Jordan Peterson has been thoroughly meme-ified for his simple injunction to begin any program of growth with “cleaning your room.” The task is accessible and confronts a person with whatever demons they possess that get in the way of productive, responsible behavior.
If you’re room actually isn’t clean right now, take a break and go clean it.
Once your room is clean, Peterson recommends continuing to look at your immediate environment and to bring whatever order you can to the chaos that you see.
Usually, you don’t have to look very hard to see a whole lot of chaos.
Sages from Plato and Confucius on to the present day highlight how the society we live in is largely a reflection of the unresolved conflicts in our own psyches.
Are you angry about the amount of black people our country tolerates getting killed by the police? Or perhaps you’re more incensed by the push towards identity politics and the erosion of freedom of speech. Maybe you’re a moderate and both are sources of grief. Either way, no matter how charged with importance your external political activity feels, our society with all of its conflict, is in some way a reflection of your own mind. This means that sustainable change will only happen when individuals integrate their own warring parts.
But this is really hard to do.
That narcissistic, hate-mongering con-man that you’re working to remove from office? He represents some part of you, as do those who support him.
That antifa, police-hating, anarchistic social justice warrior that gives you so much grief? She’s also a part of you.
Carl Jung said:
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.
You don’t need to look across the political spectrum to find irritants. Look at the people you work with. Your neighbors. Your friends. Your partner. Your family.
Ultimately our family of origin gave us the primary experiences of what it means to be good and bad, curious and ashamed. Subsequent interactions build on these original neuro-pathways, and the people we meet end up reminding us in some way of who we were and how we felt when we were young. Because we were so young when we formed these impressions, they become giant forces in our unconscious, far more powerful than our conscious mind can control.
Group puts you in a room with a variety of people. You’re told to be honest, to be real, to say what you actually think and feel about the other members. You know that they will do the same. A bond forms, a shared commitment. These folks will be with you for as long as you remain in group, dedicating themselves to being as true as they can, to learning from the inevitable conflicts that emerge. You have the opportunity to see your reactions frame-by-frame, to study them and to experiment with different responses.
This is the royal road to personal power, integrity and responsibility. If you want to change your life or the world you live in, clean your room and then start working on the mess within.