Jordan Peterson has gone into Rehab for a possible addiction to anti-anxiety medication, Clonazepam. His wife, Tammy, was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and he went on medication to cope with the stress.
This situation with Jordan Peterson has inspired some existential crises. And a recent twitter storm over his interview with Rex Murphy.
“surprising absolutely no one, anti-PC warlord, and masculinity instructor, Jordan Peterson is seen here LITERALLY CRYING about how people are mean to him on twitter.” – Reading is for Demons
“I’ve enjoyed his work, but Jordan Peterson is lost. He had a horrific mental break during his recent interview with Rex Murphy where he literally cries about getting mean tweets.
“Become antifragile or die.” – Ian Miles Cheong
The above tweets not only rest on a foundation that a man is not allowed to express pain over a traumatic experience or that social exclusion is not traumatic (more on that later) but also on a misreading of what Peterson is saying.
It’s apparent to me that Peterson is connecting his personal experience with the wrathful, ostracizing mindset that twitter excels at fostering and cultivating in its users with everyone who has gone through that same experience. In other words he’s expressing compassion for others by connecting their experience to his own. He then goes on to give some concrete advice to getting through the experience with something of your sense of self intact. I’m not sure how a man going through the experience of social exclusion and coming out the other side with some excellent advice for dealing with it became “he’s soooo fragile!” Yet here we are.
Sometimes I wonder if this mindset is less about encouraging people to become “anti-fragile” and more about justifying your social exclusion mob-fest to yourself by denying its victims the legitimacy of not just their pain but incredibly the legitimacy of developing personal strength and strategies to cope with your bullshit.
Everyone who partakes in a twitter mob instead of reasonable dialog is in a precarious position calling others “fragile” because they show their own identities are based on the most fragile of things, namely “dunking” on others on twitter. But I digress.
Ian, Alison and Demons represent the bad of the response to Peterson going into rehab. And then there’s the ugly.
In addition to the usual suspects like Peter Coffin, some more conservative commentators also had sketchy things to say about Peterson going into rehab as well.
In a Medium article BJ Campbell describes how his wife was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer a year before Jordan Peterson’s wife was diagnosed. The only option was chemotherapy to prolong her life with no prognosis of recovery.
First of all I want to say I’m sorry for your loss, BJ Campbell, however if you choose to make a public statement, I feel it’s fair game for public critique.
BJ Writes: “My task and responsibility as the father and husband was to hold the family together through what I hope will be the darkest part of any of our lives. […]I didn’t go to a therapist. I didn’t use a counselor. My confidants during this time were my wife, and one other close friend. My toolkit to make sense of the chaos around me, and maintain the strength to get to the end, consisted of three things:
“Writing. I started this publication, mostly as a distraction.
“Nicotine. I started vaping for a bit. I truly think this helped.
‘I watched Jordan Peterson YouTube videos.”
“Jordan’s wife Tammy was struck with a rare kidney cancer in the summer, no more than a few months after Buffy died. Tammy had significant surgery, the surgery had complications, and her lymphatic system was compromised, leading to ah-site-eez just like Buffy. I read the articles. I wondered if Jordan was at home, using vacuum sealed Pleurx Drain bottles to suck the fluid out of his wife’s belly through a surgically installed catheter, like I’d done months before. I wondered if Tammy would die, like Buffy did. And I wondered what Jordan was doing to manage his stress and battle his dragon.
“As of several days ago, we know most of these answers. His wife will recover, if with fewer organs, her ah-site-eez has abated, and Jordan managed his situation with a drug called Clonazepam, at the direction of his own doctors. To which he is now addicted, and must seek drug rehabilitation in a clinic.
“I don’t stand in judgement of Jordan for turning to pharmaceuticals to manage stress, as so many others in the western world do.”
BJ you say you don’t stand in judgement of Jordan’s choice but you also said this:
“I still have a bottle of the anti-anxiety medication Lorazepam in my medicine cabinet, that neither Buffy nor I ever opened.”
There’s no reason to include this detail except to flex on Peterson.
BJ goes on to explain to us what lesson we should take from Peterson checking into rehab by comparing Peterson’s situation to his own.
“A lesson emerges from a careful unpacking, that I think may be beneficial for everyone to think about. Let’s begin by comparing these situations.
