Profound truths and bold opinions on discipline, life, and love, written by a psychiatrist in 1978. It's been a best-seller all these years for a good reason.
Life is difficult. This is one of the greatest truths. Once it is accepted, the fact no longer matters.
Most moan as if life should be easy, as if their difficulties should not be.
Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing. With total discipline we can solve all problems.
In this process of solving problems, life has its meaning.
Problems create our courage and our wisdom.
It is only because of problems that we grow. In school we deliberately set problems for children to solve.
Most of us attempt to avoid problems. This tendency is the primary basis of all human mental illness.
Discipline tools: delaying of gratification, acceptance of responsibility, dedication to truth, and balancing.
Undisciplined discipline is meaningless.
Parents who devote time to their children will perceive in them subtle needs for discipline, how they study, when they tell subtle falsehoods, when they run away from problems.
Feeling valuable is essential to mental health and self-discipline. It is a direct product of parental love.
Self-discipline is self-caring. If we feel ourselves valuable, then we will feel our time to be valuable, to organize it and protect it and make maximum use of it.
A neighbor repairing a lawn mower:
“I’ve never been able to fix those kind of things!”
“That’s because you don’t take the time.”
Many people simply do not take the time necessary to solve many of life’s intellectual, social or spiritual problems.
I thought that if I waited long enough the problem might go away. Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain.
We cannot solve a problem by saying “It’s not my problem,” hoping that someone else will solve it for us.
Many, seek to avoid the pain of their problems by saying, “This problem was caused me by other people, or by circumstances beyond my control, and therefore it is up to other people or society to solve this problem for me.”
I can solve a problem only when I say “This is my problem and it’s up to me to solve it.”
Distinguishing what we are and what we are not responsible for in this life is one of the greatest problems.
It is never completely solved.
Continually reassess where our responsibilities lie.
Parents can assist their children in this maturation process.
Either confront them with their tendency to avoid or escape responsibility for their own actions or can reassure them that certain situations are not their fault.
Neurotics make themselves miserable. Those with character disorders make everyone else miserable.
Whenever we seek to avoid the responsibility for our own behavior, we do so by attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual or organization or entity. But this means we then give away our power to that entity, be it “fate” or “society” or the government or the corporation or our boss.
He will speak unceasingly of the oppressive forces in our society. I have tried to point out to him that he is not a child. As children, our parents are responsible for our well-being. He does not acknowledge these freedoms. Every time he speaks of how he is victimized by these forces he actually is giving away his freedom.
Dedication to the truth must continually be employed.
The more our minds are befuddled by falsehood, misperceptions and illusions, the less able we will be to determine correct courses of action and make wise decisions.
Some stop making maps by the end of adolescence. By the end of middle age most people have given up the effort. They feel certain that their maps are complete and their world view is correct They are no longer interested in new information.
If our maps are to be accurate we have to continually revise them. The world itself is constantly changing. Glaciers come, glaciers go. The vantage point from which we view the world is constantly and quite rapidly changing.
Making revisions to your world view is painful. A person may expend much more energy defending an outmoded view of the world than would have been required to correct it in the first place.
When he was a young child he suffered disappointment through his parents’ lack of caring. When he stopped trusting his parents, his disappointments diminished dramatically. The “reality” that this child came to was not “I can’t trust my parents” but “I can’t trust people.” Therefore that became the map. He passed up opportunities to revise his map.
We must always hold truth as more vital to our self-interest than our comfort. Consider our personal discomfort relatively unimportant and even welcome it in the service of the search for truth.
The only way that we can be certain that our map of reality is valid is to expose it to the criticism and challenge of other map-makers.
The reason people lie is to avoid the pain of challenge and its consequences.
Two of the most common lies are “We really love our children” and “Our parents really loved us.”
When it is not the case, people often go to extraordinary lengths to avoid the realization.
The decision to withhold the truth should never be based on personal needs, such as a need for power, a need to be liked or a need to protect one’s map from challenge.
The assessment of another’s needs is an act of responsibility which is so complex that it can only be executed wisely when one operates with genuine love for the other.
To be completely honest, yet to withhold the whole truth when appropriate.
Assume total responsibility but reject responsibility that is not truly ours.
Delay gratification and keep an eye on the future, yet when it is not destructive - to live in the present and act spontaneously.
The loss of balance is ultimately more painful than the sacrifice required to maintain balance.
When I was a child my desire to win at games served me well. As a parent, I recognized that it got in my way. So it had to go.
