. Cer t ai nl y i t h a d n o t h i n g t o do wi t h me , for
h a d n ' t I s hown mysel f t o be a b o r n l e a de r ? By t he year ma r k ,
however , i t was cl ear t h e r e was a p r o b l e m. T h e bi c ke r i ng h a d es-
cal at ed a n d wor k was b e g i n n i n g t o suffer. Li t t l e t hi ngs we r e be -
i ng left u n d o n e .
At t hi s p o i n t f at e s e e me d t o c o me t o my r e s c ue . A ma j or
ne w o u t p a t i e n t me di c a l c o mp l e x was i n t h e f i nal st ages of c on-
s t r uct i on, a n d t h e hos pi t al c o mma n d e r t ol d me t ha t t h e cl i ni c,
t h e l ar ges t p a r t of o u r d e p a r t me n t , woul d move t he r e . Ou r cur -
r e n t offices we r e c r a mp e d , col d, a n d gl oomy. T h e ne w o n e s
woul d be mo d e r n a n d airy, wi t h views over t h e Paci fi c a n d wall-
to-wall c a r pe t i ng. Sur el y t h e mo r a l e woul d i mp r o v e a t t h e
pr os pe c t of s uc h a pl e a s a nt move .
I t di dn' t . I t got wor s e. As mo v i n g day a p p r o a c h e d t h e en-
t i r e staff gr ew ever mo r e i r r i t abl e. Th e y b e g a n t o s qua bbl e wi t h
e a c h o t h e r a b o u t wh o wo u l d get whi c h office i n t h e n e w bui l d-
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 185
i ng. T h e p a c k i n g of f i l es fell way b e h i n d s c h e d u l e . I t was n o w fi-
nal l y obvi ous t h a t i t was my r es pons i bi l i t y t o do s o me t h i n g . Bu t
what ? I a n n o u n c e d t o t h e staff t ha t we we r e g o i n g t o me e t over
i n t h e n e w c o n f e r e n c e r o o m f or t h e ent i r et y of t h e n e x t mo r n -
i ng. An d t ha t we wo u l d c o n t i n u e t o me e t i n t ha t way ever y
mo r n i n g e v e n t h o u g h i t me a n t wo r k i n g i n t h e e ve ni ngs un-
til we got t o t h e b o t t o m of t h e p r o b l e m.
T h e t wo f our - hour me e t i ngs we h a d we r e t h e s t or mi es t I
have ever a t t e n d e d . Eve r yone t ook pot s hot s a t me a n d a t e a c h
ot her . Eve r yone was angr y. Eve r yone h a d s o me t h i n g t o c om-
pl a i n a bout . Yet all t h e c ompl a i nt s we r e picky, s uper f i ci al , a n d
s e e mi ngl y u n r e a s o n a b l e . I t was unr e l i e ve d c ha os . Bu t t owa r d
t h e e n d o f t h e s e c o n d mo r n i n g , o n e o f t h e y o u n g enl i s t ed me n
sai d, "I feel I d o n ' t k n o w wh e r e I s t and. " I a s ke d h i m i f he woul d
e l a bor a t e . He c oul dn' t . He b e c a me i na r t i c ul a t e a n d t h e g r o u p
c o n t i n u e d wi t h its r a n d o m conf l i ct . But t he y o u n g ma n ' s wor ds
r e v e r b e r a t e d t h r o u g h my mi n d . Ear l i er t ha t mo r n i n g s o me o n e
el se h a d sai d, "Ever yt hi ng' s va gue a r o u n d h e r e . " An d t h e day
be f or e , a n o t h e r y o u n g ma n h a d voi ced t h e c ompl a i nt : "It ' s l i ke
we ' r e at sea. " I t ol d t he g r o u p I n e e d e d t i me t o t hi nk, t ha t t hey
s h o u l d get ba c k t o wor k, a n d t ha t we woul d n o t have any mo r e
of t he s e me e t i n g s f or t h e f or es eeabl e f ut ur e .
We r e t u r n e d t o t h e ol d bui l di ng a n d I sat i n my office, st ar-
i ng a t t h e cei l i ng, my l u n c h on t he des k be s i de me , u n e a t e n . Was
i t possi bl e t h e d e p a r t me n t n e e d e d mo r e s t r uc t ur e t h a n I h a d
pr ovi ded? Wh a t ki nd of s t r uct ur e? A c l e a r e r s ens e of r ank? Wh a t
di d t hey wa nt me t o dobos s t h e m a r o u n d l i ke a b u n c h of chi l -
dr e n? Th a t was t ot al l y agai ns t my n a t u r e . But t h e n mos t of t h e m
were r a t h e r young, aft er all. Co u l d i t be t h a t t hey wa n t e d me t o be
s o me ki nd of f a t he r f i gur e? Yet i f I s t ar t ed o r d e r i n g t h e m a r o u n d
l i ke an a ut oc r a t , wo u l d n ' t t hey h a t e me ? I wa n t e d t o be Mr. Ni ce
Guy. But , c o me t o t hi nk of it, i t was n o t my j o b t o be popul a r ; i t
was my j o b t o r u n t h e bes t possi bl e d e p a r t me n t I c oul d. Maybe
t hey n e e d e d a s t r onge r ki nd of l e a de r s hi p f r om me .
I cal l ed t h e n o n c o mmi s s i o n e d offi cer i n c h a r g e of t h e de -
p a r t me n t a n d a s ke d h i m t o b r i n g me t h e pl a ns f or t h e ne w
b u i l d i n g a s s oon a s pos s i bl e. Wh e n he r e t u r n e d , we u n r o l l e d
186 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
t h e f l oor p l a n f or t h e ps ychi at r y o u t p a t i e n t cl i ni c on my des k. I
p o i n t e d t o t h e l a r ge r c o r n e r offi ce. " Tha t will be mi n e , " I an-
n o u n c e d . Th e n , p a u s i n g j u s t l o n g e n o u g h f or h i m t o n o t e e a c h
a s s i gnme nt , I p r o c e e d e d a l o n g t h e b l u e p r i n t t h r o u g h t h e
s mal l er offices: "We' l l p u t Ca pt a i n Ame s h e r e , you h e r e ,
Se r g e a n t Ryan t he r e , Li e u t e n a n t Ho b s o n h e r e , Pr i vat e Co o p e r -
ma n t h e r e , Ca pt a i n Mar s hal l h e r e , Se r ge a nt Mosel y h e r e , Pri -
vat e Enowi t c h t he r e , " a n d s o on d o wn t h e ma p . " Now pl eas e go
i nf or m e a c h of t h e m of t h e office I ' ve as s i gned h i m t o. "
You c oul d pr act i cal l y h e a r t h e howl s of di s may all acr oss
t h e i s l and. But b y e v e n i n g mo r a l e h a d b e g u n t o i mpr ove , a n d
t h e n e x t day I wa t c h e d i t es cal at e. By t h e e n d of t h e week, i t was
ba c k t o wh e r e i t h a d b e e n at its best . Th e y still cal l ed me Scotty,
a n d my over al l style of l e a de r s hi p c o n t i n u e d t o be r el at i vel y
a l t h o u g h n o l o n g e r r i gi dl ynona ut hor i t a r i a n. But mo r a l e
st ayed h i g h f or t h e r e ma i n i n g year of my dut y.
You c oul d t h i n k of t hi s as a success st ory. I di d event ual l y
a c k n o wl e d g e t ha t t h e r e was a p r o b l e m a n d t ha t i t was my r e-
sponsi bi l i t y. I f i nal l y t ook t h e c or r e c t s t eps t o di a gnos e i t a n d
was a bl e t o r eadj us t my be ha vi or t o me e t t h e n e e d s of t h e or ga-
ni z at i on. I n d e e d , i t was a d r a ma t i c e x a mp l e of h o w a syst em c a n
be successful l y c h a n g e d by a s i mpl e i nt e r ve nt i on. However , i t
c a n al so be r e g a r d e d as a st or y of f ai l ur e. For t h e fact of t h e mat -
t er i s t ha t t h e d e p a r t me n t t h e or ga ni z a t i on a n d t h e i ndi vi du-
als wi t hi n itsuffered f or ove r six mo n t h s on a c c o u n t of my p o o r
l e a de r s hi p. I t was i ndel i bl y cl ear t ha t we h a d a si gni f i cant
mo r a l e p r o b l e m at l east six mo n t h s be f or e I t ook cor r ect i ve ac-
t i on. Wh y di d I t ake so l ong?
On e r e a s o n was my sel f - est eem. I si mpl y di d n o t wa n t t o be -
l i eve t ha t t h e r e was a n y t h i n g wr o n g wi t h me or t ha t my l eader -
s hi p was a n y t h i n g o t h e r t h a n per f ect . Fue l i ng t ha t concei t ,
however , we r e my n e e d s : my n e e d t o offer t h e d e p a r t me n t a
si mpl i st i cal l y c ompa s s i ona t e , n o n a u t h o r i t a r i a n style of s uper vi -
s i on, a n d my n e e d t o r ecei ve ba c k t h e c o n s t a n t af f ect i on a n d
gr a t i t ude of my s ubor di na t e s . Unt i l t h a t f i nal day I ne ve r e ve n
s t o p p e d t o ask wh e t h e r my n e e d s ma t c h e d t hos e of t h e or ga ni -
z at i on. I t a l mos t r e q u i r e d a r evel at i on f or me t o r eal i ze t h a t i t
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 187
was n o t necessar i l y my j o b my r ol e i n t h e o r g a n i z a t i o n t o be
popul a r .
I t al so ne ve r o c c u r r e d t o me t h a t t h e r e was a n y t h i n g o t h e r
t h a n o n e be s t way t o r u n any or ga ni z a t i on. I h a d ne ve r h e a r d of
c o n t i n g e n c y t h e o r y ba c k t h e n . My g r o u p c ons c i ous ne s s was s o
l i mi t e d t ha t I gave no t h o u g h t t o h o w r e ma r ka bl y y o u n g t h e
me mb e r s o f t h e d e p a r t me n t we r e , a n d h e n c e n o t h o u g h t t o t h e
possi bi l i t y t ha t t h e d e p a r t me n t mi g h t r e q u i r e a di f f er ent style
of l e a de r s hi p t h a n a n or ga ni z a t i on whos e p e r s o n n e l we r e mo r e
ma t u r e . We h a d all suf f er ed needl es s l y f or mo n t h s b e c a u s e of a
l ack of s t r uc t ur e .
Al t h o u g h p e o p l e of t en d o n ' t r eal i ze it, s t r uc t ur e s c a n be
f l exi bl e. A si gni f i cant p a r t of t h e wor k at FCE i s t o t e a c h or ga-
ni z at i ons , b o t h l ar ge a n d smal l , h o w t o " o p e r a t e i n c ommuni t y. "
Wh e n o p e r a t i n g i n c ommuni t y, t h e g r o u p d o e s n o t ha ve a r i gi d
a ut hor i t y s t r uc t ur e ; a ut hor i t y a n d l e a de r s hi p a r e s ha r e d, a s t he y
mu s t be t o ma xi mi z e c o mmu n i c a t i o n . But we c oul d n o t do t hi s
wor k i f i t me a n t t h a t or ga ni z a t i ons h a d t o a b a n d o n t he i r hi er -
ar chi cal a ut hor i t y s t r uc t ur e al t oget her . We c a n do i t onl y be -
caus e i t i s pos s i bl e f or an or ga ni z a t i on t o o p e r a t e i n a
hi e r a r c hi c a l mo d e mo s t of t h e t i me , de a l i ng wi t h its day-t o-day
o p e r a t i o n s , b u t t o swi t ch t o a c o mmu n i t y mo d e i n r e s p o n s e t o
c e r t a i n i ssues a n d p r o b l e ms ( s uch a s t hos e of di versi t y a n d
mo r a l e ) a n d wh e n e v e r g r o u p deci s i on ma k i n g i s r e q u i r e d .
As I n o t e d in The Road Less Traveled, o n e char act er i s t i c of
i ndi vi dual me n t a l h e a l t h i s wha t I cal l f l exi bl e r e s pons e syst ems.
Th e s e a r e al so a char act er i s t i c of or ga ni z a t i ona l he a l t h. An or -
ga ni z a t i on t ha t has t wo mo d e s of o p e r a t i n g a t its c o mma n d a n d
c a n us e o n e or t h e ot he r , c o n t i n g e n t u p o n t h e c i r c ums t a nc e s , i s
obvi ousl y g o i n g t o be h e a l t h i e r t h a n a n or ga ni z a t i on t ha t c a n
f unc t i on onl y i n a si ngl e way.
BOUNDARI ES AND VULNERABI LI TY
Wh e r e v e r a s t r uc t ur e of account abi l i t y a n d di f f er i ng r ol es has
b e e n es t abl i s hed, t h e r e you will f i nd b o u n d a r i e s . Suc h b o u n d -
188 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
ar i es a r e a t wo- edged swor d. On t h e o n e h a n d , t hey a r e essen-
t i al . I f p e r s o n n e l i n t h e sal es d e p a r t me n t felt t ot al l y f r ee t o
ma r c h i nt o t h e ma r k e t i n g d e p a r t me n t a n d tell i t h o w t o ma r k e t
t h e p r o d u c t , t h e r es ul t wo u l d be c ha os . On t h e o t h e r h a n d , i f
t h e b o u n d a r i e s of t he s e t wo di f f er ent d e p a r t me n t s a r e s o r i gi d
t ha t t h e r e c a n b e n o c o mmu n i c a t i o n b e t we e n t h e m, i mmo b i -
l i zat i on a n d i nef f i ci ent c ompe t i t i ve ne s s will be t h e r esul t . O n e
r e a s on FCE i s b r o u g h t i nt o c o r p o r a t i o n s t o bui l d c o mmu n i t y i s
i n o r d e r t o sof t en d e p a r t me n t a l b o u n d a r i e s t ha t ha ve b e c o me
s o r i gi d t ha t t hey p r e v e n t i mp o r t a n t c o mmu n i c a t i o n a n d f unc-
t i onal i n t e r d e p e n d e n c e .
T h e choi ces of a ma j or bus i nes s execut i ve a b o u t h o w t o
de a l wi t h s uc h b o u n d a r y i ssues a r e c hoi c e s rel at i vel y few have t o
exer ci s e. But ever y h u ma n b e i n g has t o de a l wi t h b o u n d a r y is-
sues wi t hi n t h e or ga ni z a t i on of hi s or h e r ma r r i a g e , n u c l e a r
family, e x t e n d e d family, ne t wor k of f r i e nds hi p, a n d e mpl oy-
me n t . Ea c h of us a s i ndi vi dual s mu s t ma k e c hoi c e s day i n a n d
day o u t i n de f i ni ng o u r b o u n d a r i e s wi t hi n t h e f r a me wor k of any
or ga ni z a t i on.
Pe r h a p s t h e easi est of s uc h c hoi c e s i nvol ve t h e d e g r e e t o
whi c h you a r e g o i n g t o r e s pe c t o t h e r pe opl e ' s b o u n d a r i e s .
Wh a t ma k e s t he s e deci s i ons eas i er i s t ha t you will event ual l y be
p u n i s h e d , o n e way or a not he r , for f ai l i ng t o per cei ve s uc h
b o u n d a r i e s a n d act accor di ngl y. Th e s e b o u n d a r i e s will var y
f r om i ndi vi dual t o i ndi vi dual a n d c ul t ur e t o c ul t ur e . Ps ychol o-
gi st s, f or i ns t a nc e , have d i s c e r n e d t ha t t h e r e i s a speci fi c di s-
t a nc e at whi c h mo s t p e o p l e i n a gi ven c ul t ur e feel c omf or t a bl e
c o mmu n i c a t i n g wi t h t he i r fel l ows. I n t h e Un i t e d St at es, t ha t di s-
t a nc e i s rel at i vel y l ar ge, a n d s e l d o m do we t al k wi t h a n e w ac-
q u a i n t a n c e unl es s o u r faces a r e a g o o d t h r e e f eet di s t a nt f r om
e a c h ot her . I n I ndi a , o n t h e o t h e r h a n d , t h e n o r m ma y b e mo r e
l i ke o n e f oot . T h e r e l a t i ons hi p b e t we e n t hi s c o n c e p t of act ual
physi cal s pace a n d b o u n d a r i e s i s r e c ogni z e d i n o u r c u r r e n t psy-
chol ogi cal l i ngo by t h e e xpr e s s i on "t o give e a c h o t h e r s pace. "
Suc h s pa c e , of c our s e , i s mu c h mo r e c o mp l e x t h a n me r e
f oot age. A d o z e n year s a go, f or e x a mp l e , Lily was r i di ng t h e
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 189
St at en I s l and Fer r y wi t h h e r mo t h e r , wh o was i n t h e ear l y st ages
of seni l i t y at t h e t i me . Whi l e t hey we r e si t t i ng on t h e ferry, h e r
mo t h e r s pi ed a gr ay ha i r i n Lily' s f i ne bl ack cr own, a n d wi t hout
pe r mi s s i on t o do so, s udde nl y r e a c h e d over a n d y a n k e d t ha t
ha i r out . Lily nat ur al l y felt vi ol at ed. Thi s was not , of c our s e , t he
s a me l evel of vi ol at i on a s r a p e or r o b b e r y or mu r d e r , b u t t he
e pi s ode ma k e s t h e p o i n t t ha t i n l esser ways we vi ol at e o t h e r p e o -
pl e' s b o u n d a r i e s all t h e t i me a n d caus e t he i r r e s e n t me n t wh e n -
ever we do so.
No n e t h e l e s s , b o u n d a r i e s mu s t be vi ol at ed a t cer t ai n t i mes .
Pe r h a p s t h e mo s t a goni z i ng deci s i ons we ever have t o ma k e
c o n c e r n wh e n t o i n t e r v e n e i n t h e affairs of o u r c hi l dr e n, o u r
f r i ends , a n d , a s we get ol der , o u r pa r e nt s . Ho w do you k n o w
wh e n t o i nt e r ve ne i n t h e life of a n a dol e s c e nt or y o u n g a dul t
chi l d, a n d wh e n t o t r us t t h e way t ha t s he i s fl owi ng? Or wh e n t o
c o n f r o n t a f r i end wh o s e e ms t o ha ve t a ke n t h e wr o n g pa t h? Or
wh e n t o s t ep i n t o i nsi st t h a t el der l y p a r e n t s get t he c a r e t hey
obvi ousl y n e e d a n d j u s t a s obvi ousl y d o n ' t want ? You d o n ' t .
T h e r e i s no f or mul a . All s uc h deci s i ons mu s t be ma d e o u t of t he
" agony of n o t knowi ng. " We a r e c onf r ont e d, o n c e agai n, wi t h
t he p a r a d o x e s of life a n d t h e fact t ha t we a r e a l mos t a t o n e a n d
t he s a me t i me cal l ed t o r e s pe c t t h e b o u n d a r i e s of o t h e r s a n d ,
u p o n occas i on, t o i nt e r f e r e i n t he i r lives no ma t t e r h o w mu c h
t hey mi g h t h a t e us f or it.
