LIFE IS DIFFICULT
M. Scott Peck (1936-2005)
In Scott Peck’s remarkable book; “The Road Less Traveled,” first published in 1978, he opens with the now famous line; “Life is difficult.” He then goes on to say; “this is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult --- once we truly understand and accept it --- then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
Life it seems is an endless series of problems that have to be solved and Peck goes on to say that “what makes life difficult is that the process of confronting and solving these problems is a painful one.” We all know only too well some of the emotions we feel when attempting to solve problems, feelings such as; anger, frustration, anxiety, sadness, fear, grief and regret.
There is a Double Edge to Solving Problems
It is Scott Peck’s contention that the process of meeting and solving problems is in fact how we derive meaning in our lives. We all know from experience that one often grows only when faced with challenges that must be overcome. It is in the process of solving problems that we find our courage and wisdom and in fact create our courage and wisdom and in so doing grow emotionally and spiritually. That then is the double edge, pain offset by personal growth.
There’s more, Peck goes on to say that the answer to solving life’s problems is the practice of discipline. When we teach ourselves and our children discipline, we are teaching them and ourselves how to suffer and also how to grow.
The practice of discipline requires a number of tools or techniques for what he calls suffering: delaying gratification (scheduling the pain first in order to enhance the pleasurable feeling later), acceptance of responsibility (owning the problem), dedication to the truth (seeing reality), and balancing (the flexibility to maintain balance between your emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual self).
A critically important point in all of this discussion is that if one attempts to avoid the pain and emotional suffering associated with life’s problems this becomes the primary basis for mental illness. I have to admit to occasionally avoiding, at least for a little while, some of my life’s problems and in that avoidance behaviour experience what is affectionately called neurosis. All of us at times, are a little bit neurotic. Carl Jung, famed Swiss psychologist stated that; “neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” Just be careful not to be labeled something else because you are not prepared to suffer!