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Home » The Essence of Terrible Parenting: Stephanie Davies-Arai (Transcript)

The Essence of Terrible Parenting: Stephanie Davies-Arai (Transcript)

Transcript of JBP Podcast titled ‘THE ESSENCE OF TERRIBLE PARENTING’ with Stephanie Davies-Arai. In this episode, Dr Jordan B Peterson and Stephanie Davies-Arai discuss parenting and the pitfalls of compassion when linked to trans ideology.  

TRANSCRIPT:

JORDAN B PETERSON: Hello, everyone watching or listening on YouTube or associated podcasts or on the Dailyware Plus platform. I have the privilege today of speaking to Stephanie Davies-Arai. She is a decorated author and the founder as well as the director of Transgender Trend, a UK-based organization that has been perpetually under fire by leftist activists simply for advocating for evidence-based health care when it comes to gender dysphoric children.

She’s also the author of Communicating with Kids, a book published in 2015. Based on her background training teachers and providing parental support, Davies-Arai is also notable for being an intervener in the high court during the landmark case Bell v. Tavistock, which concluded that persons under 18 cannot consent to puberty blockers.

WHEN WE DISLIKE OUR OWN KIDS

So, Stephanie, I was reading your book today, 2015 book Communicating with Children, and I thought maybe I could playfully put you on the spot. In my first book, 12 Rules for Life, my first popular book, I have a chapter entitled, DON’T LET YOUR CHILDREN DO ANYTHING THAT MAKES YOU DISLIKE THEM.

And so what I thought I’d ask you, given that you wrote this book detailing out different means of communicating with children, developing a philosophy of communication with children, I’m kind of wondering what you think of that rule. How does that strike you? Don’t let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: I love that you started with that, because that’s the bit in your book which I’ve read that jumped out at me because that’s what I say to parents. Of course, you love your children to bits. You’d die for them, but do you like them? Because that’s really important in day-to-day living.

But the other thing I say is that it’s not only important that you like your own kids, but that other parents do and other people outside, because otherwise your kids are going to have a really hard time, and you’re not going to be doing them a favour if you bring them up to be unpopular with other kids’ parents, because they’re going to depend on them.

THE IMPORTANCE OF DUALITY IN PARENTING

JORDAN B PETERSON: Okay, so let me outline a few ideas for you. You tell me, criticise away or agree as you see fit. So I think we know there’s a large literature indicating that it’s better for children to have two parents, and I think the reason for that, this is my reasoning for it, there’s a variety of reasons. Obviously, raising children and working is very difficult, so being able to split the labour is a way of perhaps not being entirely exhausted when you have small children.

But I think there’s something else going on too, which is akin in some sense to the reason that there’s sexual differentiation at a biological level. So there’s sexual differentiation because it’s useful to bring together two disparate creatures to produce a new variant. But I also think it’s true on the personality front.

So if you have a nicely organised marriage, you’re going to have your bits of insanity and your partner’s going to have their bits of insanity. But if you can form a joint union, then I believe you can produce something approximating one sane person. And that person is sane, that joint person is sane, not so much because they’re sane psychologically, but because they’re an analogue of the broader social world. I’m saying that for a specific reason.

So then the theory would be, if your children are acting in a way that both of you find displeasing, if you’re honest, then the probability that other people will find that displeasing is extremely high, because you at least love your children, whereas other people, you know, they might be willing to give them a chance, but they’re not going to die for them.

And so if you accept the additional hypothesis that the primary role of a parent is to prepare their children for, what would you say, welcome acceptance into the broader social world, then you have a moral obligation to guide your children in some sense in accordance with your own joint feelings. If the two of you find your child’s behavior unacceptable, you’re morally obligated to let the child know, because that is not going to translate well to other children, to other children’s parents, to teachers, to any situations in public, and then your child’s going to have a miserable time of it. And I think the research literature indicates that very clearly.

OPTIMAL FAMILY DYNAMICS

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: Yeah, and I think, you know, you’re right, in the sense that the children need the male and the female, the masculine and the feminine, but that can be achieved in other ways. I’ve worked with all kinds of families, so my work is about creating the optimum situation for families, no matter whether they’re married or what kind of family situation they’re in. So I would agree, and particularly that children need strong role models of the opposite sex and the same sex.

So, you know, if it’s a single-parent family, for example, to find those role models are close family members, because, you know, all very good friends of the family, but it has to be a close relationship. I mean, teachers as well, but there are other adults who can fill that gap, and I think it’s very important that that gap is filled if the family isn’t that male-female unit of marriage that is the traditional unit.

JORDAN B PETERSON: Right, because the children have to learn, OK, so there’s two elements there. So you bring a mother and a father together, and the child gets the benefit of their joint personality, right? The fact that they’ve got two people to hit against, and hopefully that makes one sane person.

But the socialization rules for being feminine and the socialization rules for being masculine aren’t identical. And so that’s part of the reason why it’s necessary to have those contrary — contrasexual role models at hand. And at hand does mean something like making a relationship with, because the other thing we know about children is though they can establish multiple deep relationships with people, so they can actually stand multiple caregivers, but they don’t really like a lot of change in their caregivers. They don’t like relationships once they’re established to be decimated, let’s say. Well, neither do adults, but it’s even more the case for children.

And so, yeah, and it’s harder for a single-parent family, for someone who’s running a single-parent family, to fill that, well, fill that diversity of personality to solve that problem, but also to provide the contrasexual role model.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: I agree. I mean, I think that consistency is really important for children and it’s fractured in so many ways now in society because if people move around more, people don’t tend to stay in those units or those extended family groups in one area. So we have more and more challenges today in bringing up children. And parents face, well, I’m sure you’re aware, other challenges in terms of online life, the internet, influences from outside.

So, yes, to try and create that consistency for children in their relationships, in their close family relationships, I think is one of the things that’s very important. Having said that, I mean, you know, there are all sorts of situations that are not optimum for children and children are robust. So, you know, you can look at, in our Western society, for example, to remember the fact that our children are, you know, generally very privileged compared to other parts of the world.

And so we can get, I think, too concerned about what the negative aspects of our society are and forget the fact that children are generally robust. They are programmed to survive and to get on. And so we shouldn’t be too careful or too worried about the kind of disadvantages they face in sort of a Western society where they have many advantages.

POST-FREUDIAN WORLD, THE DISMAY IN PEACE

JORDAN B PETERSON: Yes, well, you talk about the fact that parents now exist in what you described as a post-Freudian world. And so there was this idea based on, I would say, an oversimplified reading of Freud that all psychological problems that adults suffer from are a consequence of trauma often associated with poor parenting in childhood. And first of all, no, because there’s lots of reasons to have psychological distress as an adult that have nothing to do with your parents. I mean, as the existential psychotherapists pointed out very clearly in the 50s, just the catastrophes associated with being alive are sufficient to cause people a substantial amount of depression and anxiety and hopelessness. So it doesn’t have to be all bad parenting.

And secondly, the extremes of terrible parenting that Freud noted aren’t really, I wouldn’t say they’re uncommon, but they’re not typical. So Freud was particularly concerned with Oedipal parenting, and that would be, well, I suppose the modern equivalent of that is something like helicopter parenting. It’s the potential damage done by someone who cares so much for their children that they’re completely unable to give them any autonomy whatsoever.

But I think it’s useful for parents to know that, as you just pointed out, that children are quite robust and they can adapt to a variety of circumstances. And also that what you’re trying to do with your children is actually have a relationship with them. And one of the things that characterizes robust human relationships is that they can actually stay intact across a wide variety of emotional scenarios. You know, sometimes people, and my clients used to wonder, for example, if they should ever fight in front of their children.

And my response to that always was, it’s not whether or not you fight, it’s whether or not you reconcile. And so what you want to do is model for your children the fact that there’s going to be conflict about very important and difficult issues, some of those interpersonal, but some of them just practical, that that conflict is actually going to produce a fair bit of emotion, some of which might be negative and even rather intense, but that those things can be negotiated through and the relationship can come back together.

We know, for example, even by studying our close primate relatives, chimpanzees, that the males, for example, are extremely fractious in their interpersonal interactions, but the sophisticated ones are also extremely good at reconciling and peacemaking. And so, well, the point of all this is that your children are perfectly capable of adapting to a wide range of emotional events, positive and negative. And what you want to help them understand is that the relationship you have with them and with each other, if you’re married, is of the sort that’s going to be able to withstand the full range of emotional expression without breaking apart.

And so you don’t have to worry about them being fragile and you don’t have to worry in some sense even about making mistakes with them as long as you’re doing that in the same way you would do that with someone with whom you really want to maintain a long-term relationship.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: It’s a very rare married couple who don’t fight, who don’t ever fight and don’t ever… One of the things that I think is important, as you say, that children may see you fight and, of course, by that I don’t mean, you know, hugely aggressive, throwing things or beating a partner up, but the normal kind of arguments and fights that a couple would get into. If the children observe that, then I think you’re right that it’s important that they also see the making up. But they also learn that you’re not perfect, that conflict exists and that people resolve it and that it doesn’t destroy you. So I think that is really important.