I n my e x p e r i e n c e , however , a gr e a t e r p r o b l e m t h a n t ha t of
l e a r n i n g a n awar enes s o f o t h e r s ' b o u n d a r i e s , a n d wh e n a n d
how t o r e s pe c t t h e m, i s t h e p r o b l e m of c h o o s i n g a n d s et t i ng
o u r own b o u n d a r i e s . Wh e n I was still i n t h e pr a c t i c e of psy-
c hot he r a py, i t s e e me d t o me t ha t a t l east hal f my pa t i e nt s h a d
wha t I c a me t o cal l dr a wbr i dge p r o b l e ms . So o n e r or l at er I
woul d say t o t h e m, "All of us live i n a cast l e. Ar o u n d t h e cast l e,
t he r e i s a mo a t , a n d over t h e mo a t t h e r e i s a dr a wbr i dge whi c h
we c a n l ower o p e n or r ai se s hut , d e p e n d i n g u p o n o u r will. " T h e
p r o b l e m was t ha t my pa t i e nt s ' dr a wbr i dge s di d n o t wor k ver y
well. Ei t he r t hey we r e l ai d o p e n all t h e t i me , s o t ha t vi rt ual l y
a nyone a n d e ve r yone c oul d a mb l e i nt o t he i r pe r s ona l s pace,
190 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
pr owl a r o u n d , stay a s l o n g a s t hey l i ked, a n d do wha t e ve r h a r m
t hey wo u l d o r el se t he i r dr a wbr i dge s we r e r ai s ed s hut a n d
s t uck s o t ha t n o b o d y a n d n o t h i n g c oul d p e n e t r a t e t he i r i so-
l a t e d s ol i t ude. Ne i t h e r case was b e n i g n .
Th e s e pa t i e nt s l a c ke d f r e e d o m a n d t h e f l exi bl e r e s pons e
syst ems t ha t a r e s uc h a d r a ma t i c char act er i s t i c of me n t a l he a l t h.
For i ns t a nc e , in The Road Less Traveled, I di s cus s ed a wo ma n wh o
woul d s l eep wi t h ever y ma n s he da t e d, whi c h left h e r f eel i ng s o
d e g r a d e d t ha t s he woul d t h e n ceas e d a t i n g al t oget her . I t was a
ver i t abl e r evel at i on f or h e r t o l e a r n t ha t t h e r e a r e s o me me n
you d o n ' t wa nt t o l et i n t h r o u g h your f r ont door , s o me you
mi g h t wa nt t o l et i n t h r o u g h your f r ont d o o r a n d i nt o your liv-
i ng r o o m b u t n o t i nt o your b e d r o o m, a n d s o me you mi g h t wa n t
t o l et i nt o your b e d r o o m. Sh e h a d ne ve r c o n s i d e r e d t hat t h e r e
mi g h t b e mi g h t n e e d t o b e a t l east t h r e e di f f er ent ways t o r e-
s p o n d t o di f f er ent me n i n any gi ven s i t uat i on. No r h a d s he per -
cei ved t ha t s he h a d t h e p o we r t o ma k e s uc h di s c r i mi na t i ng
choi ces , t o dr a w a l i ne t o est abl i sh a n d p r o t e c t h e r b o u n d a r i e s .
I t i s o u r c hoi c e wh e n t o l ower o u r dr a wbr i dge s a n d wh e n
t o r ai se t h e m. But t hi s c hoi c e l eads us i nt o yet a n o t h e r c om-
pl exi t y. I f we k e e p o u r dr a wbr i dge s o p e n , p e o p l e or i ssues ma y
c o me i nt o o u r lives a n d h u r t us , n o t s o mu c h physi cal l y a s e mo -
t i onal l y. T h e r e s p o n s e of ma n y t o t hi s d i l e mma i s t o k e e p t he i r
physi cal dr a wbr i dge s s o me wh a t o p e n , b u t t he i r e mo t i o n a l
dr a wbr i dge s fi rml y cl os ed. I t i s as i f an execut i ve h a d an " o p e n
d o o r " pol i cy, b u t n o b o d y wh o c a me i n t h r o u g h t ha t d o o r ever
af f ect ed hi m. On e of o u r o n g o i n g p r o b l e ms i n life i s t o c on-
st ant l y c h o o s e t h e d e g r e e t o whi c h we a r e g o i n g t o al l ow our -
selves t o be e mot i ona l l y af f ect ed by i ssues a n d o t h e r p e o p l e .
Thi s i s t he d i l e mma of vul ner abi l i t y.
T h e wo r d "vul ner abi l i t y" me a n s t h e abi l i t y t o be wo u n d e d .
I n c h o o s i n g h o w vul ne r a bl e we a r e g o i n g t o be a s h u ma n be -
i ngs, i t i s essent i al t h a t we ma k e t h e di s t i nct i on b e t we e n wo u n d -
i ng a s i n b e i n g h u r t a n d wo u n d i n g a s i n b e i n g d a ma g e d . To
h e l p ma k e t ha t di s t i nct i on i n my l ect ur es , on occas i on I u s e d t o
ask i f t h e r e was a n y o n e i n t h e a u d i e n c e wh o was wi l l i ng t o vol -
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 191
u n t e e r f or a n u n k n o wn b u t pai nf ul e x p e r i me n t . For t unat el y,
s o me br ave s oul always was. I woul d ask t h e v o l u n t e e r t o c o me
up on st age a n d I woul d p i n c h hi s or h e r u p p e r a r m qui t e sharpl y.
T h e n I woul d s t a nd ba c k a n d ask, "Di d t ha t h u r t you? " T h e vol-
u n t e e r woul d r epl y vi gor ousl y t ha t i t di d. T h e n I woul d ask,
"Di d i t d a ma g e you? " T h e v o l u n t e e r woul d us ua l l ya nd s ome -
t i mes r e l uc t a nt l ya c knowl e dge t h a t whi l e s he or he h a d e xpe -
r i e n c e d pa i n, no p e r ma n e n t d a ma g e h a d b e e n s us t a i ne d a s a
r esul t .
Un d e r al mos t all ci r cums t ances , i t woul d be pl ai n s t upi d t o
wal k i nt o a si t uat i on wh e r e you ar e likely t o be p e r ma n e n t l y da m-
aged. But i t mi g h t be very s ma r t t o o p e n your sel f upwi t hi n l i m-
i t st o si t uat i ons i n whi ch you woul d be likely t o e xpe r i e nc e
s ome e mot i ona l pai n, s uch as i n t aki ng a ri sk t o e n t e r a r el at i on-
s hi p t ha t has t he pot ent i al t o l ead t o c o mmi t me n t . Agai n i t i s
necessar y t o di st i ngui sh be t we e n t he p a t h of s ma r t sel fi shness
a n d t he p a t h of s t upi d sel fi shness. St upi d sel fi shness, you will
r e me mb e r , i s t r yi ng t o avoi d all e mot i ona l , exi st ent i al sufferi ng,
whe r e a s s ma r t sel fi shness i s di s t i ngui s hi ng be t we e n suf f er i ng t ha t
i s ne ur ot i c , unneces s ar y, a n d unpr oduc t i ve , a n d suf f er i ng t ha t i s
i n h e r e n t i n life a n d pr oduct i ve of l ear ni ng.
So i t i s neces s ar y f or o u r own e mo t i o n a l h e a l t h a n d l ear n-
i ng t h a t we r e t a i n t h e capaci t y t o c h o o s e t o be o p e n t o b e i n g a
vul ne r a bl e p e r s o n . I t i s al so neces s ar y f or me a ni ngf ul c o mmu -
ni c a t i on a n d or ga ni z a t i ona l behavi or . As I wr ot e i n What Return
Can I Make?
Wh a t h a p p e n s wh e n o n e p e r s o n t akes t h e ri sk t o say t o
a n o t h e r : I ' m conf us ed, I ' m n o t s ur e wh e r e I a m goi ng;
I ' m f eel i ng l ost a n d l onel y; I ' m t i r ed a n d f r i ght e ne d.
Wi l l you h e l p me ? T h e effect of s uc h vul ner abi l i t y i s al-
mo s t i nvar i abl y di s a r mi ng. " I ' m l onel y a n d t i r ed t oo, "
o t h e r s a r e l i kel y t o say a n d o p e n t he i r a r ms t o us .
But wha t h a p p e n s i f we t ry t o ma i n t a i n a " ma c h o "
i ma g e of ha vi ng i t al t oget her , of b e i n g t h e t o p dog,
wh e n we gi r d our s el ves a b o u t wi t h o u r ps ychol ogi cal
192 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
def enses? We b e c o me u n a p p r o a c h a b l e , a n d o u r
n e i g h b o r s g u a r d t hems el ves i n t he i r def ens es , a n d o u r
h u ma n r e l a t i ons hi ps b e c o me n o mo r e me a n i n g f u l o r
pr oduc t i ve t h a n t wo e mp t y t anks b u mp i n g agai ns t
e a c h o t h e r i n t h e ni ght .
I a m n o t advi s i ng a n y o n e t o be t ot al l y vul ne r a bl e , n o r t o be
vul ne r a bl e at all t i mes. None t he l e s s , i f you c h o o s e t o be a heal -
i ng p r e s e n c e i n t h e wor l d, i t will be neces s ar y t o c h o o s e
t h r o u g h o u t your life t o r e t a i n t h e capaci t y t o be wo u n d e d t o a t
l east s o me d e g r e e . A j ust i f i abl y f a mous b o o k by He n r i No u we n
i s e nt i t l e d The Wounded Healer. T h e me s s a ge of t ha t book, as its
t i t l e suggest s, i s t ha t i f we a r e t o be effect i ve he a l e r s we mu s t al-
l ow our s el ves , wi t hi n l i mi t s, t o be cont i nual l y wo u n d e d , a n d
t hat , i n d e e d , i t i s onl y o u t of o u r wo u n d e d n e s s t ha t we c a n he a l
o r b e he a l e d.
But agai n, t h e r e mu s t be l i mi t s. A ma n by t h e n a me of J o h n
Kiley o n c e i n t r o d u c e d me t o a Ze n Buddhi s t - l i ke e xpr e s s i on:
"t o we e p wi t h o n e eye. " We e p i n g wi t h o n e eye d o e s n o t me a n
t ha t t h e suf f er i ng of vul ner abi l i t y s h o u l d be ha l f he a r t e d b u t
onl y t ha t o n e s h o u l d gener al l y n o t be d a ma g e d by it. T h e ex-
pr es s i on poi nt s t o t h e di s t i nct i on be t we e n e mp a t h y a n d sympa-
thy. Empa t hy, t h e capaci t y t o feel a n d t o s o me d e g r e e t ake on
a n o t h e r pe r s on' s pa i n, i s always a vi r t ue. Sympat hy, on t h e o t h e r
h a n d , i s mo r e l i ke symbi osi s, or a t ot al i dent i f i cat i on wi t h t h e
o t h e r p e r s o n . I am n o t sayi ng t ha t all s ympa t hy i s ba d, b u t i f you
wal l ow i n a n o t h e r p e r s o n ' s de pr e s s i on t o s uc h a n e x t e n t t ha t
you b e c o me d e p r e s s e d yoursel f, you have n o t onl y t a ke n on a n
unne c e s s a r y b u r d e n b u t ma d e your s el f unl i kel y t o be abl e t o
h e l p t ha t p e r s o n .
Thi s di s t i nct i on is, of c our s e , e xt r e me l y i mp o r t a n t f or psy-
c hot he r a pi s t s . T h e si ngl e gr e a t e s t t al ent a ps yc hot he r a pi s t c a n
possess i s t h e capaci t y t o be s i mul t a ne ous l y b o t h i nvol ved a n d
d e t a c h e d . Thi s i s wh a t i s me a n t by we e p i n g wi t h o n e eye. I t i s
not , however , a t a l e nt t o be d e v e l o p e d j u s t by ps yc hot he r a pi s t s ;
i t i s a capaci t y t ha t mu s t be d e v e l o p e d by a n y o n e wh o des i r es t o
be a h e a l i n g p r e s e n c e i n t h e wor l d.
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 193
POWER
In The Road Less Traveled, I dr e w t h e di s t i nct i on b e t we e n spi ri -
t ual a n d pol i t i cal power . Pol i t i cal p o we r i s essent i al l y t h e capac-
ity t o f or ce or i nf l ue nc e o t h e r s t o do wha t you wa nt t h e m t o d o .
I t i s a f unc t i on of t h e s t r uc t ur e of or ga ni z a t i ons . Pol i t i cal p o we r
d o e s n o t act ual l y r es i de wi t hi n t h e p e r s o n hi ms el f b u t r a t h e r i n
t h e pos i t i on he hol ds i n a hi e r a r c hy or i n t h e mo n e y he h a p -
p e n s t o ha ve t o c r e a t e or ga ni z a t i ons t o do wha t he want s t o be
d o n e . Pol i t i cal p o we r i s always " t e mpor a l . " On e ma y ha ve i t f or
a whi l e, b u t event ual l y i t will always be wr e s t e d away, i f n o t by r e-
p l a c e me n t or ma n d a t o r y r e t i r e me n t , t h e n by ol d a ge or, ul t i -
mat el y, d e a t h f r om e i t h e r na t ur a l caus es or as s as s i nat i on.
Spi r i t ual power , on t h e o t h e r h a n d , has l i t t l e t o do wi t h or -
ga ni z a t i on or s t r uc t ur e . I t r es i des n o t i n pos i t i on or i n mo n e y
b u t i n t h e pe r s on' s be i ng. I t i s t h e capaci t y t o i nf l ue nc e ot he r s ,
of t en by e x a mp l e , si mpl y by vi r t ue of t he ki nd of p e r s o n t ha t
o n e is. Th o s e wh o a r e pol i t i cal l y powe r f ul usual l y do n o t pos -
sess mu c h i n t h e way of s pi r i t ual power . Conver sel y, t h e spi r i t u-
ally power f ul a r e a s l i kel y t o be f o u n d a mo n g t h e p o o r a n d
di s e nf r a nc hi s e d.
I do n o t me a n t o i mpl y t ha t t h e r e c a n be no ove r l a p be -
t we e n pol i t i cal a n d s pi r i t ual power . Execut i ves a r e s ubj ect t o
t h e ver y s a me t e mp t a t i o n s t h a t J e s us c o n f r o n t e d i n t h e des er t .
Unl i ke J e s us , t hey a r e l i kel y t o f l unk t h e t est . Th e y a r e r ef l ec-
t i ons of Lo r d Ac t on' s f a mous ma x i m: " Power t e n d s t o c o r r u p t
a n d a bs ol ut e p o we r c o r r u p t s absol ut el y. " Al t h o u g h t ha t i s usu-
ally t r ue , i t has b e e n my g o o d f o r t u n e t o k n o w a n u mb e r of ex-
t r e me l y power f ul execut i ves wh o we r e n o t c or r upt ; r at her , t hey
we r e e xc e pt i ona l l y sel f-refl ect i ve p e o p l e wi t h e x t r a o r d i n a r y i n-
s i ght a n d c o n c e r n f or ot he r s . An d t hey s uf f er ed de e pl y i n t he i r
wor k. By necessi t y t hey we p t wi t h o n e eye, b u t t hey ma i n t a i n e d
t he i r capaci t y f or vul ner abi l i t y.
No e x p e r i e n c e i n my life was mo r e pai nf ul t h a n wh e n FCE
was hi t by t h e r eces s i on a n d , i n 1991, af t er r u n n i n g heavi l y i n
t he r e d f or t wo year s, h a d t o downs i z e. As p a r t of t h e ma n a g e -
me n t of t h a t or ga ni z a t i on, I h a d t o pa r t i c i pa t e i n t h e pai nf ul de -
194 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
ci si on t o lay off e i ght ver y c o mp e t e n t p e o p l e . Suc h p a i n i s o n e
of t h e r e a s ons why mo s t execut i ves b e c o me h a r d e n e d a n d l ose
t he i r capaci t y for vul ner abi l i t y. Yet onl y t hos e few abl e t o r e t a i n
t he i r capaci t y f or vul ner abi l i t y a r e t h e t r ul y gr e a t l e a de r s . On c e
agai n, as I wr ot e in The Road Less Traveled, " Pe r ha ps t h e bes t
me a s u r e of a pe r s on' s gr e a t ne s s i s hi s or h e r capaci t y t o suffer."
I t i s easy t o ove r e s t i ma t e t h e pol i t i cal p o we r of execut i ves .
I n a hi gh- r a nki ng execut i ve pos i t i on, t he i r h a n d s a r e of t en t i ed.
But n o t wi t h r e s pe c t t o t hi s over l ap of pol i t i cal a n d s pi r i t ual
power . T h e gr e a t e s t p o we r a t o p execut i ve has i s t h e abi l i t y t o
d e t e r mi n e t h e spi r i t of t h e or ga ni z a t i on. I f hi s spi r i t i s me a n i n
s o me way, t ha t me a n n e s s will p e r v a d e t h e e nt i r e or ga ni z a t i on.
Thi s was i mpr e s s e d u p o n me wh e n I wo r k e d i n t h e f eder al gov-
e r n me n t i n Wa s h i n g t o n f r om 1970 t o 1972, d u r i n g t h e Ni x o n
a dmi ni s t r a t i on. T h e spi r i t of "di r t y t r i cks" was vi r t ual l y every-
wh e r e . On t h e o t h e r h a n d , i n t hos e p e r h a p s r a r e i ns t a nc e s
wh e n a t o p execut i ve i s a de e pl y h o n e s t p e r s o n , you will p r o b a -
bl y f i nd a n unus ua l l y h o n e s t or ga ni z a t i on.
Whi l e pol i t i cal p o we r i s gener al l y a t t a i na bl e by onl y a r el a-
tive few, s pi r i t ual p o we r c a n be a t t a i ne d by mos t . Al t h o u g h t o a
c ons i de r a bl e e x t e n t i t i s a gift f r om Go d , b e g i n n i n g wi t h t h e
c r e a t i on of t h e i ndi vi dual s oul , p e o p l e c a n c h o o s e t o ne gl e c t or
cul t i vat e t he i r soul s. Wh e n you ma k e t h e c hoi c e f or cons ci ous -
ness, l e a r ni ng, a n d gr owt h, t h e n you have al so c h o s e n t h e p a t h
of s pi r i t ual power , whi c h r es i des i n your b e i n g a n d n o t i n your
pos i t i on.
T h r o u g h o u t t h e c e nt ur i e s , t he ol ogi a ns , i n c o n s i d e r i n g t h e
d i c h o t o my b e t we e n b e i n g a n d doi ng, have i nvar i abl y c o me
d o wn i n f avor of be i ng. I n o t h e r wor ds , wh o you a r e wh a t k i n d
o f p e r s o n you a r e i s mu c h mo r e i mp o r t a n t t h a n wh a t you ac-
t ual l y d o . Th a t i s h a r d t o gr a s p i n o u r a c t i on- or i e nt e d c ul t ur e . I
c a n n o t t el l you t h e n u mb e r of t i mes I we n t t o Lily at t h e e n d of
a day of my ps ychi at r i c pr a c t i c e a n d sai d t o her , "I r eal l y di d
s o me t h i n g p h e n o me n a l wi t h To m t oday. I ma d e a br i l l i ant i n-
t e r ve nt i on. I t was a beaut i f ul ma ne uve r . " T h e p r o b l e m was t ha t
To m woul d t h e n c o me ba c k f or hi s n e x t sessi on a n d act a s i f
n o t h i n g h a d h a p p e n e d . I woul d ask h i m af t er a whi l e wh a t he
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 195
t h o u g h t a b o u t o u r pr evi ous sessi on. " Wha t a b o u t i t ?" To m
woul d ask. I woul d t h e n r e mi n d h i m of t h e br i l l i ant t h i n g I h a d
d o n e or sai d, a n d To m wo u l d s cr at ch hi s h e a d , c o mme n t i n g , " I
vaguel y r e me mb e r s o me t h i n g a b o u t t hat . "
On t h e o t h e r h a n d , To m mi g h t c o me i n f or a sessi on a n d
excl ai m, " God, Dr. Peck, wh a t you sai d l ast we e k has t ot al l y rev-
ol ut i oni z e d my life. " T h e n i t wo u l d be my t u r n t o s cr at ch my
h e a d a n d ask wha t I h a d sai d or d o n e t ha t was s o i mp o r t a n t .
To m wo u l d answer , " Do n ' t you r e me mb e r a t t h e e n d of o u r l ast
sessi on, j u s t as I was l eavi ng t h e offi ce, you sai d s uc h a n d s uch?
