Poor Jordan Peterson


I guess it’s a good thing that Jordan Peterson never professed happiness as a goal in life.

“It’s all very well to think the meaning of life is happiness, but what happens when you’re unhappy? Happiness is a great side effect. When it comes, accept it gratefully. But it’s fleeting and unpredictable. It’s not something to aim at – because it’s not an aim. And if happiness is the purpose of life, what happens when you’re unhappy? Then you’re a failure. And perhaps a suicidal failure. Happiness is like cotton candy. It’s just not going to do the job.”

I hate having to agree with Peterson, but I do on this one point, despite having a mostly happy life myself. Misery is always going to intrude, whether by chance or the actions of others or your own failings, so don’t judge your worth by whether there’s a smile on your face.

So, sad to say, Mr Peterson is rather miserable right now.

She [Jordan Peterson’s daughter] says that her mother’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent surgical complication created an unbearable amount of stress for the family, and particularly her father. A doctor prescribed clonazepam, or Klonopin, to help him cope with the anxiety it caused. Clonazepam is an anti-seizure medication that is also prescribed to treat panic disorder.

After her mother went into remission, Peterson attempted to get off the drug on his own. This caused terrible withdrawals, his daughter says. “The reason we’re in New York is because dad’s in rehab using other medications to try and get off this clonazepam.”

All sympathy to the man. His daughter says he’s going to use this experience in his next book, because he really does need to improve his understanding of addiction and get away from his previous simplistic prescriptions.

Peterson’s YouTube videos routinely amass hundreds of thousands of views. In these videos, as with his writings, he lectures people on how to lead a successful, fulfilling life. In 2017, he advised people to cure addiction by replacing the substance or activity, such as smartphone use, with “something better.” The behavioral psychologist has provided advice that some may call over-simplifications about addiction on multiple occasions.

Maybe he’s not happy, but he has a learning opportunity here.

Comments

  1. hoku says

    Let he who has never used their presumed authority to give dangerous medical and psychological advice to millions of people cast the first stone.

  2. A. Noyd says

    Ah, good old clonazepam. It’s not really that bad to get off of as long as you’re patient, but it can definitely teach a self-important nitwit that the physiological side to addiction doesn’t give a flying fuck about wholesome alternatives or moral grandstanding.

  3. Artor says

    I wonder if there are some other avenues where reality can educate Peterson with a clue-by-four to the head. He might learn from this experience. Can he learn, or is he just a bipedal lobster person?

  4. hemidactylus says

    Glad to hear his wife is in remission. It’s unfortunate about his addiction. I’m not reflexively anti-pharma, but the stuff that may help cope with physical or psychic pain can be a huge downside in the long run. Pretty sure Peterson understands the power of what is essentially now an overwhelming unconscious urgency.

  5. Zeppelin says

    Peterson never struck me as a happy person, or even as someone who has himself or his life well under control. He always seemed kind of agitated and fragile. Weird person to go to for self-help tips.

    It’ll be interesting to see if he improves after rehab, or if he’ll end up Finding Jesus or something and become even more obnoxious.

  6. PaulBC says

    I’m gonna sit out this one. I’m forever astonished that people take Peterson seriously when he makes sweeping statements outside his expertise. I’m also not really inclined to express my sympathies though I’m sure he is in great need right now. I hope he gets help.

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    Does JP still subsist on his all-steak diet? That might have some bearing on his physiological stresses…

  8. raven says

    Clonazepam
    It is a tranquilizer of the benzodiazepine class. …

    This is basically a valium type drug.
    The addiction potential is there for sure but it isn’t all that high. Many millions have been prescribed benzodiazepines without becoming addicted.

    Which doesn’t say much about Peterson one way or another.
    There is a lot to be said about treating addictions as medical problems rather than…moral failings.
    I’ve never seen anything in “behavioral psychologist” Peterson’s writings that indicate that he is the least bit competent in his own field.
    His main accomplishment so far has been to sell reflected hate back to his followers to get money, millions of dollars.

  9. raven says

    Peterson gets my sympathy for his ongoing family tragedy.
    He gets a huge amount more contempt for the hate and lies he has spread for money.
    Old post on his hate towards women.

