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Jordan B. Peterson’s «Maps of Meaning»: what we should be grateful for

21/06/2021 | | cambio, educación, emprender | No hay comentarios

I got to know about Jordan B. Peterson while reading the The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Buzoff. She referred him in the context of the The Big Five Model and I was really in deep curiosity about this. In fact, I have been searching for a good way to learn it for years.

The Big Five Model, also known as the OCEAN model, is the most well known crossroads between technology and psychology. First time I knew about this model was when the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2017. Then, it came back to me while reading and researching Yuval Noah Harari‘s books during 2018 and 2019. Again, it appeared again with the The Social Dilemma documentary and in Shoshana Buzoff’s book in 2020. Finnally, i found it indirectly again in the book AI Superpowers by Kai-Fu Lee associated to what he refers as «the first wave of AI: internet AI».

This model is what big technology companies like facebook, google and others use to organize and classify users. In other words, this model describes the «psychologicy profiles» that they «big tech companies» use to understand better who we are and what is it that motivates us in order to define who to serve and with which services . Please, note that «we» means  «you and me and all people that we know» up to 2,7 billion users (this is the latest «number of active users in facebook» as declared by the company). Of course, I fully know that this paragraph could be a bible itself if we focus on the words «who to serve and with which services», which happens to be the theme of Shoshana Buzoff’s book.

So, here I am with my long feed curiosity about «The Big Five Model» and a new name: Jordan B. Peterson. I visited his website and… bingo! I felt that this was it. His DISCOVERING PERSONALITY course looked like nice, elegant, cheap, online and accessible. So I browse a little bit around his page and i found his work really, really interesting.

For a couple of weeks, I visited some more times Jordan B. Peterson’s website to understand better his approach, I watched a couple of his YouTube videos and I listened some of his Spotify podcasts.

Once I had a broader understanting of his approach, I decided to play number 3 with him:

  1. First, I will take his Maps of Meaning class (and I will buy his book). This class offers some new perspectives about Christianity and the Bible. And I was really looking forward to understand what connections, if any, there are between Christianism with other contemplative traditions (like Buddhism and Induims) and practices (like yoga and mindfulness) >
  2. Second, I will make his self-authoring online exercise. We use journaling a lot in our Search Inside Yourself training and this looks like a longer, deeper journaling proposal.
  3. Third and lastly, I will deep in his Discovering Personality course. My destination to understand better The Big Five Model.

At this moment, I feel fortunate that Jordan B. Peterson has chosen as he has chosen, because he has chosen a lot and different (including the availability of his classes in YouTube). There is such a journey behind that it is really overwhelming. So let me offer my gratitude in plain words. Thank you very much, Mr. Peterson, for sharing your journey and offering such a systemic thesis of what we humans are, where we humans do come from, and how it is that we orient ourselves in the world!

So this is it. This is a well deserved break after my first step. For you to know, this has resulted in more that 30 hours of online classes (this is the YouTube playlist). For me, it has been a beautiful back-to-the-University experience, but online. Of course, also a big challenge as this is «Psychology 434 – Maps of Meaning»… a year 4th university class. My notes, once organized, have filled a 43 pages notebook (this is the PDF file of the notebook). Finally, I summarized it as follows (4 pages in PDF). I hope and wish that this is of any help to you.


Psychology 434 – Maps of Meaning


About value systems:

