The Road Less Travelled…..

Morgan Scott Peck (May 22, 1936 – September 25, 2005) was an American psychiatrist and best-selling author, best known for his first book, The Road Less Travelled, published in 1978.

 

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The Road Less Travelled Image source

 

In

“The Road Less Travelled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth”,

Morgan Scott Peck M. Scott Peck talked about the importance of discipline. Peck argues that these are techniques of suffering, that enable the pain of problems to be worked through and systematically solved, producing growth. He argues that most people avoid the pain of dealing with their problems, and suggests that it is through facing the pain of problem-solving that life becomes more meaningful.

The book consists of four parts.
In the first part, Morgan Scott Peck examines the notion of discipline, which he considers essential for emotional, spiritual, and psychological health, and which he describes as “the means of spiritual evolution”.
The elements of discipline that make for such health include the ability to delay gratification, accepting responsibility for oneself and one’s actions, a dedication to truth, and “balancing”.
“Balancing” refers to the problem of reconciling multiple, complex, possibly conflicting factors that impact on an important decision—on one’s own behalf or on behalf of another.
In the second part, Morgan Scott Peck addresses the nature of love, which he considers the driving force behind spiritual growth. He contrasts his own views on the nature of love against a number of common misconceptions about love, including:
  • that love is identified with romantic love (he considers it a very destructive myth when it is solely relying on “feeling in love”),
  • that love is related to dependency,
  • that true love is linked with the feeling of “falling in love”.

Morgan Scott Peck argues that “true” love is rather an action that one undertakes consciously in order to extend one’s ego boundaries by including others or humanity and is therefore, the spiritual nurturing—which can be directed toward oneself, as well as toward one’s beloved.

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Empaths And Sensitives, And Their Role Within Spiritual Evolution

In the third part, Morgan Scott Peck deals with religion, and the commonly accepted views and misconceptions concerning religion. He recounts experiences from several patient case histories, and the evolution of the patients’ notion of God, religion, atheism—especially of their own “religiosity” or atheism—as their therapy with Morgan Scott Peck progressed.

The fourth and final part concerns “grace”, the powerful force originating outside human consciousness that nurtures spiritual growth in human beings. In order to focus on the topic, he describes the miracles of health, the unconscious, and serendipity—phenomena which Morgan Scott Peck says:

  • nurture human life and spiritual growth,
  • are incompletely understood by scientific thinking,
  • are commonplace among humanity,
  • originate outside the conscious human will.

He concludes that “the miracles described indicate that our growth as human beings is being assisted by a force other than our conscious will” (Peck, 1978/1992, p 281).

He described four aspects of discipline:

Delaying gratification:
Sacrificing present comfort for future gains.
Delaying gratification is the process by which pain is chosen to be experienced before pleasure. Most learn this activity by the age of five. For example, a six-year-old child will prefer eating the cake first and the frosting last. Problematic students are totally controlled by their impulses. Such youngsters indulge in drugs, get into frequent fights, and often find themselves in the confrontation with authority.
Acceptance of responsibility: Accepting responsibility for one’s own decisions. Morgan Scott Peck states that it is only through taking responsibility and accepting the fact that life has problems, that these problems can then be solved.
He argues that Neurosis and character disorder people represent two opposite disorders of responsibility. Neurotics assume too much responsibility and feel responsible for everything that goes wrong in their life, while character disordered people deny responsibility, blaming others for their problems. Peck writes in the Road Less Traveled that “It is said ‘neurotics make themselves miserable; those with character disorders make everyone else miserable’” (Peck, 1978/1992, p38). Peck argues that everyone is neurotic or character-disordered at some time in their life, and the balance is to avoid both extremes.
Dedication to truth: Honesty, both in word and deed.
Dedication to the truth represents the capacity of an individual to modify and update their world view when exposed to new information discordant with the old view. For example, a bitter childhood can leave a person with the false idea that the world is a hostile and inhuman place. However, with continued exposure to more positive aspects of the world, this existing worldview is challenged and needs to be modified to integrate the new experiences. Peck also argues that dedication to truth implies a life of genuine self-examination, a willingness to be personally challenged by others, and honesty to oneself and others.
Balancing: Handling conflicting requirements. Morgan Scott Peck talks of an important skill to prioritise between different requirements – bracketing. Morgan Scott Peck considers the use of these interrelated techniques of discipline as paramount if the difficulties and conflicting requirements of life are to be dealt with and balanced successfully.
According to Morgan Scott Peck an evil person:
  • Is consistently self-deceiving, with the intent of avoiding guilt and maintaining a self-image of perfection.
  • Deceives others as a consequence of their own self-deception.
  • Projects his or her evils and sins onto very specific targets (scapegoats) while being apparently normal with everyone else (“their insensitivity toward him was selective” (Peck, 1983/1988, p 105)).
  • Commonly hates with the pretence of love, for the purposes of self-deception as much as deception of others.
  • Abuses political (emotional) power (“the imposition of one’s will upon others by overt or covert coercion” (Peck, 1978/1992, p298)).
  • Maintains a high level of respectability, and lies incessantly in order to do so.
  • Is consistent in his or her sins. Evil persons are characterised not so much by the magnitude of their sins, but by their consistency (of destructiveness).
  • Is unable to think from the viewpoint of their victim (scapegoat).
  • Has a covert intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury.
Most evil people realise the evil deep within themselves but are unable to tolerate the pain of introspection or admit to themselves that they are evil. Thus, they constantly run away from their evil by putting themselves in a position of moral superiority and putting the focus of evil on others. Evil is an extreme form of what Morgan Scott Peck, in The Road Less Travelled, calls a character and personality disorder.