    Forget that Enforced Monogamy Red Herring.
    Sure it is disgusting and cuckoo.
    It’s also just one of many Peterson’s misogynistic comments.

    Just going to Xpost from a Pharyngula thread.
    Jordan Peterson is a sick puppy!!! No matter how horrible a human being you think he is, the reality if far worse.

    https://www.quora.com/Why-i
    The poster below on quora has some Peterson quotes. I normally don’t like to copy other people’s comments but in this case it’s important enough that I will with attribution. The sources are at the original article reached by the link.
    My replies are in bold.

    Riley May
    Answered May 4, 2018 · Author has 70 answers and 83.4k answer views
    Because he says things like:
    ..women have a subconscious wish for brutal male domination
    This is bullcrap. He doesn’t know this.
    ..that it’s unfortunate that men can’t control women who say crazy things because they aren’t allowed to hit them
    How about crazy men like Peterson. We aren’t allowed to hit them either.
    Peterson admires violence and is frustrated that he can’t be violent towards women.
    Guy is a sick puppy.

    ..young women are outraged because they don’t have a baby to suckle
    Gibberish. He doesn’t know this. It’s just a misogynistic insult.
    more….

    ..if a woman doesn’t want to have kids, there’s something wrong with her
    Gibberish. It’s an opinion or an assertion without proof. It’s also wrong.
    It’s a sick puppy thing again.

    ..and says “The idea that women were oppressed throughout history is an appalling theory.” – despite women lacking basic human rights and legally being owned by men throughout history
    The oppresion was/is blatantly true and obvious.

    ..says stuff like “Men cannot oppose pathological women because chivalry demands they keep their most potent weapons sheathed” on twitter
    That violence thing again. I would be very surprised if Peterson doesn’t have a history of violence against women, children, and pets. Anything smaller and weaker than himself.

    There is lots more. Pages and pages of sick garbage like this.
    No matter how ugly and vicious Peterson seems, the reality is going to be far worse.

  10. says

    It’s obvious that Jordan Peterson is not a True Christian© because, as Jordan’s brother, noted neuro-psychologist and theologian Jessie Lee Peterson pointed out True Christians© don’t get depressed. As a poster on Patheos informed me, Once they turn over all their cares and worries to God, they have no reason to be depressed, since everyone knows these are the only things that cause depression.

    Seriously, though, I’m glad Jessie Peterson sought medical help in light of both his wife’s death and his own resultant addiction. As much as I dislike what he says, these aren’t problems I would wish on anyone. Except maybe the Cheeto in Chief or Jerry Falwell, Jr. JK…but not by much.

  11. raven says

    Happiness is like cotton candy. It’s just not going to do the job.”

    FFS, this is both a deepity and a truism.
    Nothing new here at all.

    The old saying:
    Life is a hassle and then you die.
    We all know this.

    The goal is to maximize your happiness however you define your own happiness, and minimiize your misery.
    We define our own meanings and purposes for our own lives.
    A trite cliche but nonetheless true.

  12. says

    And if happiness is the purpose of life, what happens when you’re unhappy?

    Then you identify what you want, and how to get it.

    In fact, I recommend this simple idea any time you have any strong emotion.

  13. Artor says

    @ Jonathna Norberg:
    Peterson is ostensibly non-religious. It’s pure coincidence that his positions mimic those of conservative Xianity so closely. Or more likely, he has never once examined his biases while growing up in a conservative Xian culture.

  14. hemidactylus says

    @11- raven

    All his other shortcomings aside, the cotton candy metaphor ironically sticks. Happiness is a byproduct, not an intrinsic goal and it is ephemeral or fleeting. And if it has duration there is a ratcheting effect as the enjoyer habituates to it. Call me a Debbie Downer, but there is more to life than the simple metric of happiness and I think the more expansive idea of eudaimonia is better applied to society in general (not exclusively oneself), but what subset gets thrown under the bus or locked in the broom closet (shades of Le Guin’s Omelas).

    But to capture a much better author than JP we must I suppose imagine Sisyphus happy rolling around in his hamster ball meaning bubble. Of course it was Camus who said of a famous misogynistic pessimist: “Schopenhauer is often cited, as a fit subject for laughter, because he praised suicide while seated at a well-set table.” in The Myth of Sisyphus. Happy pessimists?

