Exposure Therapy, Radical Transformation, And Embracing Reality

The following is a transcript excerpt from Dr Jordan B Peterson’s conversation with Douglas Murray and Jonathan Pageau on the crucifixion of Christ as an archetypal story. You can listen to or watch the full podcast on DailyWire+.

Podcast time: 42:29

It definitely appears to me that the story of the Passion is an archetypal and foretold tragic catastrophe, and I’ll explain the foretold part later. It’s an archetypal catastrophe because it melds all the worst things that could happen to a person in their life. It’s death, but it’s knowledge of certain death, associated with death. Then it’s youthful death, and it’s youthful death at the hands of the mob. And it’s youthful death at the hands of the mob despite innocence, despite the mob knowing of innocence — in front of the mother. And it’s a consequence of the relativistic nihilism of the Romans, and the tyranny and the choice of the crowd, and the betrayal of a best friend — all of that. It is definitely a journey through all the worst things you could confront in your life. But then that’s not enough. There is the mythological cloud around the narrative because dying horribly and unjustly isn’t enough. You also have to go to hell and harrow it. So that would mean that the ultimate extension of the human experience is not only the confrontation with malevolence and unjust death of the innocent, but a genuine journey into hell.

OK, then the question would be — and this is the sticker as far as I’m concerned — ‘Isn’t it the case that in your own life that the more deeply that you’ve peered into the abyss of things, the more likely it is that a light shines through it?’ And this is sort of the ultimate question of the Resurrection: How do you revivify your faith in life? The answer might really be, ‘By the radical acceptance of the malevolent tragedy of life.’ But even more than that: ‘By the radical embracing of even the hellish aspect of life.’ And if you did that radically enough, well, who knows what would happen.

We know clinically if you find what people are avoiding and are afraid of and are disgusted by that’s blocking their pathway forward, and you get them to confront that voluntarily, they get courageous and better. It’s clearly the case, and it looks to me like the Passion representation and its mythological substrate is exposure therapy on a cosmic level. You know that the more deeply you grapple with the fundamental issues of life, the wiser and broader you get. And then I guess I would ask, ‘If everyone did that to the utmost, what would it be that we might be able to conquer?’ I don’t know the answer to that. Life would radically transform. I see what happens because people write me all the time. I see what happens when people adopt a certain amount of responsibility for their life. They write and they say, ‘Man, everything is way better.’ OK, how much better could it be?

This is also associated with this idea in the New Testament. There’s a section — I believe it’s in the Sermon on the Mount (it might not be) — where Christ says that heaven will not emerge and all things will not manifest themselves until everyone brings everything inside them out right there — divine possibility, let’s say. Part of the reason that the world is fallen the way it is is because we hold back our best. We don’t abide by the Law and the prophetic Spirit and we don’t bring everything that’s within us out into the world, and the world is lesser as a consequence of that. I do believe that we don’t bring our best out because we’re afraid and because we’re desperate and because we don’t have the courage to confront the malevolence and the suffering and the hellish aspect of life. You look at the death and you say, ‘Well, is the death more real and the hell more real, or is the Resurrection more real?’

To hear the rest of the discussion, continue by listening or watching this episode on DailyWire+.

Dr Jordan B Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. From 1993 to 1998 he served as assistant and then associate professor of psychology at Harvard. He is the international bestselling author of Maps of Meaning, 12 Rules For Life, and Beyond Order. You can now listen to or watch his popular lectures on DailyWire+.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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