Peterson, J. B. (2021) Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. Portfolio
Dr. Peterson’s follow up to 12 Rules for Life exceeds expectations. That means that most authors who produce the second book in the same vein as their first successful book will typically miss the mark. Dr. Peterson did not have the same outcome, and that is because the man seems to be truthful and sincere in his words. The following rules are chapters from the book.
Rule 1: Do Not Carelessly Denigrate Social Institutions or Creative Achievement
This rule speaks to what Jordan has discussed during his appearances during the 12 Rules for Life tour about the necessity of right and left or conservatives and liberals, not the radical left. That social institutions such as religions, governments, family structures, social structures, and there are many more that escape memory at the moment. However, those things are there and have served well to help society stay organized. However, those institutions can stultify and become too rigid and can ossify into tyranny. So the systems do need updating. So, careful analysis is needed to develop the necessary interventions that can be implemented carefully so that the system update does not lead to any unintended consequence. Liberals should not carelessly denigrate the social institutions, even if a change is needed to update the institution.
Conservatives are cautioned about the dangers of scoffing at new ideas. New ideas typically come from the liberals due to their naturally open temperament. Due to the high openness of liberally oriented people, they are also more creative. New ideas typically stem from them. Therefore, it is encouraged that conservatives carefully look to the institutions they want to conserve and take an honest assessment if they are too rigid. Perhaps if the institution does work, but not as well as it should, conservatives should take the institution's criticism by the liberal types seriously. The saying "if it is not broke, do not fix it" comes to mind when describing the conservative mindset. Just because it is not broke does not mean the institution is working sufficiently within today's context compared to ten or maybe twenty years ago. New ideas should be examined and implemented to see what happens and adjust where needed for a successful update. A successful new idea that works in conjunction with the social institution can be seen as a creative achievement. Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or creative achievement.
Rule 2: Imagine Who You Could Be and Then Aim Single-Mindedly at That
The rule in this chapter is about how to improve one's self. If one were to look around at life and think, "This is not ideal, and things could be a lot better," one only needs to imagine what it would be like to have whatever it is that one could consider ideal. What their ideal self be? Conceptualizing that will lead one to make a series of goals that would make that ideal a reality. Those goals can be broken down into smaller goals if need be, and then each goal should be worked toward and achieved to make the ideal a reality. As a person in the psychology profession, Reality therapy comes to the forefront. Reality therapy is a therapeutic intervention conceptualized by William Glasser (1965) that examines what a person wants, evaluating what they are doing to get that want or need to be met, and then planning out a new pattern of behavior, and then acting that out to see if that works adaptively. Reality therapy has this idea: the WDEP (wants, doing, evaluating, planning) model central to reality therapy. This method is one way a clinician may help a client with making their ideal become a reality.
Anyone can do this if they want to, imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that.
Rule 3: Do Not Hide Unwanted Things in the Fog
This chapter has another helpful rule when it comes to intimate relationships. If things are bothersome, they should be addressed as soon as possible. Otherwise, the person in the relationship who keeps stuffing down their minor irritations will allow that pressure to build, and then it will explode in a fight. That fight that has been avoided has now manifested itself will more likely be needlessly worse than it should be.
What could these irritations be? Perhaps a person knows what they want but is afraid to articulate it due to how embarrassing it may be. Why would it be embarrassing? Well, suppose the other person does not want them to have that which they want. This avoidance could be out of fear of upsetting the dynamic of the relationship. So when displeasure at something missed is willfully ignored, it can build into resentment, which festers. That is not good because, like any festering wound, the nastiness that has been bubbling will manifest itself, and more intensely than just confronting the problem, from the start. That is one reason to confront issues and solve them at the earliest opportunity. Otherwise, the conflict with the partner will be more resentment-fueled and lead to unnecessary hurt that can render the relationship apart.
Also, if a problem or conflict is avoided, it gets hidden in the fog. That willful blindness often leads to an outcome that is much worse than if it had been confronted initially. When one becomes willfully blind to a problem and finally catches up, the outcome takes a more direct toll on that person psychologically. The emotions become much more dysregulated, and the recovery from that is often much longer. This ties into the idea that anomaly can lead to disintegration into chaos. Here, one must figure out what they did wrong and use that knowledge to reorient themselves and reestablish order. By willfully blinding oneself to the problem as it was growing, this disintegration into chaos may seem almost overwhelming to the point where depressive or anxiety disorders can manifest. So it is best to confront those issues headlong and with the courage to avoid a more severe catastrophe than hiding from it. So, do not hide unwanted things in the fog.
