Emotional Discipline: The 2 Traps to Avoid

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Road Less Traveled" by M. Scott Peck. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is emotional discipline? What’s the healthiest way to handle your feelings?

Emotional discipline doesn’t mean that you ignore your feelings. It means that you address your feelings in a measured way. You can avoid the traps of too little structure or too much structure—striking a healthy emotional balance—so that you can put more energy toward growth.

Read more to learn about healthy emotional discipline.

Measured Emotional Discipline

There is a widespread, erroneous belief that emotional discipline means ignoring your feelings. In reality, feelings are meant to be used as tools. There are two traps we fall into when addressing our feelings.

Trap #1: No structure

We fall into this trap when we let our feelings run the show, setting no limits, and allowing them to make all our choices. This is destructive because it generally causes chaos. 

Trap #2: Too much structure  

We fall into this trap by strangling our feelings with too much control. We might repress them or punish ourselves for having them. The problem with this is that eventually we start to rebel against the rules and this causes the same chaos as the first trap.

Solution: Balance

Measured emotional discipline is the best way to handle your feelings. With this method, you build security by being respectful of your feelings, asking yourself questions, giving yourself reassurance, and giving your emotions clear roles. It’s especially important to treat feelings of love with measured emotional discipline because to overextend your capacity for love is to eventually cause harm to the spiritual growth of others. Why? You will not be able to show up with the presence or energy necessary to genuinely support anyone. For example, if you’re in a relationship, but you continually prioritize giving your energy to new and exciting friendships, you will not have the energy to give to the growth of your relationship.

Emotional discipline helps you address your feelings in a healthy way, freeing up more emotional energy to put toward growth.

Emotional Discipline: The 2 Traps to Avoid

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Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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