  15. A. Noyd says

    raven (#8)

    The addiction potential is there for sure but it isn’t all that high. Many millions have been prescribed benzodiazepines without becoming addicted.

    Clonezepam is one of the most addictive of the benzos. And while I don’t know if Peterson is also suffering from psychological dependence as well, clonazepam is known in particular for causing physiological dependence, especially in older people and after prolonged use. You usually have to taper that shit for months to go off it even if you never abused it and have zero urge to keep using it.

  16. consciousness razor says

    Artor:

    Peterson is ostensibly non-religious. It’s pure coincidence that his positions mimic those of conservative Xianity so closely.

    I’m not sure if you’re joking…. I’ll just disagree anyway.
    The whole rationalwiki article on him is worth reading, but the stuff which they put under the “religion” heading says more than enough. What exactly his bullshit is supposed to mean to him privately is anybody’s guess. However, on the surface (ostensibly), he is religious.

    Or more likely, he has never once examined his biases while growing up in a conservative Xian culture.

    I don’t know about that either. Relentless navel-gazing got him where he is, no? I haven’t delved very deeply into them, but I doubt there’s much beyond that in his silly books or the endless talks he gives.
    One way to put it is that he’s tried to examine his biases, but failed and fell in love with them. Perhaps that’s because he thought he could be rich and famous peddling such horseshit, perhaps because he thinks treating those things positively is advantageous for him in various other ways — after all, privilege comes in many forms and isn’t merely about wealth. In any case, it seems to be a deliberate choice to me. He’s clueless, sure, but not clueless about that.

  17. PaulBC says

    Not to sound too pollyanna, but the best parts of my life are less about feeling happy (though it helps) than about feeling engaged in something. This is not even the same as “purpose,” because I could step back and say, e.g., “Solving this Rubik’s cube is of little consequence in the scheme of things or even any obvious practical value.” That doesn’t doesn’t matter as long as I feel inclined to work on it. To call it happiness extends the meaning too far, because there is struggle and frustration (apply this to something more significant than a puzzle) and in some cases I could be pulled a way by some pleasant but unsatisfying diversion. That could go at least two ways, I might just give up and be happy, or I might eventually be drawn back to the previous interest.

    I intend this descriptively, not prescriptively. I have a pretty good idea of what I want out of life at my current point in middle age. I don’t presume that it corresponds to anyone else’s. I don’t think “happiness” is the right description. I also don’t claim it is purposeful or needs to be. I believe in minimizing harm to others and ideally helping out if possible. But I don’t think anyone should be coerced into doing good as an ongoing process; that’s essentially slavery. Setting incentives is fine, and we need better ones than capitalism supplies us today. I think it is possible to do moderate good while doing what comes naturally, and that’s what I attempt (I may not be good at it.)

    Anyway, my main gripe with Peterson is that he’s suggesting that he has answers that are definitive, dispositive, and apply to everyone. This is just hogwash. But I hope he gets the help he needs and appropriate levels of medication or lack thereof.

  18. gijoel says

    I doubt he’ll learn anything from this and will go back to hectoring marginalized minorities in order to make arseholes feel good about being arseholes.

  19. hemidactylus says

    @12- Brian
    Lost somewhere in my readings of Frankfurt, Dennett, and perhaps John Gray (not the Venus-Mars guy), there’s a notion of desirable desires (vs. eg. destructive addictive substances) and Mill’s higher pleasures that I earmarked for a rainy day. In Camus there’s the contrast between subjective desire and an indifferent world that cares nothing for your wants.

  20. hemidactylus says

    And adding to my @21 there’s means. Based on accident of birth or privilege considerations there’s an attainability problem. And beyond that another means consideration rests on the problems of prudence and morality.

  21. Ridana says

    Once he gets out of rehab, I expect he’ll go the Tom Cruise/Scientology route and write a screed about how he’s learned that all antidepressants and psychotropic drugs are evil and no one should ever use them.

  22. =8)-DX says

    All sympathy to the man.

