12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

By Jordon B Peterson

ISBN: 978-0-345-81602-3

–Review by Douglas Balzer

 

For several years now I have been following Jordan B Peterson, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto Canada, and supplementing my personal studies in psychology through his publication Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief. Personally, I have found his thesis provocative as he explores the depths of what it means to be a human being. He has been difficult for people to define as they are trying to label him by fitting him into some authoritarian category unsuccessfully. He has become a polarizing personality for many people. It is part of the reason I like him. My interest has been to study his semiotics in the application of archetypes throughout the biblical narrative. For me whenever a person is subject to the level of media scrutiny that Peterson has been my curiosity is heightened. Each of us has to judge for ourselves.

They say life is a journey and navigating it is a constant struggle. If there is anything life guarantees is there will be more difficulties around each corner, but there will also be beauty and joy to be found in the journey. This is Life! So, how can we navigate it successfully? You may or may not like the answers but Jordan B Peterson, in his book 12 Rules for Living: An Antidote to Chaos, shares ways to keep improving your life and staying truthful, so you will be able to enjoy the satisfaction of making progress every day as you keep striving to be a better human being.

Now, in this recent book 12 Rules, it is filled with the practical application of the cutting edge research to answer some of the most perplexing questions we ask about life, its meaning, and purpose. His approach is humorous and informative, as Peterson takes on science, human nature, and faith. Dr. Peterson presents an opportunity to for us to engage a transformative and elevation of our spirit and mind. In this review, I am going to address just a few of the rules because the book is well worth the time you will take reading it.

The first rule is: STAND UP STRAIGHT WITH YOUR SHOULDERS BACK –

Lobsters, what do they have to do with humans? You might be surprised, but there is a correlation. Scientists have found Lobsters in their competitive conflicts will lead to the winners and losers having different chemical balances in their brains. Winners will have a higher ratio of the hormones serotonin to octopamine, while the ratio in losers will change gradient in the opposite direction.

These hormone levels affect the posture of lobsters. Yes, this is true in human beings too, the more serotonin primes a more agile and upright posture, and the lower levels of serotonin primes an anxious and slouched posture. Now, this difference factors into further confrontations, as the upright lobsters appear bigger and more intimidating, causing the stressed ones to remain submissive.

So, as you may have guessed, there are similar hierarchies and cycles of winning and losing play out amid human beings.

“If you can bite, you generally don’t have to.”

Therefore, if you are looking to give yourself a boost, follow the first rule. Stand up straight with your should back – take care of your posture by participating in activities that boost your serotonin levels.

The second rule is: TREAT YOURSELF LIKE SOMEONE YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR HELPING.

If our beloved pet was sick and the vet prescribed it medication, we don’t second-guess the doctor and not fill the prescription, would you? Yet, one-third of people who receive prescriptions ignore them even though given by their doctor. The question is: why do we take better care of our pets than ourselves?

What a good question. Peterson explores the various reasons for this issue. As a clinician, therapist, he brings together his experience, research, and academic expertise. The aspects of faith and the Biblical narrative of Adam and Eve come into play as a narraphor as a metaphor and narrative expressing the responsibility we have as human beings for our own care. Exploring the dark side of our humanity matters and learning to care for ourselves is critical to the health of a society.

“It is not virtuous to be victimized by a bully, even if that bully is oneself.”

Peterson shares the necessity of finding the steps that you should take and the actions that are best for you.

The sixth rule is: SET YOUR HOUSE IN PERFECT ORDER BEFORE YOU CRITICIZE THE WORLD

We have to be honest the world is full of suffering, trials, and pain but this is not cause for hopelessness. Throughout the millennia people have seen life as so cruel and unfair that drastic responses are justified.

Peterson draws upon the conclusions of Russian author Leo Tolstoy, who viewed existence as so ludicrously unjust that he proposes there are only four valid responses he could take: childlike ignorance, hedonistic pleasure, suicide or struggling on despite it all. In his essay “A Confession,” Tolstoy analyzed these propositions and concludes for himself the most honest response was suicide while struggling on was a sign of his weak inability to take the appropriate action. Tolstoy’s worldview, bleak and foreboding, was that no matter how much you’ve suffered or however cruel and unjust you find life to be, you shouldn’t blame the world.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a communist who fought against the Nazis during World War II, despite his service, he ended up being imprisoned in the Gulag Archipelago by his own comrades after the war. And as if living in a Russian gulag was not bad enough, he found out he had cancer while imprisoned.

Notwithstanding all this, Solzhenitsyn did not blame the world for his lot in life. He had accepted his role in supporting the Communist Party. It had imprisoned him, and he took it upon himself to use the time he had left to contribute something good and meaningful to the world.

In the Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn provides a history, as well as a critical indictment, of the Soviet camps he had experienced firsthand. His book played an important role in extinguishing any lasting support that Stalin’s brand of communism had among intellectual circles worldwide.

Life truly is an enormous and complicated voyage, and yet we tend only to see the isolated parts and yet think we have a full perspective of the World. If you’re walking along and see an apple on the ground, you probably don’t think of the branch, tree, roots, and soil that were all connected before it fell. Peterson aptly uses Tolstoy and Solzhenitsyn to demonstrate the necessity of setting your own world in order first because the world is full of injustices, but we should not blame others for our lot in life.

In conclusion, we long for universal values, truths, and rules to give our lives meaning and purpose. These are the themes Jordan B. Peterson has taken into consideration when making this list of 12 Rules to help contemporary people and society carve our way through today’s chaotic times. Personally, I found Peterson’s style of writing to be engaging and hard to put down. Frankly, challenging, enlightening and transformative in the nature of his writing. Check it out, and I hope you enjoy it as I did.