I’ve been hearing a lot about Jordan Peterson recently; he’s been the face of a couple political controversies and also a psychologist with a focus on studying archetypes, so there’s a little bit of overlap there that makes me interested in him. When I was reading Jeffrey Tucker’s A Beautiful Anarchy (Amazon affiliate link), one of the things that Tucker pointed out is that to really read a book and gain its full benefits you need to take a moment to write about what you have read, so I will attempt to do the same with Jordan Peterson’s book, since I am inevitably drawn to figure out what the fuss is about.
If you just want to hear what I have to say about the book in general, I’ll probably write a review of the book once I’m done. I’m actually as much interested in his Maps of Meaning, since I love anything about archetypes, but I’m a little stingy to spend $50 on a book.
So, attend carefully to your posture. Quit drooping and hunching around. Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them— at least the same right as others. Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence.
Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Amazon affiliate link)
This first rule is about posture and dominance, but largely as it relates to the interior psychological life. I’ve included what I consider to be the most cogent quote, but there are a few interesting points I’d like to spitball on.
In the prologue, it is stated that Jordan Peterson considers the focus of his life the study of the 20th century’s totalitarianism. Although a lot of this chapter’s focus is on the internal workings of the brain, like serotonin, there are discussions of why it is good to have people who believe they can fight. There is an emphasis on the difference between peace, which can come between people who are willing to practice violence, and the potential for suffering and dominance that happens when people eschew the practice of violence in its entirety.
The primary illustration at the start of the table is the fight for dominance among lobsters, which is intriguing if not a perfect analogy for human life, but when Peterson dips into clinical psychology, especially with examples of addictive behavior and agoraphobia, the important lesson of being able to address the problems that come with being averse to conflict for whatever reason (upbringing, traumatic experiences, worldview) and get over them by identifying why they occur and how they impact one’s daily life are probably the golden takeaways of the chapter (which, since it comes in the title of the chapter, is probably not a huge surprise).
Peterson: By following the tactics that lead you to appear successful and confident to others, yo expose yourself to a feedback loop that encourages you to have good results that will further improve your success and confidence. This stands as a counterpoint to the destructive cycles mentioned earlier in the chapter.
To draw a comparison to religion, the examples of clinical study that Peterson states are often drawn from a world of Edenic innocence into confrontation with flaws and evil of the practical modern world when they begin to have problems. Accepting one’s flaws and intentionally working around them is the suggested solution, as this will allow one to practically approach the matter.
My interesting takeaway: Assuming that everything is good leads to one heck of a collapsing schema, and if your schema collapses so does your worldview, and that creates a problem for you. Peterson mentions this, but I don’t think he develops it very much here (it is probably not on topic for the chapter itself, though it may be of interest.
That’s the first chapter of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life; so far I’ve been enjoying it. It’s probably not for everyone; it’s not difficultly inaccessible, but it is very heavy on a sort of loquacious speaking style that appeals to someone like me who enjoys the rich interleaving of the humanities and psychology, but may irritate some people.