Dr. Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life – Chapter One Analysis

Sup, nerds? Welcome back! All two of you.

As part of my New Year’s Resolution to, well, think more, I’ve been reading Dr. Jordan Peterson’s book, 12 Rules for Life. Along my perilous journey through the dark annals of the Internet, I’ve come across plenty of people who don’t particularly enjoy Dr. Peterson’s success. As a matter of fact, they seem to downright hate the man. A few users I encountered on Reddit accused him of “monopolizing conversations to get his way” and being “close-minded.”

Source: Twitter

It’s no secret Dr. Peterson has stirred up a lot of angry feminists. Chatelaine contributor Rachel Giese (2017) accuses him of providing “an archaic explanation for why men like Louis C.K. sexually harass and assault women.” The ‘archaic’ explanation Giese refers to is Peterson’s November 2017 tweet, “With all the accusations of sex assault emerging (eg Louis CK) we are going to soon remember why sex was traditionally enshrined in marriage.”

You can choose to interpret that as negative or you can take a step back and think about it for a moment. Perhaps Peterson is simply saying, “Heh. No wonder premarital sex used to be frowned upon!” An obvious quip, yes?

This is why I decided to interpret his book, 12 Rules for Life, from my own perspective. Follow me, chapter by chapter, as I dive into this project head first.

Chapter One – Stand up Straight with Your Shoulders Back

While this chapter begins with lobsters, the gears in my head began to turn when I reached a personal story of his dealing with “Birds and Territory.” Peterson explains how he recorded the song of a bird over the course of a summer. One day, he played the tape back in the bird’s presence. Apparently, that was a mistake. The bird began to attack him, willing this intruder out of the space he’d fought for.

My note: “Sometimes you don’t realize you’re hearing yourself.”

Ever had a friend accuse you of doing something that bothers them, but you never even realized you’d done anything wrong? It’s often difficult to see yourself from the outside. How you’re perceived by others. Try recording yourself acting naturally. Play it back. Sometimes we need a little shock to get the system working correctly.

Later in the chapter, Peterson speaks to nature not being a static or dynamic force, but ever-changing. A line I highlighted was, “Leaves change more quickly than trees” (p. 13).

My note: “Does that mean the mind changes quicker than the body?”

Of course it does. It also means the opposite. Your body can change quicker than your mind. The trick is to go with the flow. Deal with the changes as they come. Embrace them. Grow with them.

Back to the lobsters. Now, I’ve been dealing with anxiety, OCD and major depression for most of my life. That’s not a flex, I swear. Dr. Peterson explains that lobsters who continually lose fights will begin to shrink and shy away from conflict, causing their serotonin levels to drop. This also causes the fight or flight response to be near-constantly triggered in the poor dudes.

Same, lobsters, same.

My note: “Low serotonin makes you feel as though conflict is always near.”

It truly does. And it’s a leftover trait from our ancestors. We always have to be aware of our surroundings should a predator sneak up on us. Personally, I’m a worrier — constantly catastrophizing what’s to come. Anxiety occurs when the chemicals in your Amygdala are out of balance. This can be fixed with medication or cognitive behavioral therapy. Unfortunately, lobsters have neither of those.

Chapter one also delves into positive feedback loops. One example of this could be associated with a Pavlovian response. Doing something a few times and receiving a “reward” for it allows you to have a positive emotional response. Routinely developing this creates a positive feedback loop. But these can also destroy you.

There are many systems of interaction between brain, body and social world that can get caught in positive feedback loops. Depressed people, for example, can start feeling useless and burdensome, as well as grief-stricken and pained. This makes them withdraw from friends and family. Then the withdrawal makes them more lonesome and isolated, and more likely to feel useless and burdensome. In this manner, depression spirals and amplifies.
(p. 22)

So, folks, stand up with your shoulders back and your head held high. Because the less afraid you are of your world, the more likely you are to meet new people and make friends.

I’m only halfway through Chapter two, so these may not happen on a schedule, but stay tuned for more analysis. I’ll do this for all chapters until I finish the book.

Okay, bye!


Peterson, J.B.. (2018). 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos. Canada: Penguin Random House.

Giese, R. (November 20, 2017). University of Toronto Prof Jordan Peterson’s Dangerous Views On Why Men Assault Women. Chatelaine. Retrieved from https://www.chatelaine.com/opinion/jordan-peterson-gender/

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