Summary – Beyond Order (2021) draws from ancient mythology, religion, as well as modern psychology –to offer guidance on the hazardous path of modern life. Along with it’s prequel “12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” this book may be considered as one of the more coherent instruction manuals for life.

Having published over one hundred scientific papers, the author Jordan B. Peterson is a former professor at Harvard and University of Toronto, with over three decades of experience as a clinical psychologist. 

beyond order summary

Beyond Order Summary

beyond order summary

Jordan Peterson “Beyond Order” Summary

Rule 1:

Do Not Carelessly Denigrate Social Institutions Or Creative Achievement

Summary – Rule 1 describes the relationship between stable, predictable social structures and individual psychological health, whilst making the case that such structures need to be updated by creative people if they are to retain their vitality.

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[Book Notes]… “I visited a restaurant in Toronto with my wife, son, and daughter while writing this. As I made my way to my party’s table, a young waiter asked if he might say a few words to me. He told me that he had been watching my videos, listening to my podcasts, and reading my book, and that he had, in consequence, changed his attitude toward his comparatively lower-status (but still useful and necessary) job.”

“He had ceased criticizing what he was doing or himself for doing it, deciding instead to be grateful and seek out whatever opportunities presented themselves right there before him. He made up his mind to become more diligent and reliable and to see what would happen if he worked as hard at it as he could.”

“He told me, with an uncontrived smile, that he had been promoted three times in six months. The young man had come to realize that every place he might find himself in had more potential than he might first see (particularly when his vision was impaired by the resentment and cynicism he felt from being near the bottom).”

“After all, it is not as if a restaurant is a simple place—and this was part of an extensive national organization, a large, high-quality chain. To do a good job in such a place, servers must get along with the cooks, who are by universal recognition a formidably troublesome and tricky lot.”

“They must also be polite and engaging with customers. They have to pay attention constantly. They must adjust to highly varying workloads—the rushes and dead times that inevitably accompany the life of a server. They have to show up on time, sober and awake. They must treat their superiors with the proper respect and do the same for those— such as the dishwashers—below them in the structure of authority.”

“And if they do all these things, and happen to be working in a functional institution, they will soon render themselves difficult to replace. Customers, colleagues, and superiors alike will begin to react to them in an increasingly positive manner. Doors that would otherwise remain closed to them—even invisible—will be opened.”

“Furthermore, the skills they acquire will prove eminently portable, whether they continue to rise in the hierarchy of restaurateurs, decide instead to further their education, or change their career trajectory completely (in which case they will leave with laudatory praise from their previous employers and vastly increased chances of discovering the next opportunity).”

“As might be expected, the young man who had something to say to me was thrilled with what had happened to him. His status concerns had been solidly and realistically addressed by his rapid career advance, and the additional money he was making did not hurt, either. ”

“He had accepted, and therefore transcended, his role as a beginner. He had ceased being casually cynical about the place he occupied in the world and the people who surrounded him, and accepted the structure and the position he was offered.”

“He started to see possibility and opportunity, where before he was blinded, essentially, by his pride. He stopped denigrating the social institution he found himself part of and began to play his part properly. And that increment in humility paid off in spades.”

Rule 2:

Imagine Who You Could Be, And Then Aim Single-Mindedly At That

Summary – In Rule 2, the author weaves together several stories from the ancient Mesopotamian era, to Biblical accounts of Moses as well as of the fictional character Harry Potter—to demonstrate the nature and development of the integrated human personality.

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“Each of us, when fortunate, is compelled forward by something that grips our attention—love of a person; a sport; a political, sociological, or economic problem, or a scientific question; a passion for art, literature, or drama—something that calls to us for reasons we can neither control nor understand (try to make yourself interested in something you just do not care about and see how well that works).”

“The phenomena that grip us (phenomena: from the Greek word phainesthai, “to appear, or to be brought to light”) are like lamps along a dark path: they are part of the unconscious processes devoted to integrating and furthering the development of our spirits, the furtherance of our psychological development.”

“You do not choose what interests you. It chooses you. Something manifests itself out of the darkness as compelling, as worth living for; following that, something moves us further down the road, to the next meaningful manifestation—and so it goes, as we continue to seek, develop, grow, and thrive. It is a perilous journey, but it is also the adventure of our lives.”

“Think of pursuing someone you love: catch them or not, you change in the process. Think, as well, of the traveling you have done, or of the work you have undertaken, whether for pleasure or necessity. In all these cases you experience what is new. Sometimes that is painful; sometimes it is better than anything else that has ever happened to you.”

“Either way, it is deeply informative. It is all part of the potential of the world, calling you into Being, changing you forever—for better or worse—in consequence of your pursuit.”

 “The soul willing to transform, as deeply as necessary, is the most effective enemy of the demonic serpents of ideology and totalitarianism, in their personal and social forms.”

“The healthy, dynamic, and above all else truthful personality will admit to error. It will voluntarily shed—let die—outdated perceptions, thoughts, and habits, as impediments to its further success and growth.”

“This is the soul that will let its old beliefs burn away, often painfully, so that it can live again, and move forward, renewed. This is also the soul that will transmit what it has learned during that process of death and rebirth, so that others can be reborn along with it.”

“Aim at something. Pick the best target you can currently conceptualize. Stumble toward it. Notice your errors and misconceptions along the way, face them, and correct them. Get your story straight. Past, present, future—they all matter. You need to map your path.”

“You need to know where you were, so that you do not repeat the mistakes of the past. You need to know where you are, or you will not be able to draw a line from your starting point to your destination. You need to know where you are going, or you will drown in uncertainty, unpredictability, and chaos, and starve for hope and inspiration.”

“For better or worse, you are on a journey. You are having an adventure—and your map better be accurate. Voluntarily confront what stands in your way. Aim at something profound and noble and lofty. If you can find a better path along the way, once you have started moving forward, then switch course.”