The other thing is about, you know, anger and conflict and argument is, as you say, just a normal part of life. So if you try, and this is what I see, the pressure on parents and particularly mothers to be nice all the time, to be kind and nice and never do anything in front of the children and you create a kind of false sort of family. And some of the families I know that I think have the most healthy relationships are ones that shout at each other quite a lot.

You know, they’re quite volatile in the way that they do so, but they’re very honest and they make up and they’re very, very close and loving families. So you can’t, you know… And then there are other families that try, or the parents try desperately hard to always present a, you know, a loving and kind and nice front and everything’s false and everything’s under the surface then. And that, I think, is very confusing and anxiety-provoking in children when you can feel the undercurrents as children can, but nobody’s saying anything out loud.

JORDAN B PETERSON: Right. Well, that’s part of that extended Oedipal complex in some sense, is that the issue is, I mean, it’s perfectly reasonable for people to work towards having peace in their household. But peace is actually extremely difficult to establish and maintain because peace means that both of you agree, and also peace means that there’s nothing unbelievably complicated facing you at the moment about which you have no idea and you have no idea how to approach it.

You know, if you have a sick child, for example, and you’re trying to sort through how to discipline a child like that, let’s say, or what medical pathway to walk down, there’s no way you can avoid having conflict if you’re going to think about it because it’s a very serious issue and you have to think about it seriously, and that means you have to discuss it. And if you have a different viewpoint, that discussion can get quite heated. But there’s no difference between that and thinking that heated discussion.

And unless you sort through, say, the complexities on the disciplinary and the medical treatment front, you actually don’t have peace. Right. You just have a problem. Now, what happens in the families that insist upon presenting this, you might say, gingerbread house world of false peace to their children is that they’re pretending constantly that every problem is solved and peace actually reigns. But they’re telling the children, often through nonverbal behavior, that any conflict whatsoever is so disruptive and so intolerable that we have to pretend all the time that no conflict whatsoever exists.

And so all that does is turn children into creatures that are terrified of their own negative emotions. So they feel that if peace is so necessary and psyche is so fragile that no emotion whatsoever is allowed on the negative side, then any problem must be of terrifying proportions and only something to avoid. And that’s definitely a catastrophe for children, especially because they can, especially when they’re little, they can be quite volatile. If they’re tired or hungry or hot or cold, and they get volatile, they get upset. And then if they’re feeling that they’re breaking the eggshells underneath the carpet or rattling the skeletons in the closet, that’s just not good for them at all.

CAMPS OF DISCIPLINE

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: It teaches children to be afraid of conflict and disagreement and argument, and those are parts of a healthy relationship. You disagree and you… I think that when it comes to disciplining the children, that’s an issue that is the adult’s job, and it shouldn’t be done in front of the children. I mean, it helps if parents share the same values, but often there is a difference between, I mean, discipline and attitudes to discipline. This is so, so common that one parent is more authoritarian and the other parent is more liberal and wants to let the children get away with things more, and the other one wants really tough discipline, and that’s so, so common to a greater or lesser extent.

So those sorts of issues really need to be talked about and sorted out by the parents. It’s not the child’s job to join in with methods of his or her own discipline. That is the parent’s job. It’s the adult’s job, and a child isn’t… Then the parents should be able to reach some agreement or compromise and then proceed. But that shouldn’t be part of the child’s job. It’s not the child’s job to…

JORDAN B PETERSON: Well, you talked about two camps of discipline, Camp A and Camp B. Camp A is associated with order, let’s say, and integration into the social world, and Camp B is associated more, let’s say, with chaos and individuation, and that’s kind of a conservative-liberal split there too. I suppose that does reflect the fact that children have two problems to solve as they mature, broadly speaking. One is, well, how do I get along with my parents and my siblings and my friends and my teachers, the whole social world? How do I fit in? So that’s problem number one. So that means, how do I conduct myself so that people appreciate having me around and I’m a valued social member?

And the second problem is, well, how do I stand on my own two feet and also become a reliable source of creative individuality and some ability to push back against the mindlessness of the group? And that is an optimization problem. It’s very complex, and there’s no simple answer to that, partly because it depends on the situation and it depends on the child. And so parents definitely have to negotiate that out.

I found with my wife, I probably was… I’d probably make the first disciplinary move in like 75% of the cases, maybe 60% of the cases in our marriage. I don’t think that’s that uncommon because men are more likely to intervene, by and large, than women are because they’re less agreeable. But I also found, you know, most of the time, although my wife and I were pretty much on the same page with our kids, if I just shut the hell up for 15 seconds when the kids were misbehaving, she would respond. And it was so interesting because her threshold for tolerating misbehavior was not very much different than mine. It was literally, say, on average, 15 seconds.

But because it was reliably… she was reliably somewhat more patient, that did mean that in some circumstances, the bulk of the initial disciplinary moves fell to me. So that’s another thing that’s interesting for… that might be interesting for people to know too. You might be closer than you think on the disciplinary front. It’s just one person’s a little quicker on the draw than the other. Sorry, please go ahead.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: It’s back to sharing values, isn’t it? If you’ve got essentially the same values about how you want to bring your child up and how you want your child to be in the world, what your goals are for the way you raise a child, then you can probably work those things out as adults together. And, yeah, it’s not as if…

JORDAN B PETERSON: Yeah, so we could lay out some of those principles and I think that would be useful for people who are watching. So let’s take that Camp A and Camp B. We’ll start with Camp A and that would be the more conservative side. Look, it’s really important that your children are popular and welcome. And that doesn’t mean because they’ve sold their soul to the group. It means because they can play fair and they’re productive and generous and they know how to take turns and they don’t whine too much when they lose and they don’t triumph too annoyingly when they win. And they’re good at reciprocity. They’re good play partners. And that’s really crucially important to kids.

The literature on the development of criminal behavior, anti-social behavior in children, shows quite clearly that there’s a subset of kids who are quite aggressive at the age of two. Most of them are boys. Most of them get socialized by the time they’re four. But some of them don’t. And the ones that don’t start out their sad little social lives as social rejects. And what happens is they fall farther and farther behind because the other kids start to play together because they can stand each other. They start to develop friendships. And within those friendships, they scaffold their social growth.

And so what that means is that if your child is unlikable at four, maybe because you didn’t help socialize them sufficiently between you and your wife, then other children will reject them. And then they’re really in trouble. And the literature I was familiar with indicated that if your child doesn’t make a smooth entry into the social world somewhere between the ages of three and five, there’s almost nothing that can be done after that to remediate that. It’s such a serious problem.

And so one thing that parents could be aiming at is, well, this is why you don’t let your children do anything that makes you dislike them because you want other people to welcome them. So they need to be able to modulate their behavior in a socially acceptable way. So that’s on the conservative side.

On the liberal side, you’d say, well, you don’t want your child just to be like a clone of the group. You want them to have some individuality and some autonomy. And so you might have to argue between you about what the balance is between those two things in relationship to your particular child because it needs to be particularized. But those are good aims. An autonomous child who knows how to play well with others. That’s a pretty good deal for the child and for the world and for you as parents.

PARENTING BOOKS, LACK OF SCRUTINY

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: Yeah. And this is why when I research parent books, parenting advice books, and I think the parenting advice industry doesn’t get enough scrutiny, actually. I’m not a big fan of parenting books. But they tended to be either the kind of quite authoritarian or quite liberal. And in my book, I point out that actually there are good things about both and there are necessary things about both. There’s individuation and integration. And both of those things have. And so you take the bits from each model and you put them together because both of those are important.

And some of the advice in the more authoritarian books is good. Some of it I don’t think is good at all. And the same with the other way. It’s important that children are individuals. It’s important that we listen to children more than we used to. But what I’ve seen is it’s the liberal parenting side that has come into ascendancy over the last two decades. And that runs right across the social spectrum of parents. You get working class parents, middle class parents are very liberal. And I think most of the books are on that side. And that creates a huge imbalance in sort of hoping that your child will become a fully rounded human being who feels good about themselves but also fits into society but doesn’t become a sheep or a cog in the wheel, as you say.

THE TERROR IN TOTAL FREEDOM

So I think we have this huge imbalance for children that doesn’t make them happy. And one of the things that I think is important, if you want that sort of freedom for your child, that you create a structure. And you cannot really have freedom without structure because that’s chaos. And that’s terrifying for children.

But I think the whole focus is on this idea that children are born whole with a fully formed self and that it’s the parent’s job to facilitate expression of that self.

JORDAN B PETERSON: So let’s dig into that a little bit. So you were concerned in these statements about the tilt towards a more liberal parenting. So the first thing I might comment about that is that being extremely liberal can also be a perfectly valid excuse for neglect because it actually takes real detailed attention to your children’s behavior to help them walk the appropriate social path. And if you’re not attending, you let them get away with everything, you can justify that by saying, well, what I’m doing is trying to individuate my child. I don’t want to put any social restrictions on them because that’s all hemming in their natural preformed perfect creativity. And then you give yourself an easy out. And that’s not helpful partly.

