Rule 2: Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible For Helping
12 Rules For Life Book Summary (Jordan B. Peterson)
“Imagine 100 people are prescribed drug, and one-third of them won’t even fill the prescription, and half of the remaining 67 will fill it, but won’t even take the medication correctly. They will miss doses, they will quit taking it out, they might not even take it at all. Why is this? Physicians and pharmacists tend to blame the patients. Psychologists tend to put the blame on themselves. This rule, we’re going to explore why people tend to take care of others and their pets much better than they even take care of themselves.” This rule is going to expose a very stark reality and truth about the human experience that many of us share.
“People are better at feeling and properly administering prescription medication to their pets than to themselves. That’s not good. Even from your pet’s perspective, it’s not good. Your pet probably loves you, and would be happier if you took your medication, if you are alive, if you are healthy. It’s difficult to conclude anything from this set of facts except that people appear to love their dogs, cats, ferrets, and birds more than themselves. How horrible is that? How much shame must exist for something like that to be true? What could it be about people that makes them prefer their pets to themselves?”
But before we explore why this is the case, which we will at the end, we need to define and understand the duality of chaos and order and how people can become unhinged. We need to understand the interaction between these two intangibles, chaos and order, in order to create a further understanding of how people create peace within their life, and how people let the evil, fire and chaos drive their life out of control. That is the underlying mechanism between why people don’t take care of themselves as well as they do their pets.
The domain, not of matter but of what matters.
Peterson is a man of science, but he is also a man of the intangibles; the things that you can’t touch, the things that you can’t see, but the things you feel and the things that you suspect are there. These are primal constituents that are necessary elements to the interactions that mould the world around us. One of them is chaos, another one is order.
The third is the process that mediates between the two. Some modern people call this, consciousness.
Now, let’s define chaos. Peterson defines chaos as “the domain of ignorance itself. It’s unexplored territory. Chaos is what extends eternally and without limit, beyond the boundaries of all states, all ideas, and all disciplines. It’s the foreigner, the stranger, the member of another gang, the rustle in the bushes in the nighttime, the monster under the bed, the hidden anger of your mother, and the sickness of your child. Chaos is the despair and horror when you feel you’ve been profoundly betrayed. It’s the place you end up when things fall apart, when your dreams die, your career collapses, or your marriage ends. Chaos is where we are, when we don’t know where we are, and what we are doing when we don’t know what we are doing.”It is, in short, all of those things and situations we neither know nor understand.
“Order, by contrast, is explored territory. It’s the structure of society. It’s the structure provided by biology. Order is tribe, religion, hearth, home, country. It’s the warm secure living room where the fireplace glows and the children play. It’s the flag of the nation. It’s the value of the currency. Order is the floor beneath your feet and your plan for the day. It’s the greatness of tradition, the rows of desks in a school classroom, the trains that leave on time, the calendar, the clock. Order is the public facade we’re called upon to where, the politeness of a gathering of civilized strangers, and the thin ice on which we all skate. Order is the place where the behavior of the world matches our expectations and desires, a place where all things turn out the way we want them to. But order is sometimes tyranny and stultification as well when the demand for certainty, and uniformity, and purity become too one-sided, (this is where it imbalance manifests).
“You’re in order when you have a loyal friend, a trustworthy ally. When that same person betrays you, sells you out, you move from the daytime world of clarity and light to the dark underworld of chaos, and confusion, and despair. This is the same place you visit when the company you work for starts to fail and your job is placed in doubt, when your tax return has been filed, that’s order. When you’re audited, that’s chaos.
Before the Twin Towers fell, that was order. Chaos manifested itself afterward. Everyone felt it. What exactly was it that fell? Wrong question. What exactly remains standing?
You understand the examples. They’re very clear. We all experience the dichotomy of order and chaos on a day-to-day basis in many different versions. Its understanding that everything is in flux.
“You may be cruising happily down the road in the automobile you have known and loved for years, but time is passing, the brake could fail. You might be walking down the road in the body you’ve always relied on. If your heart malfunctions, even momentarily, everything changes. Friendly old dogs can still bite. Old trusted friends can still deceive. New ideas can destroy old and comfortable certainties, such things matter. They’re real.” I want to underscore this. This is something that Robert Greene discussed in his 48 Laws of Power, and something I’ve underscored many times in my summaries of his laws. Everyone has the capacity to deceive. It’s better to understand the reality and potential of every human, than to be blind and ignorant to it.
Chaos and order: Personality female and male.
Before we move on, it’s important to understand the shadow versions of chaos and order. ‘Shadow’ refers to what Robert Moore and Carl Jung discuss in their writings, the shadow versions of yourself are the components of your being that become imbalanced and/or stultified.
When there’s too much order, or too much chaos, components of your personality can manifest into self destructive harmful outcomes.