“Be careful, though; it is not easy to discriminate between changing paths and simply giving up. (One hint: if the new path you see forward, after learning what you needed to learn along your current way, appears more challenging, then you can be reasonably sure that you are not deluding or betraying yourself when you change your mind.)”

“In this manner, you will zigzag forward. It is not the most efficient way to travel, but there is no real alternative, given that your goals will inevitably change while you pursue them, as you learn what you need to learn while you are disciplining yourself.”

“You will then find yourself turning across time, incrementally and gracefully, to aim ever more accurately at that tiny pinpoint, the X that marks the spot, the bull’s-eye, and the center of the cross; to aim at the highest value of which you can conceive.”

“You will pursue a target that is both moving and receding: moving, because you do not have the wisdom to aim in the proper direction when you first take aim; receding, because no matter how close you come to perfecting what you are currently practicing, new vistas of possible perfection will open up in front of you. Discipline and transformation will nonetheless lead you inexorably forward.”

“With will and luck, you will find a story that is meaningful and productive, improves itself with time, and perhaps even provides you with more than a few moments of satisfaction and joy. With will and luck, you will be the hero of that story, the disciplined sojourner, the creative transformer, and the benefactor of your family and broader society.”

“Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that.”

Rule 3:

Do Not Hide Unwanted Things In The Fog

Summary – Rule 3 explores the proclivity for willful blindness and warns of the dangers of hiding information.

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“Imagine that you are afraid. You have reason to be. You are afraid of yourself. You are afraid of other people. You are afraid of the world. You are nostalgic for the innocence of the past; for the time before you learned the terrible things that shattered the trust characterizing your childhood.”

“The knowledge you have gained of yourself, other people, and the world has embittered more than enlightened. You have been betrayed, hurt, and disappointed. You have become distrustful even of hope itself, as your hope has been repeatedly shattered (and that is the very definition of hopelessness).”

“The last thing you want is to know more. Better to leave what is enshrouded in mystery. Better, as well, to avoid thinking too much (or at all) about what could be. When ignorance is bliss, after all, ’tis folly to be wise.”

“Imagine, more precisely, that you are so afraid that you will not allow yourself even to know what you want. Knowing would simultaneously mean hoping, and your hopes have been dashed.”

“You have your reasons for maintaining your ignorance. You are afraid, perhaps, that there is nothing worth wanting; you are afraid that if you specify what you want precisely you will simultaneously discover (and all too clearly) what constitutes failure; you are afraid that failure is the most likely outcome; and, finally, you are afraid that if you define failure and then fail, you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was you that failed, and that it was your fault.”

“So, you do not allow yourself to know what you want. You manage this by refusing to think it through. You are happy, satisfied, and engaged sometimes and unhappy, frustrated, and nihilistic other times, but you will not enquire deeply into why, because then you would know, and then you would encounter yet-again shattered hope and confirmed disappointment.”

“The fog that hides is the refusal to notice—to attend to—emotions and motivational states as they arise, and the refusal to communicate them both to yourself and to the people who are close to you.”

 “So, what might you do—what should you do—as an alternative to hiding things in the fog? Admit to your feelings. This is a very tricky matter (and it does not simply mean “give in” to them).”

“A certain necessary humility must accompany such raw revelations. I should not say—at least not ideally—“You have been ignoring me lately.” I should say, instead, “I feel isolated and lonely and hurt, and cannot help but feel that you have not been as attentive to me over the last few months as I would have liked or that might have been best for us as a couple. But I am unsure if I am just imagining all this because I am upset or if I am genuinely seeing what is going on.” ”

“The latter statement gets the point across, but avoids the accusatory stance that so often serves as the first defense against a serious, get-to-the-bottom-of-things conversation. And it is very possible that you are wrong about just what is causing you to feel the way you do. If you are, you need to know it, because there is no point in propagating errors that are causing you and others pain and interfering with your future.”

“Best to find out what is true—best to disperse the fog—and find out if the sharp objects you feared were lurking there are real or fantastical. And there is always the danger that some of them are real. But it is better to see them than to keep them occluded by the fog, because you can at least sometimes avoid the danger that you are willing to see.”

“Events, as they lay themselves out in front of us, do not simply inform us of why they occur, and we do not remember the past in order to objectively record bounded, well-defined events and situations. The latter act is impossible, in any case. The information in our experience is latent, like gold in ore—the case we made in Rule II.”

“It must be extracted and refined with great effort, and often in collaboration with other people, before it can be employed to improve the present and the future. We use our past effectively when it helps us repeat desirable—and avoid repeating undesirable— experiences. We want to know what happened but, more importantly, we want to know why. Why is wisdom. Why enables us to avoid making the same mistake again and again, and if we are fortunate helps us repeat our successes.”

“Extracting useful information from experience is difficult. It requires the purest of motivations (“things should be made better, not worse”) to perform it properly. It requires the willingness to confront error, forthrightly, and to determine at what point and why departure from the proper path occurred.”

“It requires the willingness to change, which is almost always indistinguishable from the decision to leave something (or someone, or some idea) behind. Therefore, the simplest response imaginable is to look away and refuse to think, while simultaneously erecting unsurmountable impediments to genuine communication.”

“Unfortunately, in the longer term, this willful blindness leaves life murky and foggy; leaves it void, unseen, without form, confused— and leaves you bewildered and astonished.”

 “The world is full of hidden dangers and obstacles—and opportunities. Leaving everything hidden in the fog because you are afraid of the danger you may find there will be of little help when fate forces you to run headlong toward what you have refused to see.”

 “But there will be times in your life when it will take everything you have to face what is in front of you, instead of hiding away from a truth so terrible that the only thing worse is the falsehood you long to replace it with.”

