If you just want the gist of Peterson’s Q&A, you should be good to go with the „News“ section. For additional inspiration, I recommend skimming the quotes and I highly encourage you to check out his detailed response to one of the questions in this Q&A. Whether you are new to finding meaning in life or improving yourself – or if you have been in the game for a while already, it’s a really good read.
In terms of content you can expect quite a lot over the next few months. Besides the Zizek vs. Peterson debate that happened yesterday, there are three changes to Peterson’s content.
First, the second season of his podcast is live and should enter a weekly regularity of one new episode a week as a “top priority.” Second, his next Q&A episode won’t probably be recorded until June, because Peterson will travel a lot. Finally, there will be multiple 10 to 15 minute clips of Peterson talking with Dr. Oz released in the future (either on Oz’s or Peterson’s YouTube-Channel, or both).
Here is the full Q&A:
Next up are some of the most valuable quotes and thought’s I found worth sharing.
Why developing a plan for your life is important
“It’s really a good thing to have a plan for your life. You’re not going to get what you need and want unless you aim at it. You’re not going to aim at it, unless you know what it is. You’re not going to know what it is, unless you think about what it is.”
Where values come from
“Values aren’t created, they’re discovered – and they are discovered through a consultation with the parts of yourself that you aren’t fully conscious of, that aren’t fully articulated elements of your primary personality.”
Why dark forces help you live through catastrophe
“People live through catastrophe – and they do that in no small part by discovering that there are darker and stronger forces within them that they might be willing to appreciate. One of the consequences of integrating those forces is that you have the strengths and the cruelty in some strange sense to endure, to dare to continue to live, even if the unthinkable happens.”
Why you should learn something about evil
“You have to learn something about evil and you have to learn something about how it possesses people. You have to learn something about how it possesses ordinary people. That’ll mean you’ll have to learn something about how it might possess you.”
Finally, Peterson replied to a question in such a way, that I found it worth to transcribe and edit his reply for better readability as a whole. I hope you enjoy this rather long but incredibly important read about, what I think, is self-awareness and self-realization. The bold headlines were inserted by me.
Q: How do we come to know ourselves in terms of our personalities and more importantly potential?
First: Understand that you don’t know yourself.
One of the first ways to come to know yourself is to understand that you don’t.
You can learn to watch yourself like you’re watching a stranger, but you have to adopt a position of radical humility.
Humility in two senses: in one sense the humility of recognizing your ignorance. You have to understand that you don’t know who you are. That’s not easy to understand because you think you know. But then, you remember you can’t control yourself very well, you’re not very disciplined, you’re full of flaws. Maybe you don’t know yourself as well as you think.
But it’s hard to get low enough to understand how deeply it is the case. That you are ignorant about who you are.
Now, there’s an upside to that too which also is that you’re also ignorant about who you could be. So, the discovery of that is some reward for the horror of determining who you actually are.
Second: Watch yourself and attend to your conscience.
Then, watch yourself and attend to your conscience. Watch yourself like you’re watching a stranger; watch what you say and listen.
You think “what sort of person would say that?” and “how do I react emotionally when I’m communicating in that manner? Is that making me feel stronger or weaker? Is it filling me with shame? Is it helping my confidence? Am I laying out a lie? Am I deceiving myself and other people? Am I adopting this personality at parties that is designed to impress and to amuse and that comes across as nothing but like self-centered narcissism? What are my dark fantasies? What are my aggressive fantasies? What is it that I’m willing to do? What am I interested in, so that I’ll spontaneously pursue it? What do I procrastinate about? And why am I unwilling to do what I think is good? What do I congratulate myself for accomplishing and what do I berate myself for failing to confront?
Those are all incredibly complicated questions and you don’t know the answers to them.
So, that’s a start.
About your potential
Then, in terms of potential, you’ll discover a little bit more about your potential as you discover who you are.
Especially the darker parts of yourself. Because, then you discover your potential for mayhem. There’s some real utility in that. The discovery that you’re dangerous is such a useful discovery. It’s actually something that strengthens you, because the first thing that a realization like that can produce, is the ambition to incorporate that dangerousness into a higher order personality and that can make you implacable. It can make you someone who can say no when you need to say no. That can make you someone who won’t avoid necessary conflict. So, that’s unbelievably useful.
The other thing you do to discover your potential is that you challenge yourself – like rule 4 in my book 12 Rules for Life: comparing yourself to who you were yesterday and not to who someone else is today.
Take a bit of a look at yourself and think about what’s not so good that you could improve that you should improve – by your own standards – and that you would improve. Set yourself a little goal.
Maybe you’re not studying at all at your university, or maybe you’re at work and you’ve got this stack of paper there and you haven’t looked at that damn stack for a month and you know that you should and you’re bothering yourself at night because you’re avoiding that.
Maybe think: “Well, I’ve avoided that stack of paper completely for one month. I’m quite a coward when it comes to whatever snakes might be hidden in that stack of paper. How about tomorrow I just put that stack of paper in front of me on my desk and I glance through it for 15 seconds. See if I can do that.
You set yourself a goal of improvement.
It’s a humble goal because – really? Are you such a coward that the best that you can bloody well manage after a month of avoidance is 15 seconds of exposure to a stack of paper?
It could easily be.
You’ve been avoiding it, so you’re obviously afraid of it. So, the situation could be that dismal and dire. You might think: “well geez! It’s no bomb to my ego it’s not fostering the strength of my ego to recognize myself as someone who could only withstand 15 seconds of exposure to that thing I’m afraid of.”
