Wherever You Are Is Not As Good As It Could Be: Plot A Course Forward

Woodman. DailyWire+.
Woodman. DailyWire+.

The following is a transcribed excerpt from one of Dr. Jordan Peterson’s 2020 lectures. In this segment, he discusses moving forward, preparing for the future, identifying where you are, mapping the territory of your past, and bringing positivity into your life. You can listen to or watch more from Dr. Peterson on DailyWire+.

Start time: 00:00

There are deep reasons for how and why you perceive things as you do in the world. Perception is tightly related and associated to action, to movement forward, and to emotion — and those things are very important to know. For example, you live in a map or a story, and because wherever you are is not as good as it could be, you go somewhere that is somewhat better. That can occur in different timeframes. Maybe you have a plan for the next minute: You are hungry, and you want to go somewhere to eat. Maybe it could be for the next hour or the next day or the next week or the next year. But, basically, what you are trying to do is take where you are (point A) and make it better (point B). So you are always somewhere that is not quite as good as it should be, and you are always going somewhere that is somewhat better — at least, that is the hope.

This is somewhat unfortunate in some sense because it means you cannot be satisfied with where you are. But how can you be satisfied when you have problems coming your way? Even if everything is ok right now — which it probably is not, but even if it was — that does not mean everything is going to be ok tomorrow, next week, next year, or five years from now. You have the future, your future self, and your family to take care of. Maybe you have your community to take care of. Because the way things are is not good enough, you are going to fix them a bit, which you do across different levels of resolution.

First, you identify where you are. If you are mixed up, one of the problems you might have is that you do not know where you are. Often, people have to go to therapy or talk to someone for a long time to find out where they are because their experience might have scattered them everywhere, and they feel they have come apart at the seams — that things have fallen apart, that they are in chaos, that they do not know where they are. If this happens to you, then you are in trouble because how are you going to plot a course forward into the future if you do not know where you are?

WATCH: ‘The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast’ on DailyWire+

You have to bring yourself up-to-date, which you can know because it is fairly straightforward: If you are obsessed with memories of the past (more than 18 months old) and most of those are negative and anxiety-provoking, then there is a lot of you that is stuck in the past. What that means is that you did not map the territory well enough, and the parts of your brain that are alarm systems — anxiety systems — are telling you that there are holes in the way you are looking at the world. They are saying that you fell in those holes once, you do not know where they are, you do not know how to fill them, you do not know how to walk around them — and you cannot forget them. If you have memories like that, you remember them, they make you feel anxious and negative, and you are stuck in the past. Your body is still reacting as if there is an emergency that could happen again that you have not fixed. It does not matter if it was your fault because the alarm system does not care. When your smoke detector goes off, it is not relevant whether the cause was your fault. The smoke detector just says, “House is on fire” — and that is a bad thing.

Your anxiety systems are similar. If they are tagging old systems with anxiety, then you have to do something about it, or you will be tortured by those memories forever because that is how the alarm system works. So maybe you need to go back there and clean things up. You must figure out how it happened. Ask, what sort of role did I play? Even if it was a minor role, that does not matter because the point is that you do not want to be put in the same vulnerable position again so anything you can do to strengthen yourself is good. Often, if it is a really old memory, if you were a child, you probably have a variety of techniques at hand that you could use to deal with a situation like that — because you are not a child now. But you have to update that part of your brain that still thinks you are four-years-old. Lots of people still have parts of them that are still stuck in a traumatic childhood experience. Thus, you need to know where you are.

When you decide to move from one point to another, going somewhere slightly better, that is good. Your positive emotion systems run on a neurochemical called dopamine — the same neurochemical system that drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates, and alcohol, for some people, affect dramatically and make people feel far better than they should, which is part of their danger. It is a very fundamental system. The dopamine kicks in with a kick of positive emotion if you are going somewhere that is worth going. So how do you get a little bit of positivity in your life? This standalone neurochemical system that is rooted very deeply in the brain’s exploratory circuitry — a very ancient system — is happy when you have somewhere to go. Then it is happy when you are going there.

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+.

Be sure to PRE-ORDER Dr.Peterson’s latest book: “We Who Wrestle With God.”

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