If you have been paying attention to the news at all in the western world you might have come across a gentleman named Jordan Peterson. I first found out about him like many others did, through his refusal to comply with the Canadian Bill C-16 that would impede on an individual’s ability to practice freedom of speech. It was disguised through the pronoun argument from the newly formed transgender movement, but Peterson was wise to the underlying agenda that would reveal itself in the months to follow. His popularity stampeded as time went on and he sparked curiosity in thousands of young, and not so young, men and women. His clinical psychology background afforded him the language to communicate morals and principles that we, as westerners, have disregarded for years upon years. His Youtube videos and lectures had struck a chord with most of the millennials, and rightfully so. As a millennial, I have found that the societal discord floating in the air has been the culprit for all of the angst and chaos I find within myself and amongst my peers. We simply do not live in the same times that our parents did and we don’t know what to do. The people we would turn to for advice reference methods that have laid dormant for decades and grow aggravated with our refusal to obey that which no longer works. It’s pretty obvious that we are in a new era that no one before us knows how to navigate. True, you can say this for every generation in some sense however, the advancement in communication and knowledge has reached an apex with millennials. With little to no guidance in this transformative climate, it is no wonder that a vast majority of millennials have grown depressed or nihilistic. This is where Dr.Peterson comes in…
As I dug deeper into the catacombs of Peterson’s work, I gained more clarity and direction. Some say that he is the idiot’s smart guy and, although derogatory, this serves some truth. His approach to sharing the ideas that have affected him and his studies prove beneficial time after time. Upon listening to his lectures one can recognize the eccentric references that he makes (Disney movies, the Bible, the Soviet Regime) that may seem utterly irrelevant, yet the links he finds between them and the psychology of man are eerily familiar once examined. He is gifted with using stories and characters we know from childhood and reframing them so we can find their value as adults. Dr. Peterson eloquently does this with the beloved story of Pinocchio. After hearing his analysis, this tale was no longer about some cute little puppet , but our need as individuals to break from the seductive comforts of home. The inevitability of chance, fear, responsibility, and consequence. All found within a Disney classic, I told you he was gifted!
I want to unpack how he changed me forever and how I am eternally grateful I stumbled upon his intellectual territory.
I like to think that I have always been a generally disciplined person. I would meet deadlines, stick to schedules and respect authority-for the most part. It’s true I was disciplined, but toward external circumstances far more then to my internal consciousness. I did what needed to be done to appear a certain way and allowed my true authenticity to remain stifled by the demands of my unhealthy ego. Its obsession with admiration and approval left me spiritually bankrupt. I was several things to several people, yet nothing to myself. This left me feeling empty and like an imposter. It felt as though I had been lying to myself for years because I did not know who I was without other people around. Ironically, if you were to ask people who knew me then, they would say that I was very independent, but that was the role I needed to fill, the image that I projected in order to find my competency. I’m not saying that I’m not independent, I am, dangerously so in fact. I am saying that I found what worked, how I could find footing in the hierarchy of society and I clung to it much like a child to a mother. I relied upon others opinions of me to determine my feelings about myself. An unforgiving path to depression and petulance, indeed. Before long, I was following rules and fulfilling expectations for which I did not know the creator. I grew disenchanted by the world because I did not know what I was taking orders from and began to resent that there was something I was answering to in the first place. Chaos and rebelliousness proved more attractive by the minute.
Dr. Peterson made me develop my Why again. I got back in touch with what my core values are and found the important responsibly of working toward, with, and for them. Peterson acted as a catalyst in my self actualization, just as he had for countless others. I recall a practical bit of advice that is often joked about, but holds such significance that it blew my mind. Clean up your room. We have all heard this command at one point or another in our lives and it usually came from a parental figure. If you are anything like me a statement like that would go in one ear and out the other. But not this time. When I heard this command from Peterson, it immediately took root and nourished a part of my life that was unquenchably parched. My elementary analysis of this sentence is to take care of what you can, your immediate surroundings. It is much more significant to have dominance over the little sphere that surrounds you. The way that he proposed the seriousness of this action jolted everything into a new focus for me. I stopped blaming my lack of direction on the world and began to take responsibility for my own reality. Before I tricked myself into believing that my issues were too minuscule and that there were bigger things to focus on in the outside world then within my bedroom. This was a kind of deflection I was practicing. It is much easier to seem competent when you deal with other issues then your own. I failed to recognize that discipline for its own sake will surely lead to failure and discontent. It’s the same idea as doing a lot of work does not mean you are getting a lot of work done. It’s important to show discipline for what you love and believe so there is a solid foundation to fall on when future challenges present themselves. As soon as his potent words found my ear canal my sight changed. I would not nor could not see the tumultuous environment that I felt trapped by for so long anymore. I realized I was a crying prisoner banging my fists so hard against the cell that I could not recognize the keys in my own palm. The facade of hopelessness dissipated and was replaced by heavy reins to steer my life with. I felt empowered again. Peterson shed light to the reason why it was worth showing discipline in the first place, to have a good life. To have a meaningful life. Naturally, the definition of this varies from person to person, but the component that we can all agree on is that a good life is when we show discipline toward the pursuit of our happiness. When we avidly seek what makes us feel whole.