  • We can identify what is important for us by identifying the goals that we go after.
  • We can organize hierarchically the set of goals that we pursue in levels, or layers, where upper levels have lower resolution (they are less specific), lower levels have higher resolution (they are more specific) and different levels are tied up to bottom in branches.
    • We adapt the level of resolution with our ability to zoom in (go down) or zoom out (go up)
    • Goals are nested in such a way that micro-goals nest in goals which nest in macro-goals (kind of matryoshka dolls but with a one-to-many nesting instead of the one-to-one).
    • Roles we enact, games we play or tasks we engage perform simultaneously a set of goals.
  • Each goal comes with the set of selective perceptions, emotions and memories that contribute and serve as motivation towards the attainment of the goal. I like to understand this as units of behavior. They are referred also as “micro-personalities”, frames of reference, motivations, or stories. We can understand our value system as the summation of all micro-personalities inside.
  • Each micro-personality can be represented as the movement from A à B (where A is the current state and B is the desired goal) plus the feedback system that helps track movement, including the identification of tools and obstacles: positive emotions happen when we move towards the goal, while negative emotions happen when something blocks us in our move forward. In fact, we can double the emotional engines of motivation: the positive emotions that come when we get closer towards what we want plus the lack of negative emotions that come when we escape out of what we do not want.
  • A system of goals organized hierarchically like this is what we call the value system and can be drawn as a pyramid. We build it slowly through life as we choose which goals matter to us from experience, from imitation, from learning or from inspiration.
  • The whole value system grows inside as a big abstraction, our own value system, that we hold as the complete set of rules, or expectations, about how the world works and how to behave.
  • On a moment-by-moment basis, we offer our value system to the world, piece at a piece, as actions.
    • When actions perform as expected, we create movement, and we confirm the validity of our micro-personality and the whole value system. We also think and feel that we are doing good.
    • But when actions do not perform as expected, uncertainty happens, and we enter the unknown. We experience a mistake or an error. We also think and feel that we are not doing good. Usually, we think and feel that we are doing bad. Nevertheless, the specific micro-personality which is not working as expected needs to be updated, which means maybe fixed or maybe replaced.
  • This update goes from extremely easy to extremely difficult. The lower in the hierarchy, where resolution is high and uncertainty is low, the easier it is. The higher in the hierarchy, when resolution is low and uncertainty is high, the more difficult it is.
  • This update involves letting go what is not working anymore. This letting go could be understood as the sacrifice to be made to keep functional in the world. It also could be understood as the object of detachment, the thing that we do not want to become attached to.
  • When an error happens, the very first important thing is to identify the level at which an update is needed. We better look first at the lower, simplest levels and then go up step at a step.
  • We keep balance, meaning mental balance and emotional balance, when we are able to update micro-personalities at the lowest level possible.
  • When we need to update high-level micro-personalities, then we easily can become unbalance. Depressed people always go fast to the highest level.
  • We find meaning in any action that performs on several layers of the value system. The more layers, the more meaning we find. What is meaningful is that action that aligns meaning from the bottom up at all levels of your hierarchy of values.
  • We can experience the “feeling of meaning” in the body as the feeling that includes high concentration, no rumination at all, deep engagement, loss of vulnerability, loss of sense of time, and sense of ritualization. This can also be called as “flow” and maybe it is the opposite of “anxiety”.

About the value system in communities and society:

  • Our individual value system has extremely high similarities to the value systems of those people around us at family level, at community level, and at society level.
  • The commonality of the value systems, with its minor differences, build up to the belief system or morality system of different groups and societies. This way, our individual value systems are also nested in the belief systems of the group which are nested in the belief system of society.
  • As personalities build in individuals to facilitate the fulfillment of sets of goals at all different levels, now and later, so do societies but at collective level.
  • However, the level of abstraction reaches so high that most individuals loss understanding and connection between their own value system and those of their groups and society. A systemic view restores this understanding and helps align again the values of individuals, groups, and society.

About the value system and our own biology:

  • Each goal comes with the set of selective perceptions, emotions and memories that contribute and serve as motivation towards the attainment of the goal. This are units of behavior or micro-personalities”. We understand our value system as the summation of all micro-personalities inside.
  • We come to life with a minimum set of goals, or micro-personalities, embedded which are clearly biological or genetic (while all others are social or cultural). These fundamental value systems are the needs of living creatures and are three as follows:
    • Self-maintenance:
      • ingestive (hunger, thirst); and
      • defensive (pain, anger/aggression, panic/escape, thermoregulation)
    • Self- propagation: reproductive (affiliation/care and sexual desire)
  • The brain takes care of these basic value systems (survival function) at the hypothalamus (which unfolds them) and the amygdala (which watches about malfunctioning and threats).
  • The hypothalamus unfolds micro-personalities once at a time. But life demands a more complex approach as (i) we need to take care not only now in the present but also later in the future; and (ii) we need to take care not only individually but at a collective The frontal cortex helps to handle this complexity by allowing sophisticated abstractions (which is thinking separate of action) so as playing what if scenarios in order to find the right set of (higher, more complex) goals.
  • Additionally, the brain has two different hemispheres to handle the two big different situations we live. The left hemisphere handles the known, the linear rational thinking, the fine motor action. The right hemisphere handles the unknown (the error), the holistic pattern recognition thinking, the gross motor action.
  • We can easily match the “action that works” as the procedural memory, which conceptually looks like the foundation of the automatic pilot behavior, unconsciousness, and Kahneman’s system 1. On the other hand, we can conceptually match the “action that needs to be updated” as the case for awareness, consciousness, and Kahneman’s system 2.