T h a n k you. T h a n k you. " I d i d n ' t r e me mb e r wha t e ve r i t was I
h a d sai d t ha t was s o he a l i ng. I t wa s n' t a n y t h i n g t ha t I h a d d o n e
b u t r a t h e r s o me t h i n g t ha t h a d j u s t "f l owed" o u t of my be i ng.
As a ps yc hot he r a pi s t I us e d t o be ver y i nt e r e s t e d i n J e s u s '
" z ap" c ur e s ( a l t h o u g h t h e sci ent i st i n me wo u l d ha ve l i ked s o me
g o o d f ol l ow- up s t udi es ) . Th e y a r e n o t t h e n o r m i n t h e pr a c t i c e
of psychi at r y. I n d e e d , i n my whol e car eer , I have h a d onl y o n e
z ap c ur e , whi c h o c c u r r e d i n t h e c o n t e x t of c ommuni t y. I t was at
a f i ve- day c o mmu n i t y - b u i l d i n g wo r k s h o p f or a l mos t f our h u n -
d r e d p e o p l e at a beaut i f ul r e t r e a t c e n t e r i n No r t h Ca r ol i na . By
t h e e n d of t h e t hi r d day, t h e g r o u p as a wh o l e h a d r e a c h e d
" c ommuni t y, " b u t t h e r e we r e still a few s t r aggl er s wh o we r e n ' t
t h e r e yet a n d mi g h t ne ve r be . On t h e mo r n i n g o f t h e f our t h
day, I was car r yi ng t wo c ups of cof f ee f r om t h e d i n i n g r o o m
ba c k t o my own r o o m f or my sol i t ar y pr a ye r t i me wh e n I s pi e d a
wo ma n s i t t i ng on t h e p a r a p e t wi t h a t owel c l u t c h e d t o h e r h e a d ,
i n t h e mo s t obvi ous di st r ess. I s t o p p e d , n o t b e c a u s e I wa n t e d t o
b e c o me i nvol ved b u t si mpl y be c a us e I was c ur i ous .
"My Go d , you l ook mi s e r a bl e , " I sai d. " Wha t ' s t h e ma t t e r ? "
T h e l ady c l u t c h e d h e r t owel even t i ght e r a n d mu mb l e d i n
agony, "I ' ve got a mi gr a i ne . "
" I ' m sorry, " I r e s p o n d e d . "I h o p e i t get s bet t er . " An d I p r o -
c e e d e d on my way.
But as I mo v e d off, I h e a r d t h e wo ma n say, " I ' m so angr y.
I ' m s o d a mn angr y! "
Agai n, I s t o p p e d , n o t t o t ry t o he a l h e r b u t o u t of cur i osi t y
o n c e mo r e . "Why a r e you s o angr y? "
196 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
" I ' m s o a ngr y a t t hos e d a mn c ha r i s ma t i c p h o n i e s , " s he
r e pl i e d. ' You know, t h e o n e s wh o d u r i n g t he s i ngi ng r ai se t he i r
h a n d s up i n t h e ai r a n d wi ggl e t h e m a bout . Th e y ' r e j u s t t r yi ng
t o p r e t e n d t o be pi ous . "
" I t h i n k y o u ' r e r i ght t ha t ma n y of t h e m a r e pr oba bl y t r yi ng
t o l ook pi ous , " I c o mme n t e d , " but I t hi nk pr oba bl y s o me of
t h e m a r e j u s t ha vi ng f un. "
T h e l ady l o o k e d a t me wi t h s udde nl y wi de eyes. " Oh , my
Go d , I' ve ne ve r h a d f un, " s he bl ur t e d.
"Wel l , I h o p e s o me d a y you d o , " I r e ma r k e d , a n d left wi t h
my cof f ee, i n t e n t u p o n my pr a ye r t i me .
At t h e e n d of t h e day i t was r e p o r t e d t o me t ha t t hi s wo ma n
no l o n g e r h a d a mi g r a i n e . She h a d b e e n abl e t o r e a c h c o mmu -
ni t y a n d h a d s p e n t t h e e nt i r e a f t e r noon t el l i ng o t h e r me mb e r s
of h e r g r o u p , "Dr. Pe c k h e a l e d me . I' ve ne ve r h a d f un. Dr. Pe c k
h e a l e d me . " Th a t was my o n e " z ap" c ur e . I t hi nk i t was no acci -
d e n t t ha t i t o c c u r r e d at a t i me wh e n I wa s n' t even t r yi ng t o he a l .
I n d e e d , t h e bes t ps yc hot he r a pi s t s event ual l y l e a r n, i f t hey
h a n g i n t h e r e l o n g e n o u g h , t o s t op trying t o he a l t he i r pa t i e nt s .
Wh a t t hey c a n real i st i cal l y set t he i r si ght s on i s b u i l d i n g t h e be s t
possi bl e r e l a t i ons hi por c ommuni t ywi t h t hei r pat i ent s ; wi t hi n
t ha t r e l a t i ons hi p, h e a l i n g will nat ur al l y o c c u r wi t hout t he i r hav-
i n g t o " d o " a nyt hi ng. I bel i eve t ha t t h e p o we r t o he a l , a s pi r i t ual
power , c o me s f r om Go d . It i s a gift. An d I bel i eve i t i s t h e i n t e n t
of t h e Gi ver t ha t i t s h o u l d be us e d i n s uc h a ma n n e r as t o ul t i -
ma t e l y gi ve i t away. I n o t h e r wor ds , t h e be s t r e a s o n t o ha ve a ny
ki nd of powe r s pi r i t ua l or t e mp o r a l i s t o us e i t s o as t o e m-
p o we r ot he r s .
CULTURE
Cul t ur e ma y be de f i ne d a s t h e i nt e r l oc ki ng syst em of n o r ms
a n d val ues, i mpl i ci t or expl i ci t , wi t hi n a n or ga ni z a t i on. Ever y
or ga ni z a t i on, e ve n a ma r r i a g e , has its own c ul t ur e . We s pe a k of
fami l y cul t ur es . T h e s ubj ect of c ul t ur e i n bus i nes s i s mu c h wri t -
t e n a bout . Of c our s e , ever y soci et y has its own c ul t ur e , a n d even
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 197
t hos e n o t a c c u s t o me d t o t h i n k i n g i n t e r ms of syst ems a r e awar e
t ha t Ame r i c a n c ul t ur e i s di f f er ent f r om Fr e n c h c ul t ur e , whi c h i s
di f f er ent f r om J a p a n e s e c ul t ur e , a n d s o f or t h.
On e of t h e mo s t i nf l uent i al books of t hi s c e n t u r y was Ru t h
Be ne di c t ' s Patterns of Culture, i n whi c h s he de s c r i be d at l e n g t h
t h r e e dr amat i cal l y di f f er ent "pr i mi t i ve" cul t ur es . I n o n e of t h e
t h r e e , t h e g e n d e r r ol es we k n o w we r e c ompl e t e l y r ever s ed. T h e
me n we r e a c c o u n t a b l e f or t h e h o me ma k i n g a n d chi l d r e a r i ng,
whi l e t h e wo me n we r e a c c o u n t a b l e f or bus i nes s a n d all t h e i m-
p o r t a n t pol i t i cal deci s i ons . I n cont r as t , a n o t h e r of t h e c ul t ur e s
Be n e d i c t s t udi e d was e ve n mo r e pa t r i a r c ha l t h a n t h a t of t h e
Un i t e d St at es ba c k i n t h e e i g h t e e n t h or n i n e t e e n t h cent ur y.
T h e me s s a ge of t hi s power f ul b o o k was t ha t no c ul t ur e i s
b e t t e r t h a n any ot her . An d whi l e a me mb e r of any o n e of t h e m
woul d have b e e n conf us ed i n e n t e r i n g a not he r , e a c h of t h e t h r e e
s e e mi ngl y wo r k e d wel l . Be ne di c t ' s b o o k p u t f or t h t h e c o n c e p t
of cul t ur al r el at i vi sm, whos e u n d e r l y i n g pr i nc i pl e i s wh a t i s c on-
s i de r e d g o o d i n o n e c ul t ur e ma y be c o n s i d e r e d b a d i n a not he r .
I n o t h e r wor ds , et hi cs a r e t ot al l y r el at i ve t o c ul t ur e . So me wh a t
l i ke s i t uat i onal et hi cs , cul t ur al r el at i vi sm hol ds t ha t j u d g me n t s
c a n n o t be ma d e a b o u t any c ul t ur e e x c e p t f r om wi t hi n it.
T h e c o n c e p t of cul t ur al r el at i vi sm has d o n e mu c h t o
b r o a d e n o u r mi n d s mi n d s t ha t ver y mu c h n e e d e d b r o a d e n -
i ng. For i ns t a nc e , I r e me mb e r wi t h gr e a t cl ari t y t ha t at t h e a ge
of n i n e t e e n I , wi t h a g r o u p of o t h e r Ame r i c a ns , got off a cr ui s e
s hi p t h a t h a d d o c k e d i n Na pl e s . At el even o' c l oc k t ha t e ve ni ng,
o u r g r o u p s t r ol l ed a l o n g t h e s t r eet s on t h e e d g e of t h e be a ut i -
ful Bay of Na pl e s , a n d s t r ol l i ng wi t h us we r e s war ms of Ne a pol i -
t ans of ever y age. I t was n o t t h e i nf ant s or t h e adul t s wh o c a u g h t
my c o mp a t r i o t s ' eyes, b u t all t h e c h i l d r e n b e t we e n t h e ages of
t wo a n d t wel ve wh o we r e r u n n i n g a bout . "Why, t hey o u g h t t o be
i n be d! " t hey e xc l a i me d. " Wha t ki nd of p e o p l e a r e t he s e I t al i ans
t ha t t hey k e e p t he i r c h i l d r e n up at el even at ni ght ? Tha t ' s a t er -
r i bl e way t o t r e a t c hi l dr e n. "
Wh a t my c ompa t r i ot s f ai l ed t o r eal i ze or t ake i nt o a c c o u n t
i s t ha t t h e si est a was an i nvi ol at e p a r t of I t al i an c u l t u r e a t l east
ba c k t h e n , mo r e t h a n fort y year s a go. Eve r yone , adul t s a n d chi l -
198 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
d r e n al i ke, we n t t o s l e e p b e t we e n t wo a n d five i n t h e a f t e r noon.
Busi nesses we r e cl os ed, t h e n r e o p e n e d a r o u n d f i ve or six i n t h e
eveni ng; a n d p e o p l e nor ma l l y d i d n ' t st ar t e a t i ng d i n n e r unt i l
n i n e . T h e c h i l d r e n we r e n o t " u p pas t t he i r b e d t i me " o r b e i n g
mi s t r e a t e d i n a ny way. Ha d my c o mp a t r i o t s b e e n mo r e f ami l i ar
wi t h t h e c o n c e p t of cul t ur al r el at i vi sm, t hey mi g h t n o t ha ve
d e mo n s t r a t e d t h e a r r o g a n t j u d g me n t a l i s m t ha t s o ma n y Ame r -
i can t our i s t s a r e gui l t y of e ve n t oday.
Some t i me s , however , i t c a n be i n a p p r o p r i a t e t o wi t h h o l d
j u d g me n t . I n 1969 Lily a n d I we n t t o I n d i a f or a s i ght - s eei ng va-
cat i on. Amo n g Ame r i c a n s wh o visit I ndi a, t h e r e s e e m t o be t wo
di f f er ent t ypes. O n e t ype r e t u r n s r avi ng a b o u t I ndi a ' s beaut y.
T h e o t h e r c o me s h o me hor r i f i ed b y t he i r e x p e r i e n c e . We be -
l o n g e d t o t h e hor r i f i e d t ype. We we r e hor r i f i e d n o t onl y by t h e
pover t y a n d t h e f i l t h b u t al so by t h e i nc r e di bl e i neffi ci ency.
T h r o u g h o u t o u r el even days we saw t hi ngs r out i ne l y b e i n g
d o n e poor l y t ha t c oul d j u s t a s easi l y have b e e n d o n e wel l . For
t h e f i r s t t i me i n o u r lives i t o c c u r r e d t o us t ha t whi l e t ol e r a nc e
i s of t en a vi r t ue, t h e r e c oul d be s uc h a t h i n g as an excess of t ol -
e r a n c e . I n d i a s e e me d t o suffer f r om a vi ce of t ol e r a nc e . We saw
p e o p l e bl a ndl y t ol e r a t i ng wha t s e e me d t o us i nt ol e r a bl e ineffi-
ci ency.
I t was all a bi t of a mys t er y t o us unt i l o u r next - t o- l ast day
t h e r e , wh e n we we r e ha vi ng br eakf as t . A wai t er spi l l ed a p i t c h e r
of c r e a m on t h e d i n i n g r o o m fl oor, b u t i ns t e a d of c l e a n i n g i t
u p , h e va ni s he d. Ot h e r wai t er s, t h e n he a dwa i t e r s , t h e n ma n -
ager s c a me a n d l o o k e d a t t h e p u d d l e o f c r e a m a n d p r o c e e d e d
t o wal k t h r o u g h it, s p r e a d i n g f oot pr i nt s of c r e a m t h r o u g h o u t
t h e d i n i n g r o o m. We we r e s e e i ng a n e x a mp l e of t h e genes i s of
I ndi a ' s f i l t h. But why? An d a t t h a t mo me n t i t f i na l l y d a wn e d on
us: i t was n o t t h e j o b of wai t er s or a nybody p r e s e n t t o c l e a n up
p u d d l e s of c r e a m. I t was t h e l ow-cast e s we e pe r ' s j o b , a n d he
d i d n ' t c o me on dut y unt i l a f t e r noon. F r o m t ha t i nc i de nt , a s we
t h o u g h t a b o u t it, we r eal i z ed t h a t vi rt ual l y ever y i nef f i ci ency we
h a d s e e n was a r es ul t of t h e cast e syst em, whi c h, a l t h o u g h s up-
pos edl y out l awed, was still s o de e pl y e mb e d d e d i n I n d i a n cul -
t u r e as t o gove r n t h e lives of ever y o n e of its ci t i zens. Cul t ur a l
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 199
r el at i vi sm wo u l d i nsi st t ha t t h e r e i s n o t h i n g i n h e r e n t l y wr o n g
wi t h t h e cast e syst em. I di s agr ee. In my e s t i ma t i on, i t i s a s er i ous
cul t ur al flaw, n o t onl y be c a us e of its i n h e r e n t i nci vi l i t y b u t al so
be c a us e of its e x t r a o r d i n a r y i nef f i ci ency a n d its d e g r a d a t i o n of
an e nt i r e soci et y.
Ame r i c a ' s c ul t ur e i s n o t wi t hout its flaws, a l t h o u g h t hey a r e
p e r h a p s n o t of t h e s a me ma g n i t u d e as t h e flaw of t h e cast e sys-
t e m. I c o u l d p o i n t t o d o z e n s of ma j or flaws i n t h e c ul t ur e of t hi s
n a t i o n , b u t t o my mi n d t h e gr e a t e s t p r o b l e m f or t h e Un i t e d
St at es at t hi s p o i n t i n t i me i s n o t t h e flaws of its c ul t ur e b u t t h e
fact t h a t its c ul t ur e i s b r e a k i n g down. Si nce t h e b e g i n n i n g of
t h e 1960s, all o u r ma j or cul t ur al n o r ms have c o me i nt o s er i ous
que s t i on. I bel i eve t ha t t hi s has b e e n p r o p e r . But i t has left us i n
a pos i t i on wh e r e ma n y of o u r ci t i zens a r e i ncr eas i ngl y u n s u r e
a b o u t h o w t o be ha ve . We have d e mo l i s h e d ma n y of t h e ol d,
r i gi d cul t ur al n o r ms a n d a r e still i n t h e pr oc e s s of d o i n g so. T h e
bi g q u e s t i o n n o w i s wh e t h e r we will be a bl e t o de ve l op n e w a n d
mo r e wor ka bl e n o r ms . I do n o t k n o w t h e a ns we r t o t ha t que s -
t i on. T h e f ut ur e of o u r soci et y s e e ms i ncr eas i ngl y obs c ur e .
No r ms a r e gener al l y es t abl i s hed o r r ees t abl i s hed, u p h e l d
or o v e r t u r n e d , by t hos e i n p o we r i n or ga ni z a t i ons , wh e t h e r t hey
a r e f ami l i es or bus i nes s es . Ear l i er , I ma d e t h e p o i n t t ha t o n e of
t h e gr e a t e s t powe r s bus i nes s execut i ves ha ve is, t h r o u g h t he i r
spi r i t , t o c r e a t e t h e spi r i t of t h e or ga ni z a t i ons of whi c h t hey a r e
i n c h a r g e . T h e o t h e r gr e a t p o we r i s a n a n a l o g o u s o n e . I t i s t o
c r e a t e t h e c ul t ur e of t h e or ga ni z a t i on. I t i s n o t easy f or a n e w
t o p execut i ve t o c h a n g e t h e c ul t ur e of a c ompa ny, b u t i nsof ar as
i t c a n be c h a n g e d , t h e c h a n g e will b e g i n a t t h e t op. No o n e has
mo r e r es pons i bi l i t y f or t h e c ul t ur e of a n or ga ni z a t i on t h a n
t hos e i n t h e hi ghe s t pos i t i ons of aut hor i t y.
Thi s r es pons i bi l i t y i s of t en a bdi c a t e d, n o t onl y by bus i nes s
l e a de r s b u t al so by fami l y l eader s . I n t hi s t i me of cul t ur al br e a k-
down, mo r e a n d mo r e p a r e n t s a r e u n s u r e a b o u t h o w t o b e h a v e
as pa r e nt s . I t of t en s e e ms t ha t t hey n o w l ook t o t he i r c h i l d r e n t o
est abl i sh t h e fami l y c ul t ur e , as i f t hey a r e r e l uc t a nt t o exer ci s e
t h e a ut hor i t y t ha t i s neces s ar y t o es t abl i s h c l e a r f ami l y val ues
a n d n o r ms . Pa r e nt s s h o u l d n o t b e de s pot s , b u t n e i t h e r s h o u l d
200 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
c h i l d r e n have t h e r es pons i bi l i t y of c r e a t i ng t h e fami l y c ul t ur e .
I f t hey a r e gi ven t ha t r esponsi bi l i t y, t hey will b e c o me e i t h e r ver y
c onf us e d or t yr anni cal . T h e p o we r t o c r e a t e t h e spi r i t of a n or -
ga ni z a t i on i s mo r e t h a n a na l ogous t o t h e p o we r t o c r e a t e its cul -
t ur e . Th e y a r e i ns e pa r a bl e . Ul t i mat el y, i t i s i n t h e c ul t ur e of an
or ga ni z a t i on t ha t its spi r i t b e c o me s e mb o d i e d .
DYSFUNCTION VERSUS CIVILITY
I t has b e c o me ver y f a s hi ona bl e t he s e days t o us e t h e t e r m "dys-
f unc t i ona l " f or or ga ni z a t i ons , wh e t h e r t hey a r e bus i nes s es or
f ami l i es. I n d e e d , i t i s so f a s hi ona bl e t hat , l i ke " c o mmu n i t y " a n d
"civility," t h e wo r d i s r api dl y d e s c e n d i n g i n t o me a ni ngl e s s ne s s .
Wh e n I was still gi vi ng l ect ur es , I u s e d t o ask my a u d i e n c e s on
occas i on: "Will a n y o n e h e r e wh o was n o t b r o u g h t up i n a dys-
f unc t i ona l fami l y pl eas e r ai se your h a n d ? " No t a h a n d woul d be
r ai s ed. All or ga ni z a t i ons , wh e t h e r f ami l i es or bus i nes s es , a r e
dys f unct i onal . But s o me a r e mo r e dys f unct i onal t h a n ot he r s .