Rule 4:

Notice That Opportunity Lurks Where Responsibility Has Been Abdicated

Summary – One of the more thoughtfully articulated sections of “Beyond Order: 12 More Rules For Life.” In Rule 4, Dr. Peterson argues that the meaning which sustains people’s lives in difficult times is to be found not so much in happiness, but in the voluntary adoption of responsibility for the self and others.

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“Hamartia was originally an archery term, and it meant to miss the mark or target. There are many ways that a target can be missed. Frequently, in my clinical practice—and in my personal life—I observed that people did not get what they needed (or, equally importantly perhaps, what they wanted) because they never made it clear to themselves or others what that was.”

“It is impossible to hit a target, after all, unless you aim at it. In keeping with this: People are more commonly upset by what they did not even try to do than by the errors they actively committed while engaging with the world.”

 “Abraham stayed safely ensconced within his father’s tent until he was seventy-five years old (a late start, even by today’s standards). Then, called by God—inspired by the voice within, let us say, to leave family and country—he journeys forward into life.”

“And what does he encounter, after heeding the divine call to adventure? First, famine. Then tyranny in Egypt; the potential loss of his beautiful wife to more powerful men; exile from his adopted country; conflicts over territory with his kinsmen; war, and the kidnapping of his nephew; extended childlessness (despite God’s promise to make him the progenitor of a great nation); and finally, terrible conflict between his spouses.”

“The Abrahamic story made a great impact on me when I began to study and appreciate it more deeply. It has at its core a strange combination of pessimism and realistic, genuine encouragement. The pessimism? Even if you are called by God Himself to venture out into the world, as Abraham was, life is going to be exceptionally difficult. Even under the best of all conceivable circumstances, almost insuperable obstacles will emerge and obstruct your path. The encouragement? You will have the opportunity to reveal yourself as much stronger and more competent than you might imagine.”

 “It is a maxim of clinical intervention—a consequence of observation of improvement in mental health across many schools of practical psychological thought—that voluntary confrontation with a feared, hated, or despised obstacle is curative. We become stronger by voluntarily facing what impedes our necessary progress.”

“This does not mean “bite off more than you can chew” (any more than “voluntarily enter battle” means “seek conflict carelessly”). We are well advised to take on challenges at precisely the rate that engages and compels alertness, and forces the development of courage, skill, and talent, and to avoid foolhardy confrontation with that which lies beyond current comprehension.”

“How is it possible to gauge the rate at which challenges should be sought? It is the instinct for meaning—something far deeper and older than mere thought—that holds the answer. “Does what you are attempting compel you forward, without being too frightening? Does it grip your interest, without crushing you? Does it eliminate the burden of time passing? Does it serve those you love and, perhaps, even bring some good to your enemies? That is responsibility.”

“You are possessed of an instinct—a spirit—that orients you toward the highest good. It calls your soul away from hell and toward heaven. And because it is there, you find yourself frequently disillusioned.”

“People disappoint you. You betray yourself; you lose a meaningful connection to your workplace, boss, or partner. You think, “The world is not set right. It is deeply troubling to me.”

“That very disenchantment, however, can serve as the indicator of destiny. It speaks of abdicated responsibility—of things left undone, of things that still need to be done.

“You are irritated about that need. You are annoyed with the government, you are embittered and resentful about your job, you are unhappy with your parents, and you are frustrated with all these people around you who will not take on responsibility. There are, after all, things that are crying out to be accomplished. You are outraged that what needs to be done is not being done.”

“That anger—that outrage—is, however, a doorway. That observation of abdicated responsibility is the indication of destiny and meaning. The part of you that is oriented toward the highest good is pointing out the disjunction between the ideal you can imagine—the ideal that is possessing you—and the reality you are experiencing.”

“There is a gap there, and it is communicating its need to be filled. You can give way to fury, in consequence, and blame it on someone else—and it is not as if other people are not contributing to the problems. Or you can come to understand that your very disappointment is an indication to you from the most fundamental levels of your being that there is something wrong that needs to be set right—and, perhaps, by you.

“What is it, that concern, that care, that irritation, that distraction? It is not the call to happiness. It is the call to the action and adventure that make up a real life.”

Rule 5:

Do Not Do What You Hate

Summary – Rule 5 includes an example drawn from Dr. Peterson’s experience as a clinical psychologist to highlight the necessity of attending to the dictates of one’s conscience.

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“When culture disintegrates—because it refuses to be aware of its own pathology; because the visionary hero is absent—it descends into the chaos that underlies everything. Under such conditions, the individual can dive voluntarily as deeply as he or she dares into the depths and rediscover the eternal principles renewing vision and life.”

“The alternative is despair, corruption, and nihilism—thoughtless subjugation to the false words of totalitarian utopianism and life as a miserable, lying, and resentful slave.”

“If you wish instead to be engaged in a great enterprise—even if you regard yourself as a mere cog—you are required not to do things you hate. You must fortify your position, regardless of its meanness and littleness, confront the organizational mendacity undermining your spirit, face the chaos that ensues, rescue your near-dead father from the depths, and live a genuine and truthful life.”

“Otherwise, nature hides her face, society stultifies, and you remain a marionette, with your strings pulled by demonic forces operating behind the scenes— and one more thing: it is your fault. No one is destined in the deterministic sense to remain a puppet.”

“We are not helpless. Even in the rubble of the most broken-down lives, useful weapons might still be found. Likewise, even the giant most formidable in appearance may not be as omnipotent as it proclaims or appears.”

“Allow for the possibility that you may be able to fight back; that you may be able to resist and maintain your soul— and perhaps even your job. (But a better job may also beckon if you can tolerate the idea of the transformation.) If you are willing to conceptualize yourself as someone who could—and, perhaps more importantly, should—stand fast, you may begin to perceive the weapons at your disposal.”