“My situation, both from a medical and family perspective, was probably objectively worse. Buffy struggled for far longer, and didn’t survive. My children are younger, and more impressionable, and lost their mother. I’m now a single father, and while I do well professionally I don’t make anything like Jordan does.”
Your situation was “objectively worse”? Alright.
“But Jordan’s situation was worse in different ways. He’s stranded (arguably by choice) at the front lines of a culture war, and embattled by a media engine which revels in mischaracterizing him to reap clickbait money. This is a stress layer I can’t fathom.”
Worse in different ways but your situation was still “objectively worse.”
Also arguably by choice sounds very much alike a dismissal. Because he chose it, he doesn’t have a right to have it recognized as a burden? Are you one of those people who thinks they can dismiss anything done to soldiers because they’re volunteers.
Peterson has volunteered to be a conscript in a war you aren’t fighting. You’re sitting on the sidelines, flexing on him for failing to be as strong as you. And you are flexing on him, my dude.
Peterson is a no man’s land of what behavioural scientists call “repeated social defeat.”
What is “repeated social defeat?”
Scientists trying to find ways to induce depression in rodents have developed a protocol called “repeated social defeat.” What they do is they introduce a mouse repeatedly into a cage of a more dominant mouse so the mouse can experience over and over what it is to be castigated, maligned, cast out and treated as socially inferior.
This is what they do in order to induce drug resistant depression in a mouse.
What does that sound like, to you, dear reader? Perhaps being lied about by a media institution with vastly more social reach, being denied awards previously granted and, yes, being mobbed by thousands on twitter?
One of the greatest burdens–if not the greatest–you can carry in a social species is social rejection. That’s the burden Jordan Peterson chose to pick up to push back against our society’s vitriolic, pervasive anti-male sentiment for the benefit of young men everywhere.
Doing anything outside the boxes we’re expected to occupy means facing the no-mans land, the desert, of repeated social defeat. It means being willing to endure being lied about, ridiculed, excluded, banned, de-platformed, harassed, threatened and then accused of having all the power and doing all that to the people with the power doing it to you.
I’m not going to say traveling in that no man’s land is as bad being in literal combat. After all combat is basically “repeated social defeat” with bullets. That’s why sergeants scream at new recruits, in part to get them used to enduring being violently hated.
It’s awful to lose a loved one, no doubt. But when you experience repeated social defeat, you become the loved one you’ve lost.
If you have boys, Jordan Peterson bearing that burden for them. If you have girls, he’s also bearing this burden so they will have a man in the future that is at all fit to be a partner.
The fact that this was a burden he chose, is astounding. It’s astounding to me when someone sacrifices so much to help others.
Paul Elam of A Voice for Men, did something along those lines as well. He faced down the media smear, the spectre of repeated social rejection that everyone fears on a visceral level, to break the door down for men’s issues in media spaces.
“I unconsciously trusted the things he was saying were true […]. And I still think many of them are true, and were certainly helpful to me, but I can acknowledge that they were only useful in part because I trusted they were useful. That authority bias worked like a placebo, and placebos have real effects, on top of whatever effects his actual advice imparted.”
It’s one thing to read Peterson’s work critically. And certainly I have had my own criticisms of his work, its another thing entirely to think that him going into rehab somehow negates anything that he’s said.
It doesn’t. Unless you shouldn’t have believed that particular thing in the first place.
“Jordan was missing a tool that I had, because Jordan Peterson can’t just watch Jordan Peterson videos. And that’s both horrible and fascinating, and worth a deeper look. Jordan Peterson videos were helpful to me because I imparted an unconscious authority bias onto the things he was saying.”
The assumption behind this is that Peterson’s has a weakness that needs an explanation.
And you know what they say about assumptions, BJ.
“Jordan, on the other hand, can’t assign that authority bias to himself. For him to fight his dragon in same way I fought mine, he would need a meta-Jordan-Peterson to watch on YouTube. Somebody else higher up the ladder of self-help abstraction. Of more authority than he.”
And here we come to the payload. This is BJ’s conclusion as to why Jordan failed while he succeeded. Peterson didn’t have a peterson.
But here’s a thought BJ, a radical one perhaps… maybe Peterson isn’t displaying weakness.
Just bear with me here, let me explain.
Peterson chose to use a proscribed drug to cope. He then got addicted to it, presumably. There seems to be some contention on this point.
