Malik: Sorry, Jordan Peterson: rage isn’t a great look for a self-help guru

Anger Mar 23, 2018

Today Ms. Malik wrote an article about Dr. Peterson’s anger for The Guardian. I’m going to skip most of the article because it’s just argumenta ad hominem spiced up with a thesaurus. And, it’s written by someone obviously unfamiliar with Dr. Peterson’s work. But, I want to focus on authentic emotion and anger.

I’ll start with Ms. Malik’s criticism of Dr. Peterson.

After a brutal but perfectly polite and clinical takedown in the New York Review of Books by Pankaj Mishra, where the rudest thing said about Peterson is that his latest book is packaged for people who have grown up on BuzzFeed listicles, Peterson had a meltdown. He called Mishra a “sanctimonious prick”, an “arrogant racist son of a bitch”, said he would “slap him” if he was in the room, and rounded it up with a final “fuck you”. Somewhere along the tantrum, he tweeted that Mishra was a “dealer in lies and half-truths”. The responses that followed can only be summarised as a mass sideways look to camera.

Dr. Peterson is angry. That is an emotion he’s feeling and he expressed it. In my opinion, in today’s culture we’re meant to feel shame if we get angry. And, that follows with Ms. Malik’s article. However, is avoiding certain emotions constructive?

No, of course not. Emotions can’t be selectively suppressed. And, emotional suppression wreaks havoc in one’s life. The effects of emotional suppression are two-fold.

  1. It’s mentally hard, so it reduces cognitive ability during suppression.
  2. It reduces the ability to become close and connect with people, and lowers social satisfaction.

I want to continue, though. Ms. Malik states that she isn’t suppressing anger; she doesn’t even feel them.

Now I receive a lot of abuse over pretty much all media – none, alas, as prestigious as the New York Review of Books (they are mostly confined to the less august trenches of Twitter) – but nonetheless, I can assure you that I have never been tempted to call someone who has taken the time to engage with my writing, either constructively or by telling me to go home and marry Isis, a prick.

Here’s the problem with inauthentic behavior: people can intuitively feel it. Reading the article I thought that it sounds fake. So, I went to her twitter to see what turned up. There’s some random name calling (e.g., this tweet). But, do you think she’s “never been tempted to call [a reader] . . . a prick?”

In fairness to her, this isn’t in response to a critic. Maybe another tweet will help.

So, she’s thought about sending out career ending tweets replying to “trolls”? Am I following that right? Then her statement is nothing but a lie.

Just like people can sense inauthentic behavior they can sense authenticity. That’s part of the reason people like Dr. Peterson. He is authentic.

Should Dr. Peterson have sent out the angry tweets he did? Maybe, maybe not. However, in my experience, even the most good-hearted people have felt feelings of extreme anger (ask anyone how they feel about other drivers).

Anger is a very real part of the human experience. There’s no shame in feeling that anger. It allows you to be a more authentic, believable person. In fact, that’s perfectly in line with Dr. Peterson’s teaching. From 12 Rules for Life (via Mr. Mishra’s linked article):

the soul of the individual eternally hungers for the heroism of genuine Being.