At this point in the Jordan Peterson Saga one might find his mere name synonymous with the word courage. His unrelenting obstinance in speaking the truth no matter the discomfort it may cause has led many people to love, or love to hate this academic. I’m one who loves because his courage reminds me that I have several reserves of my own. The tenacity Peterson shows in the face of adversity is something to be admired and modeled after. I’m pretty brave and have acted in the face of fear on numerous occasions, but Peterson has helped me develop my refined courage. The sophisticated bravery that was waiting to emerge. Before I was quite brash in my dealings, similar to a bull or ram, but lacked the tact needed to assure longevity in my affairs. I saw that it was not good enough to be the loudest or strongest in the room, that did not make me the winner. I learned what spoke loudest was my lack of speech. The silent strength that emerges when unencumbered by the urge to fill the space with sound. Meekness was a word that I heard before and had an opinion about based off of my initial understanding. Again, how wrong I was. I believed it to mean weak, unable, inept, or small. Although, these words are close to the textbook definition of meek, the contextual meaning in the Bible proved an entirely different explanation illustrated by Peterson.
How right this is- Those who have swords and know how to use them, but keep them sheathed will inherit the earth. Man, that hit me like a ton of bricks! Having courage to go after what you want unapologetically is something that many are born with and should honor, but what happens along the way is that we lose the foresight on how to move methodically and skillfully with that sword. This is something I forcibly remind myself of as my brutish nature takes hold when I want something. Peterson has helped me understand to want and to pursue is a necessity in life that will serve to make our time richer and fruitfully complex. We must have courage in order to combat the never ending chaos attached to consciousness. If we decide not to quest after something we desire that is frightening, we choose to squander our potential and fall back into the endless pit of despair. Yet, we must display our courage responsibly and with the grace maturity affords. If we don’t, we are tyrants, bulldozers and bullies. These images are only attractive to those who have yet developed. There is no lasting benefit in an overbearing nature despite what you may think. Like all things in life, finding balance is key. One should not forego their courage to do for fear of offending however, one also should not display their courage for the sole purpose of offending. A delicate tightrope to walk.
Something that I spoke of in a previous blog was the willingness to fail. This is what courage is all about. Knowing that failure is just as likely as success in one’s pursuits yet embarking on the journey anyway. The openness to experience takes a truly brave individual. Sadly, in our current western society courage has been watered down so far that as a female, leaving the house without make up is courageous. Granted, everyone has their own scale of what frightens them or not, but the degree of superficiality that comes with such a belief is disheartening. Our culture that is centralized around the self and our first world problems are crippling us to real experiences. Real courage. I am endlessly grateful that Peterson has continually dismantled the outlandish fodder swirling around in the media today which preaches that it is a sin to offend anyone ever and that everyone should be treated as if they have overcome a feat even if their “struggle” was making it to work that day. He has helped me have the courage to fail and respect what winning means.
I have a love/ hate relationship with the word hope. Sometimes I look at it as desperate, other times it’s a blank canvas filled with potential delight. What I would like to discuss in regards toward Peterson is the latter. It caught me by surprise after reading his new book 12 Rules for Life that I would find myself excited for the future instead of repelled. Peterson is no stranger to venturing the dark depths of human behavior to convey his points by discussing Nazi Germany and the height of the Soviet Union in his writing, but despite this I could not help but feel an unwavering hope for humanity as the years continue to unfold. The accelerated pace of Peterson’s teachings support the idea that many in my generation, as well as others, are tuned in to wanting change. Or better yet, wanting sustenance in life. There is a collective diss- ease in the way western society has molded itself, but it appears that a majority of the population longs for morality and some semblance of reasonable order. We have simply gone too far. Up is down, left is right and I think most of us can’t take it anymore because we are prohibited in being too much ourselves if it offends someone else. The Canadian academic has brought hope for the future that we will productively think as individuals instead of selfishly declaring our individuality.
