Jordan Peterson – “12 Rules for Life” book review

It seems that from every generation emerges a number of highly intellectual thinkers who go about upsetting the masses by their astute observation of that which hides in plain sight. They appear to be able to articulate that which we all knew, but we just didn’t know that we knew it. As a result, they quickly acquire a substantial number of followers and a substantial number of detractors. Jordan Peterson is one such thinker.

Many of the followers follow until they get bored and then after a short lull will often go and find the next thinker to follow. Many of the detractors detract simply until the fashion ends. The fashion ends usually by the mere passage of time, enough of them grow up a little and move on to other things that begin to occupy their attention. A tipping point is reached when there are too few “likes” to be had from their virtue signals and, as a result, interest wanes, and waiting for the next trend begins.

It seems that the Jordan Peterson phenomenon is another example of this pattern.

Now, I have a bit of an awkward confession. I hope JP forgives me for this, and I don’t accidentally insult those who look to me for help and support. But here goes…

You see, people often send me their books and CDS and DVDs. I think this is because I am open about my own successes and failures in terms of my therapy practice and in terms of the business end of this same practice. I try and help others where I can, but the problem is that the majority of what I get sent via the post is perfectly awful.

This is awkward, because I know how much work and how much social risk it takes to produce a book or an audio recording and I don’t want to discourage people. But then I don’t want to encourage mediocrity or just plain awfulness either. Sometimes I simply don’t know what to say, so regrettably I sometimes say nothing at all.

So that is the backdrop, now here is the background. In the past few months, I started to become aware of a guy, a psychologist or something, who was causing a bit of a stir. It appeared that the alt-right had claimed him as one of their own, and the looney-left SJW scene had themselves a new hate figure. And that was pretty much all I was aware of.

This awareness grew owing to a small merry band of SJWs declaring me to be a “racist neo-nazi” and “Tory scum” following a simple ambiguous joke I made on Facebook about the Brexit referendum result. I become aware of some of my humourless brethren displaying a major left-wing meltdown and various stories began to reach me about what was being said in the bar after lodge meetings.

I began to pay closer attention to the SJW phenomena.

It was around about this time that I received a message via Twitter asking me if I would be interested in receiving a new book. This is not uncommon, so I simply said yes thank you and gave my postal address. I thought no more of it.

A book arrived in the mail a short while later and when I opened it, my wife commented, “Oh, what’s that?” to which I half-jokingly replied words to the effect of, “…another book I’m never going to read” and I put it aside somewhere.

Time passes. Then one morning my social media feeds explode. Two names kept being mentioned over and over and over and over: Jordan Peterson and Cathy Newman. The now infamous interview had happened.

Now, as someone who doesn’t watch television, I had not heard of either of these people consciously. Both names seemed somehow familiar, but I had no idea why. I hadn’t yet seen the interview, but the social media noise was amazing. The names took root in my brain.

Then over dinner, a thought occurred to me, “Laura,” I said, “do you know what I did with that book I got the other day?” She didn’t and neither did I. My brain hadn’t caught up with why this thought occurred to me, but it seemed most important to find the book.

It took 2 hours of rummaging and I found it.

Oh. My. God.

The title, “12 Rules for Life, The Antidote to Chaos” by Jordan B. Peterson.

Ah. Oh. Oh.

Shit.

The book was relocated to the bathroom where I do most of my reading (yeah, whatever).

The following evening my father-in-law came for dinner. He began to talk about the Peterson-Newman interview, I hadn’t seen it so I found it on youtube and we all watched it together. Peterson had become a bit of a hero to my father-in-law so I casually mentioned, “Oh, yeah, Jordan sent me his new book the other day” like, you know, we were on first name terms and stuff. I will further confess since I am going to be outed on my nonsense anyway, that I dropped the same line into a couple of Facebook discussions with my peers in the following days.

Yes, well. I’m an awful person. And now I am humble boasting again by confessing. It’s a wonderful life.

Anyway, what struck me in the Cathy Newman interview was not just her inability to differentiate opinion from evidence, but the sheer differential in intellectual capacity. I couldn’t understand why Cathy Newman didn’t say, “tell us more about that” instead of trying to argue with someone who was clearly her intellectual superior. Also, what was most interesting to me was how well Peterson maintained his cool and good humour throughout. That, right there, is a quality I’ve never managed myself and is the main reason why I could rarely maintain steady employment. I’ve always avoided live TV and radio for this very reason too.

An incoherently frothing psychotherapist on live TV is definitely not a good look. The video remixers of youtube could have a field day.

Before reading the book I began to watch some of his youtube videos. The news and media interviews about politics etc were ok, but not really my interest, but what I saw of his lecture series was astonishing. At the time of writing, I’m still working my way through them all, mostly watching 20-minute bursts in order to cope with their information density (I’m pretty clever and creative, but my goodness, this guy is out there in terms of his detail and depth of knowledge).

So, to the book. Now, before even reading the book, something I had become aware of was how many people on Facebook were reposting and sharing any negative book reviews they were able to find. I asked some of these people if they had read the book themselves, and weirdly none of them had. “So why share the negative book review?” I would ask. But I rarely received a polite or a non-reactionary answer. At the time of writing, this is the one that is doing the rounds: Jordan Peterson & Fascist Mysticism

It is just awkward. I suspect the writer of that piece was trying to come up with a slur that is opposite to “Cultural Marxism” and then designing his writing around that.

As a result, I was keen to see what the lobster thing was all about. I just didn’t get it, how can evidence of culture in another species create so much madness in podgy blue hair people with facial piercings? These lobster behaviours emerge because we move towards order or else we have chaos, and to say this is to invoke the madness of the crowd?