“Order, when pushed too far, when imbalanced, can also manifest itself destructively and terribly. It does so as the forced migration, the concentration camp, and the soul devouring uniformity of the goose step.”
“Chaos as a negative force, is the impenetrable darkness of a cave and the accident by the start of the road.”
“It’s the mother grizzly all compassion to her cubs who marks was a potential predator and tears you to pieces.”
“Chaos is when the monster under your bed is actually a monster under your bed.”
So how do we mediate between two of the most important constituents in a human’s experience, order and chaos? How do we integrate ourselves between the two harmoniously? Peterson suggests this.
“To straddle that fundamental duality is to be balanced, to have one foot firmly planted in order and security, and the other in chaos, possibility, growth, and adventure. When life suddenly reveals itself as intense gripping and meaningful, when time passes and you’re so engrossed in what you’re doing, you don’t noticed. It is there and then you are located precisely on the border between order and chaos, and that is it.”
It’s not about not having one or having the other. It’s about having both, and being able to interface with both bravely; having one foot placed in each camp. I’m someone who enjoys the comfort and security of order a lot. It makes me feel secure, safe, and calm. There’s no anxiety when I have order. But, “Order is not enough,” Peterson says. “You can’t just be stable, and secure, and unchanging because there are still vital and important new things to be learned.” This is where chaos comes in. The ignorance is chaos. The not knowing and learning is chaos, challenging your beliefs like he is doing to me, and like me, hopefully, I am doing unto some others.
“You can’t tolerate being swamped and overwhelmed beyond your capacity to cope while you’re learning what you still need to know. Thus, you need to place one foot in what you have mastered and understood, and the other in what you are currently exploring and mastering. Then, you have positioned yourself where the terror of existence is under control and you are secure, but where you are also alert and engaged. That is where there is something new to master and some way that you can be improved. That is where meaning is to be found.”
The Garden of Eden
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn insists “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being, understand that there is simply no way to wallow some isolated portion of the greatest surrounding reality make everything permanently predictable and safe within it.”
This is an issue that is brought up by many thought leaders such as Peterson. We seem to be creating these ‘safe spaces’ for people to have ‘equal opportunity of outcome’ which poses many problems Peterson has explored himself. Additionally, ‘safe spaces’ are created for people that shield them from mistakes and the reality of the evil and danger of the world.
Peterson says, “There’s no way to create some perfect isolated space that permanently creates safety, because no matter how carefully excluded you are from the evil, something will sneak back in, a serpent, metaphorically speaking, will inevitably appear.
“Even the most assiduous of parents cannot fully protect their children, even if they lock them in the basement, safely away from drugs, alcohol, porn. In that extreme case, the too-cautious, too-caring parent merely substitute him or herself for the other terrible problems of life.”
When these overly cautious, protecting parents shield their son or daughter from the potential evils of the world, they end up replacing the evils they think they’re protecting them from, with themselves. That’s what that means to me. It’s like you have become the very evil that you were too scared to expose your child to.
“Even if it were possible to perfectly banish everything threatening, everything dangerous and, therefore, everything challenging and interesting, that would mean only that another danger would emerge, that of permanent human infantilism and absolute uselessness. How could the nature of man ever reach its full potential without challenge or danger?”
Question for parents.
Do you want to make your children safe or strong?
After many pages we finally get to the original query. Why would someone buy prescription medication for his dog, and then so carefully administered, when he would not do the same for himself?Why would he care for the animal more than he cares for himself? Now that we understand chaos and order and the underlying mechanisms of how we interact, let’s address this.
“The problem is, we know so much more about ourselves than anyone else. We know the full range of our secret transgressions, insufficiencies, and inadequacies. No one is more familiar than you, with all the ways your minds and body afford. No one has more reason to hold you in contempt to see you as pathetic and by withholding something that might do you good. You can punish yourself for all your failings.”
See, we know all the deep dark insanities of our mind. We know all this about ourselves, and even if we don’t, we force ourselves into a state of denial because the truth is too harsh to bare. Thus, many shelter and share quite little of what actually makes them human. So, it all makes sense now, see, a dog is harmless, innocent, and unselfconscious. It’s clearly more deserving of medication, of being taken care of.
“Dogs are predators, so are cats. They kill things that eat them. It’s not pretty, but we’ll take them as pets, and care for them, and give them their medication when they’re sick regardless. Why? Why do we do this? They’re predators. But it’s just their nature. They do not bear responsibility for it. They’re hungry, not evil. They don’t have the presence of mind, the creativity and above all the self-consciousness necessary for the inspired cruelty of man.”
So we do not bear them the responsibility for their actions because there’s no intention behind those actions. There is for humans, and that’s the curse and the gift, because we understand the ramifications of our intentions, and our actions. Day by day, we take actions either towards good, or towards evil.
