Notes on “The Road Less Traveled”

“The road less traveled”
is written by M. Scott Peck

Last update:

Steve XingGuo


Delaying gratification. 2

Taking responsibility. 2

Dedication to reality. 2

The 4th type of discipline: Balancing. 3

"Falling in love" and ego
boundaries (pg 85-87). 3

Love and Dependency. 4

Cathexis Without Love (p. 106-107). 5

The Risk of Loss (p. 131-134). 6

The Risk of Confrontation (p.
150-155). 7

Answers. 7





Session 1. (Oct 21, 2013)

Delaying gratification. 

– Story: a woman lawyer procrastinates in her work. (pages 18 –

– Hint: "How do you eat a cake, crust first or cake

– Lesson: everyday, 2 hours of unhappy work followed by 6 hours of
happy work is better than the putting off the unhappy work to last minute.

– Question: Why?

– Question: What are top 3 benefits of delaying gratification?

Answers are here.

Taking responsibility

Story: author requests his supervisor to assign fewer patients to him because
more time per patient than his peers. (pages 40 – 41)

– Hint: supervisor said "you do have a problem." and
walked away.

– Lesson: expand your circle of responsibility. Redraw
the circle in your head.

– Question: What are author’s options?

– Question: What are the parts of a sensible solution?

– Question: When does a person has to take total responsibility?
What is total responsibility?

 Answers are here.


Session 2. (Oct 24, 2013)

Dedication to reality

– Story: a computer technician was forced to see psychiatrist by
his wife, who took 2 children and left him.
The man had
trouble with police when he was in high school, could not finish college because
quarreling with professors.
Had conflict with all
s at work, either quit or was fired every year, jealous of wife, no
trust on anyone, except his children. (p. 47)

– Hint: says he had "normal" childhood, had
"average" parents. then complain repeatedly that his parents forgot
his birthday, forgot picking him up because they were "busy".

– Lesson: Outdated map. "Transference" (p. 51)

– Question: If you put in a lot of work into homework, then
teacher says "it’s all wrong." How would you react?

– Question: What are the parts of solution to the technician’s

 Answers are here.


– Story: A woman chemist is new to the job. She often could not
finish her experiments until 8 or 9 pm. Quite a few times, daycare teacher had
to take her child to teacher’s home, because nobody came to pick up. She
snapped at work place in front of her boss, because her boss treated her
"like a slave". She lost temper at home because she was angry that
she didn’t have time to take good care of her child. She had similar problem in
her previous job.

– Question: Does she have an "outdated map"? If the map
were correct, what could she do?

– Question: If her map were incorrect, what
would be the parts of a solution for her?
Answers are here.

Session 3 (Oct 28, 2013)

The 4th type of discipline: Balancing

– Story: Writing thank you notes (p.66)
– Story: Playing chess with daughter (p. 67)
– Discussion: Express anger in different ways (p. 65)
– Lesson: Balancing: Temperance, moderation, The essence is "giving
– Question: When should we express anger only after deliberation and
– Question: When should we express anger immediately and spontaneously?
– Question: When should we express anger calmly?
– Question: When should we express anger loudly and hotly?
– Question: What are 4 types of disciplines?

Answers are here.


4, 10/31/2013

"Falling in love" and ego boundaries (pg


– Ego boundary: (pg 87) by the time of mid-adolescence, young
people know that they are individuals, confined to the boundaries of their
flesh and the limits of their power, each one a relatively frail and impotent
organism, existing only by cooperation within a group of fellow organisms
called society. Within the group they are not particularly distinguished, yet
they are isolated from others by their individual identities, boundaries and

– "Falling in love": (pg 87) The essence of of the
phenomenon of falling in love is a sudden collapse of a section of an
individual’s ego boundaries, permitting one to merge his or her identity with
that of another person. The sudden release of oneself from oneself, the
explosive pouring out of onself into the beloved, and the dramatic surcease of
loneliness accompanying this collapse of ego boundaries is experienced by most
of us as ecstatic. We and our beloved are one! Loneliness is no more!

– "Falling in love" is inevitably followed by
"Falling out", meaning that after a period of time, each person will
realize that he/she is an individual separate from the other person. The
segment of ego boundaries that collapsed during "Falling in love"
will be erected once again. Only after the "falling out" period, two
people can begin to build "true love".


Session 5, 11/4/2013

Love and Dependency


– Definition of love: (pg 81) I define love thus: The will to
extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual

– Dependency: (pg 98) I define dependency as the inability to
experience wholeness or to function adequately without the certainty that one
is being actively cared for by another.

