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 (EDIT: Mikhaila Peterson took that post down, but it has been preserved on the Wayback Machine.):

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 their affiliate links had 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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12 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.

  3. Remember when I saw a picture of his daughter the first time. She has this “I’m a BaD GiRl Bi@TcH” stomp on her face. It’s funny that you can sense thots from just a fast glimpse on the face. You can see it from the eyes and the smirk smile like right away.

    How devastating it must be to preach about taking responsibility and marriage and all that crap, just to see your daughter doing exactly the opposite. Now she has the health to finally go full thot and boy she has a lot to catch up.

    Maybe he now realised that good will is not enough and that most people behave like degenerated monkeys if you don’t have the right laws in place? People punished adultery for thousands of years maybe there was something right about it? Men had more rights than women yes, but it may was because they had to defend those rights with their bare hands and lives when it got serious?

    1. The scientific term you are looking for is called “resting bitch face.” Women nowadays seek treatment for it. There are already plastic surgeons specializing in this procedure.

      Your reasoning on adultery seems perfectly plausible to me. On a somewhat related note, in Europe we used to execute criminals, with the effect being that people became more and more law-abiding — until we got woke and decided that any kind of punishment is bad and raping a minor could be atoned for by doing a few hours of community service. I think we are long overdue for a backlash.

      1. Aaron – I have a question.
        Why do you think someone turns out to be a criminal?

        Your case for executing them, removing them from society like we’d remove a tumor from a patient would have a moral basis if you can somehow construct an argument that they were born criminals. Can you?

        If not, we have to ask ourselves what has made them criminals and then see how we can deal with the existing criminals and how we can prevent more people becoming criminals.

      2. I think it is partly genetic and partly environmental. Edward Dutton made the argument that the fact that Europeans used to execute felons points to a (partly) genetic component as crime rates went down, which sounds superficially plausible. We would need proper genetics to back this up, but there are promising candidates. Didn’t you bring up MAO-A in discussion some time ago?

        We don’t necessarily need to kill them. Alternatively, you could lock them up for good as opposed to unleashing them on society again. Yet, then you could make an argument that we’d then spend billions on felons as opposed to children, or whatever emotional argument we would need to make in our infantilized society to get support for the euthanization of felons.

      3. You make some valid points here.
        I am just against the concept of punishment, since there is no moral basis for it.
        The state can’t punish on behalf of its citizens, since the state’s property wasn’t damaged. So we are left with protective measures in terms of keeping the law abiding citizens safe from criminals that can’t be rehabilitated.
        So locking them away for good sounds alright. The financing part could easily be solved. First, you don’t let just anybody in. Second, whoever comes in must have an anti-terror, anti-crime insurance. Watch how Ali’s premium is fifty times mine, just like an 19 year old’s car insurance premium is higher than a 45 year old accident-free driver’s one. It’s collectivist as hell, but that’s what it is.
        That would already keep a lot of them out. Where they go? Not my problem.
        Third, I think we do actually have the means to lock away criminals. We’d have to cut some social welfare spending and some other bullshit government expenses.
        Or, we let the private market solve it. I can think of building a big camp where against a fee I take in all the criminals from a particular country. I understand that prisons have pretty solid economics of scale, plus there’s a lot of automation that I can think of, which further reduces human resources as a cost factor.
        Can you imagine? A couple of prisons in Romania and Bulgaria start to compete in terms of who can take over Germany’s criminals? It’s a fun idea. Almost like a distressed debt investment fund: buy it at 20 cents on the dollar, sell it at 30. Make 50% return.
        I’m sure privately run prisons, outsourced in cheap labor countries are a pretty good business.

        Regarding crime rates going down in Europe, there is a theory which points to the fact the the decrease in crime rates coincides with the invention of gunpowder firearms in a somewhat easy to carry format. It’s a bit of a pro-gun twisted argument maybe, but I can see it work. If you shoot the criminal while he performs the crime, then that has the same outcome as an execution, but is morally actually easy to back, since the potential victim was at that moment in time defending their life or property as opposed to a delayed execution performed by a third party.

  4. I get so mad when I read about some psychology study to find out that the sample size was like 27 people. I’ve studied mechanical engineering, whenever they invented a new metal material they would do the same damn material fatigue test 100s of times with it. With a stupid predictable piece of metal(!). But it still behaved so differantly that those tests were mandatory. How the hell do they want to predict something with ‘studying’ 27 people? Sample sizes of below 1000 is just laughable.

    1. It’s worse than that. Those studies also tend to be done with very homogeneous samples. It is very common that a professor just enlists his entire class, or draws participants from them. I’m not sure that a sample of 1,000 people would solve those problems because there are plenty of cases where the same study, conducted with the same people at different times, can lead to different results. Feynman was onto something when he said that the social sciences merely ape science.

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