And that’s partly also being driven by this idiot insistence that self-esteem is only internal and it’s only psychological. And that’s an unbelievably pathological model of self-esteem. And I would thank the social psychologists for that mostly. Because a huge amount of what your child would experience, let’s say, as self-esteem, which is actually, by the way, technically control of negative emotion, isn’t a consequence of the individuated nature of their psyche. It’s a consequence of the fact that other people can stand having them around without being mean and rejecting all the time.

So if you have a child who knows how to play by the age of three, let’s say, and can share and isn’t too whiny and isn’t too triumphant and can reciprocate, then you can send them off to daycare. You can send them off to pre-kindergarten and they’ll make friends. And then when they go to school, they have friends. And the teachers like them. And so they aren’t suffering from the kind of negative emotion that people would confuse with low self-esteem. But it’s not particularly because they’re individuated or well-integrated intrapsychically. It’s because their behavior is well-regulated socially. And so they integrate well into the community. And so other people don’t exclude and torture them.

And so we really do have a warped and Rousseauian view of the way that children develop. They’re perfect in and of themselves, except in so far as parents impose pathological — parents and society imposed pathological restrictions on them. And as you said, you pointed out another thing, which is don’t be confused in freedom and chaos. If you give your children carte blanche, all that means is that they’re impulsive and anxious. It does not mean they’re free. An optimally free child is actually playing a structured game.

Now, we know games are fun, but we also know games run by principles. They run by rules. The rules aren’t exactly there to constrain and ham in, like you’d think if you were Rousseauian. The rules are actually preconditioned for a very complex sort of freedom. And the basic rules of social interaction, like reciprocity and not whining too much when you lose and not being too triumphant when you win, those are the basic rules of social interaction. And they actually facilitate freedom rather than being antithetical to it.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: It’s freedom. Total freedom without boundaries is terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. It is chaos. And for a child, that is terrifying. But the child is always, always pushing for those boundaries that they expect. And I think children are born absolutely expecting the adult to know what they’re doing and to guide them. And so they push to find out where that boundary is. And that’s the little child’s job, really.

And if the parent doesn’t provide that boundary, then the child has to push further and further and further and come to a place that does not make them happy. It makes them anxious and nervous.

SAM BRINTON, SUBJECTIVE TRUTH

JORDAN B PETERSON: So let’s segue there then. Because look, I’m going to tell you a little story here. And then you’ll see where I’m going with this very quickly. So there’s this individual in the Biden administration in Washington. And he’s in charge of disposal of all nuclear waste in the U.S., if I remember correctly. Now, he’s non-binary by public pronouncement. He’s bald, often has a mustache, wears pretty flashy dresses, and has posted a fair bit of his sexual behavior publicly. So you can find pictures of him, for example, splayed out on a slab, bondaged up in rope, all prepared for whatever activity he’s prone to engage in. There are pictures of him with men kneeling by his side with dog masks on. Like, he’s quite a bit of fun.

And so you might say, if you were skeptical, that he’s pushing the boundaries. And he keeps pushing them and pushing them. And so far, he hasn’t found any boundaries because not only has he not been stopped in his public display of his impulse of hedonism, let’s say, but he’s been highly rewarded because not only was he granted a very plum government position, which he may or may not have been competent enough to occupy, but he also got a tremendous amount of publicity for it.

And then you might think, well, that’s good enough. You know, he didn’t need to encounter any boundaries. He was just pursuing his individuated creativity. But then it turned out a month and a half ago that he stole a suitcase from an airport in Minnesota. And it happened to be a suitcase full of women’s clothing. And then he happened to lie about it to the police and said that it was an accident. And he got called out on the carpet pretty hard for that socially, but he didn’t get fired because apparently even that wasn’t pushing the envelope far enough.

And so then, you know what? That wasn’t good enough for him. He had to go to California and steal another suitcase and get caught. And this time, he got fired.

And so you talked about this bias towards liberal parenting, let’s say, and you put that in the context of children pushing the boundaries and you put it in the context of anxiety. So let’s think of it this way. Children and adults can be overwhelmed by the complexity of the world, and they want a structure like a game to hold back that complexity. That’s why you need routines in your household. That’s why you need predictability in terms of your caretakers. That’s why you need rules of the game. It’s so that things don’t get out of hand.

Now, let’s say that you adopt an extremely liberal parenting orientation and your children start to push the boundaries. Well, you’re not going to stop them, and so that means they’re going to push the boundaries harder and harder, and that’s going to make them more and more anxious because there’s not enough structure.

And then let’s say they hit teenagehood and puberty, and maybe you’re unfortunate. You have a girl who hits puberty a little early, and she’s a little immature, and she’s a little sensitive to negative emotion, maybe not quite as popular as she might be, and she’s quite confused and anxious, and she starts pushing the boundaries pretty damn hard on the gender identity front.

GENDER IDENTITY IS THE NEW COUNTER CULTURE

And then you’ve got real trouble, especially if she’s also being exposed to a passel of idiot teachers who are doing everything they possibly can to capitalize on her confusion. And so it seems to me that what we are seeing on the gender dysphoria front, which is a form of social contagion and a psychogenic epidemic, is an extension of boundary-pushing behavior. And so a girl can come up to her parent when she’s 12 and do a bunch of things at the same time. She can say, I think maybe I’m a boy.

Okay, so what exactly is going on there? Well, certainly a challenge to social authority, a challenge to parental authority. It’s an expression of a deep discontent and a level of chaotic anxiety and confusion. And then it’s also the only way, as far as I can tell, that the child can test the relationship between the teachers and their ideology, say gender-affirming ideology, and the rules at home that the parents are trying to abide by. Because the kids at school are going to be taught, look, everybody’s got a subjectively defined identity, and you might not be as masculine or feminine as you’ve been led to believe. And anyone who tells you different is a detestable bigot to such a degree that you should actually keep all of this secret and never even talk to them.

It’s like, how the hell is a kid going to sort through all that without going home and saying something like, mom, sometimes I think maybe I’m a girl. Because they’re not going to be able to delineate this out in some complex philosophical manner. Adults can’t bloody well do that. And so, sorry, that’s a bit of a rant, but you can see where I’m going here.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: Well, yeah, I mean, how can kids, how can teenagers rebel against their parents anymore? They can’t be goths, they can’t be punks, they can’t be emos. They can go into drugs and drink, maybe. But it’s the adolescent’s job is to separate from the parents. And we know that adolescents are far more influenced by their peer group than their parents. And this is the agony for parents because they’re at an age where parents should be letting go, should be widening that boundary so that the child can push against the boundary of the outside world more as they take this journey, which is from childhood to adulthood. It’s a rocky road for a lot of teenagers, most, I would say.

And so that pushing against the boundaries, part of that job is to reject the parents and reject the parents’ values. And so parents of adolescents are even more in a position where they’re tearing their hair out because they know that if they’re giving advice to their children, that’s not the advice their kids are listening to. They’re listening to what’s going on in the peer group. So it’s a huge thing for society to have been put on to this generation of children and that parents feel helpless about.

And the parents’ job in adolescence is really to tread that line and particularly in this area of speaking the truth, giving their children facts. That is a responsibility of parents. And you may be the only person in that child’s life who is doing that. And it’s also to allow the child more freedom and more freedom of expression. So it’s a real dance between, and it’s all about keeping up a good, strong relationship with that child and keeping communication channels open.

JORDAN B PETERSON: Right. Well, in some ways you can think about the model you used, which is, say, integration versus individuation, is that as the child becomes more autonomous, putting more stress on individuation makes more and more sense, right? Because you’ve already laid down the groundwork for their social acceptance. And then as they move into adolescence, first of all, they can’t abide by your household rules entirely because they’d never leave home if that was the case, right? They have to have that drive towards independence. And that’s going to mean establishing their own system of values in some sense so that they can move away from you and do that autonomously. And so they are going to be set against you in some real sense.

The problem is that, well, I suppose part of the problem that parents run into at the moment is that that’s been weaponized. That proclivity has been weaponized in the name of this extremely strange gender ideology that insists that identity, well, we can take that apart a little bit. That might be useful.

So one of the things that really strikes me as odd as a psychologist, there’s two things, I suppose, when I look at modern claims about identity, the first is that identity is subjectively defined. I think that is so utterly preposterous. I can’t believe that we’re even entertaining it as a culture. It’s so idiotic. Every single time I have a conversation with my wife, or with anyone else for that matter. But let’s say with my wife, I’m negotiating my identity just as she’s negotiating hers because we have our viewpoints and our proclivities for action. And we have our, each of us have our tendency to insist that our way is the right way. But if you’re going to be around other people, you have to constantly negotiate that so that you can stand each other.

And so a real identity is actually the ability to negotiate the transformation of your own identity in a social space. It has nothing to do with you subjectively defining your identity. Now, as far as I can tell, the only people who are unable to negotiate identity and who insist upon having it subjectively defined are literally two years old. According to Piaget, and there’s some good research support for the basic outlines of this theory: two-year-olds are too egocentric to negotiate a shared play space. So their identity is subjectively defined, and they’re almost entirely hedonistically oriented, which means they run by whim, which everyone knows if you’re around two-year-olds. And they can’t play with other children.

