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

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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Does "the most important book I've ever read" constitute a review? I'll throw some comments in below...
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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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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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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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An excellent and inspiring work about dealing with inner pain from a psychotherapeutic and spiritual perspective.
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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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I read this book many, many years ago. It is a great book, very inspiring indeed and still valid today. I don't think his later books are as good - this one probably marked a paradigm shift. It seems to have become a foundation book for the "self-help" and "new age" movements, but that should not be allowed to diminish its value as a serious work.
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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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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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