    *frowns* No sympathy to the man. He’s a rightwing hack and bigot, whose shitty reactionary rhetoric and nonsense screeds have hurt people and continue to do so. Let him boil in the broth of his own bad advice.

  23. says

    @hemidactylus

    You give no thesis to you’re remarks, but I’ll supply one: all of those things you mention come back to the same point I made. (well, I admit I have no idea what you’re saying with that Camus bit)

    “desirable desires…higher pleasures” are all, by definition, part of what I said.
    If attaining is what someone wants, then pursuing what they can’t attain isn’t. (this is also “prudence”, I think)
    And morality is all of this.

  24. hemidactylus says

    @25- Brian
    You inspired me to think deeper. There is what people desire, what people should desire, and what we are capable of achieving. And our existence in the world sets limits. Prudence is more self oriented where morality is about other people. Better by far than what Peterson inspires so thank you.

  25. PaulBC says

    Brian Pansky@25

    (First off, I don’t fully understand your comment, or the philosophical context, so this might not be a response to it, but…)

    I don’t think anyone can assume people actually have a clear idea of what it would satisfy them to attain. So it’s entirely consistent to pursue an absolutely unattainable goal, believing it potentially attainable, and still have a satisfying life by some definition of the word. An outside observe could ask “Has this person achieved what they say they’re trying to achieve?” and answer “No,” and then ask “Do they seem happy?” and answer “Yes, at least moderately.”

    It may be that you get more satisfaction out of the process than you would get out of the goal (attainable or not). Even being aware of this possibility doesn’t mean that you’re going to make the right call on whether the goal is attainable or even what you really want. The human brain has limitations and we do a lot of things without having a full justification as to why.

  26. John Morales says

    From the OP:

    So, sad to say, Mr Peterson is rather miserable right now.

    Or so it is alleged, anyway.

    Call me cynical — I’d rather hear it from him.

    All sympathy to the man.

    I assuredly grant him every bit of sympathy I think he deserves.

    (On the x-axis, centered at zero)

    PaulBC:

    So it’s entirely consistent to pursue an absolutely unattainable goal, believing it potentially attainable, and still have a satisfying life by some definition of the word.

    Waffle.

  27. PaulBC says

    John Morales@28

    Waffle.

    Uh, care to justify this one-word dismissal? I at least tried to back up my point with the statement that the human brain is inherently limited, and in particular, we all lack perfect knowledge of our actual motivations. Are you prepared to argue otherwise?

    Split brain studies have shown how fast people are to make up post hoc explanations for choices that are contrary to facts. http://yalescientific.org/thescope/2015/03/what-split-brain-patients-can-tell-us-about-consciousness/ Yes, we are assuming this is not unique to people with a severed corpus callosum, but why should it be? I do not know if a comparable experiment has been done for normal brains. There is a gulf between what people think they are trying to do and what they are actually trying to do, and another gulf between that and how likely their actions will accomplish it.

    How is it a waffle to point out that most people don’t really know what they want in the first place? It’s clearly true. The advertising industry wouldn’t exist if desire weren’t inherently malleable. All the theorizing in the world doesn’t change that. Even the people we think must have a deeply introspective view of their desire seem about as fallible as anyone. I mean, I didn’t think that about Peterson, but his fans probably thought so.

    And to get straight to the point, what I hate hate hate about people like Jordan Peterson is the assumption that we’re all in control, informed, rational, and making choices based on this, and the way they prey on their fans with this false promise. You can try to be rational in a small domain, and it is worthwhile. If you imagine yourself to be rational in everything or even in most things, you’re fooling yourself.

  28. John Morales says

    [PS Rob, the title attribute is helpful to vision-impaired people (in particular, those who rely on audio]. I always use it, when I bother to wrap a hyperlink in an anchor tag; a trivial amount of effort]

  29. John Morales says

    Uh, care to justify this one-word dismissal?

    Sure: Duh. You’re stating the obvious, in a complicated way.

    Split brain studies have shown how fast people are to make up post hoc explanations for choices that are contrary to facts.

    Mate! You’re doing a Peterson here.

    How is it a waffle to point out that most people don’t really know what they want in the first place? It’s clearly true.

    And therefore, trite.

