3 things I learned from Dr. Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson is not a figure that I would claim to know well or be intimately familiar with his work. One thing became clear to me when I spent some time with him, is that he is sincere…and that sincerity can be quite polarizing.

It was clear that not everyone in the room agreed with him on every point, but there was a deep respect for the conviction he had and the clarity by which he relayed his message.

Friends of mine fell along that same distribution, from fandom to utter contempt…but almost all with a certain level of admiration. Some of them asked me to share what the discussion was like…so here are some thoughts.

1. Falshood is fatal

He discussed that for us humans, the refinement of our ideas to weed out the stupid is not an exercise that we engage in for sport. But a life-saving endeavor. You can have a dumb idea, he says…like walking into traffic. You will find that this dumb idea will lead to your demise. So when you gather the ideas that you have, you need to ask yourself…are any of these dumb ideas that I have, dumb enough to be my end?

Because quite simply…falsehood is fatal.

This is not in the Jeopardy sense of truth or falsehood…my life is not dependent upon trivia. But we see this with such consistentcy in mental health, that this thing we believe about ourselves can literally be our destruction or our salvation.

He led me to examine my relationship with the core ideas I believe.

2. Truth is worth the pursuit

He gave an example of a classic account of a man named Moses, who is highly regarded by the Abrahamic religions. In his routine, he was gripped by something. A tree that is on fire but not consumed. At once the symbol of being/life (tree) and the symbol of purification or becoming (fire). He was greeted by the Being Himself.

He turned aside.

We often are gripped by things. A single reality that demands our attention and may mean very little or nothing to another person. When we allow ourselves to be given fully with singularity of purpose to what grips us, we often find that there is greater truth being revealed there.

3. We don’t need to be babied

As I watched him speak to an older audience of successful business folks as well as to a younger audience of college students…I found consistency in his communication. We don’t need to be entertained or babied.

We need truth.

During his seminar to college students, I sat next to a young man who followed him for years. I wondered why this Canadian, older psychologist appealed to this young New York City kid. He simply told me that so much of what is around him is babying him. School infantilized him and so did his peers…yet here is this man who challenged him. Looked him in his eyes and demanded that he speak.
When questions were being asked, he would hyperfocus on the person speaking…with piercing eye contact. He would ask them questions back in an attempt to drop the artificial barriers and walls between them.
An interesting follow-up question came that asked…”But who is your God?” And he jokingly answered, “ah, that is the forbidden question” 🙂 It’s difficult to say if that answer is rooted in hesitation to be labeled as one particular “team” and alienate others…or simply due to his own ambivalence about the answer. One thing was clear, in a room full of people with radically different ideas- a Canadian Clinical Psychologist was able to engage deeply with an audience through references to Moses, Jonah, Abraham, and Jesus…all while avoiding the technical jargon of psychology as well as the seemingly foreign language of religious groups.

Posted Yesterday by Mena Mirhom, MD
Labels: Jordan Peterson