“If what you are doing is causing you to lash out at others impulsively; if what you are doing is destroying your motivation to move forward; if your actions and inactions are making you contemptuous of yourself and, worse, of the world; if the manner in which you conduct your life is making it difficult for you to wake happily in the morning; if you are plagued by a deep sense of self-betrayal—perhaps you are choosing to ignore that still small voice, inclined as you may be to consider it something only attended to by the weak and naive.”

“If you are at work, and called upon to do what makes you contemptuous of yourself—weak and ashamed, likely to lash out at those you love, unwilling to perform productively, and sick of your life—it is possible that it is time to meditate, consider, strategize, and place yourself in a position where you are capable of saying no.”

“Perhaps you will garner additional respect from the people you are opposing on moral grounds, even though you may still pay a high price for your actions. Perhaps they will even come to rethink their stance—if not now, with time (as their own consciences might be plaguing them in that same still small manner).”

“Perhaps you should also be positioning yourself for a lateral move— into another job, for example, noting as you may, “This occupation is deadening my soul, and that is truly not for me. It is time to take the painstaking steps necessary to organize my CV, and to engage in the difficult, demanding, and often unrewarding search for a new job” (but you have to be successful only once).”

“Maybe you can find something that pays better and is more interesting, and where you are working with people who not only fail to kill your spirit, but positively rejuvenate it.”

“Maybe following the dictates of conscience is in fact the best possible plan that you have—at minimum, otherwise you have to live with your sense of self-betrayal and the knowledge that you put up with what you truly could not tolerate. Nothing about that is good.”

 “And let us be clear: It is not a simple matter of hating your job because it requires you to wake up too early in the morning, or to drag yourself to work when it is too hot or cold or windy or dry or when you are feeling low and want to curl up in bed.”

“It is not a matter of frustration generated when you are called on to do things that are menial or necessary such as emptying garbage cans, sweeping floors, cleaning bathrooms, or in any other manner taking your lowly but well-deserved place at the bottom of the hierarchy of competence—even of seniority.”

“Resentment generated by such necessary work is most often merely ingratitude, inability to accept a lowly place at the beginning, unwillingness to adopt the position of the fool, or arrogance and lack of discipline. Refusal of the call of conscience is by no means the same thing as irritation about undesirably low status.”

“That rejection—that betrayal of soul—is truly the requirement to perform demonstrably counterproductive, absurd, or pointless work; to treat others unjustly and to lie about it; to engage in deceit, to betray your future self; to put up with unnecessary torture and abuse (and to silently watch others suffer the same treatment).”

“That rejection is the turning of a blind eye, and the agreement to say and do things that betray your deepest values and make you a cheat at your own game. And there is no doubt that the road to hell, personally and socially, is paved not so much with good intentions as with the adoption of attitudes and undertaking of actions that inescapably disturb your conscience.”

“Do not do what you hate.”

Rule 6:

Abandon Ideology

Summary – In Rule 6, the author describes the ‘how and why’ behind ideological possession –drawing from Marxism, and the works of Nietzsche. Furthermore, he demonstrates the dangers of attributing the cause of complex individual and social problems to single variables such as sex, class or power.

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“Ressentiment—hostile resentment—occurs when individual failure or insufficient status is blamed both on the system within which that failure or lowly status occurs and then, most particularly, on the people who have achieved success and high status within that system.”

“The former, the system, is deemed by fiat to be unjust. The successful are deemed exploitative and corrupt, as they can be logically read as undeserving beneficiaries, as well as the voluntary, conscious, self-serving, and immoral supporters, if the system is unjust.”

“Once this causal chain of thought has been accepted, all attacks on the successful can be construed as morally justified attempts at establishing justice—rather than, say, manifestations of envy and covetousness that might have traditionally been defined as shameful.”

“To take the path of ressentiment is to risk tremendous bitterness. This is in no small part a consequence of identifying the enemy without rather than within.”

“If wealth is the problem at issue, for example, and the wealthy perceived as the reason for poverty and all the other problems of the world, then the wealthy become the enemy —indistinguishable, in some profound sense, from a degree of evil positively demonic in its psychological and social significance.”

“If power is the problem, then those who have established any authority at all are the singular cause of the world’s suffering. If masculinity is the problem, then all males (or even the concept of male) must be attacked and vilified. Such division of the world into the devil without and the saint within justifies self-righteous hatred— necessitated by the morality of the ideological system itself.”

“This is a terrible trap: Once the source of evil has been identified, it becomes the duty of the righteous to eradicate it. This is an invitation to both paranoia and persecution. A world where only you and people who think like you are good is also a world where you are surrounded by enemies bent on your destruction, who must be fought.”

“It is much safer morally to look to yourself for the errors of the world, at least to the degree to which someone honest and free of willful blindness might consider. You are likely to be much more clear minded about what is what and who is who and where blame lies once you contemplate the log in your own eye, rather than the speck in your brother’s.”

“It is probable that your own imperfections are evident and plentiful, and could profitably be addressed, as step one in your Redeemer’s quest to improve the world. To take the world’s sins onto yourself—to assume responsibility for the fact that things have not been set right in your own life and elsewhere—is part of the messianic path: part of the imitation of the hero, in the most profound of senses.”

“This is a psychological or spiritual rather than a sociological or political issue. Consider the characters fabricated by second-rate crafters of fiction: they are simply divided into those who are good and those who are evil. By contrast, sophisticated writers put the divide inside the characters they create, so that each person becomes the locus of the eternal struggle between light and darkness.”

“It is much more psychologically appropriate (and much less dangerous socially) to assume that you are the enemy—that it is your weaknesses and insufficiencies that are damaging the world—than to assume saintlike goodness on the part of you and your party, and to pursue the enemy you will then be inclined to see everywhere.”

