Why I was so obsessed with Jordan Peterson

And what this says about the rise of Andrew Tate

When Peterson burst onto the global stage in 2016 (in his response to bill c-16), I was one of the people his voice captivated.

I devoured his book, lectures, and podcasts, had a painting of him on my wall and found myself watching Youtube clips titled ‘Peterson destroys radical feminist’ for hours on end.

He was my first male role model.

When I discovered he had health complications I remember crying in my room, deeply touched by a man I had never met but whose voice had become etched in my psyche. I told myself it was largely due to his ability to articulate scientific and philosophical concepts which I had a great passion for. And although this was part of his appeal to me. There was something going on within me that I wasn’t aware of…

The obsession begins

The year is 2016, I’m in my room, watching endless videos of Peterson ‘dismantling the patriarchy’, enjoying a man speaking up for men.

In my eyes and so many other men’s eyes, it was/is admirable and courageous seeing a man say these things within a polarised climate.

This is one of the main reasons Tate and Peterson are resonating with so many men— they’re speaking up on the topic of masculinity in the era of ‘toxic masculinity’.

To better understand this, one could look at it this way:

It’s very confusing for men who are suffering (or are low income) to be told they are privileged and entitled and that the patriarchy is the most powerful force of oppression humanity has ever created. Particularly when most men are ‘non-violent’ and ‘non-extreme’.

A common response is (that I had):

‘How am I privileged when I feel so lost and lonely?’

And on top of the above, there is pressure to process the existence of patriarchy quickly and without fuss. Awakening to our own socialisation is no easy feat. It requires self-examination (looking inward). But lots of men are getting hyper focused on 4th wave feminism and the #MeToo movement. As if these two are the real issues.

So, imagine now that you’re a man in the above position and then you hear a very articulate man wearing a suit, or you’re a teenager and see a man with big muscles, smoking a cigar — speaking up for men.

You feel seen.

Like your suffering is actually being acknowledged!

But the even more confusing part is that there are actual advantages to being male, there is a sense of entitlement infused into traditional masculine values and patriarchal oppression is very real.

Right now, it’s hard for us to have conversations that include holding both.

For example, when men hear the words ‘toxic masculinity’ they don’t hear ‘there are dark expressions of masculinity that need to be co-opted to healthier expressions’. They hear ‘men are toxic’. Any perceived attack ignites a defence. And in any attack and defend dynamic there is the absence of conversation.

The absence of empathy and learning.

The Male Resentment

Peterson’s content became my way to regulate my own resentment towards the world.

Men resent the fact that their suffering is not being seen by the world. Which sounds remarkably similar to any person from a minority group that has been historically oppressed, right!?

Rather than take responsibility for my resentment and investigate it, doing what needs to be done to meet my unmet needs — I was watching Youtube videos of Jordan Peterson & Ben Shapiro ‘destroying radical wokeists’.

This relieved my resentment, in the short term.

I also armed myself with Peterson’s research ‘the literature says’ and I went out into the world ready to fight off any feminists that came my way with the hard facts: ‘men are struggling too!’.

My internal world was made up of the imitative voices of the ‘intellectual dark web’. I was a walking, talking Joe Rogan podcast.

Incapable of critical thinking just yet, and hypersensitive to any critique of Peterson’s work. Again, very confusing considering all of these people are huge advocates (Tate included) of critical thinking and Peterson/Tate speak out against ‘ideologues’. Yet everything they said I digested as truth and if you criticised Peterson in front of me, you were getting deeply personal for I was identified entirely with him and his ideas.

If I represent a subset of his audience then it’s seems to me that Peterson has fallen into the trap of becoming the very thing he’s fighting against.

‘Do you hate hateful people?’

As you can imagine, I had got myself into a state of being that wasn’t conducive to open dialogue and I lacked the ability to empathise with the ‘others’. Whenever I met someone who was of the LGBTQIA+ community or he smelt of wokeism (in my eyes) a part of me was on guard because I was expecting them to dislike me due to my ‘straight white maleness’.

This ‘us’ and ‘them’ dynamic became a lens through which I viewed the world.