Love

His perspective on love (in The Road Less Travelled) is that love is not a feeling, it is an activity and an investment. He defines love as, “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth” (Peck, 1978/1992, p85). Love is primarily actions towards nurturing the spiritual growth of another.
Peck seeks to differentiate between love and cathexis ((psychoanalysis) the libidinal energy invested in some idea, person or object). Cathexis is what explains the sexual attraction, the instinct for cuddling pets and pinching babies cheeks. However, ‘cathexis’ is not love. All the same, true love cannot begin in isolation, a certain amount of cathexis is necessary to get sufficiently close to be able to truly love.
Once through the cathexis stage, the work of love begins. It is not a feeling. It consists of what you do for another person. As Morgan Scott Peck says in “The Road Less Travelled”, “Love is as love does.” It is about giving yourself and the other person what they need to grow. It is about truly knowing and understanding them.

The four stages of spiritual development

Morgan Scott Peck postulates that there are four stages of human spiritual development:
Stage I is chaotic, disordered, and reckless. Very young children are in Stage I. They tend to defy and disobey, and are unwilling to accept a will greater than their own. They are extremely egoistic and lack empathy for others. Many criminals are people who have never grown out of Stage I.
Stage II is the stage at which a person has blind faith in authority figures and sees the world as divided simply into good and evil, right and wrong, us and them. Once children learn to obey their parents and other authority figures, often out of fear or shame, they reach Stage II. Many so-called religious people are essentially Stage II people, in the sense that they have blind faith in God, and do not question His existence. With blind faith comes humility and a willingness to obey and serve. The majority of good, law-abiding citizens never move out of Stage II.
Stage III is the stage of scientific scepticism and questioning. A Stage III person does not accept things on faith but only accepts them if convinced logically. Many people working in scientific and technological research are in Stage III. They often reject the existence of spiritual or supernatural forces since these are difficult to measure or prove scientifically. Those who do retain their spiritual beliefs, move away from the simple, official doctrines of fundamentalism.
Stage IV is the stage where an individual starts enjoying the mystery and beauty of nature and existence. While retaining scepticism, he starts perceiving grand patterns in nature and develops a deeper understanding of good and evil, forgiveness and mercy, compassion and love. His religiousness and spirituality differ significantly from that of a Stage II person, in the sense that he does not accept things through blind faith or out of fear but does so because of genuine belief, and he does not judge people harshly or seek to inflict punishment on them for their transgressions. This is the stage of loving others as yourself, losing your attachment to your ego, and forgiving your enemies. Stage IV people are labelled as Mystics.
Morgan Scott Peck argues that while transitions from Stage I to Stage II are sharp, transitions from Stage III to Stage IV are gradual.
Nonetheless, these changes are very noticeable and mark a significant difference in the personality of the individual.

Community building

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In his book “The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace“, Morgan Scott Peck says that community has three essential ingredients:

  1. Inclusivity
  2. Commitment
  3. Consensus

Based on his experience with community building workshops, Morgan Scott Peck says that community building typically goes through four stages:

TWO natural successions pseudo community  forming chaos storming emptyness norming real community performing professional ...
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  1. Pseudocommunity: In the first stage, well-intentioned people try to demonstrate their ability to be friendly and sociable, but they do not really delve beneath the surface of each other’s ideas or emotions. They use obvious generalities and mutually established stereotypes in speech. Instead of conflict resolution, pseudocommunity involves conflict avoidance, which maintains the appearance or facade of true community. It also serves only to maintain positive emotions, instead of creating a safe space for honesty and love through bad emotions as well. While they still remain in this phase, members will never really obtain evolution or change, as individuals or as a bunch.
  2. Chaos: The first step towards real positivity is, paradoxically, a period of negativity. Once the mutually sustained facade of bonhomie is shed, negative emotions flood through: Members start to vent their mutual frustrations, annoyances, and differences. It is a chaotic stage, but Peck describes it as a “beautiful chaos” because it is a sign of healthy growth. (This relates closely to Dabrowski’s concept of disintegration). This stage is often a time of unconstructive bickering and struggle. And it is no fun at all. Yet it is crucial to move through this stage if we are ever to find the kind of community connectedness we long for.

