Life · Society

Thoughts on Depression, or: Is Jordan Peterson a Failure?

In my post “Your Guru has No Clothes: Jordan Peterson is in Rehab“, I made some highly critical remarks on Jordan Peterson, or so I thought because I only pointed out the obvious. However, there is a lot more to unpack here. The focus of this post is on depression and its causes. Of course, depression is a complex issue, but the argument I am going to develop will point towards a particular direction, and offer plenty of support for it. That being said, this post is of a speculative nature.

Jordan Peterson has admitted that he takes anti-depressants and that he is committed to taking them forever. This is most relevant because he is marketing himself as a self-help guru. Yet, without meds, he feels like shit. You can now say that depression is caused by “hormonal imbalances” or whatnot, but think the most interesting explanation is that depression is a response of your body to tell you that you are on the wrong track. Your body triggers a dopamine response as a reward. On the other hand, you get a shot of other hormones if you are on the wrong track. Cortisol is one of them. Evolutionarily speaking, it makes sense that our body has mechanisms to influence your behavior because it wants to survive and thrive. Thus, the intended response is that you do something so you no longer feel bad about yourself.

If you end up feeling depressed, a good question to ask would be why you feel like that. For instance, record numbers of women are depressed because they live a lifestyle that completely contradicts their biological programming. In response, they could try to change their life, i.e. lock down a husband and be a loving wife and mother. Alternatively, they could go see a doctor and get on anti-depressants. I do not want to sound too flippant here. Yet, I have experienced the same phenomenon in myself. I even have a fitting anecdote to share, which happened when I was in my late teens. I was quite busy, but a video game I had been looking forward was just released. I decided to focus on school first but then plow through this game during vacation. That was the plan. What instead happened was that after one or two days of binge-playing, something like four or five hours a day, I began to feel unwell, but not in a physical sense. I slept and ate enough, but the thought that I am wasting my time clearly affected my mood. I dropped that game completely, as a matter of fact and did something else instead.

Changing your habits or your environment seems to be the ideal response to take. This takes quite some effort. Instead, you could just take a few pills and make yourself feel better, despite your life still being shit. Honestly: why do people feel like crap? Is it for some reason they just cannot explain or is it because they really are in a bad spot and they can no longer delude themselves? Recall the propaganda about women: they are doing better than ever, they have better grades in high school, attend college more often, are less often unemployed and are claimed to also be better employees than men. Yet, if all of this is so great for them, then why do they feel so miserable?

Let’s now tackle the problem of Jordan Peterson’s addiction to anti-depressants. If you look at him, you may think that he’s living an enviable life (minus the rehab episode, of course). He’s at the top of his profession, being a full professor at a renowned university. On top, he makes money hand over fist in various business ventures, and now he’s also a public intellectual who attracts big audiences. Then there is his book “12 Rules for Life“, which is one of the best-selling books of the last few years. His net worth is probably in the region of 15 to 20 million dollars.

Yet, there is also another angle: Jordan Peterson is a full professor of psychology, which is a pseudo-science at best. This field has a reproducibility crisis. Most of the results in this field are simply useless. Jordan Peterson is a smart guy. Do you think he has not realized how shaky the foundations of his subject are? What would you think if you had half a dozen graduate students working on various experiments, and being fully aware that whatever results they produce can most likely not be replicated? Yet, you have signed up for the long haul. You have to keep up the charade, apply for grant money, recruit more graduate students. You need to be complicit in this charade because if you speak up, your academic career will be over. Being a professor is, more often than not, tantamount of taking part in a giant charade. It is no surprise many academics are alcoholics.

Being a professor of a sham discipline like psychology is probably enough to make you want to use anti-depressants, but Jordan Peterson’s life has not turned out so well in other regards as well. The most recent episode was the cancer of his wife, which she seems to have beaten. Then he has two kids who are, at the very least, difficult. His daughter had some health problems. She also made doubtful life decisions. In case you don’t know it: she is a single mother. There are pictures online where his daughter is taking selfies while her toddler lies in the background, unattended. This is just horrible. Yet, this is the daughter he has raised. That woman is a complete basket case. Look at the crap she writes on her blog:

I’m a pretty open individual and I’ve tried a lot of different recreational drugs, especially as a university student. Cocaine is also a no go. Obviously coke isn’t good for anyone but I can’t do any without three weeks of skin breakouts, joint pain, back pain, and brain fog. (…) It looks like the only substances I can abuse are bourbon, vodka, and silver tequila. And trust me, I’ve tested everything else out.

How much must have gone wrong for her to turn out like this? If you didn’t know any better, you’d assume that his daughter grew up without any guidance at all. If she did receive any guidance, it was clearly in vain.