Okay, so the idea that identity is subjectively defined is utterly preposterous. And it’s actually an anti-truth, because if you try to define your identity subjectively, you are a bloody tyrant, and you’re going to be an unpopular one, too, and you deserve it. But then, secondarily, we have this other weird insistence, and I don’t know why we’ve become so demented that we also accept this, that your identity is subjectively defined. But nonetheless, the core element of your identity is some immutable group characteristic, and the one we stress most is sexual attraction. And I suppose the secondary one is something like race.

It’s so peculiar that your identity is subjectively defined, but it’s also boxed into this very narrow set of parameters, which is, well, the most important thing about you is, to whom and to what degree are you sexually attracted? It just leaves me speechless. Well, it doesn’t, but you get my point.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: So I think what we’re seeing is this idea of subjective identity taken to its absolute extreme. Because you’re right, up to two years old, it amazes me how so many parenting books are based on building your child’s self-esteem. Well, sorry, your child is born, your child is only self-esteem, nothing else. For their survival, they have to be. So it’s not the adult’s job to build the child’s self-esteem as if that’s something we can put on them. It’s part of your child’s interaction with life, with the environment, in relationships, that builds self-esteem. So it might be achievement. It might be something that you can do, something that you achieve, and then you feel good about yourself. It’s not your parents always telling you, you’re amazing, you’re brilliant, and praising them.

And also that idea of identity, it’s the idea of the self, this thing that you’re supposed to be born with. And I don’t know what myself is yet, and I’m 63. I don’t know, because it changes. It changes according to circumstances. I don’t know if I’d be a great person to be on a lifeboat with, for example. Would I be the one that stood up and helped save others, or would I be so scared? I don’t know. I don’t know myself, and I don’t believe there is a fixed self that we move through life with. We’re always changing according to our circumstances and our environment, and perhaps we get to know ourselves a bit better, but we can still fool ourselves. We can still be dishonest about who we are to ourselves.

So that idea that the child possesses this innate identity, innate sense of self, it’s one of the ways that we now, apart from the fact that it’s nonsense, the roles have been completely reversed between adult and child. So we are encouraged to see children as wise and as knowing themselves and that we follow the child. You hear parents say, oh, I’ve learned far more from my child than they’ve ever learned from me. Well, that’s the wrong way around. You are the adult. You are the one that’s gathered life experience and hopefully some wisdom. Again, to put that responsibility onto a child to be the all-knowing fount of wisdom, and we do that to teenagers as well, but when you look at the adolescent years, that identity formation becomes really the adolescent’s job. Who am I? So I’m not a child anymore. I’m developing into an adult. Who am I? And what teenagers do is they find their tribe and, in a way, they integrate before they can individuate because they find the tribe and they wear the same and they speak the same language and they like the same music or now YouTube videos. And we may mock this. I’ve heard people mock it, but it’s absolutely right that it’s a stage of development.

And now the only tribe that you might describe as any kind of counterculture is trans, having a gender and sexual identity. And there is no other tribe that children can join to show that they don’t conform or that they’re a bit different or that, you know, it’s only gender identity now. So if you want to be seen as boring and conventional and traditional and conservative and everything that a teenager doesn’t want to appear to be, then, you know, you have to join that tribe and at least say, oh, I’m non-binary or, you know, to be able to show that side of yourself unless you’re really comfortable in the idea that you’re conventional and you don’t have a problem with that.

CREATIVITY AND NEGATIVE FLUX

JORDAN B PETERSON: And that means that they’ve captured. So I’ll go in two directions with regard to what you said. Years ago, I did a study with a colleague of mine at Harvard on when tattooing and piercing first entered the cultural scene. And we were curious about whether that was a marker for psychopathology or what was predicting the adoption of these new fashion trends. And what we found overwhelmingly was that it wasn’t associated with an increased prevalence of mental illness. It was associated with high trait openness. And that’s the creativity dimension from the big five, trait openness.

And when you see people with rainbow colored hair or, you know, multicolored hair and piercings and so forth, you’re looking at people who are on the creative end of the distribution. And the point you’re making is in part that the collapse of the entire domain of nonconformity into gender identity also entices the creative kids. Creative kids have more mutable identities too. So they claim that, well, I’m a different person from day to day is particularly germane to creative kids because a creative person is quite different from day to day. That’s actually the definition of creativity.

And if you’re creative and high in negative emotion, that’s even worse because not only are you mutable on the identity side, that’s actually your identity, that mutability. You’re also very, very volatile in terms of your moods. And so the idea that identity is only mutable can be very, very attractive to you.

Now, I also wanted to make a comment technically about self-esteem. So I spent a lot of time analyzing self-esteem psychometrically because as a clinician, I was extremely skeptical of the social psychological research purporting to indicate, for example, that there was even such a thing as self-esteem. Because we bandy about these words, but that doesn’t mean they have a corresponding grounding in reality. So I looked at and conducted factor analytics studies, which were designed to assess what exactly self-esteem was. And it’s quite straightforward.

And people who are listening might find this extremely useful practically. There’s no such thing as self-esteem. What there is is trait neuroticism, which is proclivity to anxiety and pain, essentially emotional and physical. So people differ in their thresholds for being anxious and hurt. And if you’re more sensitive, well, then you’ll see threats before people who are less sensitive, and that can be useful. And if you’re less sensitive, well, then you’re more robust and maybe more daring, and that can be useful. There’s no way of saying what’s right in that situation.

TWENGE, SELF CONFIDENCE, AFFIRMATION

However, if you’re high in neuroticism, if you’re high in sensitivity to negative emotion, you do experience a lot of anxiety and depression.

Okay, so self-esteem is basically neuroticism minus extroversion. And extroversion is the positive emotion dimension. So highly neurotic people, so people sensitive to negative emotion, are more likely to be self-conscious and to think negative thoughts about themselves. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a fractured self-concept that’s driving the negative emotion. That’s simply not true. That negative emotional state is actually baseline temperament. You can measure it in infants. You can measure it in kids that are six months old. And you can ameliorate it to some degree if you have a child who’s sensitive to negative emotion. And you facilitate their exploration, their autonomous exploration. They can normalize their psychophysiology.

Okay, so first of all, there’s no such thing as self-esteem. It’s basically trait neuroticism. And second, you do not remediate trait neuroticism by getting people to focus on their feelings. In fact, making people self-conscious about their feelings makes trait neuroticism worse because there’s no difference between being self-conscious and being high in trait neuroticism. And then the last part of all of that that’s preposterous is you certainly don’t remediate people’s self-esteem. You talk about this in your book with regards to overpraise by continually telling children how wonderful they are. Because what actually regulates their negative emotion, to say it again, isn’t their internal psychological state or their attitude towards themselves. It’s whether or not other people like to have them around.

So if you have a child who’s very popular, surrounded by friends, who’s got a couple of best friends, whose teachers respond positively to them, who other parents respond to well, who can regulate their behavior when they’re out in public in a grocery store or restaurant, so that adults are kind and smile to them, the probability that they’re going to experience negative, excess negative emotion is tremendously ameliorated. And so that’s another strike on the conservative side, like a hit on the conservative side of the parenting spectrum.

It’s like you help make your children socially acceptable and you will increase their self-esteem. You don’t do that by giving them participation awards at school and falsely inflating their ego.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: That’s really interesting what you say about self-esteem, yeah, because it’s very, it is bandied around. It’s part of parenting advice, you know, so much now, but really what does it mean? Does it mean a sense of satisfaction with yourself? Does it mean, because there is a healthy, you know, I guess there’s like a healthy kind of confidence in life, but again, I think that’s so much generated by how you react with the world. We’re social creatures, and if we cannot have or develop a positive relationship with the world and our environment and the people we meet, then we’re not likely to have a feeling of kind of confidence in ourselves.

But I think you’re right about that there are innate personality characteristics or temperaments, and they can be tempered and they can be helped so that the child is, you get the positive side of that more than the negative side because with every temperament there is a positive and a negative and that what you want is to go with your child’s character or personality and encourage the positive side of that more than facilitating the negative. Maybe that’s the closest we can get to building your child’s self-esteem.

JORDAN B PETERSON: Well, I talked to this psychologist two weeks ago, Jean Twenge, and Twenge is a pretty good psychologist. She’s a good statistician. She’s good at psychological measurement, which is really important when you’re dealing with the sorts of things we’re talking about, and for a long time on the self-esteem front, there was this idea that positive affirmations to children were the way to self-esteem, but that was dependent on the theory that your level of negative emotion was dependent on your attitude towards yourself, something like that. It was only a psychological variable.

But what Twenge found was that all that false praise, that devaluation of the currency of reward, that overgeneralization of insistence upon your child’s singular wonderfulness at the expense of other people, it didn’t improve self-esteem. What it did was inflate narcissism. So then you got the best of both worlds. You got kids that were just as miserable on the negative emotion front, just as confused and anxious, but they’re also narcissistic. And so that actually produced a bit of a spiral because, you know, it’s a little bit more difficult to make friends if you’re high in negative emotion because you’re a bit more volatile, you’re a bit more sensitive. You’re also a little more timid in your social interactions.

