At the moment, I am ploughing through the latest offering from Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules For Life…An Antidote To Chaos. I say ploughing because it is somewhat heavy going with its frequent references and links to religion and the bible as a reference. These, of course are much more relevant if you believe those events actually took place but even if you don’t, Peterson has a conviction in his writing that makes the links credible.
On my recent trip to New York, I caught an interview with Peterson on NBC. The interviewer asked Peterson about the controversy that his book had created with religious and feminist groups. As yet, I cannot imagine where this controversy comes from…the book is more like The 7 Habits on acid !!. Anyway, in today’s PC world, where taking offense is a default position for some, it would not surprise me that someone, somewhere finds it not to their liking. Anyway, this is another subject.
One of the rules Peterson advocates is, put your own house in order. That is…if you are knowingly doing or thinking something you know to be wrong…stop it and start doing the right thing. Don’t think too much…just do it. On first sight, this may look like the antidote to a moral dilemma and in a way it is. It is stating clearly can we cannot blame the world or anybody in it if we haven’t made the most of the choices that present themselves to us. He is challenging us to look at what we have chosen to do or not to do to improve our own situation. Unless we are physically or mentally impaired, we all have that capacity to make a simple decision to change the way we see the world and exercise decision-making power and to do it without excuse.
Of course, if we are knowingly doing something illegal, this advice would be much stronger and necessary. However, what crossed my mind while reading this was how some clients, present and past, have reacted when faced with making the simple choice to take action to improve their lives. I realise for some that this is a scary process and not one that is pleasant but in most cases extremely necessary and possible.
As a therapist, I am always pushing and challenging clients to look at taking possible action, what that could look like and what it might well bring them. I see it as a natural step that comes after an awareness of their situation. At the beginning of therapy, it is important firstly, to offer a manageable framework to bring the client to a realisation of how they can change things around in terms of tools and concepts. A point is reached sooner or later where decisive action is needed by the client in terms of behavioural change to move it to a different level. This is always initiated by the decision to do so. This situation is best exampled in the context of toxic relationships. This is where Peterson’s advice comes in. If you know you are knowingly doing something wrong (staying longer than you should, being codependent, not seeing or believing the obvious evidence, enabling bad behavior, checking your ex’s social media, etc) or you are in a situation that you know is bad for you. Stop it…and do the right thing straight away!.
Many reading this will say that advice is simplistic and doesn’t reflect life. I disagree. It is only complicated because we make it so. In my experience of these situations, many actively choose to do the opposite to the simple advice above. They choose to avoid, hoping things will get better, they choose to engage in endless analysis of their situation and the possible ramifications to the point of mental exhaustion or, as in some cases, enjoy the attention that comes from friends who validate their misery. All of these scenarios are conscious choices made with an end in mind which clearly proves that decisions are being made, in contrast to generally what is often stated…that they don’t know what to do.
So if you are in the situation described above, ask yourself what you are doing to change your situation before you ask the world. Put your own house in order first.