What does everyone in the modern world need to know? Renowned psychologist Jordan B. Peterson's answer to this most difficult of questions uniquely combines the hard-won truths of ancient tradition with the stunning revelations of cutting-edge scientific research.Humorous, surprising, and informative, Dr. Peterson tells us why skateboarding boys and girls must be left alone,...
|Title||:||12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos|
|Author||:||Jordan B. Peterson|
|Number of Pages||:||448 pages|
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos Reviews
Far from the banal, "self-help," or, "life-coaching," images this book's title may suggest, psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson has crafted here a series of seemingly blunt and practical suggestions that look, at least superifically, as if they are ideas you and society at large already appreciate. However, the importance of this tome lies in the depth behind each of these simple suggestions and the weight of philosophical, psycho-analytical, experiential, and rhetorical/literary evidence Peterson Far from the banal, "self-help," or, "life-coaching," images this book's title may suggest, psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson has crafted here a series of seemingly blunt and practical suggestions that look, at least superifically, as if they are ideas you and society at large already appreciate. However, the importance of this tome lies in the depth behind each of these simple suggestions and the weight of philosophical, psycho-analytical, experiential, and rhetorical/literary evidence Peterson brings to bear.
In such a collection, certain Rules will appeal more to various people, despite their near universal applicability, and for me it was the final four. Of course several folks are going to describe this work as controversial merely for Peterson's recent online phenomenon and foray into the political sphere surrounding free-speech issues in Canada but I genuinely found none of this particular volume even remotely controversial. Of course in such a wide-ranging work which incorporates Jung, Freud, Nietzsche, Solzhenitsyn, the Bible, and numerous popular culture references, there are likely to be moments of disagreement. I for one don't agree at all with how Peterson frames what it means to be an, "atheist," for example, and he genuinely thinks those who are and profess to be aren't atheists at all merely just theists who don't know their own theological underpinnings. However, as his rule 9 makes clear, it is important to listen to and appreciate the words of those with whom you may inherently disagree.
Peterson's language and delivery is also a pleasure to read, mixing great gravitas and emotional clarity in describing his daughter's unfortunate medical struggles (in the final Rule) with humorous notions on child-rearing such as, "There's no way I'm rewarding a recalcitrant child for unacceptable behavior..and I'm certainly not showing anyone any Elmo video. I always hated that creepy, whiny puppet."
The success of this volume is that it succeeds in not being what a lot of superficial volumes with similar titles end up being. Where many have produced irrelevant concatenations or peripatetic philosophical/psychological meanderings, Peterson has provided a profound and directly applicable series of, "Rules," that will likely improve the lives of many. ...more
Too Sweet to be Wholesome
Jordan Peterson is a global phenomenon. He is good in print; even better in interviews. As a psychoanalyst, he has decades of experience and professional credibility (I find his Jungian approach far more interesting than Freudian or various cognitive methods). As a Canadian he is presumed a certain integrity often denied to other English-speaking experts. As a man, he is engaging and fast on his feet with no defensiveness even under intense pressure. In 12 Rules for Life Too Sweet to be Wholesome
Jordan Peterson is a global phenomenon. He is good in print; even better in interviews. As a psychoanalyst, he has decades of experience and professional credibility (I find his Jungian approach far more interesting than Freudian or various cognitive methods). As a Canadian he is presumed a certain integrity often denied to other English-speaking experts. As a man, he is engaging and fast on his feet with no defensiveness even under intense pressure. In 12 Rules for Life he makes a cogent case for the necessity as well as benefit of moral authority. Although he is not a religious adherent, Peterson believes in the objectivity of moral law; he has no time for those relativists who consider moral law as something arbitrarily constructed within human society. Many find his arguments compelling. I find them disingenuous and dangerous.
The disingenuousness of 12 Rules begins in the introduction by Peterson’s long-time friend and associate, Dr. Norman Doidge, MD. Doidge points to the persistence of the Ten Commandments from the Hebrew Scriptures as an example of the ancient, effectively eternal and fixed, wisdom of biblical moral precepts. Unsurprisingly Doidge fails to make mention of the other 412 divinely ordained precepts of the law given in the same scriptures. Things like the stoning of heretics, the inferiority of women, and the necessity for meticulous maintenance of spiritual purity apparently do not carry significant moral weight despite their authoritative divine source. And he makes no mention of the fact that the founder of the Christian Religion, Paul of Tarsus, designated the entire Hebrew law, including the Ten Commandments, as the very source of evil. Doidge is not merely tendentious, he is an ideologue who has little understanding of the biblical references he makes... or he is a liar.