To be clear: I take responsibility for responding to Peterson’s content in this manner. However, this is the golden age of podcasting and Youtube. Peterson and Tate have followings that are unprecedented for any human being. These followings are made up of highly impressionable young people (I was one of them). When they speak, they’re not my mate Dan down the pub giving me his views on the gender pay gap, their words have genuine influence in the world and on young men and boys.

This has to be taken into consideration.

But understandably it’s very hard for Peterson to truly see how there are facets of his message and the way in which he delivers it that are polarising when he has people approaching him every day saying: ‘my life is substantially better since listening to you’.

But is he really having a ‘positive’ impact?

Map Providers

Peterson and Tate are providing masculinity maps for lost boys.

Their maps give their own version of how to be a man within a climate that is, to some degree, tearing away the entire previous map without a constructive and nuanced conversation surrounding what worked and what didn’t and where can we move towards.

Some examples:

We still need strong men.
But strength could include the capacity to be vulnerable.

We still need men to provide for their families.
But providing could include emotional safety.

If we tear down the idea of ‘strong men’ and ‘male providers’ rather than redefine and reconstruct what these terms could mean, we risk asking too much of our boys and men.

This is generations of programming we’re talking about here!

Now as a lost young man in my early twenties just the very act of receiving a map gave me some direction. Looking back it wasn’t the direction that was optimal to my mental health or healing that I needed.

But it was a direction!

It got me out of the ditch and heading somewhere. Just the very act of stepping towards a destination helped me to reorient myself away from the destination I was originally heading in.

This is why so many boys and men describe the positive impact Peterson and Tate have had on their lives. And why women and progressives are often confused about the fact anyone could say they got anything positive from these menfluencers.

I would also put forward the idea that both these men are proponents of their own maps. In other words, we can look at where they are and see if we’d like to head in that direction.

Tate clearly knows this as he often describes himself as the ‘happiest man in the world’. From where I’m sitting, Tate seems to hold an insatiable desire to build an ever lasting empire of pleasure, status and money. Whilst a small teenage part of me understands the appeal to this narrative and I would argue any boy or man can understand the appeal to this narrative [for we’ve been socialised so]. I now know it’s a spiritual wasteland that will leave me forever chasing more with a lack of intimacy in interpersonal relationships. He’s also been accused of sex trafficking and may end up serving serious jail time. He would argue though that this is ‘the matrix attacking’ him.

Peterson, alongside a killer schedule of talks and media appearances during his peak, was addicted to benzodiazepines and has been battling depression a large portion of his life. Whilst his life seems desirable in some ways, his relationships with his kids and wife seems admirable, it seems there’s a shadow lurking behind him that hasn’t been looked at enough.

I don’t see deep healing or self-examination in either map. And I needed to heal and we need self examination to end the stalemate of the culture wars.

And therefore I would make the case that both Peterson and Tate are providing maps to boys and men who are in desperate need of guidance, within a political climate that is deeply resentful of the damage traditional masculinity has caused. And as long as we’re having this conversation from a place of wounding, Peterson and Tate with their maps, will be idolised and revered for their courage to step into limelight and stand-up against the outrage against masculinity.

Saying all this, I truly am filled with hope.

Tate’s rise has alerted many women and progressives to the fact that we have to do something about this. The next step is to realise that the ‘doing something about it’ includes bringing boys and men into the healing conversation.

It’s the only way to break the stalemate.

Breaking the stalemate

In any dysfunctional family dynamic, every person has their finger pointing outward at the other. They all feel totally justified in their blaming of the other. And that’s because there is some validity (usually) to their blaming. However, each person in that family plays a part in creating the dysfunctional dynamic. The only way to create functionality is to arrive at a point where each person owns their part in it all.

For this is the only part they can actually change.

The finger turns inward instead of outward.

It is during this process of self-examination and empathy that I saw we all have similar needs: to feel heard, to be seen, and to feel considered.

Looking back it was a lot easier for me to watch videos of men ‘dismantling feminists’ than it was to look inward and ask:

‘What part do I play in all this?’

Published by WillAdolphy

Integrative Psychotherapist & Wellbeing Coach for actors + creatives.

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