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    Complete Chaos
  3. Emptiness: In order to transcend the stage of “Chaos”, members are forced to shed that which prevents real communication. Biases and prejudices need for power and control, self-superiority, and other similar motives which are only mechanisms of self-validation and/or ego-protection must yield to empathy, openness to vulnerability, attention, and trust. Hence this stage does not mean people should be “empty” of thoughts, desires, ideas or opinions. Rather, it refers to emptiness of all mental and emotional distortions which reduce one’s ability to really share, listen to, and build on those thoughts, ideas, etc. It is often the hardest step in the four-level process, as it necessitates the release of patterns which people develop over time in a subconscious attempt to maintain self-worth and positive emotion. While this is, therefore, a stage of “Fana (Sufism)” in a certain sense, it should be viewed not merely as a “death” but as a rebirth—of one’s true self at the individual level, and at the social level of the genuine and true Community.

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  4. True community: Having worked through emptiness, the people in the community enter a place of complete empathy with one another. There is a great level of tacit understanding. People are able to relate to each other’s feelings. Discussions, even when heated, never get sour, and motives are not questioned. A deeper and more sustainable level of happiness obtains between the members, which does not have to be forced. Even and perhaps especially when conflicts arise, it is understood that they are part of positive change. According to Morgan Scott Peck, true community emerges as the group chooses to embrace not only the light but also the darkness and brokenness in each other’s lives. We are accepted for who we truly are – who God sees us as – not who we pretend to be. It is at this point of radical acceptance, that an extraordinary amount of healing begins to occur.

    Cartoon Crowd, Doors in Emptiness : Stock Illustration
    True Community
The four stages of community formation are somewhat related to a model in organisation theory for the five stages that a team goes through during development. These five stages are:
  1. Forming where the team members have some initial discomfort with each other, but nothing comes out in the open. They are insecure about their role and position with respect to the team. This corresponds to the initial stage of pseudocommunity.
  2. Storming where the team members start arguing heatedly, and differences and insecurities come out in the open. This corresponds to the second stage given by Morgan Scott Peck, namely chaos.
  3. Norming where the team members lay out rules and guidelines for interaction that help define the roles and responsibilities of each person. This corresponds to emptiness, where the community members think within, and empty themselves of their obsessions in order to be able to accept and listen to others.
  4. Performing where the team finally starts working as a cohesive whole, and to effectively achieve the tasks set off themselves. In this stage, individuals are aided by the group as a whole, where necessary, in order to move further collectively than they could achieve as a group of separated individuals.
  5. Transforming This corresponds to the stage of true community. This represents the stage of celebration, and when individuals leave, as they invariably must, there is a genuine feeling of grief, and a desire to meet again. Traditionally, this stage was often called “Mourning”.

It is in this third stage that Morgan Scott Peck’s community-building methods differ in principle from team development. While teams in business organisations need to develop explicit rules, guidelines and protocols during the norming stage, the emptiness stage of community building is characterised, not by laying down the rules explicitly, but by shedding the resistance within the minds of the individuals.

 


Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing. — Warren Bennis, Ph.D. On Becoming a Leader


Characteristics of true community

Morgan Scott Peck describes what he considers to be the most salient characteristics of a true community:
  1. Inclusivity, commitment and consensus: Members accept and embrace each other, celebrating their individuality and transcending their differences. They commit themselves to the effort and the people involved. They make decisions and reconcile their differences through consensus.
  2. Realism: Members bring together multiple perspectives to better understand the whole context of the situation. Decisions are more well-rounded and humble, rather than one-sided and arrogant.
  3. Contemplation: Members examine themselves. They are individually and collectively self-aware of the world outside themselves, the world inside themselves, and the relationship between the two.
  4. A safe place: Members allow others to share their vulnerability, heal themselves, and express who they truly are.
  5. A laboratory for personal disarmament: Members experientially discover the rules for peacemaking and embrace its virtues. They feel and express compassion and respect for each other as fellow human beings.
  6. A group that can fight gracefully: Members resolve conflicts with wisdom and grace. They listen and understand, respect each other’s gifts, accept each other’s limitations, celebrate their differences, bind each other’s wounds, and commit to a struggle together rather than against each other.
  7. A group of all leaders: Members harness the “flow of leadership” to make decisions and set a course of action. It is the spirit of community itself that leads, and not any single individual.
  8. A spirit: The true spirit of community is the spirit of peace, love, wisdom and power. Members may view the source of this spirit as an outgrowth of the collective self or as the manifestation of a Higher Will.
Image source

Source: Wikipedia articles.

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