Chapter 4:Notice That Opportunity Lurks Where Responsibility Has Been Abdicated
This rule is about how not to allow one's job or career to stagnate into a meaningless existence, leading to resentment of the job. Looking for an opportunity to take on more responsibility makes the job more worthwhile. How is that? When a person looks for more responsibility, there are opportunities to grow in knowledge, skill, utility, and value. Trying to take on something that one has never done before means there will be new things to learn. Trying to take that knowledge and apply it leads to gaining a new skill or strengthening one's skills. Think of it as leveling up for those who play role-playing games. A person who is willing looks to grow in knowledge and skill and can apply it grow in their utility in the workplace and therefore cements their place in their job or career, making them more valuable to their employer. This set of actions can lead to advances in career or perhaps marks a change in employers to gain more opportunities.
Also, the idea of not being resentful of the job, nobody wants to go to a job they hate. Nevertheless, many people do because they do not have the proper education, right certifications, or perhaps start in the job world. This lack of meaning can lead to feeling like Groundhog Day, which is not good because job performance may lessen and lead to possible disciplinary actions from one's boss. So, looking for more responsibility can open up opportunities to make the job more fulfilling and rewarding, even when looking for another job. Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated.
Chapter 5: Do Not Do What You Hate
This rule plays off the idea of rule 3. It is not about stopping getting up early because you dislike the inconvenience of it. It states that there are things that you may be asked to do that violates your principles, so maybe do not do that. This type of situation can tie directly to Peterson's experience with Bill C-16 in Canada. Regardless of which side one would fall regarding the argument, Peterson would hate the idea of being forced to use language by state force, which is the threat he warned many people about happening. So, instead of doing it, he spoke out.
How does this apply to other people? If a person works at a job and the HR department made it mandatory to put preferred pronouns at the end of an email, and that person thought, "No, that makes no sense and has nothing to do with the job," then they have a reasonable objection. That person can decide if this is a minor inconvenience or something else going on under the surface. Suppose there is a possibility of an ideologically motivated game being played by the HR department. In that case, it will escalate to say making a statement about equity or diversity in the workplace predicated on the identity politics nonsense seen to permeate the political arena today. It is not a game one wants to play, then do not play the game.
Why not play the game? If one does not believe in the actions they are acting out, incongruence can result, leading to resentment, which is not good, especially in the workplace. Keeping one's objections to themselves may work within the work context, but what does that do to the integrity of that individual. It probably makes their emotions less regulated. Reality becomes slightly warped. It could cause many issues, like anxiety or depression, because the true self has been sacrificed for something false. False insofar as what they hate does not align with what they think. That sacrifice does not seem worth it. Instead, do not do things that you hate.
Rule 6: Abandon Ideology
Ideologies are incomplete thoughts and ideas about the world and things that happen in the world. The gender pay gap is an excellent example of an ideology. The idea that men make seventy-seven cents more than a woman is accurate when you consider one answer to the problem. Sexism prevents women from having equal pay. However, there have been many studies that have debunked this. Peterson, Christina Sommers, and many others have pointed out that median earnings are compared, not the mean or average. So that variable used is not a good unit of measure. Secondly, as Peterson himself argued, one has to take age, occupation, education, personality, temperament, interest, and all the other variables into account, and what happens is that gap decreases. That means the wage gap is a result of sexism is wrong. Ideologues only care about one answer. Any evidence to the contrary leads to a cognitive dissonance projected onto the person pointing out the facts, calling them either sexist or racist, if not a combination of those epithets.
Abandoning ideology means people should think for themselves, read what they can, and challenge ideas, and figure out what is going on. That means reading more than one author on any given subject and judge it based on what you think, rather than what one would want or force you to think. One look at Twitter, Facebook, or other social media should clarify why ideology is terrible and should be abandoned. Anyone who breaks away from ideological orthodoxy automatically becomes ostracized and attacked by the rest of the group who do not challenge the ideas they spout. It is almost like when the computer crashes, and pure emotion fuels the behavior.
It is also easy to tell when talking to an ideologically possessed individual. They will parrot what they have been taught, and if it is predictable enough, you know what they think about all the political topics. Suppose they believe in the patriarchy oppressing women and use that as their default explanation for society's ills. In that case, you can be 98% sure they think gender is socially constructed, and when called on it, they will try to deny it but will restate your hypothesis. Helen Lewis did that when Jordan called her on it during the GQ interview. "Once I know what you stand on one thing, I know where you stand on everything, and then it is like you are not here, I can replace you with someone else who thinks the same thing. That is the mark of ideological possession, and it is not good." He is right about that, so abandon ideology.