So you’ve already got a couple of things working against you. Now, if you add a nice healthy dose of narcissism to that, then you’re going to produce a child who’s unbelievably unpopular and dislikable because there’s almost no one more dislikable than a neurotic narcissist. That’s a tough combination too because you get that hypersensitivity along with grandiosity. You might be able to tolerate one of those, but man, the combination of that’s pretty damn unbearable.

And so all this idiot insistence on self-esteem through continual affirmation, you know, that would also be part and parcel of the elimination of competition in schools, right? Because you don’t want anybody to lose because God only knows what that might do to their self-concept and their self-esteem. You produce this increase in self-centered narcissism and you make kids more isolated and miserable and lonely than they would have otherwise had to be. It’s a real perfect storm. A lot of that can be laid at the feet of social psychologists, by the way. So doing very, very badly thought through and analyzed research in clinical domains. The whole self-esteem bloody monstrous movement, that’s one of the catastrophes that’s emerged out of the research fields.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: I also think parents have been encouraged to be therapists to their children, to be counselors. And what you mentioned earlier about feelings, when I worked with parents, it was constantly, you know, a child would come home and say, somebody kicked me in the playground. And the first question from the parent was not, so what did you do about it or what happened? And how did that make you feel?

And how did that make you feel? And how did you feel about that? And what it does is it gives power to feelings above actions. And so you get a child who, then the child stops and thinks, well, how did I feel about it? And it’s usually, you know, sad or angry or happy, you know, this sort of very limited range of feeling words. And so then the child’s thinking, that’s the important thing. And it’s always back to the child looking internally, rather than looking outside and saying, so this was what the situation was. And then maybe if the child was being bullied, or maybe if the child had a part in it, you know, and we listened to that, we can, you know, perhaps help the child manage it better next time. Or maybe the child doesn’t have a problem with it at all. It’s just sharing some information with us.

But if we bring that back every time to the child’s feelings, then the child is growing up thinking, my feelings are the most important thing.

JORDAN B PETERSON: Okay. So, so let’s, let’s, let’s look at that. So first of all, we might ask, what do we mean by feeling? And what we mean is something like immediate emotional response. Okay. And then we say, well, feelings are paramount. We’re also simultaneously saying immediate emotional response is paramount. Okay. So let’s just think about that for a minute.

So let’s say my wife says something that makes me angry. All right. So why aren’t I just right? It’s like you just said something that made me angry. Now I’m angry. My feelings are paramount. I’m angry. I feel like hurting you, let’s say, because I’m so angry. Why am I not right in doing that? And why are we insisting to children that their instantaneous emotional impulse is the appropriate marker for reality? Because the alternatives would be, well, who cares what you felt about it? What did you do about it?

Or on the bullying front, let’s say, what are you going to do about it? Independent of your feelings, whether you’re angry or upset or looking for a fight or challenge, whatever. I want to know how you’re going to cope with this situation actively so it doesn’t occur again. And then by walking through that, let’s say if you’re talking to a teenager, you’re also privileging thinking over feeling. And so then you might say, well, what is thinking? And the answer is thinking and acting are what mature people replace feeling with. So the only time we need to feel something, especially on the negative emotion side, is really when things don’t go the way we want them to go.

So you feel, forget about positive emotion for a minute, you feel inconsequence of inadequate adaptation. That’s like a rule. And so to privilege feeling means you’re privileging inadequate adaptation. And you’re also saying, well, your first impulsive whim, which is driven by these basic biological mechanisms that are very id-like in the Freudian sense, they’re not sophisticated at all. By making them paramount, you raise them to the point of the highest virtue. The highest virtue is what you feel.

And it’s even worse than that, Stephanie, because this is so awful. It really is. If you do careful linguistic analysis of communicative content and emotions, let’s say, communicative content and emotion, one of the things you find reliably is all self-conscious thoughts load on neuroticism. So there is literally no difference between thinking about how you feel and being miserable. They are exactly the same thing. So what you’re doing is so sad, right?

THE FOLLY OF SELF CONSCIOUSNESS

But you can kind of understand this if you think about self-consciousness. So imagine you’re on stage and you’re delivering a talk, and all of a sudden you get self-conscious. Well, you think self-consciousness is a good thing. It’s like, no, it’s not. You sweat, you blush, you stutter, you forget what you’re doing, you collapse into yourself, you get self-centered, you don’t pay attention to the audience, you’re no longer able to communicate, and it can be a real catastrophe.

Like people can get so self-conscious on stage that they develop a phobia of public speaking. And that’s all pathology of self-consciousness. And so now what we do with our children at every bloody turn, and they do this in school all the time, well, how are you feeling? How are you feeling? How are you feeling? How are you feeling?

And the other implication there, and you talk a lot about nonverbal behavior in your book and how we communicate with children, we’re also telling our children all the time that if you feel bad, anxiety, let’s say, or some emotional pain, that’s so awful that that’s all sensible and caring adults should ever care about.

And so what kind of message is that for children? It’s like, oh, my God, you know, you were upset at school. What a cataclysm that is. We should probably restructure the entire social apparatus so that never even happens once. It’s multidimensionally preposterous, and it’s really hurting kids to make them self-conscious like that.

DEMI-BOYS AND UNSTABLE CATEGORIES

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: So I love what you say about self-consciousness and causing depression. You can see it so clearly in this idea that children, or adolescents in particular, now have this new childhood task of exploring their gender identity, because what does that mean other than they must look at their every behavior, the way they like to dress, everything. There was a book I read, which is about, it’s a workbook for teenagers on exploring your gender identity. And basically, you’re looking at every aspect of your personality, everything about you and relating it to gender. Does that make me a girl or does that make me a boy? And of course, it’s inevitably based on stereotypes. It can’t be anything else because boys can’t experience female things like menstruation and girls can’t experience male things like erections, let’s say. It’s got to be stereotypes, there’s nothing else.

And one of these books that I read, because teenagers now, there’s a plethora of books, including workbooks, to help you along your gender journey. It’s sometimes called a quest. It’s this sort of adventure. And it was talking about bends in a river, that each time you get to a bend in the river, you stop and you think about your gender identity.

Well, gender identity is a meaningless concept anyway. It’s not scientifically supported that we have this thing. But it’s a way to get teenagers to constantly be looking at themselves, looking at their motivations and analyzing their actions, which I think it will inevitably create mental health issues, inevitably.

JORDAN B PETERSON: Yeah, well, look, look, look. Here’s what it’s analogous to. Okay, so imagine that there are twists and turns in the bends of the river of your marriage. And there are constant micro challenges and disputes that emerge in the course of the marriage.

Okay, here’s the new rule. Okay. Every time you encounter any doubt whatsoever in your life, question the integrity of your marriage. Right. Okay. So here’s what happens to a depressed person. So let’s say you have a little bit of a dispute with your husband. And it produces a little negative emotion. And you think, oh, my God, I’m always, I caused some trouble. That’s the first thought. I caused some trouble.

Here’s the next thought. I’ve caused a lot of trouble in the past. Next thought. I cause a lot of trouble in the present. And I’m likely to continue to cause a lot of trouble in the future. Okay. A person who causes a lot of trouble in the past, present and future, they’re really not a very good person. They’re not really fit for a marriage. They’re probably not fit to live. I should commit suicide. Okay. So that’s how a depressive person thinks.

Now, think about how that works. So you go from a micro challenge. You have a little scrap with your wife. And then you take yourself apart right down to the foundation. And the foundation in that case would be, do you even have the right to exist? And so a depressive person has no defense against that cascade of doubt.

Okay. So now imagine this is what we’re doing to children. We know that children establish the ability to distinguish between male and female extremely early. They can do that as infants. They can likely do it as newborns. So that ability to distinguish between male and female is fundamental. The reason it’s fundamental, obviously, is because if you can’t distinguish between male and female, you’re not going to reproduce. So now we know not only is that true biologically, but also conceptually, it seems the case that the distinction between masculine and feminine symbolically is a distinction that’s at the bottom of our ability to perceive as such. We tend to make gendered categories in the world almost automatically.

So there might be no more fundamental perceptual category than sexual differentiation. It might be more fundamental than up or down or dark or light. It’s at least in the same domain. So this is now what we’re doing to teenagers when they’re confused. We’re saying every time you manifest even a shred of doubt about anything, the first thing you should do is question the most fundamental element of your being, and you should do that continually. And then it’s even worse than that, even though that’s really bad, because we’re dooming them to something like anxious depression by doing that. It’s even worse than that.

Because, well, let’s say I’ve been reading about this, like, demiboy identity. It’s sort of, well, mostly you’re a boy, but sometimes you feel that you’re a girl. It’s something like that. Or maybe I have it backwards. I don’t really give a damn, to tell you the truth. But here’s the problem with that. Let’s say you have a nonstandard gender identity. Okay, what the hell are other people supposed to do about that? Like, what are the rules here, right?

Because if you’re a woman, I kind of know how to treat you. I’m going to do it in a stereotyped way to begin with, because I don’t know who you are. So I’m going to use, you know, low-resolution approximations, and those are going to be stereotypes. They’re no different than categories. And then when I get to know you, I’ll particularize it. But if I don’t know whether you’re male or female, what should I do with you? You don’t know, because you don’t know what the rules are.