Peterson could have chosen to inform no one of this publicly and yet he did.
This is an intentional act. And if its intentional then that itself must be accounted for before you judge him weak.
This isn’t him being caught in the act of being flawed, this is him showing you that he is flawed. There’s a huge difference there.
A critical one.
Toxic masculinity, according to some feminists, maybe most, is men’s desire not to be seen as weak.
Because Feminism refuses to see the burdens men carry, the sacrifices they make or the vulnerabilities they have… when a man stumbles all they can do is call him fragile and blame him for somehow managing to fall despite the fact everyone else according to feminism, that is society, women minorities is carrying him.
If you can’t recognize the burdens men carry that means they can never set them down.
“Oh you’ve fallen and you can’t get up? Here’s another thing for you to carry. Because we can’t acknowledge that you fell because we’re making you carry too much.”
Men’s rights, on the other hand, is about seeing the weight men carry when they stumble and fall… Men’s rights recognizes the burdens men carry and because it recognizes the burdens men carry instead of weakness, men’s rights sees the strength men show, how far a man walked and how much he carried.
So, let’s apply some Men’s Rights to this situation with Peterson, Peterson going into rehab and the very, very many people who are gloating or flexing or otherwise acting like a dog that’s scored some cat shit.
BJ says that Peterson’s choice to take Clonazepam was a bad choice…
I have some experience with bad choices, in particular experience with bad choices in the context of organizing a convention.
In that context I’ve been told “you made a bad choice.” And I have to say “yes I did, but that choice I made was between something bad and something worse.”
If I may be so bold, I think Peterson made a choice between something bad, Clonazepam, and something worse.
People want their father figures to be infinitely wise, infinitely strong, infinitely resilient, but we are all, every one of us, just human. Which means we struggle against our own limitations, but that’s what makes us so brave.
Its not courage to have an endless reservoir of personal strength; its courage to make a bad choice for the sake of others. And it’s even more courageous to own that bad choice and manage the fallout for the sake of yourself and those who rely on you.
We only ever see the bad choice, not the worse choice.
I can’t tell you what Peterson was thinking I can only tell you what I see… he chose to be strong for his family and he chose to be strong for young men and ultimately us all and he chose to take a drug in order to do both.
And then he chose to be honest about needing help.
I don’t see weakness in any of these choices, I only see strength.
Peterson decided to walk into the desert of the real, the no man’s land of repeated social defeat. He decided to beat his heart against the biggest wall in the world, which the wall between young men and any sort of compassion.
That’s the real thing that condemned him in the eyes of the media. He was an apostate in the church of women worsting.
The story of Peterson isn’t the story of 12 rules or “clean your room” or “carry the greatest weight you can.” It’s the story of a man with compassion for other men.
He wrote that book because he felt it was what young men needed to hear. He spoke out against the excesses of a society hell bent on demonizing and stigmatizing young men, because he felt it was what young men needed to hear. He gave them an encouraging word because he felt it was what young men needed to hear.
We don’t see young men as worthy of scholarships, assistance overcoming the trials of life, concern for their issues or mental health and physical wellbeing. Instead we see them as a trash can to throw all our worst impulses in—blame, hatred, anger, vitriol, insults, contempt—and then we condemn them some more for achieving despite it.
Imagine being told by society that you have no innate value, you are not just worthless, you are the reason why women and girls suffer unfairly… imagine experiencing the despair of that, having no job, no education prospects, no hope. And being told that you are capable of making the world just a little better by cleaning your room.
By a simple act under your control you can bring value into the world.
To acknowledge that young men are so marginalized now that they need to be told that there is anything they can do to make the world a better place, that they aren’t a disease whose existence contaminates and taints everything around them. That by a simple act they can bring value into the world… That’s taking on the burden of our society’s hatred, blame, contempt, anger and vitriol.
Because our society does not want to acknowledge what it’s doing to its young men.
Compassion is fundamentally different than pity. Pity looks at another’s suffering and sees weakness; compassion looks at another’s suffering and sees strength. It sees the burdens they’ve carried.
It takes strength to have compassion, because have compassion you must be able to recognize the burdens people carry.
Do you carry that burden BJ? Do you have compassion for Peterson now that he could use some, or do you just see him as a psychological tool. One step in an infinite regression of authority and agency?
