Two and a half years ago, Jordan Peterson was emerging into the international limelight. He was just publishing his book, “12 Rules for Life,” and was about to embark upon a world book/lecture tour which would make him a veritable philosopher-king in defense of western rationalism, tradition, and myth.
Besides the book and the world tour, nothing catapulted Peterson into the spotlight so much as his interview with Cathy Newman on Channel 4. The contrast between Newman’s politically correct media drivel and Peterson’s rational approach to examining evidence, could not have been more striking — or more favorable to the Canadian. This media triumph was to be just one of many to come for the prairie born and raised clinical psychologist, professor, scientific researcher, philosopher, entrepreneur, business consultant, author, and local (Toronto and Canadian Public Television) media celebrity.
Jordan Peterson rode the international wave of fame and notoriety for more than a year, and became the bane of radical leftists, postmodern academics, neo-Marxist journalists and pseudo-intellectuals, and assorted other muddle-headed quasi-utopian hive minds. He was a bulldog in defense of both rational western thought/science and of the deeper power of myths and archetypes.
Professor Peterson appeared on any talk show that had a host bright enough to at least pretend to keep up with him. He was the subject of a number of documentaries, including “The Rise of Jordan Peterson,” which appeared just as Dr. Peterson himself was collapsing into a nightmare of benzodiazepine dependency and withdrawal — brought about by a combination of a number of different tragic and extremely stressful events and pressures which occurred virtually simultaneously.
Some of these events and stresses are discussed by Peterson himself, in a conversation with his daughter Mikhaila:
In the hour long video conversation above, Jordan Peterson discusses with a fair degree of openness, just what happened to him. He was clearly overwhelmed by family tragedy, an unbelievably stressful lifestyle, and the idiosyncratic effects of prescription drugs and unpredictable reactions to certain foods. These things combined with innate vulnerabilities of Peterson’s mind and body, at a time when Peterson was flying very close to the sun.
Clearly apparent to viewers in his conversation with his daughter above — and requiring no words — are the heartbreaking after-effects of the man’s physical and mental breakdown, which he makes no effort to hide from the public. Admirers and critics alike can plainly see the ongoing suffering of Dr. Peterson in the video above, and can get a visceral feeling of what he and his family have gone through over the past year and a number of months.
What can one conclude from contrasting the view of Peterson at his peak, with the view of Peterson after his breakdown? The most obvious observation is that no matter how well educated and well tempered by the fires of experience, every human is vulnerable to the right combination of stresses, attacks, and vulnerabilities.
For most celebrities and leading figures, time will take them off their thrones eventually. Drugs and alcohol tend to take them away more quickly. The life of a celebrity is a stressful one, particularly if one is catapulted into global focus almost overnight. In Jordan Peterson’s case, his unfortunate dependency on benzodiazepines was not a result of thrill-seeking or drug abuse, but was rather the result of following his doctor’s medical advice in the attempt to deal with mounting stresses from multiple directions.
Regardless, the aftermath of both the dependency and the multiple attempts to escape the dependency have taken their toll. As an admirer of Dr. Peterson, I wish him all the best in his recovery from both “the disease” and “the cure.” It is difficult to know which of the two had the most devastating consequences for him.
I would like to see Jordan Peterson back doing the things he was meant to be doing, as clearly the intellectual world has suffered in his absence. Hurry back soon, professor.