A n u mb e r of year s a go I was a s ke d t o c ons ul t wi t h a l ar ge
d e p a r t me n t of a h u g e f eder al a ge nc y be c a us e i t was so obvi ousl y
dys f unct i onal . Th e r e we r e ma n y p r o b l e ms i n t h a t d e p a r t me n t ,
b u t t h e bi gges t o n e was ver y easy t o s pot as s o o n as I l o o k e d at
t h e d e p a r t me n t ' s hi e r a r c hi c a l or ga ni z a t i ona l c ha r t . T h e h e a d
of t h e d e p a r t me n t ( a ma n I will cal l Pe t e r ) was a s e ni or civil ser-
vant . An d wh e n I saw t ha t t wo of hi s d e p u t i e s we r e pol i t i cal ap-
poi nt e e s , I was a s t oni s he d. I n my own year s of g o v e r n me n t
ser vi ce, I h a d ne ve r h e a r d of a pol i t i cal a p p o i n t e e wh o r e p o r t e d
t o a civil s er vant . Pol i t i cal a p p o i n t e e s always h e l d t h e t o p ma n -
a g e me n t pos i t i ons . Pe t e r a n d t he s e t wo d e p u t i e s all a t t e mp t e d
t o as s ur e me t ha t t hi s was n o t s o o u t of t h e or di nar y, a n d t ha t
t h e r e was n o t h i n g wr o n g wi t h t h e syst em. But ma n y t hi ngs we r e
obvi ousl y wr ong, a n d f i nal l y I f o u n d a n o t h e r e x p e r i e n c e d civil
s er vant n e a r t h e t o p wh o was wi l l i ng t o be h o n e s t wi t h me . " Of
c our s e , " he sai d. " Pet er has b e e n l ayer ed. " Appa r e nt l y t h e po-
l i t i cal a p p o i n t e e s a t t h e h e a d of t h e a ge nc y s o di s t r us t e d Pe t e r
t ha t t hey h a d p u t t wo of t he i r pi cks wi t hi n hi s d e p a r t me n t t o
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 201
ser ve as spi es a n d t o u n d e r c u t hi s a ut hor i t y wh e n e v e r t hey saw
fit.
I c oul d di s c e r n no r e a s o n f or Pe t e r t o be di s t r us t ed. I n-
d e e d , he was a n unus ua l l y ma t u r e a n d c o mp e t e n t ma n . Wh a t I
di s c ove r e d i n t hi s agency, r at her , was an e nt i r e c ul t ur e of di s-
t r us t s o s ever e t ha t i t c o u l d pr ope r l y be t e r me d a c ul t ur e of
p a r a n o i a . Si nce t hi s c ul t ur e h a d b e e n g e n e r a t e d a t t h e t op, by
t h e hi ghe s t - r a nki ng pol i t i cal a p p o i n t e e s t o wh o m I h a d no ac-
cessal l my r e c o mme n d a t i o n s we r e di s r e ga r de d, a n d t h e or ga-
ni z a t i on r e ma i n e d as dys f unct i onal af t er I d e p a r t e d as i t h a d
b e e n wh e n I c a me i n.
"Dys f unct i onal " a n d " c ul t ur e of p a r a n o i a " a r e abs t r act
t e r ms . Less abs t r act was t h e fact t ha t a t op- not c h execut i ve was
r e n d e r e d t ot al l y i mp o t e n t a n d t h e t i me of t wo o t h e r execut i ves
was b e i n g ut t er l y was t ed i n s pyi ng on hi m. Thi s me a n t sever al
h u n d r e d t h o u s a n d t a xpa ye r dol l ar s d o wn t h e dr a i n. But mo r e
t h a n t hat , t h e mo r a l e of t h e e nt i r e t h o u s a n d - e mp l o y e e de pa r t -
me n t was a s ha mbl e s a n d its p e r f o r ma n c e u n d e r s t a n d a b l y p o o r
as a r esul t . T h e act ual cost t o t h e t axpayer s , wi t hi n t ha t de pa r t -
me n t a l o n e , was i n t h e mi l l i ons . Wh a t i t was f or t h e e nt i r e
agency, Go d onl y knows .
Th e r e a r e t wo mor a l s t o t hi s story. If, as I have sai d, t h e
mo s t civil us e of p o we r i s t o gi ve i t away, t h e n i n t hi s i ns t a nc e
n o t onl y we r e t hos e i n t h e hi ghe s t pos i t i ons of p o we r n o t gi vi ng
i t away, t hey we r e t a ki ng i t away. T h e st or y' s f i r st mo r a l i s t ha t
s uc h i nci vi l i t y i s n o t cost -effect i ve. To t h e cont r ar y, i t i s vi ci ousl y
e xpe ns i ve a n d wast ef ul . T h e o t h e r mo r a l i s t ha t i t i s e xt r e me l y
di ffi cul t t o c h a n g e a c ul t ur e , no ma t t e r h o w unci vi l a n d u n p r o -
duct i ve or dys f unct i onal i t ma y b e . We have s e e n t ha t o n e t e n e t
of syst ems t h e o r y i s t ha t wh e n e v e r you c h a n g e a p a r t of t h e sys-
t e m, all t h e o t h e r par t s have t o c h a n g e . No w we have ar r i ved at
a n o t h e r t e ne t : syst ems i nhe r e nt l y resi st c h a n g e . Th e y resi st
he a l i ng. T h e pl a i n fact of t h e ma t t e r i s t ha t mo s t or ga ni z a t i ons ,
des pi t e t h e bl at ancy of t he i r dys f unct i on a n d de s pi t e its cost -
i nef f ect i veness, woul d r a t h e r r e ma i n dys f unct i onal t h a n gr ow
t owa r d g r e a t e r civility. Wh y i s t hi s so? Ref l ect on t h e c ompl e xi t y
of t h e def i ni t i on of civility, namel y, t h a t i t i s "cons ci ous l y mot i -
202 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
vat ed or ga ni z a t i ona l be ha vi or t h a t i s et hi cal i n s ubmi s s i on t o a
h i g h e r power . "
Civility d o e s n o t c o me nat ur al l y. I t t akes c ons c i ous ne s s a n d
a c t i on t o achi eve. Inci vi l i t y c o me s mo r e nat ur al l y t o us h u ma n
be i ngs , a n d be c a us e of l azi ness i t i s s i mpl y eas i er t o be unci vi l .
I f t ha t s e e ms t o be a pessi mi st i c view, t h e r e i s still r o o m f or
opt i mi s m. I t ma y be de r i ve d f r om my s t a t e me n t t ha t all or ga ni -
zat i ons a r e dys f unct i onal . Wh a t t hi s me a n s f or you as h e a d s of
f ami l i es a n d bus i nes s es i s t ha t you c a n n o t do i t per f ect l y. Th i n g s
will ne ve r c o me o u t n e a t a n d tidy. But d o n ' t feel b a d a b o u t or -
di na r y f ai l ur e. I t i s i n h e r e n t i n t h e c ompl e xi t y of t h e r ol es of
p a r e n t s a n d execut i ves . I n d e e d , i f you e x p e c t pe r f e c t i on, you
ma y ma k e t hi ngs even wor s e. You a r e e nt i t l e d t o feel g o o d
a b o u t ge t t i ng a l o n g as wel l as you c a n i n t hi s wor l d. De s pi t e t h e
o d d s agai ns t d o i n g t hi ngs per f ect l y, you do t h e bes t you c a n. To
be as civil as pos s i bl e i n t he s e c o mp l e x a n d d e ma n d i n g r ol es i s
t h e p a t h of s ma r t sel f i shness, e ve n t h o u g h i t r e qui r e s a gr e a t
de a l of ps ychos pi r i t ual e xe r t i on. Wh y bot he r , t h e n , s i nce i nci -
vility c o me s mo r e easi l y t h a n civility? T h e a ns we r t o t ha t que s -
t i on, as I s ugge s t e d in A World Waiting to Be Born, is t ha t whi l e
incivility i s easi er, t h e c r e a t i on of a rel at i vel y civil or ga ni z a t i on
or c ul t ur e i s i n t h e l o n g r u n mo r e cost -effect i ve. I t i s al so t h e
r o u t e t o c r e a t i ng s o me t h i n g t h a t i s mo r e h e a l i n g a n d al i ve.
WE HAVE MANY CHOICES TO MAKE as we pl ay var yi ng r ol es a n d face
ma n y t asks, r es pons i bi l i t i es , a n d c ha l l e nge s i n o u r f ami l i es,
wor k lives, a n d g r o u p affi l i at i ons. But o u r lives b e c o me even
mo r e c o mp l e x wh e n we l ook b e y o n d o u r n u c l e a r f ami l i es a n d
t he pa r t i c ul a r or ga ni z a t i ons t o whi c h we b e l o n g or ha ve c ont a c t
wi t h on a r e gul a r basi s. Wh e t h e r we a r e c h i l d r e n , h e a d s of f am-
ilies, s t ude nt s , or e mpl oye e s , we al so b e l o n g t o a n even l a r ge r
or ga ni z a t i on t ha t we cal l soci et y. We coexi s t as a col l ect i ve of hu-
ma n be i ngs s t r e t c hi ng b e y o n d t h e b o u n d a r i e s of di f f er ent
t owns a n d ci t i es, c ount i e s a n d st at es, r e gi ons a n d na t i ons . We
all a r e i nevi t abl y ci t i zens of t h e wor l d. An d as me mb e r s of t hi s
soci al or de r , we c o n f r o n t p r o f o u n d c hoi c e s a b o u t wh a t ci t i zen-
s hi p me a n s .
A s ecul ar psychi at r i st a n d ol d f r i end, wh o was o n e of t h e
ver y first r e a d e r s of The Road Less Traveled, wr ot e t hi s t o me
a b o u t t h e book: " Wha t I get f r om i t i s t ha t t he r e ' s no s uc h t h i n g
as a f r ee l u n c h . " He was r i ght i n a c e r t a i n r es pect . T h e s u p p o r t
a n d n u r t u r a n c e we ge t f r om soci et y d o n o t c o me f r ee. So me de -
g r e e of r es pons i bi l i t y b e y o n d s i mpl y pa yi ng t axes a c c o mp a n i e s
t h e benef i t s of ci t i z ens hi p. But wh e t h e r we ' r e i nt e r e s t e d i n be -
i n g g o o d ci t i zens or n o t i s a n o t h e r mat t er . I f we ha ve t h e e ne r gy
a n d will t o do so, we face t h e c hoi c e of h o w t o be t h e bes t citi-
z ens we c a n be . We al so ha ve t h e o p t i o n of c o p p i n g out , of n o t
c a r i ng, of a voi di ng all r es pons i bi l i t y f or t h e wel l - bei ng of soci -
CHAP TE R 6
Choices About Society
204 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
ety. As i s t h e case wi t h any c hoi c e we ma k e i n life, whi c h of t he s e
r out e s we t ake yi el ds its own c o n s e q u e n c e s .
I f we mo r e cl osel y e x a mi n e t h e c ompl e xi t i e s of ci t i z ens hi p
a n d l ook at soci et y real i st i cal l y, i nevi t abl y we will be c o n f r o n t e d
by a n u mb e r of p a r a d o x e s . Wh e n e v e r you t ake i nt o c ons i de r a -
t i on t h e mul t i pl e d i me n s i o n s of any s i t uat i on, a n d i f no pi eces
of r eal i t y a r e mi s s i ng f r om t h e pi c t ur e , you pr oba bl y will be
l ooki ng at a p a r a d o x . I n o t h e r wor ds , vi r t ual l y all t r u t h i s par a-
doxi cal , a n d n o wh e r e i s t hi s mo r e e vi de nt t h a n i n t h e t ask of
ma k i n g o u r choi ces a b o u t soci et y.
THE PARADOX OF GOOD AND EVIL
I n o n e of hi s l et t er s , t h e Apos t l e Paul wr ot e t ha t t hi s h u ma n so-
ci et y was r u l e d by "pr i nci pal i t i es a n d power s , " hi s p h r a s e f or
" t he d e mo n i c . " Wh e t h e r we i n t e r p r e t t h e d e mo n i c a s s o me ex-
t e r na l f or ce or si mpl y o u r h u ma n n a t u r e a n d "or i gi nal si n, " t h e
n o t i o n t ha t t h e devi l i s t h e r ul e r of t hi s wor l d has an e n o r mo u s
a mo u n t of t r ut h t o it. Gi ven t h e pr e va l e nc e of war, g e n o c i d e ,
povert y, st ar vat i on, gr oss i nequal i t y i n t h e di s t r i but i on of weal t h,
r aci s m a n d sexi sm, de s pa i r a n d hopel es s nes s , d r u g abus e, whi t e-
col l ar c r i me i n o u r i ns t i t ut i ons , vi ol ent c r i me on o u r st r eet s,
a n d chi l d a n d s pous al a bus e i n o u r h o me s , evil s e e ms t o be t h e
o r d e r of t h e day.
I t cer t ai nl y l ooks t ha t way mo s t of t h e t i me f or t h e f or ces
of evil a r e r eal a n d var i ed. So me r el i gi ons cl ai m t ha t t h e f act or s
p e r p e t u a t i n g evil or i gi na t e i n h u ma n si n. Ps ychol ogi cal expl a-
na t i ons of t en p o i n t t o t h e l ack of i ndi vi dual a n d g r o u p c on-
s ci ous nes s . Ma ny soci al c o mme n t a t o r s vi ew t h e c ha os i n o u r
c ul t ur e , i n c l u d i n g a b r e a k d o wn i n fami l y val ues a n d t h e e m-
phas i s on ma t e r i a l i s m a n d c omf or t at all cost s, as t h e p r i ma r y
d e t e r mi n a n t s of evil. T h e me d i a a r e of t en b l a me d f or t he i r
wi cked i nf l ue nc e . Let ' s l ook at e a c h of t he s e f act or s bri efl y t o
fl esh o u t t h e pa r a doxi c a l r eal i t y of g o o d a n d evil t ha t has a sig-
ni f i cant i mp a c t on o u r c hoi c e s a b o u t soci et y.
T h e wo r d " Sat an" or i gi nal l y me a n t adver sar y. I n Chr i s t i a n
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 205
t heol ogy, Sat an i s al so cal l ed t h e devi l . We a r e b e i n g adver s ar i al
wh e n we s pe a k of "pl ayi ng devi l ' s advocat e. " Sat an or t h e devi l ,
myt hol ogi cal l y, was or i gi nal l y a " good" a nge l wh o was cast o u t
o f h e a v e n f or d i s o b e d i e n c e a n d pr i de , a n d b e c a me t h e pe r s on-
i f i cat i on of evil a n d t h e adver s ar y of ma n . A c e r t a i n a mo u n t of
adver s ar i al i s m i s g o o d f or o u r t h i n k i n g a n d gr owt h. Its f l i ppant
pr a c t i c e , however , ma y h i d e a h i n t of t h e si ni st er. Any adver sar -
ial pos i t i on whi ch i s per si st ent l y cont r ar y a n d o p p o s e d t o h u ma n
g r o wt h a n d di r ect l y oppos i t e t o t ha t whi c h i s godl yc ont a i ns
t h e h a r s h i ngr e di e nt s f or t h e p e r p e t u a t i o n of evil.
Amo n g t hos e i ngr e di e nt s ma y be h u ma n n a t u r e itself. I
have l i t t l e i de a wha t r ol e t h e devi l pl ays i n t hi s wor l d, b u t as I
ma d e qui t e cl ear i n People of the Lie, gi ven t h e dyna mi c s of or i g-
i nal si n, mo s t p e o p l e d o n ' t n e e d t h e devi l t o r e c r ui t t h e m t o
evil; t hey a r e qui t e c a pa bl e of r e c r ui t i ng t hems el ves . I n The
Road Less Traveled, I s ugge s t e d t ha t l azi ness mi g h t be t h e
e s s e nc e of wha t t he ol ogi a ns call or i gi nal si n. By l azi ness I do n o t
s o mu c h me a n physi cal l et har gy a s me n t a l , e mo t i o n a l , or spi ri -
t ual i ner t i a. Or i gi na l si n al so i nc l ude s o u r t e n d e n c i e s t owa r d
nar ci ssi sm, fear, a n d p r i d e . I n c o mb i n a t i o n , t he s e h u ma n weak-
nesses n o t onl y c o n t r i b u t e t o evil b u t p r e v e n t p e o p l e f r om ac-
knowl e dgi ng t he i r Shadow. Ou t of t o u c h wi t h t he i r own si ns,
t hos e wh o l ack t h e humi l i t y t o see t he i r weaknes s es a r e t h e mo s t
c a pa bl e of c o n t r i b u t i n g t o evil e i t h e r knowi ngl y or u n k n o w-
ingly. War s t e n d t o be s t a r t e d by i ndi vi dual s or g r o u p s l acki ng
c ons c i ous ne s s a n d de voi d of i nt egr i t y a n d whol e ne s s . I wr ot e of
t hi s in People of the Lie. Us i ng My Lai as a case st udy, I d e mo n -
s t r at ed h o w evil a t a n i ns t i t ut i onal a n d g r o u p l evel oc c ur s wh e n
t h e r e i s a f r a gme nt a t i on of c o n s c i o u s n e s s a n d c ons c i e nc e .
In Further Along the Road Less Traveled a n d The Different
Drum, I wr ot e of t h e evil of c o mp a r t me n t a l i z a t i o n . I de s c r i be d
t he t i me wh e n I was wo r k i n g i n Wa s h i n g t o n i n 1970- 72 a n d
us e d t o wa n d e r t h e hal l s of t h e P e n t a g o n t al ki ng t o p e o p l e
a b o u t t h e Vi e t n a m War. Th e y wo u l d say, "Well, Dr. Peck, we un-
d e r s t a n d y o u r c o n c e r n s . Yes, we d o . Bu t you see, we ' r e t h e or d-
n a n c e b r a n c h h e r e a n d we a r e onl y r e s pons i bl e f or s e e i ng t o i t
t ha t t h e n a p a l m i s ma n u f a c t u r e d a n d s e nt t o Vi e t n a m on t i me .
206 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
We r eal l y d o n ' t have a n y t h i n g t o do wi t h t h e war. T h e war i s t h e
r es pons i bi l i t y of t h e pol i cy b r a n c h . Go d o wn t h e hal l a n d t al k t o
t h e p e o p l e i n pol i cy. "
So I wo u l d go d o wn t h e hal l a n d t al k t o t h e p e o p l e i n pol -
icy, a n d t hey wo u l d say, "Well, Dr. Peck, we u n d e r s t a n d your
c o n c e r n s . Yes, we d o . But h e r e i n t h e pol i cy b r a n c h , we s i mpl y
e x e c u t e pol i cy, we d o n ' t r eal l y ma k e pol i cy. Pol i cy i s ma d e at t h e
Wh i t e Ho u s e . " Th u s , i t a p p e a r e d t ha t t h e e nt i r e Pe n t a g o n h a d
abs ol ut el y n o t h i n g t o do wi t h t h e Vi e t n a m War .
Thi s s a me ki nd of c o mp a r t me n t a l i z a t i o n c a n h a p p e n i n
any l ar ge or ga ni z a t i on. I t c a n h a p p e n i n bus i nes s es a n d i n
o t h e r a r e a s of g o v e r n me n t ; i t c a n h a p p e n i n hos pi t al s a n d uni -
versi t i es; i t c a n h a p p e n i n c h u r c h e s . Wh e n any i ns t i t ut i on be -
c o me s l a r ge a n d c o mp a r t me n t a l i z e d , t h e c ons c i e nc e o f t h a t
i ns t i t ut i on will of t en b e c o me s o f r a g me n t e d a n d di l ut e d as t o
be vi r t ual l y none xi s t e nt , a n d t h e or ga ni z a t i on has t h e pot e nt i a l
t o b e c o me i nhe r e nt l y evil.
