Updated: Jul 13
There is something fascinating -- and frightening -- about Jordan Peterson.
There's something about Jordan B. Peterson that is fascinating.
"This guy is a crazy extremist."
The descriptions of Peterson in these articles (and others like them) make him out to be extreme, hateful, and someone to be feared because he wants to keep us in a "male-dominated patriarchy" as part of a 'men's rights' movement.
I don't like 'extremists'. I like to maintain a balanced perspective and to listen to those who also seem to have their feet firmly planted with broad, wholesome, charitable views of humanity and things as they really are.
I first came across Jordan Peterson when someone (my brother!) recommended 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.
I grew up in an extremely conservative, Christian background. My views have become more open as a result of traveling to 37 countries on five continents and reading hundreds of books in all genres (including religious texts such as the Quran, the Dhammapada, the Tao te Ching, and the Bhagavad Gita, not to mention metaphysics, new age, and Christian science writers like Ernest Holmes).
But even from standing in a more moderate middle ground (comparatively), as I read Peterson's book I did NOT get the impression that he was religious, conservative, or extreme in his views.
He seemed scientific, analytical, and liberal compared to my background. In fact, I wondered if he believed in God at all.
He staunchly believes in evolution and that the bible stories are archetypal (maybe mythical) not literal (as many Christians believe).
He also appears to be 'left-wing' in many of his viewpoints (although I hate using those types of terms). He discusses the use of LSD and other hallucinogenics as proof that religious type experiences are scientifically provable and that addictions, and even obesity may be a form of disease -- instead of a lack of self-control as some conservatives believe.
So I was somewhat shocked when I first read that many viewed Peterson to be extreme 'alt-right'! I know people in the alt-right... and his views would coincide with theirs.
Now, two years after reading his book and having personally listened to over 25+ hours of Peterson on his podcasts and YouTube videos, it is obvious to me that the above articles (and others like them) seem to be skewed interpretations of what he actually teaches...
Most of what they write about him is 'true'... and yet twisted.
When I read about Jordan Peterson I feel squeamish and icky.
When I listen to or read Jordan Peterson I feel empowered, validated, and that what he teaches is true and needed.
And I am a married woman with seven children (including 3 sons).
I'm NOT his typical audience demographic which is usually 20-30 something males.
There is much of what Peterson says that, when taken out of context, sounds wrong -- or just another version of the 'same old' dogmatic teaching.
Especially in the 'politically correct', overly sensitive, religion-rejecting society we live in today.
Yet, compared to my own understanding of the world based on a 20+ year autodidact education in self-development, philosophy, psychology, marriage, sex, parenting, and literature, plus travel to 37 countries on five continents --
I find nothing in his teachings which -- when fully articulated and explained in their complete context -- denigrate or disparage women or place higher regard on men.
In fact, what he teaches coincides with what my husband and I teach in our family coaching -- the empowerment and improvement of the individual for the benefit of the family and society -- not based on religion but on a scientific, existential, 'logotherapy' basis.
What Peterson teaches directly aligns with our own conclusions about how to create happy family lives -- conclusions we reached after 25+ years of study and research.
As he claims himself, Peterson is not speaking only to men. He is speaking to humanity and to the archetypes that make up the meaning of our existence, as well as to how to make our existence meaningful...
It just happens that his message resonates largely with men and some 'religious people' (although many Christians aren't sure what to do with him) who seem to be floundering and looking for meaning and purpose in their lives -- especially in Western cultures.
This is something we've seen firsthand in our travels as a family to 5 continents and 37+ countries.
My husband and I privately joke that while some countries are still considered to be 'backward' and 'male-dominated', Western culture has become increasingly 'female-dominated' -- and men are losing their manliness as a result.
This loss of masculinity is a detriment not only to themselves but to their families and communities as well.
Religion has also been cast-off en masse worldwide in countries and cultures across the globe.
People are abandoning their long-held beliefs -- beliefs that should be questioned -- but only carefully given up IF or when a strong and stable replacement can be found.
Without an equally strong belief to replace what they've abandoned, human beings -- and those they share relationships with -- become unstable and unbalanced, and they ultimately lose the things (and people) that provide the most meaning and fulfillment to their existence.
Peterson seems to touch a chord that aims to restore these imbalances.
The ideal society (and intimate and family relationships) are those in which men and women decide (for themselves) what they each truly want --
-- their individual noble aim -- and then work together to support each other in achieving those aims.
This is not an easy process. In fact, it is chaotic and messy. Sometimes it's painful and causes suffering.
But it's better than the alternative which is guaranteed, ongoing suffering and misery.
"The nobler the aim the better your life."
Back to my original idea.
When I read about Jordan Peterson, he's frightening.
When I listen to him, he 'makes sense' on a soul level.
Yet he deals with the 'soul' and the metaphysical, religious, and existential aspects of life with logic and scientific reasoning -- from the hands-on experience of what he truly 'knows' as a clinical psychologist and scientist.
He's very careful -- in fact resistant -- to making statements based only on what he believes but can't prove scientifically. He separates the two completely -- beliefs and facts.
And his insights don't apply to just science and religion. While his viewpoints may seem conservative and 'right-wing' (to the extreme left?), he actually stands for whatever 'works'.
He seems to support whatever will produce the healthy, psychological results we really want as humans, no matter if it's conservative or liberal, right-wing or left-wing, religious or scientific.
He's not promoting one particular party viewpoint, but the viewpoint of 'here's what I've seen that just gets results -- the across-culture-gender-results that humans want and are searching for."
And he recognizes the need for both 'right' and 'left' -- liberal and conservative -- not to mention religion and science. The harmony of their virtues is better than what either promotes on their own.
From my perspective, it's as though he's bridging the gap between two worlds -- religious, scientific, and political -- worlds that have been at odds in my own mind, as I know they have for millions of people on the planet.
"Peterson’s insights are of interest for everyone who’s grown tired of a political culture where two sides scream at each other and rarely productively engage with ideas.
Peterson defines thinking as a process that involves being scrupulously fair to the other side. The thinker states the viewpoint or perspective that is antithetical to his or her own views as eloquently and powerfully as possible, and then constructs a response. Instead of attacking a “straw man” version of the opposing argument, the thinker critiques the “iron man” version, as Peterson puts it.
That’s what great minds have historically done. It’s no accident, Peterson says in one of his lectures, that the smartest and most admirable characters in some of Dostoyevsky’s novels are those whose viewpoint the author opposes. This is intelligence at work, and it’s sadly absent all too often on both the right and the left. -- Michael Washburn
Jordan B. Peterson Challenge
We've started calling him PBJ at my house, since I quote him so often -- and we didn't want to confuse him with JP Sears, someone my kids get a kick out of.
Ultimately, I find him more fascinating than frightening, once I faced and came to terms with the 'dark side' presented by the media and others.
I formed my own opinion about him, by listening to and contemplating his countless lectures.
And so I created a Jordan B. Peterson Challenge which I'm currently undertaking.