And so the simplest thing for me to do is just not do anything with you. The simplest thing for me to do is go find someone else who’s a hell of a lot less trouble and who’s willing to abide by the social norms enough so that they don’t present a mass of indeterminate confusion on immediate confrontation. And then, you know, the riposte from the transgender side is, well, if you were a little more tolerant, you’d know how to give me what I want. It’s like, I don’t have a bloody clue how to give you what I want, what you want. I have no idea. I don’t know how to give me what I want. I can barely manage it with my wife. I certainly have no idea what to give a bald man with a mustache in a red dress. I have no idea what to do with you. And neither do you. No one knows the rules.

We tell kids, question your identity, specify your non-binary orientation. But then what? Like, what’s the life path associated with that? How are you going to conduct yourself as an adult, as someone who’s non-binary? Are you going to get married? How are people going to treat you at work? What are you going to do with your kids? How are you going to dress? If you don’t know the answer to any of those, and neither does anyone else. They aren’t identities. They’re not identities. They’re masses of ideological confusion, and that’s all. An identity tells you and other people how to perceive and how to conduct yourself.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: And man and woman, boy, girl, male, female, are stable categories. They’re reality. And to teach children any different to that is to lie to children and to lie to teenagers. And it’s the most distressing thing for me to observe this going on, that it’s done in the name of kindness. It’s done in the name of compassion. It’s seen as the only legitimate way to help these kids, and it’s so cruel.

As I think you pointed out before, what you’re doing is you’re affirming, particularly a teenage girl, self-hatred and self-rejection and absolute hatred and disgust about being female. You’re affirming that, and you’re saying, yep, you’re right to feel that way. It rejects, let’s kill off that person, and let’s replace that defective woman or girl with a boy. And we agree with you, the boy is so much better. This is who you really are. So the lie there is like being a girl or a boy isn’t who you are. It’s what you are. It’s just fact. Who you are is your personality, is your personality traits, what you do, whatever. Being a boy or girl isn’t who you are. But how it’s sold to children, and it’s sold to children at the earliest ages. I’ve counted about 40 picture books for primary years now, is that it uses the messages that are given to children now. So be who you are. Be yourself.

And the other, you know, to a child, you know, who hasn’t developed a self yet, and it’s a lifetime’s job in my experience. But then also the other really strong message is, you know who you are, and nobody else has the right to question you. Now, this is indoctrination from the early years onward. So age three, as soon as children start kindergarten, these books exist. So what you’re doing is you’re taking away from that child, or this generation of children, the stability of reality and the ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality at the most fundamental level of who they are. And the way in this sense that we’re now the children and they’re the adults is part of this message that parents are given. Your child is born whole with a fully formed sense of self.

And so, yeah, my four-year-old boy, he knows, or she knows who she is. You know, it’s not up to us to question that, our child’s wisdom. And, you know, the child is dependent on us. As parents, our job, and we don’t even see this as a job, it’s just automatic. A child will say, look, mummy, there’s a dog. And we’ll say, yes, it’s a dog. And we can’t, or that’s a dog. No, darling, actually, it’s a cat. We will constantly, constantly reinforce our growing child’s sense of what’s real and what’s not. And we correct them if they make mistakes. And we don’t see that as a job. It’s just sort of automatically what we do with kids. But that’s what we’re doing.

But in this case alone, we’re saying, no, that’s, you know, you are literally a girl. And we’re approaching it as adults who are thinking, I am affirming his gender identity. Not to the child, you’re not. You’re telling that boy he’s literally a girl. So for him, he doesn’t maybe understand biological sex yet. But for him, he’s biologically female. On the child’s level of understanding, a trusted adult is telling him he’s a girl. So he’s a girl.

JORDAN B PETERSON: Right, and providing a reason for his confusion.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: Yes.

JORDAN B PETERSON: You know, that’s a terrible thing.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: Yeah. Also, the fact that he has faced disapproval, you know, typically from the parents, from one or other or both parents, and perhaps from a wider circle for the toy choices he’s making and his friendship. And so as soon as you say to him, he’s a girl, and we get these sort of short-term honeymoon kind of results of, you know, he always says he’s really happy. Well, of course he is, because now all his toy choices are approved of by the adults. And, of course, what he wants to do is win the approval of his parents. That’s what he needs to do for his survival.

So you’ve got this terrible lie being told to children. And, you know, and I think exactly the same with teenagers. Yes, they’re developmentally later on, but it’s exactly the same lie. And it addresses teenagers’ specific vulnerabilities of identity formation.

ANXIETY, WOMEN, AND SOCIAL CONTAGION

JORDAN B PETERSON: So there’s no difference between being self-conscious and being miserable, technically. But here’s something else. Self-consciousness among females is much more associated with body dysmorphia. Now there’s a bunch of reasons for that. We don’t know all of them, but here’s a couple.

First of all, at puberty women start to experience more negative emotion on average than men. It’s not true of boys and girls, but it does seem to kick in at puberty. And that’s likely because you get sized dimorphism developing, and so it’s reasonable for women to be a little bit more timid about the physical environment than men. But also women are more sexually vulnerable. And also they have to care for infants, so being threat sensitive makes sense. In any case, those are three possible reasons, but it definitely kicks in at puberty.

Now it also is the case that anxiety among women tends to take the form of bodily self-consciousness. And I think the reason for that, likely, this is a speculation, although the mere observation is a fact, it’s likely because girls and women are judged more comprehensively on their physical appearance than men. So it makes sense that if they’re going to be self-conscious, it’s going to be more bodily focused. And then that’s particularly rough.

Then the third contributing factor is girls hit puberty earlier than boys. So now you have a perfect storm there. So now you have a girl, and she’s feeling a lot more anxious and confused than she did before because she hit puberty. Plus her body is doing 50 weird things. Plus she’s getting all sorts of strange attention from adults that she never got before. Plus she doesn’t know how to fit in on the social front. And she’s trying to make that transition from childhood to adulthood.

And then you have people additionally torturing about the fact that any deviation from the norm on the stereotypical front is actually an indication that she doesn’t exist in the correct body. Well, she doesn’t really feel like she’s in the correct body to begin with. So it’s a perfect storm for young girls.

When Canada came out with its compelled pronoun law in 2016, I talked to the Canadian Senate. I said, you idiots in your legislation, you think you’re going to free up kids? You’re going to produce a psychogenic epidemic among young women because they’re preferentially susceptible to psychogenic epidemics, which is why we had a bulimia epidemic and an anorexia epidemic, all of which was spread by social media, and a cutting epidemic. And then there’s a history of such epidemics going back 300 years. Freudian hysteria, which was very widespread in the Victorian times, although disappeared afterwards or mutated, was also a psychogenic epidemic that preferentially affected young women.

And so, well, I just wanted to lay out some of the reasons why that’s the case. Higher levels of negative emotion and more bodily-focused self-consciousness. And so then you add to that a kind of unpopularity, because maybe a given girl isn’t that sophisticated at manifesting, what would you call it, socially acceptable feminine traits. It takes a fair bit of sophistication to be a well-put-together woman, and you’re going to be pretty damn awkward at that if you’re kind of a clunky tomboy when you’re 12.

And so, well, now you’re providing them with, first of all, a unidimensional reason why they’re miserable. It’s pretty damn convenient, and no wonder an adolescent wants that. Like, do I have 50 problems, or do I have one? Right, and then you also entice them with the additional social status that they’re going to receive by now announcing that they’re special, and having every teacher in the entire world, plus the world at large, focus on that narcissistic grandiosity that goes along with the insistence of a special identity.

And the only price you have to pay is, like, enforced sterilization and surgical mutilation. Fine deal for our teenagers.

OBJECTIFICATION AND OVER CORRECTION

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: I think there are another couple of things about teenage girls that we don’t pay as much attention to, and the very fact of physical development in teenage girls means your body is sort of ballooning, you know, breasts here, hips here, bottom there, and you lose that sort of gender-neutral body that gave you so much freedom in childhood.

And so how girls experience puberty is moving from being a free kind of person into being an object, because suddenly her body is public property, and as you say, it’s commented on. Everyone has a right to comment on it. She’ll get comments in the street. She’ll look all around her and become aware of the objectification of women throughout society. Now, I think this has happened to boys much more over the past decade, certainly objectification of the male body, and in some cases kind of sexual objectification of men.

And this generation are used to seeing those really exaggerated images of femininity, so the female heroes have huge breasts and tiny waist and big hips.

JORDAN B PETERSON: Tim Kardashian.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: Yeah, and the male heroes are ripped with a six-pack and they’re hulks. So you get that in gaming. You get it in sort of programs like Love Island, which I don’t know whether you have in Canada. It’s all about how you look. So it’s happening more for men, and interestingly, boys’ experiences of things like anorexia have increased, but not as much as girls. So girls are in a real, you know, the gap is still widening.

JORDAN B PETERSON: Well, there’s also the emphasis that that pressure also comes on women younger. Not only do they hit puberty younger, but also, you know, on average, cross-culturally, women prefer men who are four years older. And what that also means is that men prefer women who are four years younger. And what, although most of that’s driven by female choice, by the way, but not all of it.