Rule 7: Work as Hard as You Can on at Least One Thing and See What Happens
This rule has a similar meaning to Rule 2. Once an idea of what a person's ideal is fleshed out and those goals have been articulated, it is time to do something about that. That means having to do the work, and that can be difficult, especially if the current routine has become so easy to maintain that change will be difficult. One could ask, "is it worth it?" The answer to that is yes, it is. There is a metaphor in this chapter that is highly accurate. Diamonds become diamonds due to the pressure put on them. So, a person needs to work hard to achieve their goals so that their imagined ideal becomes a reality, that they come the diamond that transcends their original coal-like state.
This idea of needing pressure is also a Jungian presupposition. Jung looked at the person who needed to grow as a manifestation of the prime material, the prime material or the philosopher stone in the old alchemical texts. Therefore the person, insufficient as they are, can be described as lead in a sense. It is a mundane material, but it could transform into gold with the application of the prime material. Now in chemistry, that does not happen, but in psychology, this is true. A person can transcend where they are now, which may need to improve. By disciplining themselves and putting the necessary work in, they can transform and transcend into who they could be—the idea of lead into gold in a psychological sense.
If a person wants to get a master's degree, that is no easy task; however, discipline and an ideal worth working toward can get someone on the correct path forward. The internal motivation is there to get the person to move in a gradient from the unbearable present to the ideal future, an idea Peterson mapped out in Maps of Meaning. By working at that single-mindedly and working as hard as possible, no goal or task is too daunting to stop their progress. Therefore the transformation is indeed possible, and the person gets the degree they seek. Work as hard as you can on at least one thing, and see what happens.
Rule 8: Try to Make One Room in Your Home as Beautiful as Possible
This chapter has a rule that can be seen as a sequel to the rule in the previous book, Set Your House in Perfect Order Before You Criticize the World. In that rule, there is an injunction that the best thing we can do is get our immediate landscape sorted out before trying to change the world at large. You cannot protest the structure of the economic system if you cannot keep your room organized. Once you get your room together, maybe you should make it beautiful.
Doing this means that one is about to embark on a journey about self-discovery about their lack of taste. Inviting art into a space in the home means that every other space in the house will look awful by comparison. However, motivation to make your house beautiful will manifest. However, it all starts in one room, whichever room you choose. Doing so also opens a window into the transcendent and divine as well. Initiating a relationship with beauty and art will also initiate a relationship with creativity. New ideas can come to fruition whether, by painting, music, or whatever one would consider an art form, these forms can be explored, and there is no telling where that will go.
Accepting beauty into a room of the house will remind the person of their insufficiencies, and if they can make a room beautiful, they can do something similar for themselves. There is nothing to lose in doing that, except maybe resentment and arrogance that one needs to dispense with, to improve. So why not try to make one room in your home as beautiful as possible?
Rule 9: If Old Memories Still Upset You, Write Them Down Carefully and Completely
We are often the product of our past. Many traumatic things can occur in the lifespan that shape and mold our personality. What if that memory of that event has been distorted over time, and perhaps we should re-examine that memory, especially if it is upsetting. Writing it down as carefully and thoroughly as possible may reveal things about the upsetting event that perhaps we can think about and reevaluate.
In this chapter, Peterson gives some anecdotes about how this has helped his clients in therapy. A lady came to see him, and it was revealed that she was believed to have been molested by her older cousin. Peterson does not challenge her lived experience. Instead, he asks for more details about it by having her write it out. Peterson discovers that the older cousin was six and she was four when this happened. He asked her if the memory became distorted due to her young age and the passage of decades. She thinks about it for a second. Then Peterson asks, "is it possible that perhaps, that as children, you were poorly unsupervised playing doctor, a game that was common for young children to play, that had the high probability of going too far for children. Was it probable that it was not molestation and assault by a malevolent older male but two unsupervised young children? Therefore the upsetting memory was a distorted one that caused unnecessary pain and misery?" The two sifted through this memory, and the female client, through this examination, was able to reappraise the situation, and she was able to be much better after therapy.
Perhaps we would all be better in some minor way if we reappraised the memories we have that are traumatic. We could also learn from any mistakes that lead to tragic and awful outcomes. If old memories still upset you, write them down carefully and completely.
Rule 10: Plan and Work Diligently to Maintain the Romance in Your Relationship
The rule in this chapter is essential if you are married or in a long-term intimate relationship. It takes work to make a marriage work, so love alone is insufficient. People who make it into the twenty or thirty-year mark of marriage did not do so very easily. You have to work for that. That means having the courage to engage in arguments and disagreements with your partner to identify and solve problems that arise.
