’12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos’ Jordan B Peterson – 10

Rule 10: Be Precise in Your Speech 

There’s a relationship between communication and the structure of being. This is a strong part of yoga, and especially in Kundalini yoga, Yogi Bhajan emphasised again and again the importance of clear and careful speech. So much so that one of the modules the the advanced Level 2 Kundalini Teacher Training is Conscious Communication. Peterson has it right here in that he knows that the link between speech and Being is part of the role that consciousness plays in the universe. Language takes the chaos and makes it into things, just like in Genesis when in the beginning was the Word. God told Adam to name all the animals and plants, and in doing so he makes them real. Once you name something you can deal with it.  In chapter 10 Peterson talks about the children’s story There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon where a little dragon keeps on growing because it is ignored. Once it is acknowledged, it shrinks again. No matter how terrible the actuality is, it’s rarely as terrible as your imagination. Because your imagination is an old thing it’s seen a lot of terrible things in the history of life; it can put monsters everywhere. So it might be better without exception, to name the thing, no matter how terrible it is. ‘If you can’t name it what that means is you’re telling yourself that you’re so terrified that you can’t bring your attention to bear on it, and that makes you the loser, instantly’ says Peterson. When you think you can’t talk about something because it’s bad, it’s not as bad as what you conjure up if you can’t talk about it. ‘That’s how we demonise people. There isn’t a better synonym for what’s terrifying than that which is unspeakable. You want to bring things out of the realm of the unspeakable.’ This is why Peterson is a free speech advocate.

‘It’s deeper than the intellect. It’s an assault on whatever rule consciousness has in Being.’ It means you can’t participate in the process of creation, it’s something that deep. ‘Freedom of speech – that’s the worship of the Logos in many ways. The deepest idea in our culture is that Logos is creative and what it makes is good. That’s God at the beginning of time saying Logos is good.’ To bring things out of the murk is a good thing.  ‘You don’t mess with that. It is the most sacred principle of western civilisation. Not only western, the Taoists know this as well.’ And of course, the yogis!

There’s nothing wrong with prudence, so you want to choose your words carefully but part of wisdom is knowing what to be afraid of. Often, with almost every important choice you make you have terror on one side and terror on the other. There’s no way forward that doesn’t involve risk. There’s a big problem with self censorship, and it is that every time you fail to express who and what you are in an articulated manner, you first of all lose an opportunity to know yourself better. That’s not good because you have to pilot yourself through life,  life is a dangerous and treacherous enterprise and if you don’t know yourself well then you won’t pilot yourself well and you may be hurt more often than you need to be. The other thing is that you also weaken yourself.

Your mind is wired up in many different ways to determine what constitutes a valid threat, and that’s not an easy thing to figure out. It is very difficult to determine. One of the ways your brain figures that out is to watch you, and it assumes that if you move away from something, if you retreat from something, that the thing you’re retreating from is bigger than you and that you are smaller than it. ‘And so it makes you just that bit more existentially weak and frightened. And so when you have something to say and then you don’t say it, not only do you miss an opportunity to articulate yourself properly which is fundamentally necessary, but you tell yourself right down to the level of your soul, that there is less of you than there could be. And that makes the next retreat even more likely… It’s a recipe for cowering in the corner and freezing.

You might be afraid to say what you have to say. And you may have every reason to be afraid. But you should be even more afraid of not saying what you have to say, because the consequences of that as they accrue over the long term will undermine everything for you. They will undermine your faith in yourself, they will undermine your family, they will undermine your society.’

You have been warned!

Chapter 11 tomorrow.