The Road Less TraveledOutline
Qualities of Love
Notes by Doug Muder (1997)
Love is disciplined: "Among the feelings that must be so disciplined is the feeling of love. As I have indicated, this is not in itself genuine love but the feeling associated with cathexis. It is to be very much respected and nurtured for the creative energy it brings, but if it is allowed to run rampant, the result will not be genuine love but confusion and unproductivity. Because genuine love involves extension of oneself, vast amounts of energy are required and, like it or not, the store of our energy is as limited as the hours of our day. We simply cannot love everyone. … To attempt to love someone who cannot benefit from your love with spiritual growth is to waste your energy, to cast your seed upon arid ground. Genuine love is precious, and those who are capable of genuine love know that their loving must be focused as productively as possible through self-discipline. … Genuine love, with all the discipline that it requires, is the only path in this life to substantial joy. Take another path and you may find rare moments of ecstatic joy, but they will be fleeting and progressively more elusive." [pages 157-159]
Love is separateness: "As an adolescent I used to thrill to the words of love the early American poet Ann Bradstreet spoke to her husband: 'If ever two were one, then we.' As I have grown, however, I have come to realize that it is the separateness of the partners that enriches the union. Great marriages cannot be constructed by individuals who are terrified by their basic aloneness, as so commonly is the case, and seek a merging in marriage. Genuine love not only respects the individuality of the other but actually seeks to cultivate it, even at the risk of separation or loss. The ultimate goal of life remains the spiritual growth of the individual, the solitary journey to peaks that can be climbed only alone." [pages 167-168] I have to argue. In a great marriage, the marriage itself becomes a third entity, possessing its own spiritual path, which is in no way inferior to the paths of the individuals. I agree that becoming an individual is a step that can't be skipped, but I can't agree that the couple is just a support structure (a "base camp" in Peck's words) for the growth of the individuals.
Love and psychotherapy: "We are now able to see the essential ingredient that makes psychotherapy effective and successful. It is not 'unconditional positive regard,' nor is it magical words, techniques or postures; it is human involvement and struggle. It is the willingness of the therapist to extend himself or herself for the purpose of nurturing the patient's growth—willingness to go out on a limb, to truly involve oneself at an emotional level in the relationship, to actually struggle with the patient and with oneself. In short, the essential ingredient of successful deep and meaningful psychotherapy is love." [page 173]
"If psychotherapy is genuinely loving, should love always be psychotherapeutic? If we genuinely love our spouse, our parents, our children, our friends, if we extend ourselves to nurture their spiritual growth, should we be practicing psychotherapy with them? My answer is: Certainly. … Any genuinely loving relationship is one of mutual psychotherapy." [pages 177-178]
"It is also easier to love a person who seeks out your wisdom, who travels to your territory to obtain it, who pays you for your attention and whose demands upon you are strictly limited to fifty minutes at a time than it is to love someone who regards your attention as a right, whose demands may not be limited, who does not perceive you as an authority figure and who does not solicit your teaching." [page 178] I think Peck has told us much more about himself here than he realizes.
"Conducting psychotherapy at home or with one's friends requires the same intensity of effort and self-discipline as it does in the office but under much less ideal conditions, which is to say that at home it requires even more effort and love. … One clearly should not attempt psychotherapy beyond one's capacity to love, since psychotherapy without love will be unsuccessful and even harmful. If you can love six hours a day, be content with that for the moment." [pages 178-179] Think about what he's saying here: It's easier to love your patients than your family and friends, so if your capacity to love is limited, spend it on your patients and not your family and friends.
The Mystery of Love: Love is the motivation for discipline, but where does love come from? Why is sex complicated with feelings of awe and reverence? What is beauty? Why are some inanimate objects beautiful? Why is nature beautiful? Why does music move us? "The people who know the most about such things are those among the religious who are students of mystery. It is to them and to the subject of religion that we must turn if were are to obtain even glimmerings of insight into these matters." [pages 181-182]
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