In rule 12 of his new book Beyond Order, Jordan Peterson talks about gratitude. I'm going to summarize my understanding of his definition of gratitude:

From that book, page-299-300:

"..., "Why would such a spirit exist? Why would it be a part of each of us?"

The answer appears to be partly associated with the powerful sense that each of us shares of our own intrinsic mortal limitations, our subjugation to the suffering inflicted upon us by ourselves, society, and nature. That embitters and produces a certain self-contempt or disgust, inspired by our own weaknesses and inadequacies (and I am not speaking here yet of immorality, merely of our intrinsic and terrible fragility), and also by the apparent unfairness, unpredictability, and arbitrariness of our failings. Given all these disappointing realizations, there is no reason to assume that you are going to be satisfied or happy with yourself, or with Being itself. Such dissastisfaction-such unhappiness-can easily come to reinforce and magnify itself in a vicious circle. With each step you take against yourself or others as a consequence of your unhappiness and resentment, there is more to be ashamed of, and more reason for self-directed antagonism. It is not for nothing that approximately one person in five engages in some form of serious physical self-harm in their lifetime. And this does not include the most serious act-suicide itself (or the more common tendency toward suicidal ideation). If you are unhappy with yourself, why would you work in your best interest? Maybe something vengeful would emerge from you, instead; maybe something capable of justifying itself while it metes out hypothetically deserved suffering, designed to interfere with your movement forward. If you conceptually aggregate and unite into a single personality all that opposes you in you, all that opposes your friendships, and all that opposes your wife or husband, the adversary emerges. That is precisely Mephistopheles in Goethe's play-the devil himself. That is the spirit who works against-and that is exactly how he describes himself: "I am the spirit that denies" Why? Because everything in the world is so limited and imperfect -and causes itself so much trouble and terror because of that-that its annihilation is not only justified but ethically demanded. So goes, at least, the rationalization"

Now, this spirit feeds on bitterness. The more embittered one becomes, the stronger this spirit in him/her becomes. So, we need to become less bitter by being grateful (because things can get much worse, and no one is entitled to the good one receives because reality was plausible to have been otherwise) and by being courageous and trying to make things better.

Is my understanding of his rule correct?

I will include the name of the rule and the names of the sub-chapters so that you can get a sense of the general overview of this rule/chapter:

Rule 12: Be grateful in spite of your suffering

  • Down can define up
  • The Mephistophelian spirit
  • Courage-but superordinate, love

This might help you in answering the question.

  • @PhilipKlöcking: Please inform me of the correct way to proceed. I have never had a post deleted before, & was a bit surprised this was done with no comment or feedback. I couldn't see any way once I had edited my post, to request moderator review. The original post is edited.
    – CriglCragl
    Jul 20, 2021 at 10:41
  • @CriglCragl Just wanted to assure you that I did not complain to anyone [but you] about your answer's "fortuitous paragraph soaked in unprovoked emotive derision." Not my style. In fact, I was rather enjoying out tete a tete. However, you gotta admit, that that paragraph came from way out of left field, as the saying goes. You went completely out of your way to deride/pillory someone with whom you disagree ideologically on issues completely unrelated to the subject query (which had to do neither with political ideology, nor mythology.
    – gonzo
    Jul 20, 2021 at 17:37
  • @CriglCragl BTW please be so kind as to repost for me the link u posted with your answer. I wanted to share it [not here] as an example of what Yang highlights in his essay.
    – gonzo
    Jul 20, 2021 at 17:39
  • @gonzo Do you mean the piece arguing against Peterson's statements on mythology and archetypes? I think it does contain some caricatures (for example, it takes Peterson's statement about a man having an 'encounter with chaos' when he's turned down, and reads from that the idea that he thinks women don't have good reasons for turning men down, which I don't think was his intended meaning). But I would advise against only seeing it as confirmation of Yang's point,
    – Hypnosifl
    Jul 20, 2021 at 21:26
  • 1
    (cont.) since the article does contain plenty of good criticism of Peterson's mythological ideas, like his notion that the association of "chaos" with femininity and "order" with masculinity is some kind of trans-historical archetypal truth, when in fact there are plenty of mythologies that associate order with female deities and chaos with male ones (likewise with earth vs. sky, some cultures like the ancient Egyptians made the sky a female god and the earth a male one).
    – Hypnosifl
    Jul 20, 2021 at 21:29

1 Answer 1


Yes, you are understanding almost perfectly, and missing only one thing.

On a purely practical level, the mind can only entertain so much at a time, and only one thing at a time in the conscious mind. We can choose to think about what is good, and especially what is good and undeserved. (And “undeserved” can be greatly extended by realizing what is apparently deserved - like something you worked for - is grounded on something undeserved - like having parents who taught you to work, or even a genetic disposition toward work. A famous quote is, “What truly do I have, that was not ultimately a gift?” or something similar; and CS Lewis said, “Your friendly disposition and kindness is not your gift to God but his gift to you.”) We can just choose to do so without having to justify it with “it could be worse”, etc. Thinking is an ACTION.

Claiming something is true is no justification for thinking or saying it. At any moment there are infinitely many true statements that could be made about what is happening, or has happened, or is immutably true, etc. And furthermore, truth is not in the intellectual, factual, or logical realms anyway. Only Christ (or the guru aspect of the divine three if you did not grow up in the West) is the Truth.

So just making a list of what you are grateful for will cause gratitude. It doesn't have to be balanced out and truer than the bad things or anything else. This is along the lines of healthy thinking.

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