I’ve been heckled by friends into reading the Jordan Peterson book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos I haven’t read all of it yet, but I’ve read half and skimmed the rest.
So… is it helpful? Weirdly, yes. Look, I even get the title. I don’t know if you guys realize this, but we live in one of the most unstructured eras in human history. The result of throwing out all the old rules wasn’t so much freedom as what they like to call “the anomie of modern life.” One of the people that Peterson describes in the book is so chaotic that she “thinks she might have been raped” FIVE times. FIVE TIMES. She can’t tell if she was, because she can’t tell if she wanted to do this or not, or even exactly what happened and what was a dream.
I was talking to a young friend yesterday and we agreed (I think. It was a fragmentary conversation online) that part of the problem people have getting their lives in order is knowing what they really want to do and what people expect them to do. By which I don’t mean “social rules.” It’s that this weird chaos, devoid of manners or morals, does in fact have a lot of “you should” particularly when judged by the people who look down on universal morals and rules.
For instance, it is bad to hold onto the morality of not sleeping around or really sleeping with anyone outside of marriage. I mean, a lot of the people in other times didn’t even hold to that. They slept together when they were “merely” engaged. OTOH any young people today has internalized that they need to at least lie about sleeping with a lot of people. Because heaven forbid you are in a monogamous relationship and have never slept with anyone else, or, gasp, a virgin past you middle teens. If you confess to that, everyone will know you’re weird and repressed and stuff, right? (BTW the whole idea of repression and sublimation being bad for you is one of those Freud things that doesn’t seem to have any basis in the real world.)
So the modern world has not rules, but a lot of expectations, some of which are objectively bad for you, like “Women should sleep around as much as men [in outdated movies and books.]” (This is objectively bad because most women don’t want to sleep around that much and most women don’t want sex without consequences, on account of the hormones released during sex creating attachment. Yes, there are exceptions for everything, but how weird is it that a woman should feel guilty because she doesn’t WANT TO sleep around?)
Anyway, part of the book’s concept is that “if it feels good do it” is an awful way to live your life, since objectively, in most situations, what feels good at that moment is not what brings you long-lasting happiness. And since “if it feels good do it” comes close to being the only universal law of behavior in our society, we’re in trouble.
I haven’t finished reading it yet. I skimmed and am going back to read slowly and carefully. But one thing I read might come to save my life. No, seriously. And the weird thing is that it’s something I knew. Of course I knew it. But he put it in words where I can’t avoid it.
It’s I THINK rule 2 on self care. And yes, I realize that me talking about self-care is like a fish talking of the joys of flying through air. But that’s the whole thing, and why it’s important.
The way he put it was something like this “Treat yourself as you’d treat someone you loved who was utterly dependent on you.” So, you know, would you let a child under your care work 18 hours a day and not rest, or eat, because it’s something that interests them? Uh… been there, done that and no.
Would you let a child you love under your care just play all the time and learn/accomplish nothing? Uh, no.
Would let a child under your care eat only candy because it makes them happy? And so on and so on.
If I were a child under my care, I’d alternate between long, unrelieved work to rival sweatshops, not exercising because “tired, don’t feel like it” and eating lots of wrong things because “it’s been a long day.”
IOW, I’m a lousy caretaker to myself. And seeing myself as someone I have “responsibility” for, as though I were an external person makes it all different. I don’t think I’m “selfish” for not working night or day, or for treating myself well “let’s go for a little walk” when there’s other stuff to do, or even for eating the better for me, but more troublesome to make food because “I need to take care of this person.”
Maybe some of you need that too.
BTW on one thing, I found I’m way better than average, and that shocked me. I’m lousy at medicating, and now that I’m on thyroid meds twice a day and can’t forget without dire issues, I have two alarms on my phone. Anywhere I am when the afternoon alarm goes (even in the middle of a panel) I stop and take my meds. I always thought I was still very bad at this, because occasionally I am so busy I turn off the alarm and forget.
Guess what the average rate of compliance for meds is? Even for lifesaving meds? Yep, 20%.
Whoo whoo, I’m not the worse. But it means there’s a lot of people out there worse than I.
Which means maybe even some of you need this.
Take care of yourself. If you don’t have yourself, who do you have? And also, if you neglect yourself enough, you’re only guaranteeing you become a burden to someone in your old age. We’re better at making people live longer, not better at keeping them healthier while they do so.
Remember that. Take care of yourself as though you were someone you loved.