T h e wo r d " di abol i c" i s de r i ve d f r om t h e Gr e e k diaballein,
me a n i n g t o t hr ow apar t , f r agment , or c ompa r t me nt a l i z e . Amo n g
t h e mo s t di abol i c as pect s of t h e f r a g me n t a t i o n of o u r col l ect i ve
c ons c i ous ne s s a r e t hos e t hi ngs s o c o mmo n t h a t t hey ha ve be -
c o me i ns t i t ut i onal i z ed. Wh e r e i ns t i t ut i onal i z ed evils s uc h as
r aci s m, s exi s m, agei s m, a n d h o mo p h o b i a exi st , f or e x a mp l e , we
f i n d t h e dua l me c h a n i s ms o f oppr e s s i on a n d d e h u ma n i z a t i o n .
Wh e n c e r t a i n s e g me n t s of h u ma n i t y a r e syst emi cal l y r e g a r d e d
a s di s pos abl e or i r r el evant or a r e t r e a t e d wi t h de r i s i on, di r e
c o n s e q u e n c e s f or t h e i nt egr i t y of t h e e nt i r e soci et y a r e i nevi -
t abl e.
To do bat t l e wi t h i ns t i t ut i onal i z ed soci et al evils, we n e e d
r e me mb e r t ha t wha t we cal l g o o d mu s t be g o o d f or mo s t p e o -
pl e, mo s t of t h e t i me, a n d n o t me r e l y a ma t t e r of "Is i t g o o d f or
me ? " Thi s var i ant of t h e Go l d e n Rul e me a n s t ha t wh e n we e m-
pl oy d o u b l e s t a nda r ds c o n d o n i n g o u r own be ha vi or b u t j u d g -
i ng o t h e r s har s hl y f or t h e s a me b r e a c h or s o me t h i n g lesser, we
a r e i n da nge r . For e x a mp l e , t hos e wh o live i n t h e na t i on' s i n n e r
ci t i es r ecei ve subst ant i al l y l o n g e r pr i s on t e r ms t h a n o t h e r s f or
rel at i vel y mi n o r c r i me s , l i ke pos s es s i on of smal l a mo u n t s of
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 207
cr ack c oc a i ne , a c c o r d i n g t o st at i st i cs f r om t h e Na t i ona l Sen-
t e n c i n g Pr oj ect ba s e d i n Wa s h i n g t o n , D. C. S u b u r b a n powde r -
c oc a i ne us er s a n d mi ddl e - t o upper - cl as s us er s a r e r ar el y
s e n t e n c e d t o pr i s on f or first of f enses. Th e y a r e mo r e likely t o
ge t p r o b a t i o n a n d be e n c o u r a g e d t o r ecei ve t r e a t me n t f or t he i r
d r u g p r o b l e ms .
Of t e n, t h e f or ces of evil a r e mo r e s ubt l e t h a n bl at ant . Al-
mo s t as hor r i f i c as evil i t sel f i s t h e de ni a l of it, as i n t h e case of
t hos e wh o go t h r o u g h life we a r i ng r os e - c ol or e d gl asses. I n d e e d ,
t h e de ni a l of evil c a n i n s o me ways p e r p e t u a t e evil itself. I n I n
Search of Stones, I wr ot e a b o u t t hi s t e n d e n c y a mo n g a n u mb e r of
f i na nc i a l l y well-off p e o p l e whos e mo n e y i ns ul at es t h e m i n t he i r
wor l d of o p u l e n c e . Th e y fail t o act ual l y see t h e pover t y t h a t ex-
ists s o cl ose t o t h e m, a n d t h e r e b y t hey avoi d a c c e pt i ng any r e-
sponsi bi l i t y t hey ma y have f or t h e p r o b l e m. Ma n y r i de a t r ai n t o
wor k ever y day f r om t he i r s u b u r b a n ha ve ns t o d o wn t o wn Ne w
Yor k City, ne ve r l ooki ng up f r om t he i r ne ws pa pe r s as t hey pass
t h e mo s t i mp o v e r i s h e d s ect i ons of Ha r l e m. T h e s l ums a r e r e n-
d e r e d i nvi si bl e a n d so, t oo, a r e t hos e e n me s h e d i n t h e m.
On t h e o t h e r h a n d , t h e r e a r e t hos e wh o t ake a cyni cal vi ew
of t h e wor l d a n d s e e m t o bel i eve t h a t evil l ur ks b e h i n d every-
t hi ng. Th e i r vi si on i s g l o o m- a n d - d o o m, e ve n i n t h e mi ds t of i n-
n o c e n c e a n d beaut y. Th e y l ook f or t h e wor s t i n ever yt hi ng,
ne ve r not i c i ng t h a t whi c h i s posi t i ve a n d l i fe-affi rmi ng. Wh e n
de s pa i r a n d cyni ci sm a r e l i ke d e mo n s t o us , we ri sk p e r p e t u a t -
i ng evil as wel l . Al t h o u g h we c a n ' t avoi d o u r d e mo n s , we c a n
c h o o s e n o t t o we l c o me or t o ally our s el ves wi t h t h e m. To be
heal t hy, we mu s t pe r s ona l l y do ba t t l e wi t h t h e m.
A de s pa i r i ng vi si on of soci et y c a n b e c o me even mo r e
c l o u d e d by me d i a i nf l uences . T h r o u g h t he i r f ocus on t he d r a ma
of evil, t h e me d i a p e r p e t u a t e an u n b a l a n c e d vi ew of real i t y.
Wh e n a c r e di t c a r d i s s t ol en, i t b e c o me s a st at i st i c, a n d t h e h e a d -
l i nes b o mb a r d us wi t h c r i me r e por t s . Bu t we r ar el y h e a r any sta-
tistics a b o u t c r e di t c a r ds left b e h i n d on c o u n t e r s a n d qui et l y
r e t u r n e d (as i s a l mos t always t h e cas e) . T h e me d i a ' s ge ne r a l ex-
cl us i on of g o o d news l eaves t h e publ i c wi t h t h e i mpr e s s i on t ha t
evil t r ul y r ul es t h e day. I f " n o news i s g o o d news , " i t wo u l d al so
208 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
a p p e a r t ha t " good news i s no news. " We do n o t h e a r or r e a d
a b o u t t h e g o o d n e s s t ha t oc c ur s r o u t i n e l y o n a dai l y bas i s i n
t h e wor l d.
I t i s easy t o des pai r , t o s i mpl y t hr ow one ' s h a n d s up a n d be -
l i eve t hat , s i nce t h e wor l d i s s o evil, n o t h i n g a n d no o n e c a n
ma k e a di f f er ence. But i f we a r e t o l ook at o u r soci et y real i st i -
cally, we will r e c ogni z e t h e power f ul i nf l ue nc e s of b o t h g o o d
a n d evil f or ces. T h e wor l d i s n o t all beaut i f ul . Ne i t h e r i s i t all
ba d. Th u s , t h e mo s t cri t i cal c ha l l e nge we face i s d e v e l o p i n g t h e
abi l i t y t o gai n a n d ma i n t a i n a b a l a n c e d per s pect i ve. An d f r om
t hi s per s pect i ve, t h e r e i s caus e f or opt i mi s m, n o t des pai r .
A st or y t ol d t o me by my l at e f a t he r he l ps ma k e t h e poi nt .
I t i s t h e st or y of an Or i e nt a l s age wh o , ba c k i n t h e 1950s, was i n-
t er vi ewed by a r e p o r t e r a n d as ked wh e t h e r he was an opt i mi s t
or a pessi mi st .
" I ' m a n opt i mi s t , of c our s e , " t h e sage r e pl i e d.
"But h o w c a n you be a n opt i mi s t wi t h all t h e p r o b l e ms i n
t h e wo r l d o v e r p o p u l a t i o n , cul t ur al b r e a k d o wn , war, c r i me ,
a n d c o r r u p t i o n ? " t h e r e p o r t e r as ked.
" Oh , I ' m n o t a n opt i mi s t a b o u t t hi s cent ur y, " t h e s age ex-
pl a i ne d. "But I am pr of oundl y opt i mi s t i c a b o u t t he n e x t cen-
t ury. "
Gi ven t h e r eal i t y of t h e wor l d t oday, my r e s p o n s e woul d be
a l o n g t h e s a me l i nes. I ' m n o t a n opt i mi s t a b o u t t h e t we nt i e t h
cent ur y, b u t I am pr of oundl y opt i mi s t i c a b o u t t h e twenty-first
c e nt ur yi f we c a n ar r i ve t h e r e .
Ke e p i n g a b a l a n c e d per s pect i ve will be essent i al . J u s t as i t i s
neces s ar y t o de ve l op o n e ' s c ons c i ous ne s s i n o r d e r t o acknowl -
e d g e t h e r eal i t y of evil a n d o u r own pot e nt i a l f or si n a n d f or
c o n t r i b u t i n g t o evil, we al so n e e d t o b e c o me i ncr eas i ngl y c on-
sci ous t o i dent i f y a n d r el i sh wha t i s g o o d a n d beaut i f ul i n t hi s
life. I f we s ee t h e wor l d as i n h e r e n t l y evil, t h e r e i s no r e a s on t o
bel i eve i t c a n i mpr ove . But i f we see t ha t t h e f or ces f or g o o d i n
t h e wor l d a r e , a t t h e ver y l east , on a n e qua l f oot i ng wi t h t h e
f or ces f or ill, t h e r e i s gr e a t h o p e f or t h e f ut ur e .
I n ma n y ways, t h e wor l d i s c h a n g i n g f or t h e bet t er . As I
wr ot e i n The Road Less Traveled, over o n e h u n d r e d year s a go
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 209
c hi l d a bus e was n o t onl y r a mp a n t i n t h e Un i t e d St at es b u t
bl a ndl y ove r l ooke d. Back t h e n , a p a r e n t c o u l d be a t a chi l d se-
ver el y a n d c o mmi t n o c r i me . So me t wo h u n d r e d year s a go,
ma n y c hi l dr e n, e ve n t hos e as y o u n g as seven, we r e f or ced t o
wor k i n f act or i es a n d mi n e s pr act i cal l y all day. S o me f our h u n -
d r e d year s a go, c h i l d r e n we r e n ' t gener al l y c o n s i d e r e d wor t hy of
a t t e n t i o n a n d r e s pe c t a s i ndi vi dual s wi t h t he i r own n e e d s a n d
r i ght s i n o u r soci et y. But chi l d p r o t e c t i o n effort s ha ve i mp r o v e d
t r e me n d o u s l y i n o u r cent ur y. We have es t abl i s hed hot l i ne s f or
r e p o r t i n g cases of chi l d e xpl oi t a t i on; i nves t i gat i ons a r e r o u t i n e
a n d s o me t i me s ext ens i ve i n cases of s us pe c t e d chi l d a bus e a n d
negl ect . Unl e s s you c a n ' t see t h e f or est f or t h e t r ees , t he r e ' s no
d e n y i n g t ha t soci et y ha s ma d e vast i mp r o v e me n t s i n p r o t e c t i n g
t h e i nt er es t s a n d wel l - bei ng of its younge s t a n d mo s t vul ne r a bl e
ci t i zens.
Th e r e i s al so p r o f o u n d p r o o f of c h a n g e f or t h e b e t t e r on a
wor l d l evel . Co n s i d e r t h e i ssue of h u ma n r i ght s . Go v e r n me n t s
a r e r egul ar l y mo n i t o r e d t o d e t e r mi n e h o w t hey t r eat t he i r citi-
z ens , a n d s o me ha ve suf f er ed e c o n o mi c s anct i ons i n r e s p o n s e
t o ma j or h u ma n r i ght s vi ol at i ons , as was t h e case wi t h t h e
a p a r t h e i d syst em i n So u t h Afri ca. I n pr evi ous c e nt ur i e s , t h e
n o t i o n of war c r i me s was none xi s t e nt . Ca p t u r e d wo me n a n d
c h i l d r e n we r e r out i ne l y r a p e d a n d ens l aved whi l e t h e di s e m-
b o we l me n t of ma l e pr i s one r s of wa r was r i t ual i st i c behavi or .
War s a n d wa r c r i me s per si st , b u t r e c e nt l y we have b e g u n t o r ai se
t h e i ssue of why h u ma n s s o f r equent l y go t o gr e a t l e ngt hs t o kill
o n e a n o t h e r wh e n a mo s t d e c e n t p e a c e woul d be qui t e f easi bl e
i f we si mpl y wo r k e d at i t a l i t t l e bi t . We have es t abl i s hed t ri -
b u n a l s t o t ry t o p u n i s h t hos e gui l t y of wa r c r i me s . We al so n o w
d e b a t e wh e t h e r a war s h o u l d be c o n s i d e r e d j u s t or unj us t a n d
unneces s ar y. Th a t we even r ai se t he s e i ssues i s an i ndi c a t i on of
h o w mu c h posi t i ve c h a n g e i s e me r g i n g i n t hi s soci et y a n d
t h r o u g h o u t t h e wor l d.
I t c a n be a r g u e d t ha t o n e r e a s on ma n y vi ew evil a s mo r e
pr e va l e nt t h a n ever i s a r es ul t of t h e fact t ha t o u r s t a n d a r d s ha ve
i mpr ove d. I n any case, t h e e vi de nc e suggest s t h a t soci et y i s
evol vi ng f or t h e b e t t e r over t he l o n g ha ul . Th a t woul d be i m-
210 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
pos s i bl e i f soci et y we r e whol l y evil. T h e t r u t h i s t ha t b o t h g o o d
a n d evil coexi s t as f or ces i n t hi s wor l d; t hey always ha ve a n d al-
ways will. I r e c o g n i z e d t ha t fact l o n g a go. But I fi nd i t act ual l y
eas i er t o p i n p o i n t wi t h g r e a t e r cl ari t y why evil exi st s a n d
wh e n c e i t c o me s t h a n t o as cer t ai n t h e or i gi ns of g o o d n e s s i n
t hi s wor l d wi t hout r e f e r e nc e t o Go d . Wh a t St. Paul cal l ed " t he
mys t er y of i ni qui t y" i s ul t i mat el y l ess mys t er i ous t h a n t h e mys-
t er y of h u ma n g o o d n e s s .
Whi l e t h e pr evai l i ng J ude o- Chr i s t i a n vi ew i s t ha t t hi s i s a
g o o d wor l d s o me h o w c o n t a mi n a t e d by evil, as a mos t l y mi ddl e -
of - t he- r oad Chr i s t i an I pr e f e r t h e vi ew t ha t t hi s i s a nat ur al l y evil
wor l d s o me h o w c o n t a mi n a t e d by goodne s s . We c a n l ook a t chi l -
d r e n , f or e x a mp l e , a n d r ej oi ce i n t he i r i n n o c e n c e a n d s pon-
t anei t y. But t h e fact i s t ha t we a r e all b o r n l i ars, cheat s , t hi eves,
a n d ma n i p u l a t o r s . So i t ' s ha r dl y r e ma r k a b l e t ha t ma n y of us
gr ow up t o be a dul t l i ars, c he a t s , t hi eves, a n d ma n i p u l a t o r s .
Wh a t ' s h a r d e r t o e xpl a i n i s why s o ma n y p e o p l e gr ow up t o be
g o o d a n d hone s t . Whi l e c a pa bl e of evil, i n r eal i t y h u ma n be i ngs
over al l a r e of t en b e t t e r t h a n mi g h t be e x p e c t e d .
I n my e x p e r i e n c e wi t h t h e c o mmu n i t y - b u i l d i n g wo r k s h o p s
s p o n s o r e d by FCE, I' ve b e e n i mme n s e l y i mpr e s s e d by wh a t I' ve
c o me t o cal l " t he r o u t i n e h e r o i s m of h u ma n be i ngs . " I t i s al so
c o mmo n t o di s cover h o w p e o p l e i n t r agi c c i r c ums t a nc e s s uc h
as t h e Ok l a h o ma Ci t y b o mb i n g , or i n o t h e r cri si s s i t uat i ons , ri se
t o t h e occas i on. Th e r e i s a b u n d a n t e vi de nc e of h o w p e o p l e c a n
be i ncr edi bl y g o o d wh e n t hey a r e pul l i ng t oge t he r . Still, ma n y
t e n d t o t ake g o o d n e s s f or g r a n t e d . Th e r e i s a l es s on f or us all i n
t he s e wor ds of wi s dom, u t t e r e d by s o me a n o n y mo u s soul : " A life
of all eas e a n d c o mf o r t ma y n o t be as wonde r f ul as we t hi nk i t
wo u l d be . Onl y t h r o u g h si ckness do we ga i n g r e a t e r a ppr e c i a -
t i on f or g o o d he a l t h. T h r o u g h h u n g e r we a r e t a u g h t t o val ue
f ood. An d k n o wi n g evil he l ps us t o a ppr e c i a t e wha t i s good. "
I f t h e c oe xi s t e nc e of g o o d a n d evil i s pa r a doxi c a l , we mu s t
e mb r a c e t ha t p a r a d o x s o t ha t we c a n l e a r n t o live o u r lives wi t h
i nt egri t y. T h e c r ux of i nt egr i t y i s whol enes s . An d t h r o u g h whol e -
nes s a s h u ma n be i ngs we c a n pr a c t i c e t h e p a r a d o x of l i be r a t i on
a n d c e l e br a t i on. Li be r a t i on t he ol ogy pr oc l a i ms t ha t Chr i s t i ans
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 211
ar e cal l ed t o pl ay an act i ve r ol e i n d o i n g bat t l e wi t h t he syst emi c
si ns a n d evils of s oci et ycal l ed t o t ake r es pons i bi l i t y f or l i ber -
a t i ng p e o p l e f r om t h e b u r d e n s of pover t y a n d oppr e s s i on. Cel -
e b r a t i o n t he ol ogy has hi st or i cal l y e n c o u r a g e d a f ocus on a n d
c e l e br a t i on of t h e g o o d n e s s a n d be a ut y f o u n d i n t h e wor l d.
I n hi s b o o k Christian Wholeness, To m La ngf or d p r o b e s t h e
ma n y p a r a d o x e s t h a t Chr i s t i ans mu s t e mb r a c e i n o r d e r t o be r e-
al i st i c a n d whol e p e o p l e , a mo n g whi c h t h e p a r a d o x of cel ebr a-
t i on a n d l i be r a t i on i s b u t o n e . As La ngf or d poi nt s out , p e o p l e
wh o f ocus excl usi vel y on l i be r a t i on b e c o me f anat i c a n d gl um,
whi l e t hos e wh o f ocus onl y on c e l e br a t i on will be frot hy, s uper -
ficial, a n d gl i b. On c e agai n, we a r e cal l ed t o i nt e gr a t i on. St r i vi ng
f or whol e ne s s ma k e s i t neces s ar y f or us t o c ont i nua l l y acknowl -
e d g e a n d do bat t l e wi t h t h e f or ces of evil. At t h e s a me t i me , we
mu s t r e ma i n c ons c i ous of a n d de e pl y gr at ef ul f or t h e f or ces of
g o o d .
