Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Photo: It's got a long address, and I'm lazy, so I'll link it here.
Despite the high rating I'd give to this book, it's time to let it go. By this, I mean it's off to the box for my yard sale, or the box to my used bookstore for credit, or yet to the box for donations to my local Salvation Army. Probably in that order.
Why am I letting it go after all these years? Why, if I'd rate it so highly?
Well, first, why I like(d) it.
It's got one of the all-time great opening lines for any self-help book: Life is difficult.
It is, indeed. I also believe that life is often (though not always) supposed to be hard. To not accept or expect this is to live a life of frustration and an inability to adapt. That's me saying that, by the way, not Peck. But he'd agree with me.
Peck was amongst the first of the popular self-help guys to really preach self-responsibility. Or, at least to the point that he did so with popularity.
This is huge for me, philosophically and psychologically. I've tired of the nature vs. nurture debate because it seems that many are trying to explain away self-responsibility. It's not my fault, I have ADHD. It's not my fault, I was raised that way. It's not my fault, that's what I was taught to believe in.
He was the first to say that, no, everything was actually your responsibility after all. Especially after a certain age.
I'm all for that. I embrace that. I live it and breathe it. Nobody's more hyper and hyperactive than I am. Yet I focus, accomplish much, balance my finances, control my emotions and treat others with respect.
Here's why I don't really like it anymore. It's not just because Peck turned out to be an addict, a sex addict, and a very frequent cheater on his wife. But keep those things in mind as we continue--and remember the phrase "traditional values" in his title.
I didn't realize before, when I read this in my teens, how actually preachy it is. I don't mind, now, that it's religious. But I do mind that a trained psychiatrist would use religion and God as self-help. Is that belief, or is that maybe a little too self-serving? Dubya bought into this sort of self-help religion, as many recovering addicts do. Which is fine and good, but...for a psychiatrist to preach this so heavily in a self-help book? That's blasphemy, in my opinion, but blasphemy for practicing psychiatrists and self-help professionals and religious leaders alike.
Is religion supposed to be so self-serving? Can one get better psychologically if one doesn't believe in the Christian God? According to Peck, in this book...Well, no. Kind of.
And don't even get me started on the phrase "traditional values" in his title. A psychiatrist should really, really know better.
What if you, and your problems, aren't traditional? Can you still benefit from psychotherapy? Well, yes, but according to this book? No...kind of.
He hedges a lot when it comes to this kind of thing, like his psychiatrist self and his televangelist self were warring for control. When his psychiatrist self wins, this book is almost ingenious. When he writes about accepting responsibility, delaying self-gratification, the difference between neurotics and personality-disordered people, and overall personal self-responsibility, this book is a winner and deserving of the 10+ million copies it's sold, and its place for a number of years on the best-seller list.
Ultimately, for me it's time for it to go. I have literally hundreds of books, and it's time to make some tough choices. This is actually a tough decision for me, but many books simply must go, so...
In terms of a book review, I reiterate that I do recommend this book because of its heavy reliance on self-responsibility. It made a huge impression on me when I was a teenager, and this book was partially responsible for my decision to also major in Philosophy, and to focus on Existentialism, if I could. I could and I did.
So this was an important book for me, and it may also be for you. Read it and learn from it, if you wish. But don't feel badly if you don't keep it in your bookshelf.