“It is impossible to fight patriarchy, reduce oppression, promote equality, transform capitalism, save the environment, eliminate competitiveness, reduce government, or to run every organization like a business. Such concepts are simply too low-resolution.”

“The Monty Python comedy crew once offered satirical lessons for playing the flute: blow over one end and move your fingers up and down on the holes. True. But useless. The necessary detail is simply not there.”

“Similarly, sophisticated large-scale processes and systems do not exist in a manner sufficiently real to render their comprehensive unitary transformation possible.”

“The idea that they do is the product of twentieth-century cults. The beliefs of these cults are simultaneously naive and narcissistic, and the activism they promote is the resentful and lazy person’s substitute for actual accomplishment. The single axioms of the ideologically possessed are gods, served blindly by their proselytizers.”

“Like God, however, ideology is dead. The bloody excesses of the twentieth century killed it. We should let it go, and begin to address and consider smaller, more precisely defined problems. We should conceptualize them at the scale at which we might begin to solve them, not by blaming others, but by trying to address them personally while simultaneously taking responsibility for the outcome.”

Rule 7:

Work As Hard As You Possibly Can On At Least One Thing And See What Happens

Summary – Rule 7 stresses the importance of disciplined striving in a single direction and why doing so not only improves one’s psychological health but also builds the resilience needed to face adversities.  

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“Heat and pressure transform the base matter of common coal into the crystalline perfection and rare value of the diamond. The same can be said of a person.”

“We know that the multiple forces operating in the human soul are often not aligned with one another. We do the things we wish we would not do and do not do the things we know we should do. We want to be thin, but we sit on the couch eating Cheetos and despairing.”

“We are directionless, confused, and paralyzed by indecision. We are pulled in all directions by temptations, despite our stated will, and we waste time, procrastinate, and feel terrible about it, but we do not change.”

“It was for such reasons that archaic people found it easy to believe that the human soul was haunted by ghosts—possessed by ancestral spirits, demons, and gods—none of whom necessarily had the best interests of the person at heart.”

“Since the time of the psychoanalysts, these contrary forces, these obsessive and sometimes malevolent spirits, have been conceptualized psychologically as impulses, emotions, or motivational states—or as complexes, which act like partial personalities united within the person by memory but not by intent.”

“Our neurological structure is indeed hierarchical. The powerful instinctual servants at the bottom, governing thirst, hunger, rage, sadness, elation, and lust, can easily ascend and become our masters, and just as easily wage war with one another. The resilience and strength of a united spirit is not easy to attain.”

“A house divided against itself, proverbially, cannot stand. Likewise, a poorly integrated person cannot hold himself together when challenged. He loses union at the highest level of psychological organization. He loses the properly balanced admixture of properties that is another feature of the well-tempered soul, and cannot hold his self together. We know this when we say “He lost it” or “He just fell apart.” ”

“Lack of internal union also makes itself known in the increased suffering, magnification of anxiety, absence of motivation, and lack of pleasure that accompany indecision and uncertainty. The inability to decide among ten things, even when they are desirable, is equivalent to torment by all of them.”

Without clear, well-defined, and noncontradictory goals, the sense of positive engagement that makes life worthwhile is very difficult to obtain. Clear goals limit and simplify the world, as well, reducing uncertainty, anxiety, shame, and the self-devouring physiological forces unleashed by stress.

“The poorly integrated person is thus volatile and directionless—and this is only the beginning. Sufficient volatility and lack of direction can rapidly conspire to produce the helplessness and depression characteristic of prolonged futility.

“This is not merely a psychological state. The physical consequences of depression, often preceded by excess secretion of the stress hormone cortisol, are essentially indistinguishable from rapid aging (weight gain, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s).”

 “When I was in graduate school at McGill University in Montreal studying for my clinical PhD, I noticed a pronounced improvement in character in everyone who continued in the progressively more difficult five- to six-year program. Their social skills improved. They became more articulate. They found a profound sense of personal purpose. They served a useful function in relation to others. They became more disciplined and organized. They had more fun.”

“This was all despite the facts that the graduate courses were often of lower quality than they might have been, the clinical placements unpaid and difficult to come by, and the relationships with graduate supervisors sometimes (but by no means always) subpar.”

“Those beginning graduate work were often still immature and confused. But the discipline imposed upon them by the necessity of research— and more particularly, thesis preparation—soon improved their characters. To write something long, sophisticated, and coherent means, at least in part, to become more complex, articulate, and deeper in personality.”

“When I became a professor and started mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, I observed the same thing. The undergrad psychology students who allied themselves with a lab (and therefore took on additional work) obtained better grades than those who burdened themselves less.”

“Taking on the functions of junior researchers helped them establish a place and a community, while requiring them to discipline themselves, not least by necessitating more efficient use of their time.”

 “I observed a similar process when working as a clinical psychologist. I typically encouraged my clients to choose the best path currently available to them, even if it was far from their ideal.”

“This sometimes meant tolerating at least a temporary decrease in ambition, or in pride, but had the advantage of substituting something real for something available only in fantasy. Improvements in mental health almost invariably followed.”

 “There are many things to which we might commit ourselves. A case can be made for the arbitrary and even meaningless nature of any given commitment, given the plethora of alternatives, given the corruption of the systems demanding that commitment.”

“But the same case cannot be made for the fact of commitment itself: Those who do not choose a direction are lost. It is far better to become something than to remain anything but become nothing. This is despite all the genuine limitations and disappointments that becoming something entails.”

 “If you work as hard as you can on one thing, you will change. You will start to also become one thing, instead of the clamoring multitude you once were. That one thing, developed properly, is not only the disciplined entity formed by sacrifice, commitment, and concentration. It is that which creates, destroys, and transforms discipline itself—civilization itself—by expressing its unity of personality and society.”

