Figure out what your story is

I listened to the latest from The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast on Monday night, “Why You Should Treat Yourself as if You Have Value,” which is also a chapter from his 12 Rules for Life. The episode is a lecture from July 2018 that Jordan Peterson delivered in Edmonton. At approx. 25 minutes, he riffs:

[Be] the protagonist of your own plot, or the hero of your own story. There’s a rule that I sort of learned from the psycho-analysts, particularly from Carl Jung, that if you’re not the hero of your own story then you’re a bit part in someone else’s. And that part is one that’s assigned to you and it’s probably not one that you would pick.

You see that idea laid out, for example, in popular fiction like in the movie Pinocchio, because the main character in Pinocchio is someone who is a marionette whose strings are being pulled from behind the scenes.

So the idea there is that if you’re not your own person, you’re someone else’s puppet—or something else’s puppet. And that’s even worse.

One of the things Carl Jung also said about ideas, which just staggered me when I started to understand it, is “People don’t have ideas. Ideas have people.”

You can think about that for about ten years. That’s a terrifying idea. And you when people are possessed by an ideology—all the people have the same idea! And you think, “Well, if all the people have the same idea, what makes you think that they have the idea? It’s exactly the other way around: the idea has them. And unless you understand that to some degree, you can’t understand the sorts of things that happened in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union or Maoist China, where whole populations were gripped by an idea and acted it out. They were in the thrall of that idea. So it’s really important that you have your own story. If you’re without a story, some other damn story is going to pick you up. That’s for sure.

And one of the things Jung said, for example, is you should figure out what your story is, because it might be a tragedy. And if it is, you might want to rethink it. And that’s very much worth thinking through. It’s partly worth thinking through because the easiest sort of life to have is a tragedy. I don’t mean it’s easy on you, because it’s not. But if you just sort of fall forward into life thoughtlessly, the probably that what you’re going to have is a tragedy is virtually certain. And so perhaps you don’t want that—especially not if you decide you’re going to take care of yourself like you’re someone that you’re responsible for helping.

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