Popularity is not a terribly reliable guarantor of either poetry or philosophy. By his own account Peterson’s Rules started life on an interactive internet site. Participants liked his rules as nakedly stated, without even being given reasons, without explanation of their operation. The rules apparently touched some inarticulate need which site participants hadn’t previously recognised. And they gave rave reviews. The book is the result of subsequent justifications of the intuitions he floated on the internet. Whatever erudition, classical references, and stylistic skill Peterson used to develop his arguments for these rules, they are hardly the the product of analytical thought. Like Doidge’s introduction, the book is tendentious, meant to promote a potentially popular cause not thinking. The fact that Peterson is honest about the genesis of the book doesn’t change its character. But I think it does help to explain why the book appeals to many religious leaders and right-wing politicians. Peterson appears to provide both groups with philosophical selling and political talking points that promote a conservative social agenda.
Peterson is a Jungian psychoanalyst, apparently by conviction as well as by training. Jungian method is inherently dialectical. Conscious/unconscious, ego/shadow, anima/animus are all necessary components of the human psyche. Only by accepting the existence of these competing components and reconciling their insistent demands can a person become integrated, that is whole, a complete Self. Jungians implicitly presume that none of us is naturally whole. We need each other, sometimes use each other, to compensate for our dialectical deficiencies. Ultimately however psychic health comes about by taking responsibility for one’s own integration - by recognising how we perceive the reality of the world we inhabit, and how we react to our perceptions. These are matters of choice not fate. This is a simple but very subtle theory. In short, the theory has two principles: 1) the Unconscious is indistinguishable from reality; and 2) the Self is indistinguishable from God. Both reality and God exist in our heads as it were. They are ideas over which we can exercise control. One can sense Plato, not to mention Billy Graham, turning in their graves at the thought that ideas are subject to human will.
Evangelicals don’t seem to mind this Jungian theological faux pas, probably because Peterson quotes the Old Testament story of the Creation and Fall (a classic Jungian trope). To them it seems but a small step from the symbolism of the God in one’s head and one’s dreams to the objective Ruler of the world. Didn’t the great Protestant theologian of the 19th century, Friedrich Schleiermacher make the same point, that God was a feeling emanating from the human mind? Similarly, social conservatives like the idea of personal responsibility as part of their ideological portfolios. Doesn’t this bring together both the economic neo-liberalism of Frederick Hayek and the militant individualism of Ayn Rand? The fact that personal integration of the Self implies a rejection of ideology of any stripe as an impediment to psychic health doesn’t seem to register at all.
So of course Peterson will be exploited by Evangelicals and Conservatives to further their agendas, regardless of the caveats insisted upon by him. And they’re right to ignore his fey resistance. He knows he’s given conservations a way to ignore the traditional Christian ethos of love, the primary concern with one’s neighbour, the inherent responsibility to the collective as something distinct from the totality of its members. His is a philosophy of consummate selfishness which just fits the bill for the latest coalition of religious and constitutional fundamentalists. Christ as pantocratic dictator rather than Jesus as messianic rebel.
Those who are familiar with the Erhard Seminar Training (EST) programme of the 1970’s and 80’s and its various successor movements for radical personal improvement, will recognise this theme of total personal responsibility. EST was an intriguing and highly popular syncretism of Jungian psychology and the existential philosophy of Martin Heidegger. Peterson’s version doesn’t use the pyramid selling techniques that made EST so popular, particularly among the highly educated, but the combination of the internet, cable television, and the intellectual vacuum of evangelical and political conservatism has the equivalent functional role. EST was a training ground for the political left in the 1970’s. 12 Rules promises to be the focal point for the political right for some time to come.