Rule 8:

Try To Make One Room In Your Home As Beautiful As Possible

Summary – In Rule 8, Dr. Peterson outlines the importance of establishing a relationship with beauty and discusses the vital importance of aesthetic experience as a guide to what is true, good, and sustaining in the human world of experience.

__________

“I have become known for encouraging people to clean up their rooms. Perhaps that is because I am serious about that prosaic piece of advice, and because I know that it is a much more difficult task than it appears. I have been unsuccessfully cleaning up my room, by the way—my home office (which I generally keep in relatively pristine condition)—for about three years now.”

“My life was thrown into such chaos over that period by the multitude of changes I experienced—political controversies, transformation of career, endless travel, mountains of mail, the sequence of illnesses—that I simply became overwhelmed.”

“The disorganization was heightened by the fact that my wife and I had just finished having much of our house renovated, and everything we could not find a proper place for ended up in my office.”

“There is a meme floating around the internet, accusing me of hypocrisy on account of this: a still taken from a video I shot in my office, with a fair bit of mess in the background (and I cannot say that I look much better myself). Who am I to tell people to clean up their rooms before attempting to fix the rest of the world when, apparently, I cannot do it myself?”

“And there is something directly synchronistic and meaningful about that objection, because I am not in proper order at that moment myself, and my condition undoubtedly found its reflection in the state of my office. More piled up every day, as I traveled, and everything collected around me. I plead exceptional circumstances, and I put many other things in order during the time my office was degenerating, but I still have a moral obligation to get back in there and put it right.”

“And the problem is not just that I want to clean up the mess. I also want to make it beautiful: my room, my house, and then, perhaps, in whatever way I can manage, the community. God knows it is crying out for it.”

“Making something beautiful is difficult, but it is amazingly worthwhile. If you learn to make something in your life truly beautiful—even one thing—then you have established a relationship with beauty.”

“From there you can begin to expand that relationship out into other elements of your life and the world. That is an invitation to the divine. That is the reconnection with the immortality of childhood, and the true beauty and majesty of the Being you can no longer see. You must be daring to try that.”

“Buy a piece of art. Find one that speaks to you and make the purchase. If it is a genuine artistic production, it will invade your life and change it. A real piece of art is a window into the transcendent, and you need that in your life, because you are finite and limited and bounded by your ignorance.”

“Unless you can make a connection to the transcendent, you will not have the strength to prevail when the challenges of life become daunting. You need to establish a link with what is beyond you, like a man overboard in high seas requires a life preserver, and the invitation of beauty into your life is one means by which that may be accomplished.”

Rule 9:

If Old Memories Still Upset You, Write Them Down Carefully And Completely

Summary – In Rule 9, the author makes the case that the pain and fear associated with certain events of the past can be stripped of their horror by voluntary verbal and written exploration.  

__________

“Imagine you undertook some truly terrible actions in the past. You betrayed or hurt people in a genuinely damaging manner. You damaged their reputation with gossip and innuendo. You took credit for their work. You robbed them materially or spiritually. You cheated on them.”

“Or imagine, instead, that you have been the target of some such events—and let us also assume you have become wise enough to try to avoid repeating the experience. In both circumstances (as perpetrator or victim) the actual events and the associated memories evoke fear, guilt, and shame.”

“Why? In the first case, you have betrayed yourself. You did not play the medium- to long-term game properly, and are suffering the consequences. You are not the sort of person other people choose to have around. You might not even be the sort of person you want to have around.”

“In the second case, you were badly mistreated by someone else. In some real sense, however, it does not matter whether you were suffering because of self-betrayal or at the hands of others. What does matter is that you do not desire any recurrence.”

“Now, if you recall the memory, or if it comes back unbidden, complete with terror, shame, and guilt, this means something specific. It means that you fell into a hole—a pit, more accurately—or were pushed there. And that is not good. But what is worse is that you do not know why.”

“Perhaps you trusted other people too easily. Perhaps you were too naive. Perhaps you were willfully blind. Perhaps you encountered genuine malevolence, on the part of another or yourself (and that is the worst situation, and the one most difficult to overcome).”

“But at one level of analysis, whether you fell or were pushed makes little difference—not to the emotional systems that have emerged over the course of evolution and now serve to protect you. They care about one thing and one thing only: that you do not repeat a mistake.”

 “If something befalls us—or, perhaps worse, we engage in some act—that freezes us in terror and nauseates us to recall, we are bound by implacable fate to transform raw horror into understanding, or suffer the consequences.”

“What is traumatic but remains inexplicable indicates that the map of the world that guides our navigation is insufficient in some vital manner. It is necessary to understand the negative well enough so that it can be circumvented as we move into the future if we do not wish to remain tormented by the past.”

“And it is not the expression of emotion associated with unpleasant events that has curative power. It is the development of a sophisticated causal theory: Why was I at risk? What was it about the world that made it dangerous? What was I doing or not doing to contribute to my vulnerability?”

“How can I change the value hierarchy I inhabit to take the negative into account so that I can see and understand it? How much of my old map do I have to let crumble and burn—with all the pain dying tissue produces —before I can change enough to take my full range of experience into account? Do I have the faith to step beyond what should and must die and let my new and wiser personality emerge?”

“If you are suffering from memories that will not stop tormenting you, there is possibility—possibility that could be your very salvation—waiting there to be discovered.”

Rule 10:

Plan And Work Diligently To Maintain The Romance In Your Relationship 

Summary – Rule 10 notes the importance of negotiation, trust, and honesty and why they are important in maintaining mutual regard and cooperation without which no true romance can be sustained.

__________

“Romance requires trust—and the deeper the trust, the deeper the possibility for romance. But trust has its requirements, as well, apart from the courage required of the individuals wise enough to distrust but brave enough to risk putting their faith in a partner.”

