Jordan Peterson on Personality [1 / 22]

Our mission with Odyssey Journal is to create a tool that helps you understand yourself. through the moments and thoughts, you choose to remember. It’s a huge task but there’s a wealth of knowledge on the subject.

We’ll be kicking off our research with Jordan Peterson’s 2014 Lecture series on personality. Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist who used to lecture at the University of Toronto.

Over the past several years he’s gained notoriety due to his prolific (albeit controversial) YouTube presence. I stumbled upon Peterson’s work when I was going through a particularly painful life transition in 2018.

His views on meaning, responsibility, and self-actualization changed my life for the better and I’m hoping that with this lecture note series I can condense and impart the most interesting and helpful moments of this lecture on to you.

What are the Big 5 personality traits that are covered in this series?

Extroversion – positive emotion trait

Neuroticism – negative emotion trait

Agreeableness – warmth, empathy, compassion

Openness – creativity, intelligence 

Conscientious – industriousness, orderliness

Each has virtues and faults.

The Importance of Articulating One’s Self
Articulating yourself is extraordinarily useful.


What is “yourself” in this context?

What you are (your behaviors) and your potential.


What are the benefits of articulating yourself?

Articulating yourself enables you to do many more things with yourself and quells negative emotions.


Why does it quell negative emotions?

Articulating yourself clarifies things that are unclear in your life.

Your stress response is a function of the number of unclear things in your life.

Why do unclear things in life cause stress?

They cause stress because our stress response system has evolved to treat the unknown (chaos) as a potential danger (ie: there’s a snake in the bushes). 


What happens if there is a lot of chaos around us?

The more chaos that is around, the more negative emotion we feel, the less hope we experience, and the larger the stress response we feel chronically.


What happens if we feel chronic stress?

It suppresses our immune system and we gain weight. It makes us age faster, increases probability of anxiety disorder and depression.


How can we reduce this?

We can clarify who we are and what we are doing


What is one thing separates people from animals?

Cats are just cats. People are what we are and what we could be. Young folks are way more of what they could be than what they are.


Which is more important to focus on?

For young people it’s extremely important to focus on what you could be.


Why?

If you make efforts to define who you could be (in a way you find interesting) then that makes you more efficient in work and makes you a better person (happier, healthier, more acceptable in society).

Where do the ideas of what a person could be (ideals) come from?

Traditionally, these ideals have come from religion, mythology. In modernity we see them coming from society and storytelling (movies, music).


When was this type of (subjective) knowledge developed?

According to Jung, through human existence up to the point of the renaissance. When the scientific method came in to existence, we focused less on knowledge of the individual and knowledge of the objective world leapt ahead.

Where are we now?

We have an 18th century understanding of self with 21st-century technology.


What’s the purpose of this class?

To rescue the past, in a sense.

Pinocchio 
Why is Pinocchio compelling?

It doesn’t make logical sense, but humans love narrative.


What are the components of narrative?

They have a deep structure and a deep symbolic structure. 


Can you give an example?

The whale in Pinocchio wasn’t an ordinary whale — it breathed fire, which made it a dragon. So he was rescuing his father from a dragon. That’s the oldest motif we have in written form. Mesopotamians told it first.


What does it mean?

You should rescue your father.

From what?

From the murky chaos in which your culture is embedded.

What do you mean?

We’re all inheritors of rich cultural traditions. Those traditions orient us. They keep us sane. If they’re desiccated and broken then we need to get them out of there. Without them, we live shallow and difficult lives.

Chaos and Mosquitos

How do mosquitos deal with a chaotic world?

They produce 10000 eggs so that 1 might make it. It’s expensive.

How do people deal with a chaotic world?

We generate ideas. “Human beings evolved to let their ideas die instead of them.”

What’s the significance of this?

It means you can parse off a little sub personality (angry, sad, etc). They’re one aspect or idea of you.

Do you have an example of this?

You can present a sub personality to someone. If it doesn’t work you can get heartbroken and let it die. Then maybe the next one will be a little more together.

Is this how one grows?

Yes, that’s how people progress and grow. You let go of what’s holding you back, maybe that’s your old self. Then you can come back to life.

When’s the best time to let go of our old selves?

It’s better to do it voluntarily and before it’s necessary.

Why?

Because when you need to kill off your old self involuntarily in a moment of crisis, it hurts.

How does this relate to psychology?

It’s the essence of clinical psychology. 

“Confront the damn snakes first because it’s hard to get out of their bellies once they’ve eaten you.”

What is the learning process like?

To learn something, some presupposition you had before that has to crumble. Then the new information comes in and you can build a new self around it. But it’s a painful process so not everyone does that.

What if I don’t let my past self die?

If you don’t change then you get more and more outdated. None of your assumptions work anymore. You don’t fit the environment anymore.

Are you the thing that stays the same or are you the thing that changes?

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