The feeling associated with giving up something that is a part of ourselves and familiar - is depression.
Depression is a normal and basically healthy phenomenon. It becomes abnormal or unhealthy only when something interferes with the giving-up process, and depression is prolonged.
The pain of giving up the outgrown which needs to be forsaken:
The dependency of childhood
The omnipotentiality of adolescence
The “freedom” of uncommitment
The agility of youth
The sexual attractiveness and/or potency of youth
The fantasy of immortality
The independence of physical health
And, ultimately, the self and life itself.
Balance the need for stability and assertion of the self with the need for new knowledge and greater understanding.
Temporarily give up your self to make room for the incorporation of new material.
When a couple falls out of love they may begin to really love.
When we act lovingly despite the fact that we don’t feel loving.
In the course of many years of loving, extending our limits is a gradual but progressive enlargement of the self.
A thinning of our ego boundaries: the more we love, the more blurred becomes the distinction between the self and the world. We become identified with the world.
When you require another individual for your survival, you are a parasite on that individual. There is no choice, no freedom involved in your relationship. It is a matter of necessity rather than love. Love is the free exercise of choice. Two people love each other only when they are quite capable of living without each other but choose to live with each other.
Passive dependent personality disorder: in their daydreams, they envisioned only an effortless passive state of receiving care.
You cannot be a person worthy of love when your primary goal in life is to passively be loved.
Passive dependent people, when married, will actually forsake skills that they had gained before marriage. An example of this is the not uncommon syndrome of the wife who “can’t” drive a car.
Allowing yourself to be dependent on another person is the worst possible thing you can do to yourself. You would be better off being dependent on heroin. As long as you have a supply of it, heroin will never let you down; if it’s there, it will always make you happy. But if you expect another person to make you happy, you’ll be endlessly disappointed.
We “love” pets. We do not know what our pets are thinking. This lack of knowledge allows us to project onto our pets our own thoughts and feelings, and thereby to feel an emotional closeness with them which may not correspond to reality at all. If their wills begin to diverge significantly from our own, we get rid of them. We send our pets to obedience school. We seek to foster their dependency. We do not want them to grow up and leave home. It is their attachment to us rather than their independence from us that we value in our pets.
Love is not simply giving; it is judicious giving and judicious withholding as well. It is judicious praising and judicious criticizing. It is judicious arguing, struggling, confronting, urging, pushing and pulling in addition to comforting.
Not giving at the right time was more compassionate than giving at the wrong time.
Fostering independence was more loving than taking care of people who could otherwise take care of themselves.
Love is not a feeling. Love is an action.
Taking loving and constructive action toward a person you consciously dislike.
Genuine love implies commitment and the exercise of wisdom.
True love is a committed, thoughtful decision.
Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional. The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love. This person has made a commitment to be loving whether or not the loving feeling is present.
It is necessary for a loving person to avoid acting on feelings of love. I may meet a woman who strongly attracts me, whom I feel like loving, but because it would be destructive to my marriage to have an affair at that time, I will say vocally or in the silence of my heart, “I feel like loving you, but I am not going to.”
Love is always either work or courage. If an act is not one of work or courage, then it is not an act of love.
The more children feel valuable, the more they will begin to say things of value.
Listening is by far the most important form of attention.
Attention is an act of will, of work against the inertia of our own minds.
Death can become our ally, still fearsome but continually a source of wise counsel.
The only real security in life lies in relishing life’s insecurity.
It is our sense of commitment after the wedding which makes possible the transition from falling in love to genuine love.
Children cannot grow to psychological maturity in an atmosphere of unpredictability.
Couples cannot resolve issues of marriage without the security of knowing the act of struggling over these issues will not itself destroy the relationship.
There are two ways to confront or criticize another human being:
with instinctive and spontaneous certainty that one is right,
or with a belief that one is probably right, arrived at through scrupulous self-doubting and self-examination.
The first is the way of arrogance.
The second is the way of humility.
Shallow brooks are noisy.
Still waters run deep.
Loving must be focused as productively as possible through self-discipline.
Your children are not your children.
Give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts.
Their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward.
If our parents failed to care for us, we will likely envision the universe as similarly uncaring.
The learning of something new requires a giving up of the old self and a death of outworn knowledge.
To develop a broader vision we must be willing to forsake, to kill, our narrower vision.
We begin by distrusting what we already believe, by actively seeking the threatening and unfamiliar, by deliberately challenging the validity of what we have previously been taught and hold dear.
The path lies through questioning everything.