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Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Road Less Traveled : A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth

Psychotherapy is all things to all people in this mega-selling pop-psychology watershed, which features a new introduction by the author in this 25th anniversary edition. His agenda in this tome, which was first published in 1978 but didn't become a bestseller until 1983, is to reconcile the psychoanalytic tradition with the conflicting cultural currents roiling the 70s. In the spirit of Me-Decade individualism and libertinism, he celebrates self-actualization as life's highest purpose and flirts with the notions of open marriage and therapeutic sex between patient and analyst. But because he is attuned to the nascent conservative backlash against the therapeutic worldview, Peck also cites Gospel passages, recruits psychotherapy to the cause of traditional religion (he even convinces a patient to sign up for divinity school) and insists that problems must be overcome through suffering, discipline and hard work (with a therapist.) Often departing from the cerebral and rationalistic bent of Freudian discourse for a mystical, Jungian tone more compatible with New Age spirituality, Peck writes of psychotherapy as an exercise in "love" and "spiritual growth," asserts that "our unconscious is God" and affirms his belief in miracles, reincarnation and telepathy. Peck's synthesis of such clashing elements (he even throws in a little thermodynamics) is held together by a warm and lucid discussion of psychiatric principles and moving accounts of his own patients' struggles and breakthroughs. Harmonizing psychoanalysis and spirituality, Christ and Buddha, Calvinist work ethic and interminable talking cures, this book is a touchstone of our contemporary religio-therapeutic culture.

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