Monday, August 02, 2010

A Tale of Amazing Grace

by M Scott Peck, MD

Inevitably we find that a patient has suffered a trauma or traumas of a particular quality so as to produce a particular neurosis, but the traumas are of an intensity that in the ordinary course of things should have been expected to produce a neurosis more severe than the one the patient has.

A thirty-five-year-old remarkably successful businessman came to see me because of a neurosis that could only be described as mild. He was born illegitimate, and through infancy and early childhood was raised solely by his mother, who was both deaf and dumb, in the slums of Chicago. When he was five years old the state, believing that no such mother could be competent to raise a child, took him away from her without warning or explanation and placed him in a succession of three foster homes, where he was treated to rather routine indignities and with a total absence of affection. At the age of fifteen he became partially paralyzed as the result of a rupture of a congenital aneurysm of one of the blood vessels in his brain. At sixteen he left his final set of foster parents and began living by himself. Predictably, at the age of seventeen he was jailed for a particularly vicious and meaningless assault. He received no psychiatric treatment in jail.

Upon his release, after six months of boring confinement, the authorities got him a job as a menial stock-room clerk in a rather ordinary company. No psychiatrist or social worker in the world would have foreseen his future as anything but grim. Within three years, however, he had become the youngest department head in the history of the company. In five years, after marrying another executive, he left the company and eventually succeeded in his own business, becoming a relatively wealthy man. By the time he entered treatment with me he had in addition become a loving and effective father, a self-educated intellectual, a community leader and an accomplished artist. How, when, why, were did all this come about? Within the ordinary concepts of causality, I do not know. Together we were able to trace with exactitude, within the usual framework of cause and effect, the determinants of his mild neurosis and heal him. We were not able in the slightest degree to determine the origins of his unpredictable successes.

(Excerpted from The Road Less Traveled by M Scott Peck, MD. Pages 236-237. Reproduced without permission or shame.)

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