Rule 2: Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible For Helping
After all that talk in the first chapter of lobster fights; a wren guarding his nest territory; and the way defensive body language learned during trauma can become a detrimental habit throughout life, the second rule goes a little deeper. It is a meditation on why humans tend to neglect themselves with such monumental diligence. It was Jung’s comment that the edict to ‘treat others as you wish to be treated yourself’ was not an invitation to be nice to each other. Far from it. If you really want everyone just to be nice to you, how would you grow? We want to be told when we make mistakes, we want to learn and be challenged. Peterson took note of Jung’s distinction and decided that we need to work out how we do want to be treated. We tend to treat others better than we treat ourselves. You are conscientious enough to give your dog all the proper medication that the vet advises, but 30% of people don’t collect their own prescriptions and of those that do collect their prescriptions a further 50% don’t take them properly. ‘Your dog likes you, your dog would like you to take your medication.’
Why don’t people like themselves very much? Peterson asks. Well, we are fragile and foolish. We know everything about ourselves and all the mistakes we make. We are weak and useless and prone to temptation. We are capable of some sordid and malevolent acts and we know it. So why would we take care of someone as sorry and wretched as ourself? That is what this chapter is about. Yes we’re flawed but so is everyone else and that is an existential problem, it is universal. Every single human being has always had that problem and always will. The answer put forward in the chapter is to love the sinner but not the sin. Despite the fact that you’re not all that you could be, the proper response is to treat yourself as if you are someone that you genuinely care for. It is incumbent on you to do so. It is also a discussion of why you have a moral obligation to take care of yourself.
You make the world a much worse place if you don’t take care of yourself. Partly because you have something valuable to bring into the world. It is part of what being an individual is about, and what western civilisation recognises is that you have a light to bring into the world. If you do not bring it into the world then the world remains a dimmer place. When the world is a dim place it can get very very dark. It is not just that you feel better if you look after yourself, it is that you have a duty to bring the valuable thing you have to the world.
Peterson’s in-depth study of Genesis is an excellent development of the idea, he also looks at the difference in our worldly perceptions as a result of science, but maintains that our inner seeing is fundamentally made of drama and story. What is meaningful is what we can extract from chaos. The comprehensive discussion of chaos and order is gripping and peppered with familiar mythology made fascinating again through Peterson’s interpretation. Neuroscience; the Taoists; Shiva; Eden – and not just the standard postlapsarian reading that we had in literary theory; good and evil; the divine; classical Rome; Elkhonon Goldberg and the brain…are just some of the explorations in this satisfying chapter.
I am also enjoying the pictures that front each chapter, they look different before and after reading.
Chapter 3 tomorrow!