None of this is to say that Peterson isn’t interesting or worthwhile. On the contrary, he has an intelligent, witty and interesting contribution to make in intellectual debate despite the banal insipidness of his Rules. Nevertheless, just as EST helped create a generation of liberal weirdos in business, politics, and academia, I fear that an equivalent generation of conservative weirdos in in the making. There is a distinct Whig theme that runs through the entire book: the world is as it is for good reasons and it’s not your responsibility to fix it. Comforting no doubt to those who feel disenfranchised, disrespected, and more than a bit deplorable. But really, does anyone believe that some positive thinking is going to make them into a bold psychic adventurer? My advice: don’t drink the Kool-Aid too quickly. ...more
Awfully verbose, incoherent, and hurried text without any content original enough (on top of his online lectures) to grant writing this lengthy book. The rule about telling the truth stands out as a notable exception.
I’ve highlighted more paragraphs in this book than any that I’ve read in the last… very long time!
As should be expected, this is the literary equivalent of a kick up the ass. Like true originals, if you’ve heard him speak before, you’ll find it impossible not to read his book in his voice—just as I have done previously with Marina Abramovic’s memoir and others I can’t currently think of. The point is, if something reads exactly like that person talks, it took an immense effort to write and is—wh I’ve highlighted more paragraphs in this book than any that I’ve read in the last… very long time!
As should be expected, this is the literary equivalent of a kick up the ass. Like true originals, if you’ve heard him speak before, you’ll find it impossible not to read his book in his voice—just as I have done previously with Marina Abramovic’s memoir and others I can’t currently think of. The point is, if something reads exactly like that person talks, it took an immense effort to write and is—whether or not you agree with it—a good sign that that person has written exactly what they set out to write.
Peterson draws on evolutionary biology, politics, literary and biblical stories, even delving into fascinating elements of memoir about where he grew up, which is revealing of his tough countenance. Friends die, children get sick. That’s life.
“You have the power to change the world” is an apparently optimistic and commonplace message, implied or otherwise. But it needs broken down. Peterson does this very well in the book. “Sure, you can change the world. What are you reasonably capable of achieving today? Okay… You can get to smashing the patriarchy, but how about you, uh, see if you can re-open a dialogue with your estranged brother. That sound doable?”
We sense this inside. What this book does is what the best books do: it articulates lessons to you that you already knew in some distant, subconscious way. If I was younger, they’d probably be things life had yet to teach me.
I make it sound simple, but I too have been hiding in my own life. I’ve been weak in the face of criticism I need to grow successfully. It only seems polite to help other people out with your problems but hide your own. It isn’t. It breeds resentment, and society needs actively engaged citizens. Johann Hari’s latest book quotes the following: The percentage of U.S. workers in 2015 who Gallup considered engaged in their jobs averaged 32%. The majority (50.8%) of employees were "not engaged," while another 17.2% were "actively disengaged." He, I surmised from the rest of the text, thought this was a problem with companies: what can they do to entice people to engage more in their work? What Peterson offers is almost opposite: you’re not engaged in your work? How about you try engaging then? You can’t do what you think is expected? Well, what can you do?
I will say that his messages do tend to have a hard edge to them, probably because of his voice. He advises not doing work that you hate, and has explained Jungian theory using the Quidditch example of “catching the snitch”—it requires immense concentration, indicative that you’re exactly where you need to be in time and space, and when you win, everybody wins. What that tells me is that to be successful you should find work you enjoy and focus on that. That sounds more fun than simply “not doing work that you hate.” The process of becoming better can be enjoyed. It probably is enjoyable. In fact, one of the main activities for bettering myself recently has been reading this book, and it was fascinating! And the ways I’ve chosen to improve myself this year, including staying off social media for the most part, have made life better. I’m not really sacrificing but alleviating. The instant pleasure compulsions are the brain’s equivalent of a spending spree or a drinking binge: they lead you to ultimately unsatisfying and shallow territory. But the deeper, healthier curiosities take you to emotional and spiritual investment opportunities. They’re better modes of enjoying life, I would phrase it. Rather than, as Peterson would, “Life is suffering, so pick the poison that will harm you the least.”
As he advises, today I said “Yes” to everything in work and already it took me surprising places. I made a presentation for the whole department on a safety issue I’d barely heard about this morning, based on an offhand suggestion from my team leader. I could have hidden and done the bare minimum. But something has been wrong for a while—I’ve designed a decent life that I can set about improving; I just haven’t been as engaged in it as I could. Because I’ve feared the implications of failure, and I don’t like asserting myself in general. But lack of engagement feels worse. It’s not a win to find a job you can “hide in.” What seems comforting really isn’t. Certainly “coasting” is not the worst place to be in. But you undermine your capabilities by not maximising the use of them, and that doesn’t feel that great.