That’s a form of humility, too.
It’s like there’s things you could do to improve and you know what they are. There are small steps that you could take that you might take that would put you in that direction. Then the question is: are you big enough to take those small steps you know you are capable of? Grappling with the fact that you’re fundamentally flawed to the point where you have to break things down in almost childlike steps in order to manage them.
The answer to that is: “yeah you are.”
That’s a lot. Most people have things they avoid and they’re afraid of. So, I would say to some degree it’s a lot for everyone. People vary in the degree to which they’ve conquered them and you do meet people from time to time who are extraordinarily disciplined but most of the time they’ve got disciplined and exactly this manner. It’s through slow, incremental improvement.
About personal growth
Then, you challenge yourself.
It’s like “well could I do this? That would be better.” Then you find out. Then you think “well is there something slightly larger and more challenging that I can do that would be better?” You try it and as you try it, you find out you get better at it. You can take on larger and larger challenges.
That’s why I suggested that you take responsibility for yourself. That’s part of standing up straight with your shoulders back. It’s like “take on the world man!” But, only at the level that you can manage. You know when you’re ignorant and biased and deeply flawed and immature. It’s where everyone starts. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. But it doesn’t mean that you can wrestle with its part of reality; some part that’s small enough so that you have a good shot at victory. Then you attain victory over some small part of the chaos and then you’re the person who’s victorious over chaos.
You’re just a beginner but that’s who you are.
On continual improvement
Then, maybe you can get unbelievably good at that, maybe you can ally to that the ability to recast tyrannical order into chaos and restructured into something deeper, more profound and more suitable for human habitation. That’s the other half of the hero myth. Half to overcome chaos itself. Half to confront tyranny where it needs to be confronted. That can allow the chaos to emerge in place of the tyranny and then to recast that into the order that’s proper. You do that by challenging yourself humbly at the level that you’re able to function.
It’s easier to understand if you think about a child that you’re trying to rear properly and you want to help that child reveal their highest potential whatever that is whatever that means. You don’t set them a series of impossible tasks in the hope of undermining their self-confidence. You form a relationship with them that is predicated on your interest in their highest mode of being. Then, you offer them challenges that are precisely optimized to their ability. So, they can do them, but they have to stretch.
The two elements of their ability would be what they can do at and how much they’re capable of that transforming what they can do. An optimal challenge stretches you to the end of what you can do and then into the domain of how you can transform. So, if you love a child then you set them tasks of that nature and maybe they have a reasonable chance of success 70% chance of success or an 80% chance of success might depend on how sensitive your child is.
On Humility and the Willingness to be a Fool
You do the same thing for yourself but you have to be humble and wise enough to understand that you might have to aim pretty damn low – especially in those places where you’re not functioning well. It might be so embarrassing that you can’t bring yourself to fathom that that’s actually who you are.
But, Jung described the fool – the archetypal figure of the trickster and the fool – as the precursor to the savior to the Redeemer. And that’s an unbelievable bit of wisdom. Because, what Jung meant was that to put yourself together which is to follow the path of redemption, to follow the Redeemer – if the Redeemer is a type of personality that you could in fact be inhabited by our manifest – then this first step towards that is to allow yourself to be a fool.
It’s because you don’t know what you’re doing, you have to admit that. There’s going to be a destruction of arrogant ego that necessarily accompanies that. But you need the loss of that arrogant ego because it’s precisely what’s interfering with your movement forward. It’s part of the adversarial process, mythologically speaking, that stops moral progress. You’re too proud of who you think you are to notice what you’re like so that you could change properly. You don’t want to sacrifice that part of yourself. It’s probably associated with some delusion that helps you maintain a positive, although very fragile, self-image, in the absence of genuine effort. It’s not to be recommended.
So, you know yourself by watching and paying attention.
That’s why the Egyptians worshiped Horus, the eye, as a god. They knew that attention was important and the Mesopotamians did the same thing with their God Marduk. It’s not thinking exactly, it’s not imagination, it’s just it’s watching like you’re a snake. A snake is a symbol of wisdom. A snake is a symbol of many things but wisdom is one of them. I suppose it’s because encounters with snakes, if they’re not fatal, make you wise. Because a snake watches cold-bloodedly with no emotional reaction, just to see what’s there and doesn’t allow, symbolically speaking, what is wanted or desired to interfere with what is observed
So, you watch yourself like that, as if you don’t know who you are. That’s the beginning.
Then you challenge yourself continually to see how far past yesterday you can push today, and tomorrow and to continually experiment with expanding that domain not only of your competence, but of your ability to increase that competence. The upper limit to that is proportional to the moral effort that you put into it. The more that’s guided by the highest of all possible visions – the alliance with the highest of all possible conceivable good -, and the more it’s accompanied by truth in speech and action, the more you will develop your potential. And I believe that potential to be more unlimited in the upward direction, than it is unlimited in the direction that brings people to the political and social hells that so often characterize the world that we inhabit.
So, you also, I suppose, have to be willing to undertake that as an adventurer. Because it’s a hell of a thing to bear that kind of responsibility. It takes a person out of the ordinary. It takes them out of themselves.
There’s an alienation and isolation that goes along with that and a great sorrow all of that together. But there’s deep meaning to be had in it and there isn’t anything better that you can do.
That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this little blog post. Over eastern I’ll further my understanding of how this project will develop in the future and take a break from my thesis to recharge for the final effort. I’ll keep you posted.
Stay on the Meaningful Path.