Dr. M. Scott Peck died eight days ago of pancreatic and liver duct cancer.
In case the name is not familiar to you, Peck was a psychiatrist and the author of "The Road Less Traveled," a self-help book that sold over 6 million copies. When I learned of his death, I checked my bookshelves and found two of his books--"The Road Less Traveled" and "People of the Lie."
I remember "The Road Less Traveled" and, in particular, one passage that has been helpful to me at various times in my life. Peck described most of the patients he saw in his practice as falling into one of two camps: they either suffered from a neurosis or a character disorder. He described both conditions as disorders of responsibility. To put it simply, neurotic people think everything is their fault and character-disordered people believe nothing is their fault.
Obviously, treating the neurotic is much easier than treating the character-disordered. The neurotic patient already believes he caused his own problems while the character-disordered patient blames her problems on everyone else.
Over the years since I first read Peck's definition, I've had multiple opportunities to employ it. In dealing with others, it's a handy thing to remember. When I encounter a person who displays a pattern of refusal to take responsibility for the things going on in his world, I accept that the person is not going to change, and I move on as quickly as possible. Life is too short to waste it listening to excuses and complaints.
I'm grateful for that bit of wisdom and sorry Dr. Peck is no longer among us.