I n t h e ba t t l e b e t we e n g o o d a n d evil, we mu s t b e o p e n t o
s t r uggl i ng t h r o u g h o u t o u r lives. Whi l e t h e r e i s r e a s on t o be pes -
si mi st i c, t h e r e al so i s s t r ong r e a s o n t o bel i eve t h a t e a c h of us
c a n ha ve s o me i mpa c t , howe ve r mi n u s c u l e i t ma y s e e m, on
wh e t h e r t h e wor l d tilts t owa r d c h a n g e f or g o o d or ill. I n a r e-
ma r k a t t r i b u t e d t o E d mu n d Bur ke , we have t h e basi s f or det er -
mi n i n g wh i c h of t h e t wo f or ces will ul t i mat el y wi n t h e day: " Th e
onl y t h i n g neces s ar y f or t h e t r i u mp h of evil i s f or g o o d me n
[ a n d wo me n , I mu s t a d d ] t o do n o t h i n g . "
THE PARADOX OF HUMAN NATURE
T h e p a r a d o x of g o o d a n d evil i s essent i al l y i n h e r e n t i n h u ma n
n a t u r e . I ha ve a l r e a dy s p o k e n a b o u t " or i gi nal si n. " To ba l a nc e
o u t t h e p a r a d o x , I n e e d t o t al k a b o u t wha t Ma t t he w Fox has
cal l ed " or i gi nal bl essi ng. " I t is, t o p u t i t qui t e si mpl y, o u r capac-
ity t o c h a n g e . If, as I have sai d, we a r e all b o r n l i ars, c he a t s ,
t hi eves, a n d ma n i p u l a t o r s , t o be ha ve ot he r wi s e a s adul t s woul d
s e e m t o be c ont r a r y t o h u ma n n a t u r e . But we ha ve t h e abi l i t y t o
al t er h u ma n n a t u r e i f we c h o o s e t o do so.
212 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
Wh e n e v e r s o me o n e i s b o l d e n o u g h t o ask me , "Dr. Peck,
wh a t i s h u ma n n a t u r e ? " my first ans wer i s l i kel y t o be " Hu ma n
n a t u r e i s t o go t o t h e b a t h r o o m i n y o u r pa nt s . "
Th a t , af t er al l , i s t h e way e a c h of us s t a r t e d out : d o i n g wha t
c a me nat ur al l y, l et t i ng go wh e n e v e r we fel t l i ke it. But t h e n wh a t
h a p p e n e d t o us, wh e n we we r e a b o u t t wo, i s t ha t o u r mo t h e r s
( or f at her s ) b e g a n t el l i ng us, ' You' r e a r eal l y ni c e ki d a n d I l i ke
you a l ot , b u t I ' d s or t of a p p r e c i a t e i t i f y o u ' d c l e a n up your act . "
Now, t hi s r e que s t i ni t i al l y ma k e s no s ens e wha t s oe ve r t o t h e
chi l d. Wh a t ma k e s s ens e i s t o l et go wh e n t h e u r g e hi t s, a n d t h e
r es ul t s always s e e m i nt e r e s t i ng. To t h e chi l d, k e e p i n g a t i ght
f anny a n d s o me h o w ge t t i ng t o t h e t oi l et j u s t i n t i me t o s ee t hi s
i nt e r e s t i ng st uff f l us hed away i s t ot al l y u n n a t u r a l .
But i f t h e r e i s a g o o d r e l a t i ons hi p b e t we e n t h e chi l d a n d
t h e p a r e n t , a n d i f t h e p a r e n t i s n o t t o o i mp a t i e n t or ove r c on-
t r ol l i ng ( a n d unf or t unat el y, t he s e f avor abl e c ondi t i ons a r e of-
t e n n o t me t , whi c h i s t h e ma j or r e a s on t ha t we psychi at r i st s a r e
s o i nt e r e s t e d i n t oi l et t r a i ni ng) , t h e n s o me t h i n g qui t e wo n d e r -
ful h a p p e n s . T h e chi l d says t o hi msel f: ' You know, Mo mmy ' s a
ni c e ol d gal , a n d s he' s b e e n awfully g o o d t o me t he s e l ast cou-
pl e of year s. I ' d l i ke t o pay h e r ba c k i n s o me way, gi ve h e r a
p r e s e n t of s o me ki nd. But I ' m j u s t a puny, hel pl es s l i t t l e t wo-
year - ol d. Wh a t p r e s e n t c o u l d I possi bl y be abl e t o gi ve h e r t ha t
s he mi g h t wa n t or n e e d e x c e p t t hi s o n e cr azy t hi ng? "
So wh a t h a p p e n s t h e n i s t ha t as a gift of l ove t o t h e mo t h e r ,
t h e c hi l d be gi ns t o do t h e p r o f o u n d l y u n n a t u r a l : t o h o l d t ha t
f anny t i ght a n d ma k e i t t o t h e t oi l et on t i me . An d by t h e t i me
t h a t s a me chi l d i s f our or f i ve, i t has c o me t o feel p r o f o u n d l y
na t ur a l t o go t o t h e b a t h r o o m i n t h e t oi l et . Wh e n , on t h e o t h e r
h a n d , i n a mo me n t of st ress or f at i gue, he f or get s a n d has a n
" acci dent , " t h e chi l d feel s ver y u n n a t u r a l a b o u t t h e whol e messy
bus i nes s . Wh a t has o c c u r r e d , i n t h e s pace of t wo or t h r e e s h o r t
year s, i s t ha t o u t of l ove, t h e chi l d ha s s u c c e e d e d i n c h a n g i n g
hi s n a t u r e .
Thi s capaci t y we ha ve b e e n gi ven t o c h a n g e t h i s or i gi nal
bl essi ng, t h e abi l i t y t o t r a ns f or m our s el ves i s s o e x t r a o r d i n a r y
t h a t at o t h e r t i mes wh e n I am as ked, " Wha t i s h u ma n n a t u r e ? " I
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 213
f acet i ousl y r e s p o n d t ha t t h e r e i s no s uc h t hi ng. For wha t di st i n-
gui s hes us h u ma n s mo s t f r om t h e o t h e r c r e a t ur e s i s n o t o u r op-
pos a bl e t h u mb o r o u r ma gni f i c e nt l ar ynx o r o u r h u g e c e r e br a l
cor t ex; i t i s o u r r el at i ve l ack of i nst i nct s, t hos e i nhe r i t e d, pr e -
f o r me d p a t t e r n s of be ha vi or t hat , as far as we c a n as cer t ai n, give
t h e o t h e r c r e a t ur e s a mu c h mo r e f i xe d a n d p r e d e t e r mi n e d na-
t ur e t h a n we ha ve a s h u ma n s . I n o t h e r wor ds , h u ma n be i ngs a r e
e n d o we d wi t h access t o a mu c h wi de r r a n g e of opt i ons s o-
cially, psychol ogi cal l y, a n d phys i cal l yt hat gi ve us fl exi bi l i t y i n
r e s p o n d i n g a n d h a n d l i n g a var i et y of c i r c ums t a nc e s a n d si t ua-
tions.
Mu c h of my life I ha ve b e e n i nvol ved i n p e a c e ma k i n g ac-
tivities. Th o s e wh o bel i eve t ha t a wor l d of p e a c e i s an i mpos s i -
bi l i t y gener al l y r ef er t o t hems el ves as r eal i st s. Th e y have
r e f e r r e d t o me a s a n i deal i st or , mo r e f r equent l y, a s a n empt y-
h e a d e d i deal i st or a f uzzy- headed i deal i st . An d t hey have b e e n
r i ght t o a c e r t a i n e x t e n t n o t , I h o p e , a b o u t t h e empt y- or
f uz z y- headednes s , b u t a b o u t t h e i deal i s m. I wo u l d de f i ne an
i deal i st as o n e wh o bel i eves i n t h e capaci t y f or t r a ns f or ma t i on
of h u ma n n a t u r e . I am not , however , a r o ma n t i c . I woul d de f i ne
a r o ma n t i c as o n e wh o n o t onl y bel i eves i n t h e capaci t y f or
t r a ns f or ma t i on of h u ma n n a t u r e b u t al so bel i eves i t o u g h t t o be
easy. Ro ma n t i c s gr avi t at e t o si mpl i st i c f or mul a s s uc h as "Love
c o n q u e r s al l . " I n my wor k as a psychi at r i st i t gr adual l y b e c a me
cl ear t o me t ha t ma n y woul d n o t c h a n g e a n d gr ow de s pi t e all
t h e l ove i n t h e wor l d. Ch a n g i n g h u ma n n a t u r e i s n' t easy. But i t
is pos s i bl e.
T h e r e a r e p r o f o u n d r e a s ons why i t i s n' t easy. Wh a t we cal l
pe r s ona l i t y c a n be s t be de f i ne d as a consistent p a t t e r n of or ga ni -
z at i on of psychi c e l e me n t s a c o mb i n a t i o n of t h i n k i n g a n d be -
havi or . " Cons i s t ent " i s t h e key wo r d i n t hi s def i ni t i on. T h e r e i s a
cons i s t ency t o t h e pe r s ona l i t y of i ndi vi dua l s a nd t o t h e "per -
sonal i t y" of c ul t ur e s or na t i ons as wel l a cons i s t ency t ha t has
b o t h a d a r k si de a n d a l i ght si de, a g o o d a n d a ba d.
For i ns t a nc e , wh e n I was still i n pr a c t i c e a n d n e w pa t i e nt s
c a me t o see me , t hey woul d be l i kel y t o f i nd me dr e s s e d i n a n
ope n- c ol l a r e d shi r t , a c omf or t a bl e sweat er, a n d p e r h a p s even
214 M. Scott Peck M.D.
s l i pper s . I f t hey c a me ba c k t o s ee me a s e c o n d t i me a n d f o u n d
me i n a t i e a n d bus i nes s sui t , r e a dy t o l eave f or a s pe a ki ng en-
g a g e me n t , t ha t wo u l d pr oba bl y be all r i ght . I f t hey we r e t o
c o me ba c k a t hi r d t i me , however , a n d f o u n d me i n a l ong, flow-
i ng bl ue r o b e , we a r i n g j e we l r y a n d bl owi ng a j o i n t , c h a n c e s a r e
t hey wo u l d n ' t c o me ba c k t o see me a f our t h t i me . On e of t h e
r e a s ons t ha t ma n y di d k e e p r e t u r n i n g f or my ser vi ces was t ha t I
was pr e t t y mu c h t h e s a me ol d Scot t y ever y t i me t he y c a me .
Th e r e was a cons i s t ency i n my pe r s ona l i t y t h a t al l owed t h e m t o
k n o w wh e r e t hey s t ood. I t gave t h e m s o me t h i n g t o " h a n g t he i r
hat s on. " We n e e d a c e r t a i n a mo u n t of cons i s t encya d e g r e e of
pr edi ct abi l i t yi n o u r per s onal i t i es s o t ha t we c a n f unc t i on ef-
fectively i n t h e wor l d as t r us t wor t hy h u ma n be i ngs .
T h e d a r k si de of t ha t consi st ency, however , i s wh a t we psy-
c hot he r a pi s t s cal l r es i s t ance. T h e pe r s ona l i t ywhe t he r t ha t of
an i ndi vi dual or a n a t i o n i n h e r e n t l y resi st s c h a n g e . Ch a n g e i s
t h r e a t e n i n g , e ve n wh e n i t ma y be f or t h e bet t er . Mos t pa t i e nt s
c o me t o ps yc hot he r a py a s ki ng t o c h a n g e o n e way or a not he r .
But f r om t h e mo me n t t he r a py be gi ns , t hey st ar t a c t i ng as i f
c h a n g e we r e t h e l ast t h i n g t ha t t hey wa nt t o d o , a n d t hey will of-
t e n f i ght agai ns t i t t o o t h a n d nai l . Ps ychot her apy, d e s i g n e d t o
l i ber at e, s hi ne s t h e l i ght of t r u t h u p o n o u r sel ves. T h e a d a g e
" Th e t r u t h will set you f r ee, b u t f i r s t i t will ma k e you d a mn ma d "
r ef l ect s t h e r es i s t ance of o u r h u ma n n a t u r e t o c h a n g e . I t i s
cl ear l y n o t easy f or us t o c h a n g e . But i t i s p o s s i b l e a n d t h a t i s
o u r gl or y a s h u ma n be i ngs .
Ou r na t ur a l r es i s t ance t o c h a n g e a r es ul t of o u r l azi ness,
fear, or nar ci s s i s mi s wh a t i s me a n t , I bel i eve, by " or i gi nal si n. "
At t h e ver y s a me t i me , t h e mo s t di s t i ngui s hi ng f e a t ur e of o u r
h u ma n n a t u r e o u r "or i gi nal bl essi ng"i s o u r capaci t y t o
c h a n g e i f we so des i r e. Gi ven f r ee will, i t i s o u r i ndi vi dual c hoi c e
wh e t h e r t o gi ve i n t o o u r or i gi nal si n, r esi st c h a n g e , s t a gna t e ,
a n d even de t e r i or a t e , or t o wo r k on o u r i ndi vi dual as wel l as so-
ci et al t r a ns f or ma t i on. I t wo u l d be poi nt l es s t o wor k f or soci et al
b e t t e r me n t i f p e o p l e c o u l d n o t c h a n g e . Yet p e o p l e a r e f r ee n o t
t o c h a n g e . Thi s conf l i ct b e t we e n t h e i ne r t i a of n o t c h a n g i n g
a n d t h e effort of c h a n g i n g was s u mme d up by a ver y ear l y Chr i s -
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 215
t i an t he ol ogi a n, Or i g e n , wh o sai d, " Th e Spi r i t s t ands f or
pr ogr e s s , a n d evil, by def i ni t i on t h e n , i s t h a t whi c h r ef uses
pr ogr e s s . "
THE PARADOX OF ENTITLEMENT
I ha ve a l r e a dy e x p l o r e d an a s pe c t of " cr i mi nal t hi nki ng" k n o wn
a s t h e ps ychol ogy of e nt i t l e me nt . Ma ny p e o p l e wh e t h e r t hey
a r e r i ch or p o o r t e n d t o bel i eve t hey a r e e nt i t l e d t o s o me t h i n g
f or n o t h i n g , or t o b e h a v e a s i f t h e wor l d owes t h e m r a t h e r t h a n
t h e o t h e r way a r o u n d . So me feel e nt i t l e d on t h e basi s of a su-
per i or i t y c o mp l e x , whi l e f or o t h e r s t h e s ens e of e n t i t l e me n t
ar i ses f r om a n i nf er i or i t y c o mp l e x . T h e l at t er s e e m t o feel t hey
have no r esponsi bi l i t y for t hei r own l ot i n life. T h e f or me r bel i eve
t hey a r e d u e all t he i r "success, " even a t t h e e x p e n s e of ot he r s ,
wh o m t hey see as less de s e r vi ng t h a n t hey, of t en f or i r r el evant
a n d i ns i gni f i cant r e a s ons .
T h e r e a r e n u me r o u s r e a s ons b e h i n d t hi s s e e mi ngl y per va-
sive a t t i t ude of e n t i t l e me n t . In In Search of Stones, I ci t e o n e s uc h
par t i cul ar l y Ame r i c a n r e a s on. I t i s t h e n o t i o n p u t f or t h by t h e
De c l a r a t i on of I n d e p e n d e n c e : "We h o l d t he s e t r ut hs t o be self-
evi dent , t ha t all me n a r e c r e a t e d e qua l , t ha t t hey a r e e n d o we d
by t he i r Cr e a t o r wi t h c e r t a i n u n a l i e n a b l e Ri ght s , t h a t a mo n g
t he s e a r e Li fe, Li ber t y a n d t h e p u r s u i t of Ha ppi ne s s . " I bel i eve
t he s e wor ds a r e , par adoxi cal l y, p e r h a p s t h e mo s t p r o f o u n d a n d
t h e si l l i est wor ds ever wr i t t en. Th e y c ons t i t ut e a ma gni f i c e nt
a n d hol y vi si on t ha t accur at el y c a pt ur e s t h e e s s e nc e of t h e hu-
ma n c o n d i t i o n . At t h e s a me t i me , t he y a r e hor r i bl y mi s l e a di ng.
We a r e all e qua l i n t h e s i ght of Go d . Be yond t hat , however ,
we a r e ut t er l y u n e q u a l . We ha ve di f f er ent gifts a n d l i abi l i t i es,
di f f er ent ge ne s , di f f er ent l a ngua ge s a n d cul t ur es , di f f er ent val-
ue s a n d styles of t hi nki ng, di f f er ent p e r s o n a l hi s t or i es , di f f er ent
l evel s o f c o mp e t e n c e , a n d o n a n d on. I n d e e d , h u ma n i t y mi g h t
be p r o p e r l y l a be l e d t h e u n e q u a l s peci es . Wh a t mo s t di st i n-
gui s hes us f r om all t h e o t h e r c r e a t ur e s i s o u r e x t r a o r d i n a r y di -
versi t y a n d t h e vari abi l i t y of o u r behavi or . Equal ? I n t h e mo r a l
216 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
s p h e r e a l o n e we r a n g e f r om t h e d e mo n i c t o t h e gl or i ousl y an-
gel i c.
T h e false n o t i o n of o u r equal i t y p r o p e l s us i nt o t h e pr e -
t e ns e of p s e u d o c o mmu n i t y t h e n o t i o n t ha t e ve r yone i s t h e
s a me a n d wh e n t h e p r e t e n s e fails, as i t mu s t i f we act wi t h any
i nt i macy or aut hent i ci t y, i t p r o p e l s us t o a t t e mp t t o achi eve
equal i t y by f or ce: t h e f or ce of ge nt l e pe r s ua s i on f ol l owed by less
a n d l ess ge nt l e pe r s ua s i on. We t ot al l y mi s i nt e r pr e t o u r t ask. So-
ci et y' s t ask i s n o t t o es t abl i s h equal i t y. I t i s t o de ve l op syst ems
t ha t de a l h u ma n e l y wi t h o u r i nequal i t ys ys t ems t hat , wi t hi n
r e a s on, c e l e br a t e a n d e n c o u r a g e di versi t y.
T h e c o n c e p t of h u ma n r i ght s i s c e nt r a l t o t h e d e v e l o p me n t
of s uc h syst ems; I wh o l e h e a r t e d l y a p p l a u d t h e Bill of Ri ght s ap-
p e n d e d t o t h e U. S. Cons t i t ut i on a n d , gener al l y, its i nt e r pr e t a -
t i on by t h e c our t s . I a m mu c h mo r e d u b i o u s , however , a b o u t
t h e s we e pi ng r i ght s c l a i me d by t h e De c l a r a t i on of I n d e p e n -
d e n c e : t h e r i ght s t o life, l i bert y, a n d t h e p u r s u i t of ha ppi ne s s . As
I a p p r o a c h s er i ous ol d age, for i ns t a nc e , I am i ncr eas i ngl y du-
bi ous a b o u t my r i ght t o life i n c e r t a i n r es pect s . As a n a u t h o r
a n d t eacher , I mu s t q u e s t i o n my l i ber t y t o l i e or e ve n subt l y di s-
t or t . As a psychi at r i st a n d t he ol ogi a n, k n o wi n g h a p p i n e s s t o be
e i t he r a si de effect of s o me d e e p e r pur s ui t or el se t h e r es ul t of
sel f - del usi on, I ' m n o t s ur e h o w wor t hy a p u r s u i t h a p p i n e s s is.
My still l a r ge r p r o b l e m i s wi t h t h e a ggr e ga t e of t he s e r i ght s .
Ad d t h e r i ght s of life, l i bert y, a n d t h e pur s ui t of h a p p i n e s s t o-
g e t h e r a n d i t s o u n d s as i f we have a r i ght t o p e a c e a s i f we a r e
e nt i t l e d t o p e a c e .
Agai n, t hi s pr e s e nt s a p a r a d o x . On e si de of t h e p a r a d o x i s
t ha t pe a c e i s a t r ul y p r o p e r h u ma n as pi r at i on. Th e r e i s a differ-
e n c e b e t we e n l et hal a n d n o n l e t h a l conf l i ct , however . We n e e d
t h e l at t er. I f ma n a g e d p r o p e r l y i t act ual l y t e nds t o p r o mo t e hu-
ma n di gni t y. De s pi t e its s u p p o s e d gl or i es, war gener al l y de -
st roys o u r di gni t y. I f we de f i ne p e a c e as t h e a b s e n c e of o u t r i g h t
war, i t i s i n d e e d n o b l e t o as pi r e t o it, a n d we c a n n o t as pi r e t o
s o me t h i n g we feel we d o n ' t de s e r ve . I n t hi s s ens e we s h o u l d r e-
ga r d p e a c e as a r i ght . T h e o t h e r si de of t h e p a r a d o x i s t ha t we
ha ve no r i ght t o de s e r ve p e a c e wi t hout wo r k i n g f or it. All t ha t I
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 217
have ever sai d a b o u t c ommuni t y, a n d e ve r yt hi ng we k n o w a b o u t
p e a c e , i ndi cat es t ha t we have no r e a s on wha t s oe ve r t o e x p e c t i t
effortlessly, or t o e xpe c t t ha t o n c e we have, t h r o u g h sacri fi ce,
wo n pe a c e , i t will stay a r o u n d f or l o n g wi t hout o u r ha vi ng t o lift
a finger agai n.
Pe r h a p s no pi t fal l i s mo r e d a n g e r o u s t h a n t he a s s u mp t i o n
t ha t we a r e e nt i t l e d t o p e a c e . O n e way t hi s n o t i o n of ent i t l e-
me n t t o p e a c e wor ks i t sel f o u t i s t h e a s s u mp t i o n of vast n u m-
be r s of Ame r i c a n s t ha t all conf l i ct s c a n be peacef ul l y r esol ved.
Th a t i s nai ve. Yet ma n y o t h e r s o p e r a t e o u t of t h e oppos i t e as-
s u mp t i o n , t ha t n o conf l i ct c a n b e r es ol ved e x c e p t t h r o u g h
f o r c e t h r o u g h vi ol ence or t h e t h r e a t of it. Thi s a s s u mp t i o n i s
cyni cal a n d self-fulfilling. T h e pa r a doxi c a l r eal i t y at t hi s p o i n t
i n h u ma n evol ut i on i s t ha t s o me war s a r e una voi da bl e or "j ust , "
a n d s o me a r e unj us t , unneces s ar y, a n d wa ge d a t hor r i f yi ng cost
o u t of s h e e r l azi ness a n d st upi di t y.
Al t h o u g h I ' ve b e e n s pe a ki ng of p e a c e b e t we e n p e o p l e , t h e
s a me pa r a doxi c a l pr i nc i pl e s h o l d t r u e f or a c hi e vi ng t ha t mu c h -
ye a r ne d- f or c o n d i t i o n cal l ed i n n e r p e a c e . Al t h o u g h we ha ve
t h e r i ght t o des i r e it, we a r e no mo r e e nt i t l e d t o i n n e r p e a c e
t h a n t o o u t e r p e a c e . Yet ma n y pr ot e s t i ndi gna nt l y wh e n life it-
sel f i nt e r r upt s t h e ha ppi ne s s or s er eni t y t hey have c o me t o s ee
a s a n e n t i t l e me n t . Mor eover , i n o r d e r t o possess i n n e r p e a c e we
a r e f r e que nt l y r e q u i r e d t o first be wi l l i ng t o f or s ake it. Onl y
t hos e wh o c a n cons t ant l y l i e t o t hems el ves wi t hout q u a l ms have
unqua l i f i e d p e a c e of mi n d . But i f we do n o t wa nt t o be self-
b r a i n - d a ma g e d i n t hi s ma n n e r , we n e e d t o r e me mb e r t h a t
t h e r e i s s o me t h i n g far mo r e i mp o r t a n t t h a n i n n e r pe a c e : i n-
t egri t y. I nt egr i t y r e qui r e s , a mo n g o t h e r t hi ngs , t h e wi l l i ngness
t o e n d u r e di s c omf or t f or t h e sake of t r ut h.
To r e me mb e r t hi s, i t he l ps me t o t h i n k a b o u t J e s us , wh o s o
of t en fel t f r us t r at ed, angr y, f r i ght e ne d, l onel y, sad, a n d de -
p r e s s e d a ma n wh o cl ear l y de s i r e d popul a r i t y b u t woul d n o t
sell o u t f or i t a n d wh o t a u g h t us t h a t life i s s o me t h i n g mo r e
t h a n a popul a r i t y cont es t ; a ma n wh o di d n o t s e e m t o have
mu c h " i n n e r p e a c e " as t h e wor l d i s a c c u s t o me d t o i ma g i n i n g i t
t o be , yet wh o has b e e n cal l ed t h e Pr i nc e of Pe a c e . We mu s t be
218 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
awar e t ha t t h e r e i s a false ki nd of p e a c e of mi n d t h a t der i ves
f r om b e i n g o u t of t o u c h wi t h our s el ves . Tr u e i n n e r p e a c e r e-
qui r e s us t o be i n t i ma t e wi t h ever y f acet of our s e l ve s t o be n o t
onl y i nves t ed i n o u r r i ght s b u t al so c o n c e r n e d a b o u t o u r r e-
sponsi bi l i t i es.
THE PARADOX OF RESPONSIBILITY
As ci t i zens, we a r e af f ect ed by a var i et y of i ssues at t h e l ocal ,
st at e, a n d na t i ona l l evel s. De p e n d i n g on t h e i mp a c t of t he s e is-
s ues on o u r dai l y lives a n d t he lives of ot he r s , di f f er ent r ol es a n d
r es pons i bi l i t i es ma y be r e q u i r e d of us . S o me a t t e mp t t o me e t
t hi s c h a l l e n g e t o ma k e a di f f er enceby di l i gent l y vot i ng i n
ever y l ocal a n d na t i ona l el ect i on. Ot h e r s c h o o s e t h e r o u t e of
pa r t i c i pa t i ng i n c o mmu n i t y or ga ni z a t i ons ' effort s t o h e l p t hos e
i n n e e d . Still o t h e r s ma k e f i na nc i a l c ont r i but i ons t o s u p p o r t
caus es of i nt e r e s t a n d c o n c e r n t o t h e m. But ma n y r esi st t a ki ng
a ny k i n d of r esponsi bi l i t y. Th e y f i nd i t eas i er i ns t e a d t o l ook t o
o t h e r s t o be t h e mes s i ahs t o sol ve al l t h e wor l d' s p r o b l e ms .
Ra t h e r t h a n t ake any act i ve r ol e i n ga i ni ng a n d ma i n t a i n i n g cer -
t ai n r i ght s , t hey feel no r es pons i bi l i t y f or ma k i n g cl ear c hoi c e s
a b o u t t h e qual i t y of t he i r ci t i z ens hi p. Th e y ma y be abl e t o cl ai m
t hey a r e d o i n g no h a r m t o soci et y, b u t t h e sayi ng ( a t t r i but e d t o
El dr i dge Cl eaver , d u r i n g t h e 1960s) i s t r ue : "If you a r e n o t p a r t
of t h e s ol ut i on, t h e n you a r e p a r t of t h e p r o b l e m. "
T h e p a r a d o x i s t h a t we a r e r e s pons i bl e for e ve r yt hi ng a n d
a t t h e s a me t i me we c a n n o t be r e s pons i bl e f or ever yt hi ng. T h e
ans wer t o t h i s a n d t o all pa r a doxe s i s n o t t o r u n wi t h onl y
o n e si de of t h e e q u a t i o n b u t t o e mb r a c e b o t h si des of t h e t r ut h.
T h e wr i t er Wi l l i am Fa ul kne r , i n a s p e e c h ma d e wh e n hi s d a u g h -
t er Ji l l g r a d u a t e d f r om h i g h s c hool , sai d: " Never be af r ai d t o
r ai se your voi ce f or hone s t y a n d t r u t h a n d c o mp a s s i o n agai ns t
i nj ust i ce a n d l yi ng a n d g r e e d . I f p e o p l e all over t h e wor l d, i n
t h o u s a n d s of r o o ms l i ke t hi s o n e , woul d do t hi s, i t woul d c h a n g e
t h e e a r t h. "
An u n k n o wn seamst r ess at a Mont gome r y, Al a ba ma , depar t -
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 219
me n t s t or e i n 1955, Ros a Par ks h e l p e d c h a n g e o u r n a t i o n wh e n
h e r r ef usal t o yi el d h e r b u s seat t o a whi t e ma n t r i gge r e d a bus
boycot t t ha t l as t ed 381 days. He r f eet t i r ed, a n d h e r di gni t y r e-
pe a t e dl y t es t ed, t hi s fort y-t wo-year-ol d bl ack wo ma n was ar-
r e s t e d a n d s ubs e que nt l y f i r e d f r om h e r j o b . He r s i mpl e
a c t i o n a n d s u b s e q u e n t act i ons o n t h e par t s o f ma n y o t h e r s
s p u r r e d a mo v e me n t t h a t l e d t o t r e me n d o u s l egal r e f o r m i n
t hi s count r y.
No t e ve r yone c a n have t h e i mp a c t of a Ros a Par ks , b u t we
e a c h c a n t ake a s t a nd i n t h e s t r uggl e agai ns t all ki nds of evil i n
o u r wor l d. I n d e e d , t h e bat t l e agai ns t evil be gi ns a t h o me . We
mu s t de a l wi t h our s el ves a n d o u r f ami l i es first, a n d wor k t o cr e-
a t e h e a l t h i e r c o mmu n i c a t i o n a n d i nt e r a c t i ons . " Th i n k gl obal l y,
act l ocal l y" i s a g o o d gui de l i ne .
Gi ven ge ogr a phi c a l a n d o t h e r l i mi t at i ons t ha t t h e aver age
ci t i zen faces, a c t i ng l ocal l y ma y be t h e onl y vi abl e way t o ma k e a
di f f er ence. But t ha t d o e s n o t me a n o u r t h i n k i n g mu s t b e r e-
s t r i ct ed t o t h a t whi c h i s cl ose t o h o me . We always ha ve t h e o p -
t i on t o t hi nk gl obal l y on ma n y i ssues. I can, i f I c h o o s e t o, be
c o n c e r n e d onl y a b o u t t h e cost of me d i c a l c a r e i n t h e Un i t e d
St at es, s i mpl y be c a us e i t affects me . But s i nce I am a ci t i zen of
t h e wor l d, I c a n n o t cl ose my eyes t o event s i n t h e r es t of t h e
wor l d. I have a r es pons i bi l i t y t o t hi nk a b o u t t h e civil war s a n d
t h e g e n o c i d e a n d o t h e r wa r c r i me s n o w r a mp a n t i n Rwa nda ,
Yugosl avi a, a n d o t h e r par t s of t h e wor l d. Still, I have n o t t a ke n
t h e t i me t o s t udy t he s e pl aces as de e pl y as I s t udi e d t h e Vi e t n a m
War . Wi t h var i ous d e ma n d s a l r e a dy i n my life, my pl a t e i s al -
r e a dy t oo full. No o n e c a n s t udy e ve r yt hi ng or t ake a c t i on a n d
r es pons i bi l i t y f or e ve r yt hi ng wi t hout ul t i mat el y s et t i ng hi ms el f
up f or r e s i d e n c e i n a me n t a l i ns t i t ut i on.
Yet i t i s n o t always e n o u g h t o be c o n c e r n e d onl y wi t h ma t -
t er s t ha t di r ect l y affect our sel ves. Be yond o u r own r i ght s a n d
s t a n d i n g u p f or o u r p e r s o n h o o d , we n e e d s o me t i me s t o b e will-
i ng t o t ake a s t a nd on be ha l f of ot he r s , even wh e n t h e r e s e e ms
no di r e c t be ne f i t t o our sel ves. So me t i me s we mu s t be wi l l i ng t o
do s o a t o u r own risk. T h e r es pons i bi l i t y f or di s c e r ni ng wh e n t o
go o u t on a l i mb i s a c hoi c e t ha t e a c h i ndi vi dual mu s t ma k e , de -
220 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
p e n d i n g on wha t he or s he i s wi l l i ng t o give up or l ose f or t h e
sake of s t a ndi ng f or s o me t h i n g .
Th e r e ar e t i mes wh e n we ar e t r ul y i n a b i n d a b o u t exact l y
wh e r e t o dr a w l i nes of r esponsi bi l i t y. I n s uc h cases, we n e e d t o
do t h e bes t we c a n a n d t h e n si mpl y c o n c e d e t h e r es t t o unc e r -
t ai nt y. We will n o t always k n o w f or s ur e wh e t h e r we c oul d have
d o n e mo r e wh e t h e r we s houl d ha ve s p o k e n u p wh e n we
h e a r d a r aci al sl ur or i n t e r v e n e d wh e n we h e a r d a n e i g h b o r ver-
bal l y a b u s i n g hi s wife. I n t h e f ace of c o mp l e x a n d ove r whe l m-
i ng soci al r es pons i bi l i t i es , we mu s t r e me mb e r t ha t i f we b e c o me
g r i p p e d by de s pa i r a n d b u r n o u t , we will be usel ess n o t onl y t o
our s el ves b u t al so t o ot he r s .
I a m r e mi n d e d of a n FCE Co mmu n i t y Bui l di ng Wo r k s h o p
d u r i n g whi c h a whi t e ma l e me mb e r of t h e g r o u p s e nt a n o t e t o
a bl ack wo ma n wh o was s pe a ki ng of t h e s ens e of a goni z i ng r e-
sponsi bi l i t y s he fel t for p r o mo t i n g a posi t i ve i ma g e of h e r r a c e .
I t was as i f s he h a d t a ke n t h e we i ght of t h e e nt i r e wor l d on h e r
s houl de r s . T h e n o t e r e a d: " Do n o t feel totally, per sonal l y, i r r ev-
ocabl y r e s pons i bl e f or ever yt hi ng. Tha t ' s my j o b . " T h e ki cker i s
t ha t t h e n o t e was s i gne d " God. " I n o t h e r wor ds , t h e r e a r e t i mes
i n o u r l i ves and i n t h e wor l d a t l a r g e wh e n t h e mo s t a p p r o -
pr i a t e t h i n g t o do ma y be t o t empor ar i l y, a s t h e Al cohol i cs
An o n y mo u s sayi ng goes , "l et go a n d l et God. "
Whi l e we all can d e c i d e t o do s o me t h i n g t o h e l p o u r i m-
me d i a t e f ami l i es a n d c o mmu n i t i e s , I c a n n o t tell a nybody specif-
ically wha t i t i s he or s he s h o u l d d o . Si nce we c a n n o t be
i nvol ved i n ever yt hi ng, we mu s t be sel ect i ve a b o u t o u r l evel of
act i on. For t hi s we mu s t di s c e r n o u r cal l i ng. An d h o w Go d cal l s
o n e p e r s o n will n o t be t h e way He or She calls a not he r . I d o n ' t
c ons i de r any cal l i ng mo r e n o b l e t h a n t ha t of wo r k i n g wi t h t h e
poor . Yet i t has b e c o me cl ear t o me over ma n y year s t hat , mu c h
as I wa n t e d t o be n o b l e , I do n o t s e e m t o have a cal l i ng t o do
ha nds - on wor k wi t h t he poor .
Ne ve r was t hi s ma d e mo r e cl ear t o me t h a n a d e c a d e a go
wh e n Lily a n d I we r e as ked t o do a we e k of v o l u n t e e r wor k wi t h
t h e Ch u r c h of t h e Savi or i n Wa s h i n g t o n , D. C. , p a r t of whos e
mi ni s t r y was d i r e c t e d t o t h e p e o p l e i n p o we r i n o u r f eder al gov-
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 221
e r n me n t . Du r i n g t ha t week, we h o p e d t ha t we mi g h t have t h e
o p p o r t u n i t y t o me e t bri efl y wi t h Go r d o n Cosby, t h e dyna mi c
f o u n d e r of t he c h u r c h , whos e pr i ma r y mi ni s t r y was t o t h e i nner -
ci t y p o o r of Wa s h i n g t o n . Ou r l ast day t h e r e b e g a n wi t h a me e t -
i ng a t t h e Wor l d Ba n k a t seven- t hi r t y i n t h e mo r n i n g ; t h e r e
f ol l owed n u me r o u s a p p o i n t me n t s wi t h var i ous U. S. r e pr e s e nt a -
tives a n d s e na t or s , a me e t i n g wi t h t h e or ga ni z e r s of pr a ye r
br eakf ast s, a n d ma n y a ddi t i ona l a p p o i n t me n t s wi t h congr es s -
p e o p l e i n t h e a f t e r noon. By six o' cl ock t ha t e ve ni ng, we we r e ut -
t er l y s t r u n g o u t a n d e xha us t e d. T h e n we we r e i n f o r me d t ha t we
c o u l d me e t Cos by a t o n e of t h e c h u r c h ' s g h e t t o c e nt e r s . Lily
a n d I ar r i ved f or t h e me e t i n g a n d we r e u s h e r e d downs t ai r s t o a
b a s e me n t r o o m j a mme d wi t h sever al h u n d r e d h o me l e s s p e o p l e
wh o we r e e a t i ng off t i n t rays whi l e a r oc k b a n d pl ayed on a t i ny
st age. T h e noi s e was de a f e ni ng. Cos by hos pi t abl y s ugge s t e d t ha t
we g r a b a t i n t r ay of f ood a n d sit d o wn be s i de h i m. I a s ke d i f we
c o u l d t al k s o me p l a c e qui et , out s i de t h e d i n i n g hal l . He obl i ged.
Wh e n we fi nal l y me t f or a few mi n u t e s i n a q u i e t r o o m, i t was a
pe r s ona l mo me n t o f crisis f or me . " No o n e c oul d a d mi r e t h e
wor k t ha t you a r e d o i n g mo r e t h a n I , Go r d o n , " I sai d, "pr eci sel y
be c a us e I mysel f am n o t up t o it. I d o n ' t s e e m t o be cal l ed t o it.
I wi sh I h a d y o u r cal l i ng, b u t I don' t . "
Thi s d o e s n ' t me a n I ha ve n' t b e e n i nvol ved i n o t h e r ways
wo r k i n g o n be ha l f o f t h e p o o r a n d t h e home l e s s . T h e Fo u n d a -
t i on f or Co mmu n i t y En c o u r a g e me n t has d o n e a n e n o r mo u s
a mo u n t of wo r k i n ar eas of pover t y. An d I ha ve f or t wo d e c a d e s
s p o k e n o u t agai ns t t he s t at es ' deci s i on t o vi r t ual l y s hut d o wn
t he i r me n t a l hos pi t al s a n d p u t t h e maj or i t y of t he i r sever el y a n d
chr oni cal l y me nt a l l y ill pa t i e nt s o u t on t h e st r eet s. Al t h o u g h
t hi s deci s i on was dr e s s e d i n sweet wor ds a b o u t r e s pe c t i ng t h e
civil l i ber t i es of t h e me nt a l l y ill a n d t h e benef i t s of mo d e r n
t r anqui l i z er s , pl us a ni ce f ant asy a b o u t " c o mmu n i t y me n t a l
he a l t h c e nt e r s " t ha t wo u l d t ake c a r e of t he s e p e o p l e , I k n e w
f r om t h e b e g i n n i n g t ha t t h e mot i ves we r e pr i mar i l y e c o n o mi c
a n d c oul d see t h e p r o b l e m of home l e s s ne s s a s a n i nevi t abl e r e-
sul t of s uc h cr ass e c o n o mi c s .