He has given me permission to believe in myself. That is a pretty weighty thing to have done, and I know I’m not the only one. He has breathed hope back into my life at a time that I so desperately needed it. Don’t get me wrong, I fully know that my potentials were inside of me all along, but finding outside affirmation is a powerful thing. Not knowing if you are worthless or not, then someone of esteem assuring you that you aren’t is incredibly uplifting. I do not believe in hero worship or treating anyone as if they are more then human, but I do believe in gratitude. In this time I have found several people from older generations constantly belittling millennials and describing us with every hurtful word in the book. Lazy, self-entitled, idealistic, maybe some of that is true but it’s unjust to shed light on only the undesirable aspects of a generation. We are discovering ways to live our lives that past generations could only dream of and we have so many resources at our fingertips that our grandparents’ heads’ would spin. I’m tired of being looked at as a nuisance to society and being resented for utilizing the gifts and opportunities that have been afforded to me. Peterson does not hold resentment for the young people, so to speak. He encourages further exploration and dignified leadership into the uncharted territories we are rapidly bringing to light. I have hope for the future because I know that we are much more united then the authorities that be would like us to think. Most of us agree with the ideas of fairness and morality and as the veil on true happiness grows more sheer we will be exposed to what really matters in life and be able to pursue those things. I am openly hopeful about my ideals coming to pass and am unapologetic for it.
I will always consider myself a dreamer. This is an aspect of my personality that has lasted the test of time and is going no where, but Dr. Peterson opened my eyes to realistic dreaming. How to actualize the visions in my head so they don’t remain in the ether. When I was younger, it was almost impossible to get me to commit to one thing. The fear of missing out on the other was too unbearable. Inevitably, I became a jack of all trades and master of none. Good at several things, but not great at anything. I robbed myself of further development which I am now trying to make up for lost time. He has taught me how important it is to take responsibility and root your aims in reality in order to make them come to pass. It reminds me of a lecture he did discussing Peter Pan that, to this day, taught me more about responsibility and the real world then I had EVER learned within the 4 walls of my university.
You don’t get to choose if you age, but you do get to choose what will be significant in your life. What you are willing to fight for. The unfortunate truth that my generation has postponed adulthood is a hard pill to swallow, but is unarguably accurate.. I wish I was able to point fingers at the culprit, but I’m still unclear if there is just one. Nevertheless, I have found since discovering Dr. Peterson that I no longer escape into Neverland anymore. I used to be a huge advocate for escapism, mostly by self medicating. Now I have absolutely no urge to ingest anything that may alter my state. I am too stimulated by reality to squander it. The newfound focus that has been breathed into my life makes no room for frivolities anymore. If it does not help me grow, it has to go. Simple as that.
Furthermore, I have come to realize the difference between reality and fantasy, something we assume most people can do. It can be painful seeing each detail of the now, but I then have the power to change it once I can see it. If I am afraid to look under the bed, then look under the bed, I have proven that I am strong enough to face whatever may be looking back at me. The problem that I faced was living out the positive or negative fantasy in my head more often then facing the reality in front of me. Left to my own devices, I can exacerbate a situation well past its expiration date. I am finally free from making my life harder then it has to be. Of course, there will always be something to deal with once something is dealt with, the circle of life, you know, but I have the tools to let those hiccups last only for as long as they should. Taking what control I do have of my life gives me such a sense of excitement and comfort that I have never had before. I am excited to know that whatever I deem worthy to have, I am fully capable of having. I take comfort in knowing that I am strong enough to handle life while standing up straight with shoulders back.
Some say that you start learning as soon as you leave university and I would have to agree. Like I’ve said before, I have no regrets, but if I had known of Peterson when I was still in university I would have saved myself from a lot of unnecessary predicaments! With that being said, I know it is no coincidence that I have learned of him now. I truly believe the future is brighter then I could have imagined before because I have the fortitude to make it so…and I will!