A Not-So-Paradoxical Reaction

(Note: See here for discussion on this post.)

Mikhaila Peterson just came out with a video where she gives an update on Jordan Peterson’s health. He almost died, in large part due to a “paradoxical reaction” he got from a particular anti-anxiety medication. When I watched the video, I immediately remembered something that Peterson said long before any of this happened: “I’m surfing a 100-foot wave, and generally what happens if you do that is that you drown.”

My guess is that Peterson’s diet is at the core of why he got the “paradoxical reaction”. The medication he took is tested on normal populations eating a normal diet, not on people like him eating a carnivore diet. Personally, I’ve found that switching to a keto diet will cause certain substances to break. For example, alcohol stops doing what it’s supposed to do and instead I just end up with heart palpitations and insomnia. The normal substances of society are intentionally tested by science and unconsciously vetted by culture to work with the normal context of a normal person living in society. There’s no telling what will happen if you break from the norm.

Peterson preaches the importance of tradition, but here it seems like he didn’t take his own advice. Like the people he criticizes who abandoned religious tradition despite having little understanding of its significance, he abandoned many of the foods which his Christian forebearers put at the center of their religious practice even though he has little knowledge about what role those foods might have played in their lives. Just think of how central bread and wine are to Christian tradition. And he gave them up for a strange diet which possesses little precedent in civilization.

But before you think I’m criticizing him for going on a carnivore diet, I should make my position clear. Peterson’s rise to intellectual prominence was sudden. He went from a normal professor who gave any occasional TV interview to a world-famous intellectual almost overnight. This required quick adjustment. Anyone who’s implemented a diet similar to Peterson’s keto diet of beef, salt, and water should be able to attest to the incredibly powerful physical and mental effects. Once you get past the withdrawal phase, you find your energy levels are much more stable, your mind is very sharp, and, most important of all for Peterson’s rise to fame, is that your ability to keep a steady hand under the torrent of social pressure is greatly enhanced. His daughter was who influenced Peterson to adopt his carnivore diet, and she’s well-aware of that particular effect.

So what happened? Peterson mixed two strands of societal tradition with each other, and to disastrous results. If you want to take pharmaceuticals, you should put yourself in the position of the average individual who would take pharmaceuticals. These medications aren’t tested on people doing strange things like Peterson’s carnivore diet. If you want to take advice from normal doctors, your only choice is to be a normal person yourself. The doctors can be forgiven for almost killing Peterson, since he’s not a normal patient. They didn’t know any better.

On the other hand, if you want to do a strange diet like the carnivore diet, you should take it as a package deal. Few people active in alternative health would suggest taking pharmaceuticals. If you want to do a strange diet, then you should take the advice of the people who also do such diets. It’s insane to do something extreme within the alternative health world and then turn around and take a drug which has never been tested under your conditions. The carnivore diet totally changes how a lot of bodily processes work.

When I originally saw Peterson say that he’s riding a 100-foot wave and that most people who do so drown, I took it very seriously. I knew he was right, and I knew his hero’s journey was as likely to end in disaster as it was to end in success. I even thought that it was possible this journey would end in his death. This isn’t how I thought it would happen, but it does make sense. He knew he was going into untested waters, and he knew he might drown. His high-risk high-reward venture brought greatness, but it almost killed him. We can only hope that he learns from this experience. Take culture and tradition seriously, and never mix incompatible strands. Alternative health doesn’t mix well with mainstream medicine.

In the end, his diet was likely integral to his success. It was part of what let him ride this 100-foot wave, but it was also part of what almost caused him to drown. Eating a normal diet would have been the safe road, while his carnivore diet was at the core of a high-risk high-reward push for success. His error was that he didn’t see the big picture of how diet slots into the rest of how things work. He thought he could change his diet to something radical but still take the normal advice of mainstream doctors.