Reader reviews for Road Less Traveled : A New Psychology of Love, Traditiona...

This book is defined for me by his terms "Character-disorder" and "Neurotic". They explained my marriage, it's failure and my role. Timeless book.
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This is one of the key books that started my conscious growth process as a young adult. I read it when I was 19 at just the right moment, and it served as one of the entry points into the genre of self-help and spirituality literature, which as a whole has had a profoundly positive affect on my life. Great book.
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Much of this book was very good, especially the first section on Discipline and I can see myself coming back to this many times and drawing genuine inspiration from it. However, I found the last section on Grace unconvincing and a bit unsatisfactory, labouring some some rather subjective points overmuch. But excellent overall and probably deserves most of its accolades.
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We start with "life is suffering," and we go on from there. Peck is an insightful therapist, at least on paper, and a decent writer. This book is a "classic in the field" but mostly because it broke new ground when it came out--mixing religion and therapy in a way that does justice to both. Now books like this are a dime a dozen, most of them from a buddhist perspective. But it all started with Peck, at least at the popular level. I read this at pivotal time in my life, and ended up making a career change because of it. Going back to some its ideas has helped me in some relationship changes. All of this is to say that, in spite of being a "classic" it is still good, and worth reading. As an aside, I heard Peck speak once, and he says that he wrote the book and was pretty non-religous when he wrote it, but decided to do his research after writing (yes that is a bit backwards) and gained a personal appreciation of religion. They fact that he was not heavily involved in religion as he wrote this shows, but in a positive way. He does not come off as doctrinaire or dogmatic.
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It is a psychology book directed towards patients and psychologists. It consists of three chapters: discipline, love and grace. While I just loved the first chapter, I got through the first half of the second one, and could not bear the remainder. The first chapter, about discipline, explains how "Life is difficult" and taking on challenges and facing the problems is the only way to live happily, develop spiritually and have good relationship with one's family. This chapter feels like a very non-infantile self-help book - even an eye-opener about some aspects. It also has many interesting, sometimes amusing examples.The next chapter talks about love and defines love much more broadly than in the traditional sense. Love is growing through giving, and, for example, in this sense a therapist 'loves' his patient and both benefit from the relationship. I found this part slightly boring but acceptable. In the mid of the second chapter and all through the third one, on 'grace' the author drifts toward religion and how it is helpful in life. Well, I just happen to completely disagree, and maybe that's why I found this part completely unappealing. You might wander what kind of 'grace' is it. Yes - it's a religious term.To sum up: I recommend the first chapter to everybody. If religion is important in your life, I you might want to read the whole book.
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Lent: self-improvement through discipline, love, growth, and finally grace; really bogs down in the grace section: God as coincidence, God as dream-giver, etc
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I found the book shelved in "Self Help" in the Barnes and Noble bookstore. Yet The Road Less Traveled is on The Ultimate Reading List for "inspirational non-fiction." For that read "spiritual" and most often "Christian." That's fitting, because although the author was a practicing psychiatrist, it's obvious that the spiritual theme is to the fore just from a perusal of the section titles: I. Discipline II. Love III. Growth and Religion and IV. Grace. In his Preface Peck states he makes "no distinction between the mind and the spirit, between the process of achieving spiritual growth and achieving mental growth. They are one and the same." He claims that "mental illness occurs when the conscious will of the individual deviates substantially from the will of God, which is the individual's own unconscious will." It's easy to see why this book would be popular among those who follow Twelve-Step Programs, where accepting a "higher power" is one of the steps. Regardless, that doesn't mean you have to be religious to get anything out of the book. I'm not. But I thought the book had interesting insights into the process of maturity, growth and change and though Peck is Christian, the book cites tenets not just of Christianity but Buddhism and Hinduism. His very first sentence is "life is difficult" and he connects this to the central belief of Buddhism that life is suffering. In other words, that a fulfilling life takes work--discipline--that neurosis is often an effort to avoid necessary suffering. Reportedly Random House turned the book down as "too Christ-y," but I think even the last parts on religion and grace could be put into secular terms--although it would be a bit of a strain, and I admit the second half didn't really speak to me and is a major reason I didn't rate this book higher. Nevertheless, Peck reads as non-dogmatic and as psychologically and spiritually eclectic.I found his examination of romantic love particularly interesting. He doesn't believe in what he calls the destructive "myth" of romantic love. He feels that falling in love is always a temporary, fleeting sensation involving a seeming collapse of ego boundaries. That "true love involves an extension of the self rather than a sacrifice of the self" and is an action, decision and choice more than a feeling. Love as he defines it is the "will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."This is pop psychology, no question, but his book is not all "just love yourself" pablum. I have to admit, having known people who have spent years in psychotherapy, I'm skeptical of Peck's claims for it, and at times he himself comes across as a bit self-aggrandizing, especially in his 25th Anniversary Introduction--in that it's-not-me-but-God-wrote-it-way. He controversially wrote in the original edition that if having sex with a patient would help, he'd do it. And given at least one anecdote, I get the distinct impression Peck considers homosexuality disordered. (Remember, this book was published in 1978. The American Psychiatric Association had declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder only five years before that.) So I don't read this book as if I'm a believer reading scripture. But he's thought-provoking, was an experienced working psychotherapist and his ideas are worth considering. The first book I ever read by him and still on my book shelf was actually People of the Lie which I picked up precisely because evil is a subject few psychologists seem to take seriously, and I found his examination of the subject fascinating.
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Psychoanalysis concepts. Very good discussing the impact of life changing events causes on depression. Good coverage on the disciplines of mental management. Didn’t like his discussion of Love, but the other areas were well worth a read and very timely for me.
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I read this at a time when I really needed it (probably in late 2000, early 2001) and it really spoke to me. I've read portions of it again since then. I should probably re-read more of it more often. It is a life affirming and life altering work.
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Does "the most important book I've ever read" constitute a review? I'll throw some comments in below...
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