But no ma t t e r h o w o b n o x i o u s I ma d e mysel f (as i n ma n y of
222
M. Scott Peck, M.D.
my p e a c e ma k i n g act i vi t i es) , p e o p l e gener al l y di d n o t l i st en. I n
t hi s i ns t a nc e , a s i n ot he r s , i t ha s of t en s e e me d t o me t ha t my e n-
er gi es have b e e n was t ed. But f or year s I ha ve b e e n c o n s o l e d by
an a c c o u n t of a p a t i e n t of mi n e wh o a t t e n d e d a c o n f e r e n c e at
whi c h o n e of t h e Be r r i ga n b r o t h e r s ( who ha ve l o n g b e e n i n-
vol ved i n r adi cal civil d i s o b e d i e n c e on be ha l f of d i s a r ma me n t )
was s pe a ki ng. My p a t i e n t sai d t h a t at t hi s c o n f e r e n c e s o me o n e
a s ke d Fa t h e r Be r r i ga n h o w he c oul d c o n t i n u e over d e c a d e s t o
do hi s wor k wh e n i t s e e me d t o have no obvi ous r esul t s. He r e-
s p o n d e d , "We d o n ' t e ve n t hi nk a b o u t r esul t s. I f we di d, we
wo u l d b e d e a d b y now. T h e r esul t s a r e n o t o u r c o n c e r n . We j u s t
do wh a t we t h i n k i s r i ght , wha t we feel we ha ve t o d o , a n d l eave
t h e r esul t s up t o God. "
THE PARADOXES OF TIME AND MONEY
We mu s t n o t onl y c h o o s e t h e l evel of o u r i nvol ve me nt a n d o u r
r es pons i bi l i t y as ci t i zens b u t al so c o n s i d e r t h e ma t t e r of t i mi ng.
De c i d i n g wh e n t o get i nvol ved i s cr uci al , gi ven t h a t we c a n
ne ve r do e ve r yt hi ng we ma y wa n t t o do i n t hi s life, a n d gi ven
t h e r eal i t y t ha t o u r own r e s our c e s of t i me , ener gy, a n d
mo n e y a r e l i mi t ed. I o n c e me t a wo ma n of fifty-five whos e
c h i l d r e n we r e gr own a n d wh o was heavi l y i nvol ved i n civil di s-
o b e d i e n c e . Sh e n o t onl y h a d t h e t i me a n d e ne r gy b u t al s o t h e
t o l e r a n c e f or s uc h act i vi sm; i n fact, s he r e g a r d e d i t as u n p r o -
duct i ve i f s he d i d n ' t go t o j ai l at l east o n c e a mo n t h . But I d o u b t
t ha t Go d i s l i kel y t o call a n e w mo t h e r , or a f a t he r whos e i n c o me
mu s t s u p p o r t hi s family, t o go t o j ai l for civil d i s o b e d i e n c e .
As t h e sayi ng goes , t i mi ng i s ever yt hi ng. Ma ny p e o p l e al-
r e a dy have t he i r h a n d s full ma k i n g a l i vi ng a n d r ai s i ng t he i r
c hi l dr e n. Ot h e r s ma k e a di f f er ent c hoi c e . I ha ve h e a r d of a
n u mb e r of civil activists wh o we r e successful as soci et y' s move r s
a n d s ha ke r s b u t s e e me d t o be f ai l ur es a s p a r e n t s . Appa r e nt l y
t hey s p e n t far mo r e t i me on soci al caus es t h a n on t he i r own
c h i l d r e n a n d h o me s . Yet s o me of t he s e activists we r e obvi ousl y
cal l ed t o t he i r wor k, a n d whi l e t hey ma y ha ve r e g r e t t e d n o t
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 223
s p e n d i n g mo r e t i me wi t h t he i r c hi l dr e n, t h e wor l d i s ver y possi -
bl y b e t t e r off f or t he i r sacri fi ces.
Ma ny si gni f i cant c ont r i but i ons a r e ma d e t o soci et y t h r o u g h
t h e gi vi ng of t i me , mone y, or o t h e r r e s our c e s by s t r ongl y pr i n-
ci pl ed i ndi vi dual s wh o r e g a r d t he i r ci t i z ens hi p as a r es pons i bi l -
ity. " Vol unt e e r i s m" i s t h e wo r d we us e t o de s c r i be effort s at
t r yi ng t o do g o o d i n s phe r e s b e y o n d p e r s o n a l e c o n o mi c i nt er -
est s a n d family. As s oon as a p e r s o n s t a nds up f or s o me t h i n g
wi t h no e x p e c t a t i o n of r e wa r d, hi s i nvol ve me nt i n a caus e i s es-
sent i al l y vol unt ar y. A p h i l a n t h r o p i s t vol unt e e r s hi s mone y. A
t e a c h e r ma y pr ovi de f r ee af t er - school t u t o r i n g t o c h i l d r e n i n a
p o o r n e i g h b o r h o o d . A s t u d e n t ma y assist at a home l e s s shel t er .
A h o me ma k e r ma y ma k e weekl y visits t o s p e n d qual i t y t i me wi t h
l onel y r e s i de nt s of a h o me f or t h e el derl y.
Do i n g v o l u n t e e r wor k i s a cal l i ng. I t i s as l e gi t i ma t e a n d as
c o mp l e x a c hoi c e as a c a r e e r deci s i on. I bel i eve t ha t mo s t p e o -
pl e s h o u l d v o l u n t e e r a t s o me t i me o r a not he r , a n d t ha t t h e
pr oc e s s a n d o u t c o me of d o i n g s o a r e always mut ua l l y benef i ci al
t o soci et y a n d t o t h e i ndi vi dual . Wh e t h e r o n e d o e s s o i n yout h,
mi d d l e age, or ol d age, v o l u n t e e r i n g pr e s e nt s a n o p p o r t u n i t y
f or l e a r n i n g a n d gr owi ng t h r o u g h ser vi ce t o ot he r s . T h e e n t h u -
si asm a n d e ne r gy of t h e y o u n g , a n d t h e availability, e x p e r i e n c e ,
a n d c ompa s s i on o f o l d e r p e o p l e ma k e t h e m pot ent i al l y ver y
d e d i c a t e d vol unt e e r s .
But t h e c hoi c e of vol unt e e r i s m mu s t be we i g h e d by ma n y
f act or s, of whi c h t i mi ng ma y be t h e mo s t cr uci al . I n t h e s ucci nct
wor ds of Eccl esi ast es:
To ever y t h i n g t h e r e i s a s eas on, a n d a t i me t o ever y pur -
pos e u n d e r t h e he a ve n;
A t i me t o be b o r n , a n d a t i me t o di e; a t i me t o pl a nt , a n d
a t i me t o pl uc k up t ha t whi c h i s p l a n t e d ;
A t i me t o kill, a n d a t i me t o heal ; a t i me t o b r e a k d o wn ,
a n d a t i me t o bui l d u p ;
A t i me t o we e p, a n d a t i me t o l a ugh; a t i me t o mo u r n ,
a n d a t i me t o d a n c e ;
A t i me t o cast away s t ones , a n d a t i me t o g a t h e r s t ones t o-
224 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
ge t he r ; a t i me t o e mb r a c e , a n d a t i me t o r ef r ai n f r om
e mb r a c i n g ;
A t i me t o get , a n d a t i me t o l ose; a t i me t o k e e p , a n d a
t i me t o cast away;
A t i me t o r e n d , a n d a t i me t o sew; a t i me t o k e e p s i l ence,
a n d a t i me t o s peak;
A t i me t o l ove, a n d a t i me t o ha t e ; a t i me of war, a n d a
t i me of p e a c e .
J u s t as t i me i s i mp o r t a n t , o t h e r r e s our c e s al so ma k e a dif-
f e r e nc e i n o n e ' s abi l i t y t o ser ve soci et y. Ma ny si mpl i st i cal l y mi s-
c o n s t r u e act i vi sm as a cal l t o r adi cal pover t y, a n d t hus r ej ect it.
Wo r k i n g f or t h e g o o d of soci et y n e e d n o t be s ynonymous wi t h a
t ot al sacri fi ce of one ' s comf or t . S o me year s a g o I r e a d t h e p r o -
c e e di ngs of a c o n f e r e n c e of c o mmu n i t y activists i n Nova Scot i a.
O n e o f t h e s pe a ke r s , wh o h a d s pe nt ma n y year s o n t h e f r ont
l i nes of soci al act i on a n d vol unt e e r i s m, sai d, " Th e gr e a t e s t c on-
t r i but i on you c a n ma k e t o t h e p o o r i s by n o t b e c o mi n g o n e of
t h e m. " Thi s s t a t e me n t ma y s e e m ha r s h, b u t o u t of my own ex-
p e r i e n c e i t s t r uck me , i n p a r t at l east , as ha vi ng t h e r i ng of
t r ut h. FCE, f or i ns t a nc e , has b e e n abl e t o do its p e a c e ma k i n g
a n d pover t y wor k onl y be c a us e i t i s a f i nanci al l y s ol vent n o n -
pr of i t or ga ni z a t i on.
Whi l e t he r e ' s no vi r t ue p e r s e i n abj ect pover t y, t h e r e i s t h e
r eal que s t i on of wh e t h e r gr e a t weal t h s i mpl y cons t i t ut es gr e e d.
I t d e p e n d s , of c our s e , on h o w t ha t mo n e y i s s pe nt . T h e r e i s
mo r e t h a n a gr a i n of t r u t h i n t he sayi ng t ha t mo n e y i s t h e r o o t
of all evil. But t h e fl i p si de i s equal l y c ompe l l i ng. Gi ven t ha t cap-
i t al c a n al so be us e d t o do g o o d , a ma n n a me d Le o n a r d Or r
o n c e s ugge s t e d t ha t mo n e y c a n be vi ewed a s " Go d i n ci r cul a-
t i on. "
But wh e n i s e n o u g h mo n e y e n o u g h ? Th o s e i n t e n t o n ma k-
i ng mone y, o r o n k e e p i n g wha t t hey ha ve al r eady ma d e , mi g h t
be i nc l i ne d t o answer , "Never . " I n my view, mo n e y i s t h e me a n s
t o a n e n d , n o t t h e e n d i n itself. An d i f t ha t e n d i s t o do g o o d ,
agai n t h e r e ma y ne ve r be e n o u g h mone y. I n any case, t h e ques -
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 225
t i on s e l d o m ar i ses unl es s t h e r e i s " n o t e n o u g h " a n d deci s i ons
mu s t b e ma d e c o n c e r n i n g wh a t t o d o a b o u t it.
I t i s of t en r e c ogni z e d t ha t mo n e y i s p e r h a p s mo r e l i kel y t o
be ens l avi ng t h a n l i ber at i ng. Mo n e y i s a s educt i ve mi st r ess. I n
In Search of Stones, I wr ot e t ha t I wor r y far mo r e a b o u t mo n e y
t h a n I u s e d t o wh e n we d i d n ' t have mu c h of it. S o me of t hi s
wor r y i s a p p r o p r i a t e . " A f ool a n d hi s mo n e y a r e s oon pa r t e d. "
But I ha ve al so wo r r i e d a b o u t mo n e y mo r e t h a n necessar y, a n d
i n i n a p p r o p r i a t e ways t ha t c oul d easi l y b e c o me an obs es s i on.
Co u n t i n g u p t h e n u mb e r s c a n cer t ai nl y h e l p r el i eve o u r anxi -
et i es a b o u t t h e f ut ur e . But i t c a n al so l e a d t o false p r i d e a n d self-
sat i sf act i on, a s i f mo n e y we r e t h e me a s u r e of o u r wor t h.
I a m p e r h a p s mo r e p r o n e t o t hi s obs es s i on t h a n mos t .
Bo r n i n May 1936, I a m ver y mu c h a De pr e s s i on baby. Th r o u g h -
o u t o u r Pa r k Av e n u e c h i l d h o o d s , my f a t he r woul d n o t onl y ex-
p o u n d t o my b r o t h e r a n d me , "You boys ha ve got t o l e a r n t h e
val ue of a dol l ar , " b u t al so r e pe a t e dl y pr oc l a i m, " We ' r e g o i n g t o
t h e p o o r h o u s e . " Pa r t of me k n e w a t t h e t i me t ha t t hi s was l a ugh-
abl e. However , i t s ank i n. As an a dol e s c e nt , wh e n I t ook my
da t e s t o di nne r , I wo u l d sit i n s i l ent a ngui s h i f t hey o r d e r e d any-
t h i n g o t h e r t h a n o n e of t h e l east e xpe ns i ve e nt r e e s . I was a bl e
t o ge t over t hat , b u t f or ma n y year s af t er ge t t i ng ma r r i e d a n d
ha vi ng c h i l d r e n I wor r i e d we mi g h t e n d up g o i n g t o t he poor -
h o u s e . Wh a t i f I h a d a s t r oke a n d c o u l d n ' t wor k? Wh a t i f we got
s ued? Wh a t i f t h e b o t t o m fell o u t of t h e s t ock ma r ke t ? Wh a t i f
i nf l at i on r a n r a mp a n t ? Wh a t if? Wh a t if?
I n ma n y mi n d s , mo n e y a n d s ecur i t y a r e equi val ent s . But
c o mp l e t e secur i t y i s an i l l usi on. Life i s an i n h e r e n t l y i ns e c ur e
bus i nes s . At a ver y ear l y age, I was g r a n t e d a r evel at i on t ha t t h e
onl y r eal s ecur i t y i n life l i es i n r e l i s hi ng life' s i nsecur i t y. I have
p r e a c h e d t hi s r evel at i on ever s i nce, yet t o t hi s day I c o n t i n u e t o
n e e d t o r e l e a r n it. Mo n e y i s a k i n d of securi t y, a n d t h e r e c a n
ne ve r be e n o u g h a t l east , n o t wh e n we a r e c ha s i ng af t er t h e il-
l us i on of t ot al securi t y.
I k n o w per f ect l y wel l t ha t t hos e ver y weal t hy p e o p l e wh o
ne ve r gi ve away a n y t h i n g ha ve b e e n d a mn e d t o chas e af t er t ha t
226 M. Scott Peck, M.D.
e mp t y i l l usi on. I k n o w be c a us e a p a r t of t h e m i s i n me . I ma y
n o t have f al l en pr e y as c ompl e t e l y as t hey t o t h e i dol at r y of
mone y, b u t t h e fact r e ma i n s t ha t n o t h i n g c o n t i n u e s t o i nt e r f e r e
mo r e wi t h my pr a ye r life t h a n c o n c e r n s a b o u t my i n c o me , i n-
ve s t me nt s , a n d b o o k sal es. S o me s pi r i t ual wr i t er s ha ve di ag-
n o s e d t h e h u ma n r a c e as suf f er i ng f r om a "ps ychol ogy of
scarci t y"; t hey u r g e us t o a "ps ychol ogy of a b u n d a n c e " a s ens e
t ha t t h e r e will always be e n o u g h a n d t h a t Go d will pl ent i f ul l y
pr ovi de . I bel i eve i n t hi s t e a c hi ng. It ' s j u s t t ha t as a De pr e s s i on
ba by I ' m h a r d pr e s s e d t o fol l ow it, t ry as I mi ght .
Wh a t t r ul y cons t i t ut es weal t h? I n wor l dl y t e r ms , i t i s t h e
pos s es s i on of mo n e y a n d val uabl e t hi ngs . But i f we we r e t o me a -
s ur e we a l t h i n o t h e r ways, bes i des me r e dol l ar s , ma n y wh o a r e
p o o r i n pos s es s i ons a r e spi r i t ual l y r i ch, a n d ma n y wh o own
mu c h a r e spi r i t ual l y i mpove r i s he d. F r o m a ps ychos pi r i t ual per -
spect i ve, t h e t r ul y weal t hy a r e t hos e wh o have a n o n g o i n g r el a-
t i ons hi p wi t h Go d a n d have l e a r n e d t ha t by gi vi ng of t hems el ves
t hey al so r ecei ve mu c h .
Wh e t h e r we a r e bl es s ed wi t h gifts of t h e spi r i t or wor l dl y
we a l t h or b o t h , d e ma n d s a c c o mp a n y t hos e bl essi ngs. We have
h e a r d i t sai d t ha t f r om t h e o n e t o wh o m mu c h i s gi ven ( i n t h e
way of t al ent , mone y, or o t h e r r e s our c e s ) mu c h i s e x p e c t e d .
Th u s , o n e of t h e gr e a t e s t d i l e mma s f or t hos e wh o have accu-
mu l a t e d any me a s u r e of weal t h i s t h e deci s i on wh e t h e r a n d t o
wha t e x t e n t t h e y s h o u l d s ha r e t ha t weal t h t o benef i t ot he r s .
Wh e n s h o u l d t hos e wi t h mo n e y st ar t gi vi ng i t away? Th e r e ' s no
cl ear f or mul a , of c our s e . But wh a t i s cl ear t o me i s t hat , as wi t h
power , t h e r eal p u r p o s e of ha vi ng mo n e y i s t o s h a r e i t wi t h ot h-
er s. To o mu c h mone y, l i ke t oo mu c h power , pos e s a d a n g e r f or
soci et y as wel l as f or t h e i ndi vi dual wh o k e e p s i t f or hi ms el f i n-
s t ead of gi vi ng i t away.
A PERSONAL CASE STUDY
Lily a n d I di d t r ul y ext ens i ve v o l u n t e e r wor k i n o u r l at e mi d d l e
year s, f r om r oughl y t h e e n d of 1984 t o t h e e n d of 1995. Ou r
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND 2 2 7
abi l i t y t o de vot e s o mu c h of o u r t i me a n d o t h e r r e s our c e s c a me
on t h e he e l s of t h e c o mme r c i a l success of The Road Less Trav-
eled. An d i n 1984, t h e s e c o n d ye a r we e a r n e d si gni f i cant l y mo r e
t h a n we n e e d e d , we b e g a n l o o k i n g a t wh e r e we c oul d v o l u n t e e r
o u r t i me o r c o n t r i b u t e mo n e y t o a n i mp o r t a n t caus e. T h e caus e
t ha t c a p t u r e d o u r i nt e r e s t a bove all o t h e r s was p e a c e , a n d Lily
a n d I b e g a n t o t al k a b o u t s t ar t i ng a f o u n d a t i o n of s o me sor t .
For a few mo n t h s we t oyed wi t h t h e n o t i o n of es t abl i s hi ng s ome -
t h i n g t ha t woul d b r i n g t o g e t h e r t h e f i ve h u n d r e d or s o di ffer-
e n t p e a c e or ga ni z a t i ons . But t h e mo r e we c o n s i d e r e d it, t h e
mo r e l i kel y i t s e e me d t ha t wha t e ve r we mi g h t set up wo u l d j u s t
b e c o me t h e 501st p e a c e g r o u p .
Gr adual l y, we c a me t o r eal i ze t h a t c o mmu n i t y ma k i n g was
mo r e f u n d a me n t a l t h a n p e a c e t h a t , i n fact , c o mmu n i t y ma k-
i ng mu s t p r e c e d e p e a c e . So i n De c e mb e r 1984, i n c o n j u n c t i o n
wi t h n i n e o t h e r s , we es t abl i s hed t h e F o u n d a t i o n f or Co mmu -
ni t y En c o u r a g e me n t . FCE i s a t a x- e xe mpt , nonpr of i t , publ i c-
e d u c a t i o n f o u n d a t i o n whos e mi s s i on i s t o t e a c h t h e pr i nc i pl e s
of c o mmu n i t y t h a t is, t h e pr i nc i pl e s of he a l t hy c o mmu n i c a -
t i on wi t hi n a n d b e t we e n g r o u p s . T h e s t a t e me n t of its f o u n d i n g
vi si on r e a ds :
T h e r e i s a y e a r n i n g i n t h e h e a r t f or p e a c e . Be c a us e of
t h e wo u n d s t h e r ej ect i ons we ha ve r ecei ved i n pas t
r el at i ons hi ps , we a r e f r i ght e ne d by t h e ri sks. I n o u r
fear, we d i s c o u n t t h e d r e a m of a u t h e n t i c c o mmu n i t y
as me r e l y vi si onary. But t h e r e a r e r ul es by whi c h p e o -
pl e c a n c o me ba c k t oge t he r , by whi c h t h e ol d wo u n d s
a r e he a l e d. I t i s t h e mi s s i on of t h e F o u n d a t i o n f or
Co mmu n i t y En c o u r a g e me n t t o t e a c h t he s e r ul e s t o
ma k e h o p e r eal a g a i n t o ma k e t h e vi si on act ual l y
mani f es t i n a wor l d whi c h has a l mos