    (But then, we’re not (ahem) “most people”, we’re ourselves)

    And to get straight to the point, what I hate hate hate about people like Jordan Peterson is the assumption that we’re all in control, informed, rational, and making choices based on this, and the way they prey on their fans with this false promise.

    Charlatans are a dime a dozen. Like Milo.

    If you imagine yourself to be rational in everything or even in most things, you’re fooling yourself.

    But then, if you don’t imagine yourself to be rational in everything or even in most things yet acted as rationally as you could, you’d be likewise fooling yourself.

    (Some pontificate, others prick)

  30. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @33: Good point. Do me a favour by showing me how you would have presented the link. My internet jargon is perhaps not what it should be.

  31. PaulBC says

    John Morales@34

    Trite but often neglected. I have found that a reluctance to restate the obvious is usually more hindrance than help. Sorry if you find it annoying.

  32. John Morales says

    No worries, PaulBC. It’s not that we disagree, it’s just that our slants are a bit different.

  33. hemidactylus says

    I wonder how long before Peterson is back catastrophizing about the pomo cultural Marxists? Over on another blog that shall not be named we are treated to an article by Pluckrose about postmodernism which I think is the IDW’s equivalent of manbearpig. They’re super cereal. I guess a group like neoatheism or their derivative IDW is best defined by their stigmatized outgroup, be they pomos, SJWs, regressive left, the Squad, what have you.

    https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/southpark/images/5/5d/ManBearPigTransparentGorey.png/

    Scary!!!!

  34. chrislawson says

    raven, I think you need to do more reading on benzodiazepine addiction. It is extremely hard to break the addiction cycle. I once had a patient so heavily addicted to diazepam that his addiction specialist worked out a withdrawal regimen that took months.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4657308/
    https://www.nps.org.au/news/managing-benzodiazepine-dependence-in-primary-care
    https://www.healthline.com/health/addiction-drug-problem-benzos#1

  35. raven says

    Chris at 41 It is extremely hard to break the addiction cycle.

    That isn’t what I said. Nothing about an addiction cycle or how hard it is to go through withdrawal.
    Don’t misquote me. What I said was..

    Raven 8. The addiction potential is there for sure but it isn’t all that high.

    What I also said was: Many millions have been prescribed benzodiazepines without becoming addicted. This is an accurate statement.

    Approximately 75 million prescriptions for BZDs were written in the United States in 2008.5 The prevalence of BZD use in the general population is 4% to 5%.5,6 Usage increases with age, and women are prescribed BZDs twice as often as men.5,7 Individuals prescribed opioids are considerably more likely to be prescribed a BZD.7,8

    Most individuals take BZDs as prescribed, with less than 2% escalating to high doses and even less meeting more stringent criteria for abuse or dependence.9,10 In the general population, BZDs have low abuse potential.11

    Ment Health Clin. 2016 Jun; 6(3): 120–126.
    Published online 2016 May 6. doi: 10.9740/mhc.2016.05.120
    Benzodiazepine use, misuse, and abuse: A review
    Allison Schmitz, PharmDcorresponding author1

    “In the general population, BZDs have low abuse potential.11”
    OK, 13 million Americans have or are taking benzodiazepines.
    How many become addicted?
    This article doesn’t give a number but it is less than 2%.

  36. dianne says

    Benzos have their place in medicine, but that place is not as long term treatment for anxiety. Why wasn’t Peterson on an SSRI and off the benzo months ago? Not even to mention getting proper CBT for it?

  37. DanDare says

    The Happiness Purpose by Edward de Bono.
    You can notice happiness more when it happens. You can arrange things to increase the frequency of encountering happiness. The long view often involves helping others do the same.
    You can diminish the impact of unhappy times but its hopeless to deny them. Know yourself.

  38. John Morales says

    DanDare,

    You can notice happiness more when it happens.

    Heh. I take this is what de Bono claims.

    Lots of deepities there, indeed.

  39. PaulBC says

    DanDare@46

    You can arrange things to increase the frequency of encountering happiness.

    That’s called party planning. This guy is, what, a caterer?

  40. KG says

    That’s called party planning. This guy [Edward de Bono] is, what, a caterer? – PaulBC@48

    Nothing so useful!

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