About stories and responsibility:

  • We call a micro-personality also “a story” as each micro-personality becomes a story when is being narrated. This way, we can easily understand that “we are stories” and that “we live inside stories”.
  • We can self-author our own story, and change what it was simply wrote by itself, by re-writing or re-framing a new one as a way of finding meaning and living a meaningful life.
  • We call responsibility to the act of choosing your own goals and committing to them.
  • Meaning will happen when the chosen goals are fully aligned in a way that help you and help your growth; help your family and help your community; and help your society. When all these happen, men recognize you, women select you and society helps you. This I call “triple win”.
  • Meaning meets security at family level when “my responsibilities become your care and your responsibilities become my care”. Meaning meets security at society level when “my responsibilities become your rights and your responsibilities become my rights”.

About the learning through old stories:

  • We call a micro-personality also “a story” as each micro-personality becomes a story when is being narrated. This way, we can easily understand that “we are stories” and that “we live inside stories”.
  • All societies have packed in stories all their learnings regarding how to act in the world, which is the same as to say which goals to pursue or which values to embody. Those stories were initially transmitted orally; later, also in writing and in movies.
  • These stories were offered as religion, as fairy tales (like those of Disney), or romances and movies, or simply as oral teachings. All of them constitute the realm of ethics in society and talk morality: what is good and what is bad.
  • Hypothetically, these learnings happened first by being acted and then packed in stories that were simply representations of the action. We understand them as stories that talk the walk.
  • As actions were reality, the representation of the actions can be understood as meta-reality. It is this meta-reality that was then embedded into fictional agents (mainly gods or super humans) that embodied the good and the bad whose actions were then related so as being easily kept, shared, and learned.
  • This perspective of meta-reality offers a reading of old, ancient texts (like those coming from Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Bible, Buddha’s teachings, and so on) as handbooks of psychological and social behavior which are meaningful and useful.
  • This perspective also helps to accommodate «fiction» as positioned in other very different contexts like Zeitgeist or Yuval Noah Harari.

About the stories and meta-stories that we find in ancient texts:

  • Ancient stories care about how we should better act when we let the known, explored territory (A à B) and fall into the unknown, unexplored territory (the error). The first is referred as order and the walled garden (Paradise, Eden, Gautama’s house), the second is referred as chaos and the dragon of chaos (the leviathan) while the fall is referred as the snake, the rabbit hole, the curiosity.
  • When referred to the individual, the right sacrifice (or detachment) is the way back to the known. When referred to the collective, main conclusion is the need of leadership (at the top of dominance hierarchies) by those with the ability to pay attention and to build order out of chaos by using words.
  • The big meta-story talks about how stories themselves transform by offering archetypes to fully understand the different forces at play: the Great Mother (creation/destruction), the Great Father (order/tyranny), and the Archetypal Son (hero/adversary). Archetypes are patterns always at play. The Great Mother and the Great Father beautifully match with yin and yang.
  • Optimal action and balance occur in the balance of chaos and order, yin and yang.
  • The most meaningful life, as set in the Sermon of the Mount is to “serve the higher intention possible plus live and act in the present moment.”

About his approach to class:

  • The continuous referral to big names like Freud, Jung, and Piaget; Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, and Solzhenitsyn.
  • Set of axial distinctions that help to understand the differences of what is better separated:
    • science (new mindset which builds abstraction to focus on the object) and religion (old mindset which builds stories to focus on the action).
    • wake thoughts (choose coherence and sacrifice completeness) and dream thoughts (choose completeness and sacrifice coherence).
    • ethology (which studies animals by observing their behavior at natural conditions) and scientific research (which studies animals in laboratory conditions).
    • talk the walk (which refers to articulate the action into words) and walk the talk (which refers to embody into action what is abstraction).
  • The monolog which builds on a permanent, hard self-questioning.

About the highlights of what is important and useful:

  • the mastering of how to enter the unknown and extract value and share it with others (pay attention).
  • the mastering of letting go what is not anymore needed and make the right inner sacrifices.
  • the mastering of thinking, speaking, and writing as the keys for job and opportunity in the XXI century (word).

About how to match SIY and some key concepts:

  1. understanding goal-directed attention and how to master them.
  2. defining vision and values as the self-motivation engine (the self-authoring journaling exercise).
  3. monitor emotions as markers of meaning / tools and anxiety / obstacles

Etiquetas: ayuda, clase creativa, corazón, cuentos, emprendedor, innovación, nuevo trabajo, oportunidad

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