A Refusal to Praise?

Like Solomon said, there’s a season for everything, and the last couple of months have been a season of reading—but not much writing. Seems like my muse mojo is MIA. That’s okay, though, because I’m learning and thinking and reflecting on so many things. On the Fourth, I began thumbing through Dr. Scott Peck’s Further Along The Road Less Traveled and was reminded of many truths. They resounded with me twenty-five years ago, and now Peck’s words are even more powerful.

Somewhere along the line, I took some counseling courses and remember the advice of several professors. When listening to a patient, client, friend, child, or anyone else, keep in mind that not everyone is articulate enough to tell you how he or she really feels. Or maybe the person feels shame or fear (of ridicule or rejection). That makes perfect sense. I mean, it was so obvious that I wondered why the professors kept telling us that. Common sense, right? But then you know what “they” say about common sense: it’s not so common. 

Here’s what I was advised/instructed to do. When a person is struggling to share feelings or memories or thoughts, look at him or her and imagine the individual saying, “Please hear what I’m not saying.” To me, that was profound, and I’ve tried to practice it in my family, in the classroom, with my friends…with everyone who wanted to “just talk.” 

Last night, I stumbled across something Dr. Peck wrote that was an eye opener. Following is a paraphrase from page 184:  What the patient says is not as important as what he doesn’t say. If he talks freely about the present and the future but never about the past, you can bet your bottom dollar that he has some problem, something that’s unintegrated from his past. If he talks freely about the past and the future but not the present, the problem is most likely to be the present—often a problem with vulnerability and the “here and now.” Or if he talks about the past and the present but doesn’t talk about the future, you can deduce that there’s a problem with the future—a problem with hope or faith. 

Bingo! Those few sentences clarified some things I’ve felt to be true, and they did so with more punch than, “Please hear what I’m not saying.” Peck’s insight put a lot of conversations into perspective for me as I try to figure out the why, how, when, and what of troubled people’s words and actions. Some of these folks seem depressed, and it’s not enough to peppily say, “Look at the fluffy clouds and blue, blue sky. Listen to the noisy (in a good way) cicadas and the songbirds. Smell the roses, for heaven’s sake.” You’re wasting your breath with such a person who wants the cicadas to go back to where they came from.

Dr. Peck shares a quote from Rumi, a twelfth century Muslim mystic, who, in his opinion, was “the smartest person who ever lived, never to Jesus.” I love the quote. “Your depression is connected to your insolence and refusal to praise.” Don’t you love it, too? Peck believes Rumi is referring to insolence as narcissism “or that kind of perverted pride which underlies depression.” Whoa. I think these men are onto something—truth. 

There’s more, so much more, to this fabulous book, but it’s time for a little fun, a day trip with one of my daughters. We’ll be noticing clouds and birds and trees, and talking about the past, present and future. 

About jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer
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