It is also essential to consider that infatuation does not last. It has been said that spontaneity keeps the sexual element of marriage alive. However, this is not true. As time goes on in a marriage, people have careers that take a toll on them physically, emotionally, and mentally. People get into routines to manage the day so that there is time for engaging with each other. It should not be anathema to think that sexual intimacy may have to be planned if the frequency has decreased with time. If one is not getting their needs met, they must talk to their partner about it, in good faith and love, and solve the problem if you have to try to schedule it for once a week. So be it. You may be terrible at it at first, but you will get better, and then you can plan on increasing frequency over time to get that intimacy back. The idea is to keep the marriage live and stable through time, so plan and work diligently to maintain the romance in your relationship.
Rule 11: Do Not Allow Yourself to Become Resentful, Deceitful, or Arrogant
Arrogance, deceit, and resentment are what Peterson has called the terrible trinity. Believing that one's knowledge is sufficient and complete and rejecting any opportunity to grow leads people to become totalitarian in their presuppositions. In Milton's Paradise Lost, which Peterson has often discussed, when Lucifer believed what he knew was sufficient, he became arrogant and formulated a rebellion against God. The idea of bowing to humanity, which was seen as lower than the archangels, motivated this rebellion. His arrogance led him to be ejected from heaven and to occupy hell.
In the real world, every totalitarian state that has risen did so out of arrogance. Lenin believed himself to be the sole expert on Marxist theory and philosophy. When the Bolsheviks took power in the Soviet Union, he unleashed terror to cement his ideology as law. The result was the deaths of millions of people from 1918 to 1924. Hitler himself believed that through him was the way for Germany to recover from the events after World War I. We know from historical accounts how that worked out.
Deceit is not just to lie to other people, but to lie to yourself as well. People do things that they know that they should not do, conceptualized as malice, malevolence, or evil. A person knows that acting those out is wrong on a moral level. Goering, one of Hitler's inner circle, knew that mass murder is immoral, evil, and about as malevolent as one can get. His excuse, "following orders." That is a lie. Many of the Nazis who were tried at Nuremberg used that lie. However, it did not get them off the hook, and the court executed them, but it was a lie, nonetheless.
Resentment is thought of as feeling miserable, hurt, angry, and maybe even the seeds of hatred start to grow because of a situation. Resentment can and has made people project that outward at other people. It is like, "how dare you be so happy and chipper while I hate this existence?" Then they act out their revenge with either cruel words, or even worst, a good punch in the nose. Resentment motivates revenge, often as described above. Resentment fueled Lenin's murderousness when the Bolsheviks took power. He had Czar Nicholas II, and his family killed because his brother was hanged for political reasons, which is resentment. Lenin, of course, lied and said it was necessary to end the Russian civil war, to have the family wiped out to demoralize the white loyalist army (because the communists called their army the Red army) that is deceiving other people. He also believed that his will would be accepted. This belief was arrogance because counter-revolutionaries eventually shot him. It is hypothesized that the gunshots and his predisposition to health issues lead to the series of strokes that ended his life. Looking at the examples of two totalitarian states, it is no wonder why this rule is an important one. Do not allow yourself to become resentful, deceitful, or arrogant.
Rule 12: Be Grateful in Spite of Your Suffering
Like Peterson, Frankl, Jung, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Kierkegaard, as an existentialist, I think it is true that suffering is just an existential truth. It is part of life, and if you are not now, you will suffer some tragedy in your life. It is also highly likely someone you know will as well.
It was expected to be an emotional chapter where Jordan would discuss the tragedy of his wife had developed terminal cancer and her recovery along with his descent into hell through the physical dependence of benzodiazepines. However, it was barely touched on. However, Peterson does mention that it is pretty damn tricky to navigate tragedy as it is, but it is even worse if you cannot find something to be grateful for, at least. That lack of gratitude for something leads to resentment, which is not a path anyone would or should recommend, as the last chapter presented.
Peterson mentions that he had friends and family supporting them throughout Tammy's and his troubles and helping them through the tour, Tammy's recovery, and then his own. Without that support, he doubts he would have been able to recover, much less keep himself from going down the road to becoming bitter. Because of his gratitude for the support, Peterson found that meaningful and motivating to confront the terrible things he went through to come out the other side, intact, roughly speaking. So from his experience, Peterson meant it when he laid out why it is best to be grateful in spite of your suffering.
After delving and trying to restate each rule, to demonstrate that I understand them, I have to say it is on equal ground, if not better than 12 Rules for Life. You do not have to embody all 12 of these rules to make your life better. You can choose or more, and things will get better. The book has impacted me, as I have had time to meditate on each rule and work to act them out. I think the book's authenticity and impact stem from the fact we have been dealing with the pandemic for over a year now, and Peterson dealt with his and Tammy's health issues during the pandemic. If he can do that and emerge without resentment, bitterness, and indeed has the gratitude despite all of that. Then his hypothesis is correct. The meaning you find in life will get you through the worst of things, even if you do not see it at that moment. I highly recommend it and think this is an essential book for the time.