I’ve also enjoyed not drinking this past month, and will continue to do so. Someone new and better is emerging at a rapid rate—which scares me when I consider the implications of that regarding past activity, but I’m excited about the future in a way I haven’t been in a long time. Henry Rollins says he was never attracted to drink because he could see that “That’s how they try and control you.” Someone benefits from the status quo for sure, and alcohol helps suppress people into lives that are beneath them. But that cycle of subpar life + suppression = statis(1), stasis (1) + suppression = stasis(2) is ultimately unsustainable. You either get out of it or ride it as deep as it goes. Mentally there are no limits to it—it’s your body that’ll give in first. As Peterson says, hell is a bottomless pit, and life has taught him that there’s no situation so bad that you can’t make it worse.
Logan Paul says “Zero people shouldn’t have a hero” (hahahaha…)
Well I think it’s useful to have role models. I have plenty, but will mention just a few. When I watch Peterson speaking, I imagine what I might be like at his age if I just learned and worked my ass off. Where will I be? What will I know? It’s hard work, but it’s exciting.
But also, like a stern father, his messages are good for a time. We can’t live with our faces rubbed in sobering truth day after day—and that’s why I will combine his messages with other favourites, such as affirmation and meditation advocate, Louise Hay. Peterson may well be referring directly to her practices when he says he thinks people who believe you can be happy are delusional because they’re refusing to accept the true nature of life. I can only see the benefit in repeating to yourself, in the mirror, “I am in the process of making positive changes in all aspects of my life.” Her practices, like Peterson’s, have brought people back from the brink.
If Peterson is a stern father, Louise Hay is a nurturing mother. Yet a mother’s protection is just an illusion, one that ultimately falls away. Again, Johann Hari in his latest book documents the apparent miracle effects of placebos, only to note that they disappear again, don’t ultimately solve anything. But if someone in a wheelchair stood up from it one day, is that worse than no placebo at all?
UPDATE: heard something on a podcast about faith healing. Yes, it is damaging! The adrenaline causes people to walk when they're not supposed to! Exhilarating in the short term but damaging overall. Then we're back to "expediency sucks"!
(I even have a crazy aunt/uncle in the mix: RuPaul, who says, “Let’s just step out of this reality entirely. It’s all made up. It doesn’t define you. You’re just playing a role. Don’t take any of this too seriously.”)
In this George Saunders story, he takes a stab at Tony Robbins’ classes. He seems to find them overly simplistic and of limited use. Well, I loved the documentary on Tony Robbins, titled I Am Not Your Guru. I also remember thinking that if these people had caring friends and a decent community, they wouldn’t need him at all. He’s just like a caring friend that you pay for. If people want to pay for that, cool, and I think they get their money’s worth. I don’t know what more could you want. These people advocate personal responsibility in their own way. They don’t necessarily, as Peterson does, consult the diaries of the Columbine shooters to prove their point—but I doubt that many would!
I remember when I taught English in Spain that what I really enjoyed was finding three or four different ways to express the same concept until everyone, with their different learning styles, was on board. That’s the most wonderful thing to hear: “Why did no one explain it like that to me before?” Of course, as an adult, everything is maximum confusion and almost no one takes the time to explain anything to you, ahaha. That’s how it will always be, though, I think. The point is to listen to many folk.
Life is suffering, is Peterson’s E=MC^2 tier elegant truth. I just didn’t understand what it meant for most of the book. But, last night, as I was finishing up this book, and I saw the sentence, my subconscious pieced it together in a way that I understood: Life is suffering in that if you’re not suffering, you’re not alive. ...more
Disgustingly boring. Could not, for the life of me, listen more than 25% of the book. I’ve enjoyed talks from Peterson but definitely not this book. I love others books on similar topics but really this book could’ve been condensed. There were too many unnecessary paragraphs and reiterations.
I cracked it open only to discover a study of the bible and christian religious stories while expecting a book on psychology, deceiving. Didn't finish it.
