Fix What Bothers You To Avoid Suffering Where You Can


The following is a transcript excerpt from Dr. Jordan B. Peterson’s 2017 lecture.  

Start time: 5:41

Now, [Carl] Jung said, first of all, unite your mind — your thinking, let’s say — with your emotions, so that makes one thing instead of two fighting things. The next conjunction he talked about was, it is not enough to unite your mind and your emotions. He thought about that as a male-female pairing symbolically; that is how it would manifest itself sometimes in dreams. You take the masculine element and the feminine element; the thinking and the emotion unite and that makes you more like one thing. Now all of a sudden, that is represented as symbolically male — that one thing — and it unites with something else that is now represented symbolically feminine — female. That is the body. So you take the mind-emotion integration and integrate that in your body. So what does that mean? You act it out instead of just thinking.

There is this philosophical idea — it is a contradiction in action, there is actually a technical term for it — when you think and believe something, but you do not act it out, so that means there is a dissociation in you somehow between your abstract representations and what you manifest in action. That is another form of discontinuity that is not doing you any good. The driver is going one way and the car is going the other. You will not even be able to understand yourself if you do that, but even more, you are not putting your principles into practice, so you are dissociated. Your being is dissociated. Once you get your mind and your emotions working together, then the next thing to do is to act that out consistently. That was the second conjunction as far as Jung was concerned. 

Then the third [conjunction] was — this is the tough one and this is the one that is related to phenomenology — you erase the distinction between yourself and the world. That is a tough one. So imagine you are dealing with someone who is hoarding. People who are hoarding are often older or neurologically damaged or they have obsessive compulsive disorder, but then you walk into their house and there are 10,000 things in their house. There are maybe a hundred boxes, and you open up a box and in the box there are some pens and some old passports and some checks and their collection of silver dollars and some hypodermic needles and some dust and a dead mouse. And there are boxes and boxes and boxes like that in the house. It is absolute chaos in there — absolute chaos. Not order. Chaos. And then you think, is that their house is that their being? Is that their mind? And the answer is, there is no difference.

I could say, if you want to organize your psyche, you could start by organizing your room if that would be easier — because maybe you are a more concrete person and you need something concrete to do. So you clean up under your bed and you make your bed and you organize the papers on your desk. Just exactly what are you organizing? Are you organizing the objective world or are you organizing your field of being, your field of total experience? Jung believed that — and I think there is a Buddhist doctrine that is sort of nested in there — at the highest level of psychological integration, there is no difference between you and what you experience. Now, you think, well, I cannot control everything I experience. But that is no objection because you cannot control yourself anyway, so the mere fact that you cannot extend control over everything you experience is no argument against the idea that you should still treat that as an extension of yourself.

Let’s say you have a long-standing feud with your brother. Is that a psychological problem? Is that him? Is it a problem in the objective world? Or is it a problem in your field of being? It is very useful to think that way because you might ask, what could you do to improve yourself? Let’s step one step backwards. The first question might be, why should you even bother improving yourself? And I think the answer to that is something like: so you do not suffer anymore stupidly than you have to — and maybe so others do not have to either. There is a real injunction at the bottom of it. It is not some casual self-help doctrine. If you do not organize yourself properly, you will pay for it — and in a big way — and so will the people around you. You could say, well, I do not care about that. But that is actually not true; you actually do care about that because if you are in pain, you will care about it. So you do care about it, even if it is just that negative way.

It is very rare that you can find someone who is in excruciating pain who would ever say, “It would be no better if I was out of this.” Pain is one of those things that brings the idea that it would be better if it did not exist along with it. It is incontrovertible. So you get your act together so that there is not any more stupid pain around you than necessary. Then the question might be, how would you go about getting your act together? And the answer to that is — and this is a phenomenological idea too — look around for something that bothers you, and see if you can fix it. 

To continue, listen or watch more content with Dr. Jordan Peterson on DailyWire+

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. From 1993 to 1998 he served as assistant and then associate professor of psychology at Harvard. He is the international bestselling author of Maps of Meaning, 12 Rules For Life, and Beyond Order. You can now listen to or watch his popular lectures on DailyWire+. 

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