But it also means that women come under sexual pressure in some sense earlier than boys do, part because of earlier onset of puberty, but also because there’s a tighter relationship between biological fecundity and youth in women than there is in men. And so that piles on the additional pressure for young women. So there’s an overvaluation of female sexuality in some real sense that kicks in around the age of 13. And the advantage to that, I suppose, is all the attractiveness of youth and beauty. But the disadvantage is, well, there’s a hell of a lot of competition and judgment that goes along with that particular contest.

And certainly that does pile on a 12-year-old girl, well, with overwhelming force, especially when you also add to that the fact that women are much more vulnerable on the sexual front in some real sense because they pay a much bigger price for sexual misbehavior, let’s say, than men do, given the risk of pregnancy. That’s a good definition of what is a woman, by the way. A woman is the human being that bears disproportionate responsibility for reproduction. That’s a good biological definition, too.

And you’re stuck with that, right? You encounter that face first when you hit puberty as a woman.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: And it’s the constant, I think, dilemma for women, individual women and for feminism, how to put those two things together because you’re right, we have the biological responsibility that men don’t have. And along with that, I think the disgust with the female body is pretty much tied into that because it kind of makes you an animal and you’re reduced to your biology. And so girls at puberty, apart from not being developmentally ready to face all of this sexual harassment, I mean, it’s in schools now. There’s an epidemic of sexual harassment in schools.

And not that girls should ever be ready to face that. But, you know, they’re so young and they can develop breasts at primary school, age 11, and suddenly they are supposed to be a woman when they’re still emotionally a child. And how hard that is. But also, going back to the absolute female facts of menstruation, how disgusting is that? You know, that’s the real issue here of developing sexually as female. You bleed. I mean, it’s disgusting. It is horrendous for girls. Not all girls. But it’s one of the things, I think, that happens at puberty.

JORDAN B PETERSON: At minimum, it’s a challenge.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: It’s a challenge, and it can be really embarrassing and humiliating. It can create anxiety and worry. It can create, you know, pain and feelings of real discomfort and all the associated physical effects that go with it, which boys don’t experience. So boys will get taller and broader, and it’s kind of everything that they were before just sort of gets bigger. But more.

Whereas with girls, completely changed. It’s suddenly, oh, I’m swelling out here, and I’m swelling out here, and my body’s out of control. And if you’ve got an image of yourself as being intelligent, maybe even intellectual, a bit different, all of those, you know, it can be so humiliating to feel, actually, no, I’m just an animal. I’m just a piece of meat. My body will go on doing this, and I have no control over that at all. That can be really frightening.

So all of this. And what is awful now is that we don’t look at girls, even though there’s this massive, you know, 75% teenage girls being referred to gender clinics, we don’t look at them as teenage girls because, of course, that’s transphobic. And this lack of differentiation between male and female means that they’re all lumped together as trans kids, and all of the issues are seen as the same. We know in medicine that the female body and women are not, you know, looked at properly anyway, but this has really exacerbated that problem, that we’re not looking at gender dysphoria in girls, even to say that girls is transphobic, but we’re not looking at it within a framework of female adolescent health and all of the other issues.

THE JOB OF YOUR THERAPIST

JORDAN B PETERSON: That helps us move into a domain that maybe we can cover just as we bring this to a close. You’ve written a fair bit, too, about what I would characterize, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, as the absolutely pathological stampede of idiot medical and psychological professional organizations to insist upon gender-affirming therapy.

So as a therapist, I’d like to point something out, which is the last thing I’m ever going to do for any of my clients when they come and see me is affirm their identity. That is not my job. My job is to listen to my client and help them understand their current identity and develop it in the direction that appears most appropriate as a consequence of the course of our discussions. So I presume people come to see me because they’re miserable, for one reason or another. I don’t know why they’re miserable. It might be terrible circumstances. It might be something they brought upon themselves. It might be some combination of both. But I certainly don’t presume to know.

And that’s, in some real sense, a disturbance in identity. And then what the therapeutic realm is, is a place to explore the vagaries of identity. Now, I’m not there to affirm my client’s identity nor to deny it. I’m supposed to be there as a neutral, ignorant listener. It’s like, you’re complicated. I don’t know who you are or what’s wrong with you. We’re going to lay out a space of honest communication and try to develop a differentiated model of your identity and then try to optimize it.

Now, then you get this insistence now that the professional colleges have brought in, which is no matter what your client tells you when you first encounter them, you have to agree with that or you’re unprofessional to the point where your license can be reasonably, not only reasonably suspended, but should be ethically suspended. And I look at that and I think, oh, well, the whole therapeutic and most of the medical establishment is just done.

If I have an anorexic girl come in to me and say, I had an anorexic client once, very thin girl, as you might expect. She wasn’t very big. And I had her sit by me at one point. And I said, you look at your thighs and now you look at mine and you tell me which one’s bigger. She said that hers was. And I said, okay, fair enough. So this is what we’re going to do. I’m going to put a piece of paper under your thigh and I’m going to have you trace it. And then I’m going to put it under my thigh and I’m going to do the same thing. And I want you to watch. So you see, I’m not playing any tricks. Okay, so we did that. And of course, my thighs were about that much bigger on both sides than hers. And I swear she looked at that piece of paper for 20 minutes.

Now, she trusted me by this point. So she knew already that I wasn’t playing tricks, but she still couldn’t believe her eyes. And I think the reason for that is that I don’t think that anorexic women can see their body’s property. They lose the ability to see the gestalt and they focus on a detail. And then they can’t distinguish between what’s fatty and what’s bone, let’s say. Literally, they can’t see it.

And so, but I wouldn’t, if an anorexic girl came into my office and said, you know, I feel that my thighs are too fat. I wouldn’t say, well, if you feel that, you must be right. And it would be inappropriate and unethical of me to suggest otherwise. I would say, well, maybe you want to explore that. Maybe you don’t. I don’t know if you have any doubts about it. I don’t know if this concern is causing you trouble. I don’t know if other people are reacting badly to your insistence that you’re too fat still. Those are things we could discuss. I can’t say no, however you feel is right.

And certainly on the sexual identity front or the gender identity front, exactly the same standards apply. So those are even more fundamental categories than thin or fat. So I just think it’s the death of the therapeutic enterprise altogether. So, and unbelievable cowardice and lies on the part of the professional organizations.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: And it’s presented as conversion therapy to do anything other than affirm a child’s self-diagnosis and self-prescription of treatment. And again, it ties into what’s happening in parenting world. I think it’s a good thing that we listen to children more now because children weren’t, you know, when I was growing up, children really weren’t listened to at all. And that’s good.

But listening to a child seems to be interpreted as agreeing with the child on everything. So, you know, a therapist’s job is to listen. There’s a lot of listening in, you know, counseling or therapy, but it doesn’t mean agreeing. And we, you know, so we give up our knowledge, our perspective, our knowledge of facts in order to placate or appease or in somehow in a misguided way, thinking that we’re building the self-esteem of the other person. But we don’t, you know, that’s never helpful. Certainly, you know, long-term, that’s not a helpful thing to do.

JORDAN B PETERSON: We could also point out and should that all therapy is conversion therapy. Like the whole bloody point of the therapeutic process is transformation. Now you could say, well, you shouldn’t convert the client into a clone of the therapist’s presuppositions. And that’s definitely true. What you want to do, you know, when I saw my clients, the first thing I would try to find out is, okay, why are you suffering? How and why are you suffering? And that’s really complicated. That could take hundreds of hours to figure out because maybe it’s a psychological quirk or maybe it’s a catastrophe of situation and God only knows how to differentiate those. So you have to listen a bunch.

So the first is, well, how are you suffering and why? And then the next is, well, if you had your way and you could envision things being better, well, what would better mean for you? And how would you envision that practically? And so that’s on the client, right? You don’t want to interfere with that because, like, you can offer your opinion. You can say how you’ve seen other people solve that problem, but you don’t want to muck about with that too much because each person has to come up with a somewhat particularized solution to that problem. I don’t know what your life would be like if you optimized it for you, you know, in your particular situation. So we have to talk about that a lot.

And then the third thing we do is talk about strategy, you know. Now we kind of know what the problem is. We have some sense of what might hypothetically be a solution. We could delineate out potential strategies for achieving it. But all that’s predicated on discussion. And none of that has anything to do with affirmation, except I guess what you affirm as a therapist is you affirm the utility of honest communication and you affirm the idea that through honest communication and inquiry, positive conversion is possible, right? Conversion towards some more ideal state of being. Very difficult thing to manage.

COMPASSION AND THE LIE OF SELF HARM

But you certainly don’t do that by privileging your client’s feelings above all else and then by being terrified into silence with regards to the responses you might have to an inquiry. So it’s really something to behold, you know. And you talk about the role of compassion in that, hypothetical compassion. One of the things I see continually, poor parents, the claim is being made constantly that unless you give way to your child’s desire to transition, they’re going to commit suicide. And would you rather have a trans child or a dead child? That’s a question that’s often asked to parents.

