In his very popular book "12 Rules For Life; An Anecdote For Chaos", professor and clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson lists and extrapolates what he perceives is need to life a rich and fulfilling life.
In this article, I want to briefly visit the first rule; "Stand up straight with your shoulders back." Dr. Peterson explains it so well in his book and in such depth, that it truly is worth reading. His combination of academic rigor and the ability to think for himself is to be commended and, in my opinion, a model for how other "thinkers" should conduct themselves. For the truth, and nothing else.
But back to our rule: Stand up straight with your shoulders back.
Peterson begins by talking about lobsters and their never ending quest for dominance in their social hierarchy. Now, this might sound like a odd place for him to bring this subject up, however, as someone who worked overnight at an Aquarium for years, I am conscious of just how violent and unrelenting lobsters are with one another. It never stops. They are always battling, always fighting. And it
When a lobster is defeated in a battle, it lowers it's posture, both appearing and acting more meek and agreeable than before. Likewise, the victor expands more and projects itself upright. The loser of the battle is now more likely to be attacked by other lobsters or pushed into terrible situations due to not having the best choices of living spaces, food, mates, and so on.
It turns out the the reason for the changes in physiology between the victorious lobster and the defeated one has to do with a chemical called "serotonin".
The winner's body receives a large release of chemical into the body while the loser receives vastly lowered levels. This may seem like a little thing, but it makes a significant difference in the lives of these two lobsters. The one with more serotonin, thus the more upright posture, is more likely to live longer, live in better conditions, have better food, and more choice mates. The loser of course, will have the opposite - thus more likely to live in misery and die.
The twist here is this: the serotonin release in each lobster is dictated by it's on physiology. In other words, when the lobster puffs it's self up in victory, it's body takes the signal and unleashes serotonin. And when the loser crumples up, the serotonin depletes. The animal's perception of it's place in the dominance hierarchy is what triggers it's actions, thus cementing itself actually within that place.
This particular dominance hierarchy has in place, unchanged for 350 million years. That means it's cemented. It works. It has been tested and is the result. It's how the lobster's world works.
So, why am I risking boring you with this story of lobsters fighting? Well, because it turns out that our neurology as humans is shockingly similar to that of lobsters, according to Peterson. In other words, we operate by exactly the same neural mechanism in this scenario.
When defeated (mentally, emotionally, physically, financially, and so on), we tend to drop our posture and assume the role of "the defeated". Then, our serotonin levels decrease. We feel more and more stress in our lives, eventually seeking comfort in the form of substances to help us feel better. Others who, either through breeding or by social group, see themselves as "winning" more scenarios, they will stand up tall, with their shoulders back, thus signalling to their brain to release copious amounts of serotonin into their bodies.
And just like the victorious lobsters; they are far more likely to have an excellent choice of where to live, what to eat, who to mate with. The ones who adopt the stance of "loser", find themselves ever down the human dominance hierarchy - growing sicker, fatter, more in debt, limited choice in mate where to live.
While there is obviously much more to this concept, I found these ideas to be very transformational. I'll get more into in a future episode - but, if you are interested in finding out more, check out Jordan Peterson's book "Twelve Rules For Live; An Anecdote To Chaos", which is available now.
But, no matter what you do: Stand up tall, with your shoulders back.