  (pg 99) Specifically, one whose life is ruled and dictated
by dependency needs suffers from psychiatric disorder to which we ascribe the
diagnostic name "passive dependent personality disorder." It is
perhaps the most common of all psychiatric disorders.

– Example: After a minor accident, a wife develops a
"phobia" about driving and stops driving entirely.

Division of labor. (pg 102) In marriage there is normally a differentiation of
the roles of the two spouses, a normally efficient division of labor between

  (pg 102) Healthy couples instinctively will switch roles
from time to time. …  It is a process that diminishes their mutual
dependency. In a sense, each spouse is training himself or herself for survival
in the event of the loss of the other.

– Dependency and childhood experience: (pg 104) Passive dependency
has its genesis in lack of love. The inner feeling of emptiness from which
passive dependent people suffer is the direct result of their parents’ failure
to fulfill their needs for affection, attention and care during their

Love and discipline: (pg 104) Love and discipline go hand in hand. Passive
dependent people lack self-discipline. They are unwilling or unable to delay
gratification of their hunger for attention. In their desperation to form and
preserve attachments they throw honesty to the winds.

– Points I added:

– There are children who did not receive enough affection,
attention and care from parents, although the line of "enough" is a
little hard to draw.

– There is always a person we know who received more affection
from his/her parents than we did. There is also a person we know who received
less than we did. No matter what amount of affection we received, (pg 99) All
of us have desires to be babied, to be nurtured without effort on our parts, to
be cared for by person stronger than us who have our interests truly at heart.

– Jesus loves us all. Church and Bible are open to everyone. With
faith in Jesus Christ and wisdom from the Bible, we can finally grow to be a
complete, or Holy person. And hopefully, realize our full potentials in life in
the process.



Session 6, 11/11/13

Cathexis Without Love (p. 106-107)

Definition of Love: A will to extend oneself for the nourishment of oneself or
another person’s spiritual growth.

– Dependency is not love, because the dependent is not concerned with the
spiritual growth of other people
– "Love" a hobby, a pet, money, is not love. It is cathexis without
love. Cathexis: feel connected with someone or something, and making the person
or the thing a high priority in life.
– Hobby may be a means through which we love ourselves.
– Hobby can also become a substitute for rather than a means to
– Money and power may be means to a loving goal. e.g. yearn for riches, in
order to send their children to college or provide themselves with the freedom
and time for study and reflection which are necessary for their own spiritual

– Question:
What are your hobbies?

– Question:
Has your hobby become a substitute for your spiritual growth?

Section 7, 11/14/13

is not a feeling, (p. 116- 120)

– Many people possessing a feeling of love, even acting in response of that
feeling, act in all manner of unloving and destructive ways. Give an example?
– On the other hand, a genuinely loving individual will often take loving and
constructive action toward a person he or she consciously dislikes. Give an
– Love is an action, an activity.
– Genuine love implies commitment and the exercise of wisdom.

Session 8, 11/19/13

work of attention, (p. 120-121, 123-125, 127-128)

– Dependency, cathexis, "self-sacrifice", feeling are not love. Now
we look at what love is
– Moving out against the inertia of laziness is work.
– Moving out in the face of fear is courage.
– Love is a form of work or a form of courage.
– The principal form that the work of love takes is attention.
– The most common and important way in which we can exercise our attention is
by listening.
– Question: Have you approached another person with the intention of giving him
– Question: Do you need other people’s attention? Do you like sharing
experiences with other people?

Listening to children
– 5 ways: 1. Tell a child to shut up. 2. Permit chatter and ignore it. 3.
Pretend to listen. 4. Selective listening. 5. Listen with full attention.
– Always follows the 5th way is Not recommended, and is not practical.
– Balancing

– Grownup man needs attention too.
– Bracketing: temporarily giving up or setting aside one’s own prejudices,
frames of reference and desires so as to experience as far as possible the
speaker’s world from the inside, stepping inside his or her shoes.
– The energy required for the discipline of bracketing and the focusing of
total attention is so great that it can be accomplished only by love, by the
will to extend oneself for mutual growth.
– Question: When you encounter an Indian, a Mexican American, were you able to
understand the person with his mindset and his viewpoint?
– Question: When we say a person is a great "communicator", what does
that mean?
– Question: What are the skills of a good salesman, or a good politician?

Answers are here.

Session 9, 12/1/13

The Risk of Loss (p. 131-134)

Story: A regular churchgoer, a woman, quietly walks into church 5 minutes
before service, quickly leaves at the end, has no friends at work, has no
conflict with anyone, has minimal interaction with other people
What’s the problem?

