First, make sure to check out part 1-3 of the series of Peck’s technique to problem-solving in life:
Delaying gratification, accepting responsibility and the importance of truth!
Peck is a psychoanalyst and his book The Road Less Travelled that we are studying has brought great relief to millions.
Today we will look at the final ingredient that builds discipline, balance!
We need to be flexible and use good judgement –
tell the truth but withhold it sometimes,
assume total responsibility but reject what isn’t ours to claim,
live in the present but keep an eye on the future –
in short we need to discipline our discipline!
And that is done with balance.
The higher centres of our brain (judgement) need to control our lower centres (emotion).
Anger for instance can be great for assertion, but poisonous if not managed.
We should only express it after deliberation and self-evaluation.
Having a flexible emotional response system is hard work, and it usually takes far into adulthood for most to master it.
“The essence of this discipline of balancing is giving up. (…)
The act of giving up parts of ourselves is painful.
The loss of balance however is ultimately more painful than the giving up required to maintain balance.“
– M. Scott Peck
The things we have to give up can be our speed on a bike racing downhill when slamming the brakes, biting our tongue in favour of shouting at someone, single life for marriage.
But by refusing to give things up, we are ultimately giving up on life experiences.
The answer is to find a turn in the road, choosing overall happiness over gratification.
To start getting better, we need to give up our self-image, allowing us to outgrow ourselves.
The natural response to loss is depression
– but we can get stuck in this.
Pathologic depressions has its central root in a traumatic childhood injury
to the individual’s capacity to give up anything.
We try to medicate away the symptoms of depression, but suicidal depression has taught me how to live again. Click on the link to watch a video of me explaining how I healed.
Depression is a symptom, loss and clinging to the old are the cause.
There are many attitudes and desires that we must learn to give up to suffer less, such as the illusion of authority over our children, the fantasy of immortality, the freedom of uncommitment and most importantly the self and life itself.
“Each time I approach a strange object or person,
I have a tendency to let my present needs, past experience or expectations for the future determine what I will see.
This discipline of bracketing, compensating or silencing requires sophisticated self-knowledge and courageous honesty.
Yet, without this discipline each present moment
is only the repetition of something already seen or experienced.
I must undergo a decentralisation of the ego.”
– Sam Keen
Bracketing means we trade our need for stability and assertion of the self with the need for new knowledge and greater understanding by temporarily giving up one’s self, so as to allow our self to grow with new material.
Self-discipline is a self-enlarging process.
It is only with death that life acquires meaning, and “in this life we must learn to die” as Seneca said 2000 years ago.
Every moment our old idea of ourselves dies, and a new one is born.
Is it possible to no longer suffer when doing all these steps?
Both yes and no.
Yes because once constant pain is accepted, there is no more suffering.
And no because competent people are called upon to change, and with that comes suffering.
To exercise power is to make decisions, and to make them with total awareness is often more painful.
The best measure of someone’s greatness is their ability to suffer according to Peck.
But suffering and joy come hand in hand.
Christ’s pain on the cross and the Buddha’s joyful awakening under the tree are one.
Before we can give up our idea of the self, we first need to forge one.
Before losing our ego we first must develop it.
We cannot hide away and skip this step.
And this brings us to the end of Discipline, part one of Peck’s book.
The following parts are Love, Growth & Religion and Grace.
I might do three more posts summarising these as I go on reading them.
Let me know if you are interested!