It’s a modern day witch burning. And given the behaviour of the SJW community, to try and suggest that the witch is not a witch at all is to risk a forced invitation to the bonfire.

As a therapist occupying a particular niche in the modern therapy world, I have become all-too-familiar with the move away from a systemic and existential therapeutic framework and towards a framework that is much more procedurally orientated towards symptomatic relief (i.e. “basic techniques”). I think this is regrettable, as much adherence to brief techniques is merely a counter-reaction to some of the old schools of ineffective long-psychotherapy, and not necessarily any better.

The problem is, there are too few modern-day brief therapists in their various guises who wish to think long and hard about existentialism, preferring instead to think and talk about spirituality. Spirituality amongst therapists, as far I can see, seems little more than some silly superstitious nonsense, whale music, positive thinking and a denial of the reality of suffering. These are some of the people who need trigger warnings lest their fragile beliefs get challenged without sufficient warning and enough time to grab the crystal of protection.

Jordan Peterson - 12 Rules for Life Review
A clear message in “12 Rules…” is that suffering is very real, life is dangerous, and it is not all love, light and unicorns. Only when we can acknowledge this reality are we able to do something about it.

This is something I have seen with the SJW scene: a preference to pay attention more to how things should be, rather than how things actually are. To simply state how things actually are is to be branded as a supporter/promoter/creator of said thing.

These are people stuck in their “shoulds” or, more importantly, stuck inside what other people “should” do, rather than paying attention to what other people actually do and how things actually are. This is Cathy Newman’s error – an inability to differentiate between an opinion about something and actual evidence of something. Citing evidence is not necessarily an opinion or an endorsement and I wish Peterson well in getting people to understand this, his patience appears to be far greater than mine.

“12 Rules…” partly covers how things are, and partly covers what we can do about them. This is not about a set of pop-psychology techniques or another alphabet therapy.  The answer, of course, is something that has never been particularly popular: take some responsibility.

This isn’t good news to SJWs who are of course trying to get everyone else to take responsibility. Protest and social constructivism is so much easier than looking in the mirror of one’s life and taking a dynamic action.

Jordan Peterson is the man I wish I’d been aware of a long time ago, and it is entirely possible that without the SJW tantrums on Facebook, I would have missed his work entirely, and so for that, I am grateful to the people with blue hair and bottles of gender fluid.

12 Rules for Life – An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson” is an essential read for anyone observing the chaos of the social-political landscape in these current times. It could just as easily have been subtitled, “An Appeal to Sanity.” I also add this to the list of required reading for all alphabet therapists and YARVIS clientele and hope they actually read it.

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6 Responses to Jordan Peterson – “12 Rules for Life” book review

  1. Soni Weiss says:

    You bring a smile to my face…stirring it up again…love it…Not familiar with local politics as am on the other side of the pond ; confident you have offended someone which needs to be done. Since you said it’s a must read then I will purchase it…you have creditability which is hard to come by now a days. Responsibility, come on now, we would be out of business if that trend gets going. Being a spiritual person I take no offense by your comments and have to say that many of my wowo friends and associates who are in direct contact with the Archangels, particularly Michael, who never gets any sleep, seem to miss the point that our Creator, who or whatever that may, gave us free will and choice. Responsibility is a choice, just as much as taking your head out of your ass is. Don’t you occasionally want to say that…have you considered .taking your head out of your ass, it’s dark up there, and then you will get some light on the situation and some clarity.

  2. Martin says:

    His lecture on orderliness as a trait and it’s alignment with disgust as a biological fact is a tour de force. I loved the lecture on Dostoevsky, Nietzsche and Heidegger too. His principled stand against compelled speech being brought into law (Unbelievably it has been in Canada) that almost cost him his job and his warnings against the erosion of free speech etc. It’s great that he’s interested in these ideas, that he’s shared his content for free (how gracious and generous) & that he makes intellectual pursuits respectable and compelling. Most common comments I used to read on his videos would say, I wish my psychology teacher had been like you.

  3. Joao Nunes says:

    Andrew,

    Thank you for the article. I love to read what you write. I didn’t know Jordan Peterson either but can find out more. I agree that pain and suffering are part of life and know that you’ve highlighted this a number of times from past articles and videos from you.

    I wish you all the best.
    Joao Nunes from Portugal

  4. Soni Weiss says:

    Thank you for the review as I just finished the book and really appreciate you bringing it to my attention. Filled with helpful information for us all, validation for taking the road less traveled for some, answers to questions, solutions to problems, new perspective to old pictures and all in a fashion that is readable and enjoyable to boot. Information we can all use in our own lives. Appreciate you taking the time to share this.

  5. Rosanna says:

    What a wonderful, wonderful book … I have been looking for this all my life

  6. Jennifer Ambrey says:

    I HAVE read the book and will be purchasing it for my three children (who are parents themselves) among others. It’s the modern equivalent of ‘The Emperor”s New Clothes’ in saying it as it actually is in this life. A seminal read for any reasoning human being. Instead of people saying “It’s my rights” over and over again about everything they should instead take responsibility and give back to the world which owes them nothing. Look out into the world and be the best person you can be and don’t leave everything to everyone else to sort out. I admire his courage and capacity for calm in all the chaos. If everyone behaved according to the principles and rules laid out….Well, wow… can you imagine it? Thank you,Mr Austin, for your review and thank you ,Mr Petersen, for researching and writing, at last, book of sense and values. If only we could get the blinkered, unreasoning bigots to read this.

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