The Evolution Gap and Rule Two

Jul 17, 2023

Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping

The second rule in Jordan Peterson’s influential book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, is: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.

This rule carries an essential message of self-care and self-respect. It encourages individuals to extend the same level of care, compassion, and responsibility towards themselves as they would towards someone else whom they are entrusted to help. Examining this rule through the lens of the Evolution Gap uncovers intriguing insights about human evolution, psychology, and the challenges posed by our rapidly changing world.

The Evolution Gap refers to the growing disconnect between our slow-changing biological makeup, refined over thousands of years, and the fast-paced societal and technological changes of modern times. This divergence can sometimes lead to stress, confusion, and misalignment in various aspects of life. Peterson’s Rule Two remedies some of the dilemmas this gap brings.

From an evolutionary perspective, humans are social creatures programmed for empathy and cooperation. These traits have enabled us to build complex societies and civilizations. Our ancestors survived and thrived by helping and caring for each other, establishing solid social bonds and communal structures. However, while we are instinctively wired to help others, we may not always extend the same level of care toward ourselves. This oversight can be seen as a manifestation of the Evolution Gap, reflecting a disconnect between our innate communal instincts and the pressures and individualistic tendencies of the modern world.

In the hustle and bustle of today’s world, it is easy to neglect self-care. Many of us are continually juggling various responsibilities—work, family, social obligations—and self-care can take a back seat in this constant activity. Further, our modern media and entertainment industry has stressed the fictional superhero’s tendency to ‘turn down the reward’ even after achieving monumental things. Here, the Evolution Gap is evident. Our minds and bodies, built for a different era, might struggle with the relentless pace and unceasing demands of the digital age, leading to physical and mental stress, burnout, and even more severe health issues.

Further, life for our ancestors was decidedly simpler, and our instincts communicated our needs precisely and competently. They were generally closely aligned with those closest to us. For instance, when working to provide food for others, our ancestors also provided for themselves. 

Moreover, societal norms and expectations can sometimes exacerbate this issue. Modern society often values self-sacrifice and overwork, presenting them as hallmarks of dedication and success. Such messages, propagated by social and mass media, can lead to a toxic cycle of self-neglect. In these situations, Peterson’s second rule becomes pivotal, prompting us to break this cycle and prioritize self-care, even in the face of societal pressures.

Furthermore, as the world becomes increasingly digital and interconnected, people are often expected to be ‘always on’, always available, and always responsive. This expectation can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and a sense of losing control over one’s time and life. Here, again, the Evolution Gap is starkly evident, as our evolutionary instincts struggle to adapt to the digital age’s never-ending stream of information and communication.

Peterson’s second rule, when viewed through the lens of the Evolution Gap, thus offers a strategy to deal with these modern challenges. By treating ourselves like someone we are responsible for helping, we can counteract the adverse effects of the Evolution Gap. This self-care principle encourages us to maintain a healthy work-life balance, manage stress, and nurture our physical and mental health, aligning our evolutionary needs with the demands of the modern world.

In conclusion, Peterson’s second rule, interpreted in the context of the Evolution Gap, encourages us to respect our evolutionary heritage, understand its relevance in the modern world, and use it as a guide to navigating the complexities of contemporary life.

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