It seems like the people who take more steps towards evil, which can be expressed in the minutia of impoliteness and how you treat people. It’s all these little intangibles that add up towards evil. Evil just doesn’t mean what it’s stigmatised to mean. It doesn’t just express itself through the Holocaust. Evil just doesn’t express itself in the worst of atrocities of mankind.
“Unlike us, predators have no comprehension of their fundamental weakness, their fundamental vulnerability, their own subjugation to pain and death. But we know exactly how and where we can be hurt and why. This is good a definition as any of self-consciousness. We are aware of our own defencelessness, finitude and mortality. We can feel pain, feel self-disgust, and shame, and horror, and we know it. We know what makes us suffer. We know the dread and pain can be inflicted on us and what means we know exactly how to inflict it on others. We know we are naked and how that nakedness can be exploited, and that means we know how others are naked, how they can be exploited. We can terrify other people consciously. We can hurt them and humiliate them for their faults. We understand only too well. We could torture them, literally, slowly, artfully, terribly. That’s far more than predation. That’s the entry of the knowledge of good and evil into the world. That’s the transformation of being into a moral endeavour, all attendant on the development of a sophisticated consciousness.”
“Only man will inflict suffering for the sake of suffering. That is the best definition of evil I’ve been able to formulate. Animals can’t manage that. But humans, with their excruciating, semi-divine capacities most certainly can.”
It is for that reason that we really struggle to treat ourselves as well as we would for an animal, or someone we care for. “Given that terrible capacity, that proclivity for malevolent actions, is it any wonder we have a hard time taking care of ourselves or others, or even that we doubt the value of the entire human enterprise? Perhaps man is something that should never have been, perhaps the world should have been cleansed of all human presence so that being and consciousness could return to the innocent brutality of the animal. I believe that the person who claims never to have wished for such a thing has neither consulted his memory nor confronted his darkest fantasies.” And confronting the darkest fantasies seem’s like the gateway to treating yourself like someone you’re responsible for helping.
You need to come to terms with the capacities that we have to order, chaos, good and evil.
“If we wish to take care of ourselves properly, we would have to respect ourselves, but we don’t, because we are, not at least in our own eyes fallen creatures. If we lived in truth, if we spoke the truth then we could walk with God once again and respect ourselves and others in the world, then we might treat ourselves like people we cared for. We might strive to set the world straight. We might orient it toward heaven where we would want people we cared for to dwell instead of hell where resentment and hatred would eternally sentence everyone.
One of the problems is people think they’re too inadequate and don’t believe in themselves enough. They don’t love themselves enough because they haven’t earned the right to feel those things. Back to the original point about overprotective parents, if you do not challenge your child — maybe you don’t have a child — if we do not challenge ourselves enough outside of our comfort zone, outside of the safety of one’s being, then how are we to ever think beyond inadequacy? How are we ever to think truly greatly about ourselves? =
“You do not simply belong to yourself. You are not simply your own possession to torture and mistreat. This is partly because your being is inexorably tied up with that of others, and your mistreatment of yourself can have catastrophic consequences for others. This is most clearly evident perhaps in the aftermath of suicide, when those left behind are often both bereft and traumatized.”
What I do on to me I do unto you. We are all connected. The way I treat myself is not only a reflection of how I treat the world, but actually how I treat the world. Mistreating yourself, is orientating not just yourself towards hell but your surroundings, your peer group, your family, your friends. We tend to get trapped into this ‘one person against the world’ individual mentality, but there’s 8 billion other people experiencing their own version of consciousness. The amount of people we interact in our lifetime and have some small influence on, is monumental. If everyone was able to just orient themselves towards a little more good, towards heaven, then we could really have a monumental impact on a civilisation, right? If we could just treat ourselves a little better then we would consequently see our envrionment change for the better.
Peterson points out an incredibly simple, yet profound, observation. There’s eight billion people on the planet, take a look at what we’ve created, what the people before us have created, look around you. There is so much complexity and sophistication behind the thing’s we interact with on a daily basis, so few could explain how it all works and there are so many ways things can fall apart or fail to work together. But it’s almost always stitched together by wounded people. “If anyone’s fortunate enough to be in a rare period of grace and health, personally, then you probably know somebody who’s going through some type of crisis with their health, yet we all prevail and continue to do difficult and effortful tasks to hold ourselves, and their families, and society together. This is miraculous. These wounded people who are holding it together deserve so much more credit and admiration for what they’re doing.
“It’s an ongoing miracle of fortitude and perseverance. People are so tortured by the limitation of and constraint of being that I’m amazed they ever act properly or look beyond themselves at all, but enough do so that we have central heat, and running water, and infinite computational power and electricity enough for everyone to eat, and even in capacity to contemplate the fate of broader society and nature, terrible nature itself. All that complex machinery that protects us from the freezing, starving, and dying from lack of water tends unceasingly towards malfunction through entropy, and it is only the constant attention of careful people that keeps working so unbelievably well. Some people degenerate into the hell of resentment and the hatred of being, but most refuse to do so despite their suffering, and disappointments, and losses, and inadequacies, and ugliness. And again, that is a miracle for those with eyes to see it, is nothing short of incredible.