Okay, so I want to take that apart for a minute. Number one, even the American Psychological Association, which has become a very pathological organization, admits in their documents of affirming care, and they do this by pointing to prejudice, there are no good long-term follow-up studies on the life course history of trans individuals. And then they say, well, that’s because of prejudice against trans individuals. And be that as it may, I don’t care about that at the moment, there are no long-term studies.

So how the hell do you know that you’re elevating or decreasing the suicide risk? And the answer is, you don’t know, and that’s a lie.

And second, we know perfectly well that most of the kids, most people who manifest any form of psychopathology have a core set of symptoms. And those symptoms are basically elevated negative emotion, anxiety and pain, so anxiety and depression. You don’t have a mental illness, except for maybe mania, where anxiety and pain aren’t part of it.

Okay, so then the question is, if there is a risk for suicide associated with gender dysphoria, is it specific to the gender dysphoria, or is it merely a consequence of the fact that all forms of psychopathology are associated with anxiety and depression, and suicidality is associated with anxiety and depression? And the answer is, unless you have compelling evidence that it’s specific to gender dysphoria, then the appropriate thing to do scientifically is to assume that it’s a consequence of anxiety and depression, and quit riding vulnerable parents with guilt.

So for those of you who are watching and listening and struggling with these sorts of things, don’t let idiot teachers and counselors tell you that by objecting to your child’s gender dysphoria, you’re elevating the risk of suicide, because that is a lie.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: There is no evidence to support it, but the claim made is that your child is more likely to commit suicide if they are not affirmed and allowed to go on to puberty blockers. That’s the claim. There’s no evidence to support that at all. Parents can be supportive in lots of different ways, but parents are being bullied in the cruelest way imaginable to affirm their child and go on to this medical pathway. And the thing is now that not only parents, but all young people know that part of the persona, part of the rules of the tribe of being transgender are having suicidal ideation. That’s part of what makes you true trans. So it’s the most irresponsible.

I cannot understand why the Samaritans haven’t spoken out about it, why government ministers have not spoken out about it. We know about the contagious possibilities of suicide. We know the dangers of saying suicide is down to one factor. We know that, and yet we let this carry on in this area. And this is where, you know, these are the kind people.

FACING THE NARCISSISM OF COMPASSION

JORDAN B PETERSON: Yeah, well, this is OK. So let’s close up with this. So I’ve been thinking recently that our conceptualizations of narcissism are too one sided. I think we concentrate on grandiose narcissism, sort of more masculine form of narcissism, more than we concentrate on the more feminine form of narcissism. And I think the female, the feminine narcissism is something like narcissism of compassion. And that’s associated with this idea, the Freudian idea of the Oedipal mother who, what would you say, fosters a sense of hyperdependence, the helicopter parent. Now males can do that too, but it’s more likely to occur on the female side because females are more agreeable and they are more compassionate.

So the reason that we’re, I think part of the reason that no one is speaking out against that while you are and I have, and there’s a few people who are, but the reason that you get slaughtered so badly if you do is because the narcissists of compassion come after you and they say, well, it isn’t like you care for children. You’re just mean. We care for them so much that we’ll listen to them no matter what we say. And then the underground message there isn’t we’re doing best for children. The underground message is, look how much we care. Don’t we deserve to have our social status elevated merely on that grounds? And maybe right to the highest possible point, we’re so compassionate that we’re Mother Mary herself, right? It’s nothing but the mother of God’s voice talking here. And so anybody who is antithetical to that broad scale and all-encompassing compassion is instantly what? Deemed an agent of Satan for all intents and purposes.

And but it’s so absolutely, I saw this woman. So she was a Disney executive. And she was testifying, if I remember correctly, when Florida was clamping down on Disney. And she said, she was the head of their domestic programming, something like that. She said, well, I have a trans child and a pansexual child. One’s five and one’s seven. And I thought, OK, let’s just think about that statistically for like one-tenth of a second. The probability that you have a trans child is one in 3,000 before the gender dysphoria epidemic hit. One in 3,000.

OK, what’s the chance that you have a pansexual child? Now, I have no idea what the hell pansexual means, but I know that whatever it is, it’s rarer than transsexual. So at minimum, you have a one in 3,000 chance that you have a pansexual child. So what’s the probability that you have a pansexual and a transsexual child? And the answer is one in nine million.

So here’s the question. Are you a pathological narcissist of compassion? Well, what are the odds? 899,999. No, it’s 8,999,999 to one. That’s the statistical, that’s the appropriate statistical analysis for that claim. So no, I don’t think you have a trans child and a pansexual child. I think you are a devouring narcissist. And you are willing to sacrifice your own children to your narcissistic pretension to evaluate your, to what? Elevate yourself in the social hierarchy with no work merely by claiming that you’re that loving. That’s you. God, it’s so awful. It’s almost indescribable.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: And I think that’s partly, that there is enormous pressures on mothers to be kind and nice and to be ever nurturing, ever compassionate, ever kind. And the other, that is the archetypal mother, the nurturer, the protector. But the other side of that is pushing away, rejecting. You can say it’s the shadow side, but as Jung said, if you don’t integrate the shadow side, it’ll come up and bite you. And actually, if you look at other mammals, they bite their young if they’re trying to get hold of the teat and drink milk, and the mother’s annoyed and irritated and pushes them away or even bites them. And we have to integrate that because it’s our, and make allowances that in ourselves, that part of our job is nurturing and holding close, but it’s also pushing away or allowing the child to move away. And sometimes that needs a little push. And that is fine.

JORDAN B PETERSON: Well, the psychoanalyst said very wisely, I think this was Freud, but it might have been Jung, he said the good mother necessarily fails. So what you have, and this is very hard on women, and I understand this, I really do. I watched my wife go through it. My wife is actually quite a disagreeable woman. So she had less trouble with this than a more compassionate woman would have had. This is not a criticism of my wife, by the way.

So when a child’s an infant, so zero to six months, you should be 100% compassionate because the child is immobile and completely helpless. And the rule there is whatever you feel is 100% correct. But then as the child starts to become mobile, maybe that kicks in, you know, essentially around nine months, the mother has to do this terribly difficult thing of starting to separate herself from the developing infant. And there is actually, there’s a real sacrifice in that. And there really is the, I would say, the integration of the shadow side in that.

Now, the proper way to handle that, the mature way to handle that is to think something like this, if you’re a female, to think, look, I did my time. I sacrificed myself for this infant. That was entirely appropriate. But I should have a life of my own. I should pursue my own things. I should pursue my relationship with my husband. I should pursue my activities in the broader world. I should facilitate my child’s independence and I should model for that child independence. And that means that the appropriate thing to do now is to move away from that extraordinarily bonded mother-infant scenario to something that’s more detached and focused on autonomy and competence rather than all-compassionate love. And that’s, you know, the Freudians and the Jungians were very, very good at delineating out the shadow side of the devouring mother. The best book on that, I think, is The Great Mother by Erich Neumann, which is an absolutely terrific book. It details out the symbolic representations of the devouring mother.

And the devouring mother, interestingly, isn’t the woman who pushes the baby away or the infant away, let’s say, and says, you know, go out and play. The devouring mother is the one that holds the child far too tightly in her loving embrace and will never let go. So, right, that’s the shadow side of that hyper-compassion. And we’re seeing that.

You know, we might be seeing that partly. I’ve never said this, I don’t think, but it’s only been 50 years since women have really been a force in the political world. And we could assume that there’s going to be a feminine psychopathology that goes along with that, just like there’s a masculine psychopathology on the male political side. And, you know, the male psychopathology might be narcissistic aggression, something like that. But the female psychopathology could easily be devouring compassion. Easily. And I do think that we’re seeing that play out in our culture now. And God only knows what the consequences of that will be.

STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI: I think that’s what we’re seeing in the gender identity movement. As women gain more power in academia, in politics, et cetera, you’ve got a combination of this narcissistic entitled male, which comes from the generally middle-aged cross-dressers that you find in every organization and company and political party. These, you know, powerful men.

And on the other hand, you get this over-emotional, illogical, feeling-based kind of support from the women, because this movement is supported so much by young women. And so you get the worst of the feminine, or the negative side of the feminine and the negative side of the masculine coming together. Because I think the marriage of the two, I kind of naively thought, wouldn’t it be great if the world was run by equally men and women? Because that would balance the yin and the yang. And I don’t believe that a world run by women would be more superior than a world run by men. But together, what if the negative side of men and the negative side of women come together? And I think that’s what we’re seeing.

And on that note…

JORDAN B PETERSON: On that happy note? Okay, so for everyone watching and listening, I’m going to talk to Stephanie for another half an hour on the Daily Wire Plus platform. We’re going to talk a little bit about how her interest in parenting and then her interest in the broader social, what we call ramifications of attitudes towards parenting, how all of that developed. And I do that generally with my guests, something more biographical….

For Further Reading:

How to Educate Your Children: Jeff Sandefer (Transcript)

The Downfall of the Ivy League: Victor Davis Hanson (Transcript)

Marriage, Family and Parenting: Paul Washer (Transcript)

What A Man Is Not – Biblical Manhood (Part 1): Paul Washer (Transcript)

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