To love = to extend oneself = to
enter new and unfamiliar territory = to change. Change oneself can be frightening.

– Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the
making of action in spite of fear.

– Love requires courage and involves risk.

– If someone is determined not to risk pain, then
such a person must do without many things: getting married, having children,
the hope of ambition, friendship – all that makes life alive, meaningful and

– The attempt to avoid legitimate suffering lies at
the root of all emotional illness.

– Neurosis is the norm rather than exception.

Session 10, 12/12/13

The Risk of Confrontation (p. 150-155)

Whenever we confront someone we are in essence saying to that person, “You are
wrong, I am right.”

– To fail to confront when confrontation is required
for the nurture of spiritual growth represents a failure to love.

– There are two ways to confront or criticize another
human being: with arrogance or with humility.

– Humility is before criticizing asking oneself “Do I
really see things clearly or am I operating on murky assumptions? Do I really
understand my beloved? Am I being self-serving in believing that my beloved
needs redirection?”

– There are many other, often superior, ways to
influence people than confrontation: by example, suggestion, parable, reward
and punishment, questioning, creation of experiences, organizing with others,
and so on.

– To confront someone with something he or she cannot
handle will at best be a waste of time, and likely will have a deleterious

– Love compels us to play God with full consciousness
of the enormity of the fact that that is just what we are doing.

– Question: Why should we be humble?

– Question: What are the differences between
Christians and atheists?

    Answer is here.



 a. Because accomplishing the main task
brings long lasting joy.

 b. 1. Work on main task first gives one buffer time in case
something goes wrong in the main task.

     2. Work on main task first gives one time and chance to
accomplish the main task better than expectation.

     3. Accomplishing main task first gives one opportunity to
prepare for the next important task early, and prevent important things from
falling through cracks.

= = =

a. Author can 1. Ask his
supervisor to assign fewer patients to him. Or 2, keep doing what he did, just
don’t complain. Or 3, spend less time per patient.

 b. 1. Reduce the hours he spent per patients so that it does not
adversely affect his life too much. 2. Understands his extra effort was a
sacrifice he is willing to make in order to make better progress in his

 c. A first grade may depend on his parents to wake him up every
morning. A high school student is expected to finish and turn in his homework
on time. When a man is married and has kids, he has the total responsibility
over himself and his family.

= = =

a. When teacher says your homework was
wrong, chances are she is right. Don’t let your pride to swallow you up. Face
the reality.

 b. The technician needs to update his “map of the world”. He
needs to swallow the bitter fact that his parents were not loving parents. Not
all authorities, not all grownups are as untrustworthy as his parents. Need to
learn to trust other people.

 = = =

a. Yes. She perceived her boss as a “slave
master”, when there is not enough evidence for it. Her boss was not very
patient. But her boss also said “if you have any problem, talk to me.” If she
had perceived her boss like a regular person, she would not have harbored
anger, and would not have snapped at work place.

b. If she had perceived her boss like a regular person, rather
than a slave master, she would inform her boss as soon as she knows there is a
problem, e.g. she needs to repeat an experiment because of an operation error
at 2 pm. She should call friends to help pick up her child at 3 pm. If she had
to pick up herself, at 4 pm, she should make request to her boss that someone
covers her while she were away picking up her child.

= = =

a. When we are facing authority,
superior, etc..

 b. When we are facing some peer whom we dislike.

 c. When we are facing with children, family member, etc.

 d. When we needs to makes sure the other side would get it
quickly and remember it. The above answers sound a little snobbish. They are
not hard set rules.

 e. 4 types of disciplines: Delaying gratification, taking
responsibility, facing reality, and balancing.

= = =

a. Only when we know
more backgrounds of Indian or Mexican American, can we understand their
mindset, their viewpoints better.

b. A great “communicator” is a person who can
understands the other parties correctly and tailor his own message to make sure
the other parties understand him.

c. A good salesman can understand the other party
within a couple of minutes after encountering, and tailor his message
accordingly. Politicians like Bill Clinton, or good sales man are good

= = =

 a. Because we are
human. We are not God.

 b. 1Christians have an explicit set of beliefs, such
as there is one God, we are sinners, Jesus is our savior. Atheists do not.

   2. Christians pay detailed attention to what’s
right and wrong. Christians believe pride and wrath are sins, and humility and
patience are virtues.

   3. Not all atheists think lust, gluttony, greed,
sloth and envy are bad. All Christians believe those 5 are sins.





About zhangxg

A Chinese immigrant living in California


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