Then there are those who tend to see the world with as half glass empty — the pessimists and nihilists among us. These types of people tend argue their point of view by pointing out all the atrocities of the human experience. The media operates on a similar modal by pushing an agenda of negativity and drama. By pushing the saddest most depressing stories from around the globe it creates a narrative that the world is consumed by hate and evil. It is likely true though, due to the vastness of the human population there is probably an evil act being committed almost every instant.
However, this has to be dramatically outweighed by the good that is happening, and the reason I believe this is so is that we’re still here, not only that, but almost all fields of study are advancing as well. So not only are we all still here, but our understanding of the world is growing deeper every day. If evil and hell was overtaking good wouldn’t much of our growth and advancement be diminished and grinded to a halt? Maybe many think that’s what’s slowly happening now. Or maybe not. Maybe by orienting ourselves towards a little more good we can avoid this. We have a lot of work to do, but we’re still here. People like Peterson are helping orient people like me towards a little more good. If we can get just a few more people every day to push themselves towards ‘heaven’ rather than the ‘hell’, then maybe we can last a little longer.
“Hatred for self and mankind must be balanced with gratefulness for tradition and the state of astonishment at what normal, everyday people accomplish. We deserve some respect. You deserve some respect. You are important to other people as much as to yourself. You have some vital role to play in the unfolding destiny of the world. You are, therefore, morally obliged to take care of yourself. You should take care of help and be good to yourself the same way you would take care of help and be good to someone you loved and valued. You may, therefore, have to conduct yourself habitually in a manner that allows you some respect for your own being.”
If there’s never more been a reason to take care of yourself now, here it is. It’s not just taking care of yourself. It’s much bigger than that. Jordan Peterson is an example of that, Peterson and his daughter were going through a host of serious medical problems that was debilitating to both of them. He was going through all of this not only while he had a family to help run, and classes top lecture, but also while he was writing ‘Maps of Meaning’. He didn’t let his conditions stop him from putting a little more good into the world, he could’ve said “No, this is too hard. This is too much. I’m not going to do this.” but he didn’t, and thank god he didn’t. Because he knew he had to. He knew it was the right thing to do.
To conclude, “to treat yourself as if you’re someone, you’re responsible for helping is instead to consider what would surely be good for you. This is not what you want. It is also not what would make you happy. Every time you give a child something sweet, you make that child happy. That does not mean that you should do nothing for our children except feed them candy. Happy is by no means synonymous with good. You must get children to brush their teeth and put in their clothes even when they might object strenuously. You must help a child become a virtuous, responsible, awake being capable of full reciprocity, able to take care of himself, and others, and to thrive while doing so. Why would you think of it acceptable and do anything less for yourself?.”
“You need to consider the future and think what might my life look like if I’m caring for myself properly? What career would challenge me and randomly productive and helpful so that I could shoulder my share of the load and enjoy the consequences? What should I be doing when I have some freedom to improve my health, expand my knowledge and strength to my body? You need to know where you are so you can start and to chart your course.
“You need to know who you are so that you understand your armament and bolster yourself in respect to your limitations.”
“You need to know where you are going so that you can limit the extent of the chaos in your life, restructure order and bring the divine force of hope to bear on the world.”
“You must determine where you are going so that you can bargain for yourself, so that you don’t end up resentful, vengeful, and cruel.”
“You have to articulate your own principles so that you can defend yourself against others taking inappropriate advantage of you and so that you are secure and safe while you work and play. You must discipline yourself carefully. You must keep the promises you make to yourself and reward yourself that you can trust and motivate yourself. You need to determine how to act toward yourself so that you are most likely to become and to stay a good person. It would be good to make the world a better place.”
“Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of vision and direction. These are irresistible forces, able to transform what might appear to be unconquerable obstacles in traversable pathways and expanding opportunities. Strengthen the individual. Start with yourself, take care with yourself, define who you are, refine your personality, choose your destination and articulate your being.
As the great 19th century German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, so brilliantly noted,
“He whose life has a why can bear almost any how.”
“You could help direct the world on its careening trajectory a bit more toward heaven and a bit more away from hell. Once having understood hell, you could decide against going there or creating that. You could aim elsewhere. You could, in fact, devote your life to this. That would give you a meaning with a capital M, that would justify your miserable existence, that would atone you for your sinful nature and replace your shame and self-consciousness with the natural pride and forthright confidence of someone who has learned once again to walk with God in the garden. You could begin by treating yourself as if you’re someone you’re responsible for helping.