“The first of those requirements is truth. You cannot maintain trust in yourself if you lie. You cannot maintain trust in yourself, likewise, if you act in a manner that would require a lie if it was discovered.”

“Similarly, you cannot maintain trust in your partner if he or she lies, or betrays you in action or in silence. So, the vow that makes a marriage capable of preserving its romantic component is first and foremost the decision not to lie to your partner.”

“My wife told me a terrible story once, about a couple she observed while volunteering in a palliative care ward. The husband was dying, and his wife was trimming his nails—a little too close. With each clip, there was blood, as she trimmed close enough to damage the quick.”

“You see something like that, and wisdom speaks its terrible truth: “I know exactly what is going on there.” That is the end stage of an unbelievably deceitful and brutal relationship. It is subtle. It does not announce itself loudly as murderous.”

“No one knows, except the couple (even though they are perhaps striving with all their might, under the circumstances, not to know) and the careful observer, who sees a dying man and a wife who has determined, for whatever reasons, to make his death a little worse.”

“That is not a desirable outcome. You do not want to end up in that situation, or anything like it. You want to negotiate. The question is, “What is going to make you desperate enough to negotiate?” And that is one of the mysteries that must be addressed if you wish to keep the romance alive in your relationship.”

“When I am helping someone straighten out their marriage, let us say, we do very mundane things. I am not interested in vacations, special occasions, or anything that happens that is out of the ordinary. It is not that those things are unimportant, but they are not vital in the same sense that daily routines are vital. It is the latter that must be set right.”

“I want to know what interrelationships constitute the bulk of your typical day. You wake up together, perhaps; you eat together. You do such things every day. Maybe waking up, preparing for the day, and eating make up five hours a day. That is a third of your waking time and, therefore, a third of your life. It is thirty-five hours every seven days—a whole workweek; an entire career.”

“Get it right. Ask yourself and each other: How do we want these times to be structured? How can we make the morning awakening pleasant? Can we attend to each other politely and with interest and perhaps without electronic distractions while we eat? Could we make our meals delicious and the atmosphere welcoming?”

“There are things you do together that are mundane things; those things you do every day. But they are your whole life. You get those things right and you have established yourself much more effectively than you might realize. Start by getting these things straight, and see what happens. Then you will have peaceful mealtimes, for example, and you will not die of frustration or high blood pressure.”

“You will have to fight for such an accomplishment. What matters, however, is not whether you fight (because you have to fight), but whether you make peace as a consequence. To make peace is to manage a negotiated solution. And you want and need to come to a negotiated solution about every responsibility and opportunity you share as a couple—and about every obstacle you encounter.”

“At least then you will have someone to talk things through with when your life gets complex, as it inevitably will. And you have the advantage of two heads, even though they will not see eye to eye.”

Rule 11:

Do Not Allow Yourself To Become Resentful, Deceitful, Or Arrogant

Summary – Rule 11 describes the catastrophic consequences of falling prey to what the author calls the ‘evil triad’ which are the three common but dangerous psychological responses –resentment, deceit, and arrogance whilst presenting an alternative path.

__________

“Why do you and others fall prey to resentment—that terrible hybrid emotional state, an admixture of anger and self-pity, tinged, to various degrees, with narcissism and the desire for revenge? Once you understand the world as a dramatic forum, and you have identified the major players, the reasons become clear.”

“You are resentful because of the absolute unknown and its terrors, because nature conspires against you, because you are a victim of the tyrannical element of culture, and because of the malevolence of yourself and other individuals. That is reason enough. It does not make your resentment appropriate, but it certainly makes the emotion understandable.”

“Maybe you—or just as tragically, someone close to you—contracts a serious illness. It is typical in such circumstances to ask the question (of whom? God?) “Why did this have to happen to me?” ”

“Well, what do you mean? Would you wish it instead upon a friend, neighbor, or even a random stranger? You certainly might be tempted to spread your misery, but such a response does not seem either reasonable or a choice that a good person, thinking clearly, would ever make, and it certainly would not make the situation more just.”

“To be fair, the question “Why me?” constitutes, in part, a psychologically appropriate response. It is often the case that if something bad happens to you, you should ask yourself if there is something that you have done in the past that has increased the probability of the terrible event—as we have discussed at length— because it is possible that you have something to learn that would decrease the chances of its recurrence.”

“But often that is not at all what we are doing. The question “Why did this have to happen to me?” frequently contains a reproachful element, based on a sense of injustice: “There are all these bad people in the world, and they seem to be getting away unpunished for this misbehavior,” or “There are all these people in the world who are enjoying good health, and it seems singularly unfair for them to be in that fortunate position when I am not.” ”

“That means that “Why me?” is in this manner generally contaminated with a sense of victimization, signifying injustice. This false misapprehension that the terrible experience that has befallen you somehow singularly characterizes you—is aimed, particularly, at you—is part of what turns exposure to tragedy into the very resentment we are discussing.”

“The fact that unfortunate things are happening or are going to happen to you is built into the structure of reality itself. There is no doubt that awful things happen, but there is an element of true randomness about them.”

“Here is something I have learned in my years as a clinical psychologist. I constantly saw people who were hurt by life. They had their reasons for feeling resentful, and those reasons were often far from trivial.”

“I would propose: “Let us take your problems apart, even though many of them are real. We will try to figure out which ones are your fault, because some of them are going to be. Some of them, alternatively, are just the catastrophe of life. We will delineate that very carefully.”

“Then we will start having you practice overcoming whatever it is that you are bringing to the situation that is making it worse. We will start to make some strategic plans about how you might confront the parts of your life that are truly just tragic, and we will get you to do that in a truthful, open, and courageous manner. Then we will watch what happens.” ”

“People got better. Not always. Some of my clients even died. We would be halfway through their clinical issues, and they would be carried off by a sudden cancer or killed in a traffic accident. There is no certain path, even with the noblest of actions. The arbitrariness of the world is always at the ready, preparing to manifest itself.”

“There is no reason or excuse to be stupidly naive or optimistic. But most people did get better. Encouragement prepared them to confront their problems head-on, and that voluntary confrontation dispelled some of their fear. This was not because things around them became less dangerous, but because the people facing the danger became braver.”

“It is unbelievable how strong and courageous people can become. It is miraculous what sort of load people can bear when they take it on voluntarily. I know we cannot have an infinite capacity for that, but I also believe that it is in some sense unlimited. I think the more voluntary confrontation is practiced, the more can be borne. I do not know what the upper limit is for that.”

“People not only become encouraged, so they can stave off the horror and resentment from a psychological perspective, but they also become more able. Not only are they contending with the existential burden of life more effectively from a spiritual perspective, say, but they start to be better people in the world.”

“They start to constrain the malevolence and resentment in their own hearts that makes the horror of the world even more dismal than it must be. They become more honest. They make better friends. They make more productive and meaningful career choices. They start aiming higher.”

“Thus, they can cope better, psychologically, but they also reduce the volume of what they and the others around them must cope with. Then they suffer less unnecessarily, and so do their families. Then, maybe, the same thing starts to happen with their communities.”

“And then there is the other half of the story: the treasure that the dragon hoards, the benevolent element of nature, the security and shelter provided by society and culture, and the strength of the individual. Those are your weapons in times of trouble. And they are just as real, and perhaps of sufficient power, that their full use will provide you with the means to cope when your life falls apart.”

“The issue is: can you organize the structure of reality so that you find the treasure, the positive aspect of nature smiles upon you, you are ruled by the wise king, and you play the role of hero? The hope is that you can conduct yourself in such a manner that it tilts things in that direction. That it is all we have—and it is much better than nothing.”

“If you confront the suffering and malevolence, and if you do that truthfully and courageously, you are stronger, your family is stronger, and the world is a better place. The alternative is resentment, and that makes everything worse.”

Rule 12:

Be Grateful In Spite Of Your Suffering

Summary – Rule 12 makes the case that gratitude in the face of the inevitable tragedies of life should be regarded as a primary manifestation of the admirable moral courage that’s required to continue on the difficult march uphill.

__________

“I have suggested that strength at the funeral of someone dear and close is a worthy goal more than once during a lecture (where people might encounter it live, or on YouTube or a podcast). In consequence, a not insignificant number of people have indicated to me that they took heart in desperate times as a consequence.”

“They set reliability and strength in a crisis as a conscious goal and were able to manage exactly that, so that the devastated people around them had someone to lean on and see as an example in the face of genuine trouble. That, at the very least, made a bad situation much less dreadful than it might have been. And that is something.”

 “If you can observe someone rising above the catastrophe, loss, bitterness, and despair, then you see evidence that such a response to catastrophe is possible. In consequence, you might mimic that, even under dire circumstances.”

“Courage and nobility in the face of tragedy is the reverse of the destructive, nihilistic cynicism apparently justified under just such circumstances.”

“People have arduous lives. You think your life is hard (and it probably is, at least at times), then you meet someone and your life is so much better than theirs that, no matter what your hardships are, you cannot even conceive of how they might continue to exist in their current misery.”

“And you find out, not infrequently, that those same unfortunate people know someone else whose life is so hard that they feel the same way about them. And even they are often left feeling guilty that they believe what they have is a hard lot, because they know just how much worse it could be.”

“It is not as if the suffering and betrayal, the catastrophes, are of insufficient gravity to make bitterness a real option. But there is just no good whatsoever in that option, and plenty of evident harm.”

“So, what constitutes the alternative? I began to seriously contemplate the topic of this rule just before Thanksgiving, in 2018, when I was touring the United States.”

“That holiday has become, arguably, the biggest shared celebration in America (and is also a major event in Canada, approximately a month earlier). The only competitor, particularly since Easter has largely faded away, is Christmas, which is also in some sense a holiday of thanksgiving, concentrating as it does on the arrival of the eternal Redeemer in the midst of the darkness and cold of winter, and so reflects the endless birth and rebirth of hope itself.”

“The giving of thanks is an alternative to bitterness—perhaps the alternative. My observation of American holidays—I lived in the States for seven years, and I have spent time there on countless other occasions—is that the prominence of Thanksgiving among holidays seems to be a good thing, practically and symbolically.”

“The fact that the primary feast of celebration characterizing a country would be one of explicitly “giving thanks” appears, in principle, as a positive commentary on the fundamental ethic of the state. It means that the individual is striving to have his or her heart in the right place, and that the group is supporting and encouraging that endeavor.”

“Why is that, given the trouble that constitutes life? It is because you can be courageous. You can be alert, awake, attentive. You can see how demanding life is and can be, and you can see it clearly. Despite this, you can remain grateful, because that is the intrepid attitude toward life and its difficulties.”

“You are grateful not because you are naive, but because you have decided to put a hand forward to encourage the best in yourself, and the state, and the world. You are grateful, in the same manner, not because suffering is absent, but because it is valiant to remember what you have and what you may still be offered—and because the proper thankful attitude toward that existence and possibility positions you better than any other attitude toward the vicissitudes of existence.”

“To be grateful for your family is to remember to treat them better. They could cease to exist at any moment. To be grateful for your friends is to awaken yourself to the necessity of treating them properly, given the comparative unlikelihood of friendship itself.”

“To be grateful to your society is to remind yourself that you are the beneficiary of tremendous effort on the part of those who predeceased us, and left this amazing framework of social structure, ritual, culture, art, technology, power, water, and sanitation so that our lives could be better than theirs.”

__________

___________

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