One of the biggest phenomena that we are witnessing in the modern world is that of people’s health. Most people are unhealthy; some physically and/or mentally, and nearly all spiritually. The west has become the cesspool of the spiritually devoid population. The worship of mammon and the greed of the elite have become prodigiously ominous. Yes, health is a big business. Nonetheless, the health of the individual is an indicator of the health of society and vice versa. With seventy-five percent of the students in the USA on antidepressants, it can be concluded that the society has become sick.
One possible explanation for the high number of students using sedatives is the lack of love in their lives. The feelings of inadequacy arise when the child feels not equipped with all the necessary tools they need to become a fully independent person, says the famous American Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, the author of, The Road Less Travelled (Rider, an imprint of Ebury Publishing, 2008). Strange as it may seem, deficiency in spiritual growth does not necessarily begin during teenage years, rather from the cradle years onward. It is almost inherited. I am not referring to genetics here. It is to do with the quality of interaction in parent-child relationships, or the lack of it in affected cases.
One of the painful facts we learn while growing up is that we are not so special. We are one of 7.7 billion people on this planet. We have to compete with others and face challenges in life. Childhood is all about learning the necessary skills – life skills – and without these tools, we suffer and feel inadequate throughout life. One of the greatest gifts any loving parent can give to a child is to teach them self-discipline.
“Self-discipline is self-caring. Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems.” Ordinarily, those without self-discipline develop a tendency to avoiding problems and the emotional suffering associated with facing challenges. “The tendency to avoid challenge is so omnipresent in human beings that it can properly be considered a characteristic of human nature.” According to Peck, this is the primary basis of all human mental illness. Since most of us have this tendency to a greater or lesser degree, most of us are mentally ill to a greater or lesser degree, lacking complete mental health. Thus for anyone to become a fully functional, the recipe required is love. Sufi poet Rumi believed that we are born of love.
Love Begets Love
Most people confuse love with lust, desire or romance. Peck proclaims that love is about being selfless and not selfish. He says that love, in essence, is all about the spiritual growth of the beloved. If you truly love someone then you must have the willingness to put effort for the spiritual growth of your beloved. If there is no effort then there is no love. The reason so many romantic marriages fail is that the individuals never had any interest in the spiritual growth of their partner. Similarly, we can understand children with behavioural problems, they are in actuality shouting out (seeking attention is a cry for help) that their spiritual growth is being neglected in some ways.
“In the case of genuine love, the aim is always spiritual growth. In the case of nonlove, the aim is always something else.”
So the question we should be asking is; are we helping the beloved to become independent and a fully functional being or our contribution, or the lack of it, is hindering their personal growth. Just like a healthy balanced diet is important for the body, similarly love is essential for spiritual growth.
Peck infers that individuals who lacked love during childhood, as a result, stop caring for self because they were never taught that they are valuable. “This feeling of being valuable is a cornerstone of self-discipline because when one considers oneself valuable one will take care of oneself in all ways that are necessary.” Peck considered having these following four qualities in life as central to self-discipline and personal growth.
Delaying Of Gratification
This is a great tip for those who procrastinate as procrastination impedes our growth. Most procrastinators try to quickly complete the tasks they like and then hesitate or delay on remaining works. The solution is, rather than submitting to instant gratification, you complete the tasks you do not like first, so that you can enjoy the task you do like, afterward.
Acceptance Of Responsibility
Individuals with character disorders are said to be in conflict with the world and they automatically assume that the world is at fault. Such individuals indulge in overthinking when it is time for making decisions. Thus, they fail in making the right decision at a crucial time. They then resort to blaming others for their own mistakes. Secondly, they refuse to forgive, choose to remain in a vicious circle of suffering, not realising that the train has left the station long ago and they need to come to terms with the reality. The wise on the other hand accept the responsibility and move on.
The difference between the neurotic and those with character disorders is that the neurotic assumes too much responsibility (blaming self) whereas the people with a character disorder do not take enough responsibility (they blame others).
Dedication To Truth
Being true to self is vital for personal growth. Even if someone e.g. a teacher tells you that you will never succeed in a given profession or task. You can prove them wrong as long as you are true to self and know your strengths and weaknesses. Someone else’s comments about your ability need not become your destiny.
Balancing is about flexibility as opposed to being rigid. So to be free, we must assume total responsibility for ourselves, but in doing so must possess the capacity to reject responsibility that is not truly ours. In other words, the discipline itself must be disciplined. The ultimate goal should always be the spiritual growth of the individual. The life of wisdom must be a life of contemplation combined with action.
What is not Love?
“Some individuals become incapacitated and depressed in response to a rejection or separation from spouse or lover. Such a person says, “I do not want to live, I cannot live without my husband [wife, girlfriend, boyfriend], I love him [or her] so much.” And when I respond, as I frequently do, “You are mistaken; you do not love your husband [wife, girlfriend, boyfriend].” “What do you mean?” is the angry question. “I just told you I can’t live without him [or her].” I try to explain. “What you describe is parasitism, not love. When you require another individual for your survival, you are a parasite on that individual. There is no choice, no freedom involved in your relationship.”
“Passive-dependent people are so busy seeking to be loved that they have no energy left to love. They are like starving people, scrounging wherever they can for food, and with no food of their own to give to others. It is as if within them they have an inner emptiness, a bottomless pit crying out to be filled but which can never be completely filled. They never feel “full-filled” or have a sense of completeness. They always feel “a part of me is missing.” They tolerate loneliness very poorly. Because of their lack of wholeness, they have no real sense of identity, and they define themselves solely by their relationships.”
We Choose To Love
“We do not have to love. We choose to love. No matter how much we may think we are loving, if we are in fact not loving, it is because we have chosen not to love and therefore do not love despite our good intentions. On the other hand, whenever we do actually exert ourselves in the cause of spiritual growth, it is because we have chosen to do so. The choice to love has been made.”
The book is a classic and one of the best books on the subject of human behaviour I have read. The author, a psychotherapist by profession has strived to give the reader an insightful, thought-provoking and encyclopaedic reading experience on the topic of the mind and its nature. Overall the book is very easy to read and understand. A must read.
I fully agree with his conclusions that, there is a good reason to believe that poor parenting in these early years can produce mental illness in and of itself, and that good parenting during the later years can heal many and perhaps all of the wounds caused by earlier poor parenting.” We can take it for granted that value creates value; this is essentially what is desired for Restoring the Mind.