Problems and Pain

In Problems and Pain chapter*, the author tells the truth about life. That is, “Life is difficult.” Then he explains how once we accepted this reality we can face our problems:the-road-less-traveled2

So, what do we need to face our problems?

Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing. With only some discipline we can solve only some problems. With total discipline we can solve all problems.

Why problems exist and why they are important for our growth?

Yet it is this whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. When we desire to encourage the growth of the human spirit, we challenge and encourage the human capacity to solve problems, just as in school we deliberately set problems for our children to solve. It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those things that hurt, instruct.” It is for this reason that wise people learn not to dread but actually to welcome problems and actually to welcome the pain of problems.

Why we should not avoid facing our problems?

This tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness. Since most of us have this tendency to a greater or lesser degree, most of us are mentally ill to a greater or lesser degree, lacking complete mental health. Some of us will go to quite extraordinary lengths to avoid our problems and the suffering they cause, proceeding far afield from all that is clearly good and sensible in order to try to find an easy way out, building the most elaborate fantasies in which to live, sometimes to the total exclusion of reality. In the succinctly elegant words of Carl Jung, “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.”

* The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck.