The Element of Love in The Road Less Traveled
Scott Peck expresses his unusual perspective of love in his work, The Road Less Traveled. Peck's view of love was a correction to what he thought everyone else thought love was. This paper will be an explanation of Peck's beliefs about love, a contrasting view on love, and my personal knowledge of Peck's beliefs.
Peck had a very pessimistic and, at times, a contradicting view of what is believed to be "love" and introduced that in his section on the definition of love. Peck (1978) believed "Love is too large, too deep ever to be truly understood or measured or limited within the framework of words"(page 81). Later on in that same page Peck offers a definition of love as being "The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's personal growth"(page 81). He also breaks down his definition into five comments: First- The definition has a goal or a purpose, Second- The definition given is a circular process, Third- The definition includes self-love as love for the other, Fourth- The definition implies effort, and Fifth- The definition implies a "will" to do something rather than just a desire. Peck believes that lots of suffering can be avoided if a person would take the time out to do away with the common misconceptions of love and came to a more precise meaning of love. Peck's section called "The Myth of Romantic Love" delves deeper into why he believes that people do not fully understand the meaning of true love. Peck says, "...the experience of falling in love probably must have as one of its characteristics the illusion that the experience will last forever"(page 91). He blames our mentality of this "fairy tale" love on society. In this section Peck also discusses the myth that there is one man for every one woman and vice versa. When a couple falls out of love, "...then it is clear that a dreadful mistake was made, we misread the stars, we did not hook up with our one and only perfect match, what we thought was love was not real or "true" love, and nothing can be done about the situation except to live unhappily ever after or get divorced" (page 91). Peck believes that couples that live by this type of mentality prize togetherness and see it as a sign of a healthy marriage but in actuality it is not. Mythical love, as Peck calls it, may be a trick in order for the continuation of the human race. This type of "love" is often known as dependent. Dependency, Peck believes, is what people mistake for love. Examples of dependency are when a person: says, "I can't live without this person because I love them so much," or, when a person contemplates suicide because of the loss of a love. Peck defines dependency as, "...the inability to experience wholeness or to function adequately without the certainty that one is being actively cared for by another"(page 98). Peck compares dependency to the feeling that all humans have to be babied. Peck believes: "All of us have the desire to be babied, to be nurtured without effort on our parts..."(page 99). Dependency can even be linked to the most common disorder called "passive dependent personality disorder". This disorder is common in people always searching for love. These types of people never feel quite whole and don't tolerate loneliness well. When they finally do fall in love, they become so dependent upon that other person that they can not even imagine living them. A woman will even "unlearn" driving in order to become more dependent upon her husband as a means of transportation. A passive dependent marriage can never be considered genuine love or even healthy, but to a passive dependent, it is considered healthy and secure. Dependency can be blamed on the role, or rather absence of, the parent. This brings about years of searching for "...happiness and full-fillment"(page 105). Although Peck makes valid points that love is not the only thing to live for, First Corinthians disagrees. The Bible verse says, " If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn't love others, what good would it do?"(First Corinthians 13:2-4) The verses go on from there each, at the end, stating nothing would be valuable without love occurring in your life first. Peck, however, has a less romantic view on how important love really is in life. Peck believes love is important but too much love can lead to dependency. Peck is actually the opposite of what the Bible is stating. He believes that a person should first love himself or herself before they can love anyone else. Dependent people are not ready for the "grown up aspects" of love: the hurt, the suffering, or the unhappiness. "The only true end of love is spiritual growth or human evolution"(page 106). The Bible believes that love is the one reliable thing in life. A person is to forsake all other things in the name of love. First Corinthians 13:8 states, "All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever." Peck disagrees with this type of lifestyle. This leads back to the "fairy-tale" mentality that if love is there, then everything else will fall into place.
This "Myth of Romantic Love" is often what lead people to heartache and despair later on in life. These fairy-tale followers often try to conform their lives to the myth of the fairy-tale. "...they still cling to the myth and attempt to conform their lives to it"(page 93). If one goes through life thinking that love is the end all be all, then nothing else will matter to them, which would finally bring everything to a crashing halt once love walks into the picture. Peck thinks a person could truthfully ruin their life by putting everything on hold for love. M. Scott Peck's rendition of what love is or is not was a thorough look into the society's mentality on what is believed to be "love". He has several opinions on what the misconceptions of love are and he tries to address them all.
A topic Peck stressed was that love is also a job. True love does not come easy and has to be worked on in order for it to be successful. Peck often sates that love will not last forever without it being worked upon. I believe that this statement is true in certain cases. One such case might be a long-distance relationship. If two people claim to love each other they try to work out their relationship even though they are not close to each other physically. Also Peck believes people are set in the fairy-tale love mentality. Peck thinks society is far off in its "definition" of love because many still believe in the fairy-tale of the man or woman riding in on the white horse. This type of loving is known as dependent and is not healthy. It is most commonly found in people searching for love. I agree with Peck's view on what society believes because many still think there is that one person out there for them. Another point Peck makes is that love will not last forever and it is not a feeling. However, I disagree because I feel love is the strongest feeling that a person can feel and if it is true love then it can last forever. I think love is a feeling because when you love someone, you get feelings in your body and mind. Thinking about a person can bring on a wave of softness that is often described with love. Or the ever-common butterfly's people often call love. These are all feelings and are often experienced in conjunction with love. Finally, Scott Peck's book The Road Less Traveled is the only book that combats the general feeling that love is forever, and that love does conquer all, and that real love is a sudden thing. Peck offers these as only misconceptions and untruths in the eyes of the definition of real love.
Peck, M. Scott(1978) The Road Less Traveled New York: Simon and Schuster
James, King(1976) The BIBLE: King James Version John Schultz Publishers
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