Jordan Peterson does not comment much on his son Julian Peterson publicly. I dealt with him in a professional capacity when I was promoting one of Jordan Peterson’s products, though. Well, based on that experience, I can tell you that Julian Peterson is not the kind of employee you want. He is very sluggish to respond to emails. He did not pay out affiliate commissions for several months and ignored all my requests. Only after I raised a stink in public did this get resolved. He also did not notify affiliates for about two to three months that the affiliate links have been deactivated. I was wondering why sales had flatlined, and one fine day I get mass-email from Julian Peterson telling the affiliates that they shut down the affiliate program a few months ago already. This is, of course, shady behavior as the links still led to Jordan Peterson’s product page during that time, meaning that you still sent him traffic, even though some affiliates most certainly would have taken the links down had they known that Jordan Peterson no longer wanted to keep up his end of the bargain.

If you take all of this together: working in an intellectually bankrupt discipline as well as having those family problems it is not all that surprising that it is difficult to keep your spirits up. Heck, having a daughter like that would be enough to seriously dampen your mood. I think the biggest problem is his day job. Normally, at the very latest, graduate students manage to peek behind the curtain in academia and either drop out or pursue another career after realizing that their discipline is similar to a fraudulent multi-level marketing scheme. But imagine you fully buy into such a system and even become a leader in it! It will eventually grind you down. The same is true for any other established and highly paid bullshit artist. Drug and alcohol abuse in the world of politics is very common as well. I don’t pity those people at all, though. They chose that life and if it ruins them, then they at least get their just deserts.

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4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Depression, or: Is Jordan Peterson a Failure?

  1. I wasn’t aware of the daughter except for some brief statements Peterson made about her being in poor health when she was younger. A quick search led to her IG account. It seems that she’s using the keto fad as an excuses to pose half naked as proof that her expert dieting program works, and therefore you should probably be listening to her and buy her services or whatever. Being the daughter of J. P. must give her access to all kinds of extra male attention. She should be able to nab her some well off schmuck at some point if she plays her cards right.

    When I first listened to him talk about lobsters and antidepressants, I guess it sort of made sense. I didn’t really question it or even give it much thought after that. However, now that I’ve read these two recent J. P. articles, doesn’t it kind of come across as a ‘no shit’ kind of remark to make? Take someone who is grieving the loss of a loved on, for example. Supplement them with some benzos and they may very well perk up and feel at ease for a little while. The argument can be made that J. P. is justifying a bogus reason to be using a mind altering substance on the regular. His stance on antidepressants starts to fall apart when you look at the numerous individuals who have committed suicide while taking these things. Not to say that they are the number one factor in many suicidal cases, but definitely not a significant deterrent for doing so.

    1. I have found that people seem to have no problem at all with coming up with justifications for anything. At the top end of the socio-economic ladder you have Goldman Sachs bankers pushing the economy down a cliff, lining their pockets, and proclaiming in Congress that they do “God’s work”. On the other hand, at the very bottom, you can bet that DeShawn thinks it’s more than fair that he robs white people because whites keep him down, or something along those lines.

    2. The field of antidepressants and psychotropic medications is a confusing one with lots of misinformation and industry-propaganda. Most newer antidepressants (e.g. SSRIs, serotonin modulators and stimulators) are less effective than older drugs (TCAs, MAOIs). The industry tries to push patented crap into the market via fake studies because with older meds there is no big money to cash in. Truth is that combination therapy of older drugs, e.g. an irreversible non-selective MAOI like Nardil, Parnate combined with a stimulant or something like Amitriptyline has very high remission rates, even with patients who had life-long depression! Also stuff like Clomipramine (most powerful SNRI, with anticholingeric and 5HT2-antagonistic properties) combined with GABAergics like Pregabalin has very high remission rates.

      Another matter: antidepressants are over-prescribed and doctors are too quick to give mildly-depressed people antidepressants. Antidepressants should only be prescribed in case you are heavily depressed. But today it’s like “Hey doc, I’ve been feeling bad for two weeks because my girlfriend left me! Might that be depression?” – “Hmm, maybe. here, have an Sertraline prescription! That will help!”

  2. Thanks for the update, I had kind of tuned out of the Peterson thing for almost a year now.

    Sad to hear he went into rehab, but I cannot say I am surprised. In my opinion it is more likely that it was the fame roller coaster that finally did him in. He had already confessed elsewhere to being depressive, with a tendency to alcoholism, and affected by an (if I remember correctly) autoimmune condition. He himself said he thought he would end badly some day. Knowing how fame wrecks most peoples lives in the long run (Hollywood being the most blatant example, but also look at people in the music and modeling industries) I kinda suspected this was coming at some point.

    I disagree up to a point, though, plenty of geniuses in world history have had personal lives that were basket cases, so while I would not be calling Peterson a genius, I dont think his personal fate necessarily disqualifies what he stands for either.

    As to psychology being a pseudoscience, thats a bit harsh but fair. I have a passing familiarity with the field, so I am aware of the replicability crisis (which affects a large part of social science and some harder fields like medicine too, btw), but there are some people doing serious work to correct this.

    I have noticed Peterson sometimes citing discredited studies in his videotaped classes, the example that comes to my mind right now is when he cited studies about priming, which were shown to be bunk (althouguh being fair, I am not certain if the study had already been debunked by the time he recorded that particular class). And his grasp of history is sometimes debatable. But on other matters he is on solid ground. His defense of freedom of speech and freedom of thought for example.

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