A soothing and seductive balm for the butthurt. I am fascinated by the cult surrounding this man who, as a previous reviewer noted, relies far too much on simplistic interpretations of Biblical stories and the Disney versions of fairy tales to the expense of all else. (I guess Lilith and Athena might complicate that Easy Bake reimposition of a male-centered narrative.) Here's what I don't get: None of this is new. Joseph Campbell? Heard of him? Remember M. Scott Peck? That Christian head shrinke A soothing and seductive balm for the butthurt. I am fascinated by the cult surrounding this man who, as a previous reviewer noted, relies far too much on simplistic interpretations of Biblical stories and the Disney versions of fairy tales to the expense of all else. (I guess Lilith and Athena might complicate that Easy Bake reimposition of a male-centered narrative.) Here's what I don't get: None of this is new. Joseph Campbell? Heard of him? Remember M. Scott Peck? That Christian head shrinker who said, "Life is difficult. Get used to it and it will get better"? Peterson's popularity only reveals that an entire generation has been so robbed of the humanities that they're starving for anyone who will provide a few harsh words and some meaning in their lives. The guy can tell a story. Too bad it's a frighteningly regressive one for women.
And no: Women's Studies departments are not propagating a myth that the world was once a glorious matriarchy.
That was funny though. ...more
I ignored Jordan Peterson for a while, since his name usually came up in culture war contexts where the rule is that every generation gets approximately five talking points to endlessly yell at each other. But then he published a book, and a bunch of my academic friends started screeching a few octaves higher than usual, and a few of my well-adjusted friends started reading the book, so I decided to check it out. I recognize that being inclined to agree with a critic of postmodernism entirely be I ignored Jordan Peterson for a while, since his name usually came up in culture war contexts where the rule is that every generation gets approximately five talking points to endlessly yell at each other. But then he published a book, and a bunch of my academic friends started screeching a few octaves higher than usual, and a few of my well-adjusted friends started reading the book, so I decided to check it out. I recognize that being inclined to agree with a critic of postmodernism entirely because of his critics' behavior is itself pretty postmodern and thus suspect. But be fair to postmodernists: they're good at finding clues, even if they're bad at solving mysteries.
If I were half a decade younger, or much less lucky in my choice of reading material, this could have been the book that changed my life. (Writings that played this role for me instead: Sexual Personae, Moby-Dick, Starting Strength, that viral "get your shit together" email by Scott Galloway.) The book's target audience is young men suffering from post-school ennui, and the message is: it's not your fault, but it's 100% your responsibility to fix it.
Given his reputation--people insist on tagging Peterson with the "alt-right" label--I was half expecting "1,488 Rules for Life: An Antidote to (((Chaos)))." But, no, Peterson is not writing neo-fascist propaganda. He's writing fatherly advice, at least if your dad read a lot of Jung and Nietzsche, and dropped a little acid.
If you think this is one of those advice books where you can skim the contents and get the gist, you are completely, wildly wrong. Take chapter one, on posture. We begin, naturally, by talking about lobster combat. Then wrens. Then back to lobsters; on to a wild fugue through a few hundred million years of evolution; a brief segue about how at different levels of abstraction nature alternates between permanence and chaos, and how part of music's appeal is the recognition of this; and then Peterson concludes by recommending good posture.
The whole rest of the book is like this. There's an initial riff, followed by a long philosophical jam session (expect references to Freud, Marx, yin and yang, evolution, the Old Testament, Jung, Peterson's kids, and the New Testament), and it closes with a stern admonition. You might thing that's a silly approach that risks trivializing whatever philosophical lessons it includes, but the one-two combo of moral lesson plus minor daily habit has a great historical precedent. Just look at the Bible. The first book is about the origin of all existence, the nature of evil, the consequence of sin, etc. The second book is about becoming a distinctive people, having a covenant with the divine, and so on. The third book is about when to wash your hands (all the time) and which foods you should avoid eating lest you get sick. If every episode of hand-washing and ham-refusal reminds you of Original Sin, you will spend a lot more time thinking about morality than you otherwise would.
So I can't really review the advice itself, although it's good. I can recommend reading the book, not so much for any one point, but for the journey--there was very little I wish I'd thought of first, but a lot I wish I'd phrased that way before.
If you read his book and follow his advice, will it improve your life? Almost certainly. Not just because his suggestions are things we should already be told (or have already been told, but ignored). But for simple tribal reasons. It's like eating paleo: the actual behavior helps at the margin, but what really keeps you on the path towards self-improvement is the feeling that it's 99% of the world against you and your brave band of friends. And you could do worse than to choose the friends who rally around Peterson. ...more