If you don’t recognize the burden Peterson has carried, then it’s likely because you have never carried it, BJ.
Your situation is not comparable, BJ.
Peterson had every right to only take on the burdens forced on him by life, like you did, BJ. You only took on the burdens you had no choice but to take on.
And now that Peterson no longer useful to you, you do what feminists do… use him one last time to serve your own ego.
Only strong people can feel compassion, because only strong people chose to carry burdens so only strong people see the burdens others have carried.
Weak people have pity.
When I read 12 rules I thought it felt incomplete.
What I felt was missing was… there’s a lot of things to live up to, but not much explanation how to do it.
There wasn’t much on finding the right foundation so you can lift the greatest weight or the fact that if you don’t find a good foundation–a good supportive community–you’re not going to be able to lift much weight at all.
That’s the stuff that I work with, trying to create good communities for young men that lift them up rather than tearing them down.
I think what young men need now more than ever is not another standard to live up to but people who recognize the strength they have already. It takes tremendous strength just to exist in a society that offers nothing to young men but condemnation and blistering hatred.
Young men need to find a place that recognizes their strength where everyone else sees weakness and failure.
I know that my advocacy for these issues, well every time I tell one of my health care workers what I do they give me a skeptical face as if to say “you have problems with depression and anxiety and you do this for a living?”
It’s possible that my advocacy for these issues will kill me. I will do my best to maintain my mental health and resilience, but depression is a sneaky underhanded thief. Those deadly habits of thinking are always there, like a ghost in your brain. And they don’t announce themselves, they just slip in under your guard and change how you see the world.
That’s not to say we aren’t responsible for maintaining our mental health. Which I do, every day I spend hours managing my symptoms and my mental habits. But I deal the pain of opening my heart to tragedy over and over again, caring over and over again, reading the same lazy lies about what I do over and over again, dealing with the no man’s land of social defeat, border bannings, bias in application of law, calls for deplatforming and censorship, being told I’m a stain on humanity or a worthless selfish child…
I make myself a target by entering the no man’s land of repeated social defeat because people who put us in boxes use that no man’s land to maintain their boxes. They don’t want people surviving it. And then there’s the knowledge that my income is unreliable. All that anxiety fuels the depression.
This work I’m doing could be taking years off my life. Ten years? Twenty? Don’t know. Just like Peterson I could do a lot more for my mental health by not doing this work. Doing this work increases the chances that that ghost of old habits will seize me and drag me down.
But I do it anyway. Because I won’t walk away, I don’t want you to have to face this stuff alone, because I know I’m able to give you arguments that stop these ugly lies dead in their tracks and allow you to endure one more day in the no-mans land.
I want to get you out of those boxes. I want you free.
And for those of us who have felt the razor edge of despair and fear, we see the pain others go through and we sympathize and its much harder to walk away.
Is that irresponsible of me? Is it irresponsible for a fireman or a policeman or a soldier? They all choose to do things that put their lives at risk.
I look at this reaction to Peterson going into rehab and I wonder…
If I do end up dying because of this, will you say that I’m taking the coward’s way out? Will you see me as weak?
Or will you recognize that I fought hard against two fronts. Mental illness and repeated social defeat in order to do what I could to protect those no one wants to care about.
Well, if I fought two fronts, Jordan Peterson has fought three: Mental illness. Misandry. And his wife getting cancer.
Some of the criticism of Peterson comes from people who don’t want to give young men any support at all. Not even hard love much less love love.
They say Peterson’s message of self reliance is unethical because of systemic problems, but Peterson says it almost entirely to young men, and it’s not like the people criticizing the message are offering any kind of support or recognition of the systemic problems young men face.
And then there’s BJ, who seems to see Peterson stumbling as an opportunity to explain where Peterson’s weakness came from. Under the assumption that there is weakness that needs an explanation.
And as you know, BJ assumptions make an ass of you.
Remember before you judge someone weak for making a bad choice… you didn’t see the worse choice.
In conclusion what I want to say is this: Dr. Peterson you have nothing to prove to me or anyone. Thank you for your compassion and your strength.
And thank you all for your kind attention.
@ Alison Tieman
- What Jordan Peterson checking into Rehab can teach us all - October 26, 2019
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- How men’s issues show men’s strength | Negative Sum Game 2 - May 19, 2018