A strange thing happened…

At the end of last year I eluded to “the derailment of 2019”. I was planning, at length in 2018, and possibly well into 2019, to examine three texts: Kate Manne’s Down Girl, Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules, and Karl Jung’s Man and His Symbols. I’ll still look further into Man and His Symbols and other Jungian material later, but Down Girl and 12 Rules won’t be getting the same treatment. It probably helps that Jung never got onto Twitter.

But first, a few summarized opinions regarding my reading of Manne and Peterson over the period:

  • Kate Manne’s criticism of 12 Rules (in the now hard-to-link-to Reconsider The Lobster*) seemed fair, and sufficiently accurate for the reaction of both Peterson and his fans to be regarded as hyperventilation.
  • I’m more than a little sympathetic to the treatment Manne gives to the phenomena of “himpathy” in Down Girl. More generally, this tacit deal where men are supposed to supply supererogatory sympathy to other men, not just in terms of sexual misconduct, shits me.
  • 12 Rules isn’t terrible in as far as most of its advice goes, but when I find it’s useful it just seems a rephrasing of something I’m already on-board with. The trick, it seems, is seducing you into thinking you’d not already realized these things yourself. In terms of justifications and explanations – cue lobsters, seretonin just-so stories and bowdlerized narratives about young male angst – I find the book particularly weak.
  • Peterson isn’t a fascist, he’s just a generic conservative. Some of the hyperbolic criticisms of Peterson seem devoid of historical perspective, and suffused with more than just a jot of social media tribalism.
  • I’m beginning to think that of all the Intellectual Dark Web types, Peterson may be the most sincere, and that he may harbour suspicions about the character of the other IDW members. (There are some glaring narcissists in the IDW, and Peterson is academically accomplished in the area of personality, so…)
  • Given some of the antics of Kate Manne’s fellow travelers on Twitter, and the behaviour of some of her colleagues from 2018-2019 (behaviour which she has endorsed, but which elsewhere has elicited an apology from an editor of the American Philosophical Association blog, and possibly a suspension**), I’m going to limit my interaction with her work to an as-necessary basis.


2018, just after beginning preparation to examine Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules: As a part of my ongoing health plan, I signed up for mental health counseling. There wasn’t a crisis involved. There was more the realization of the need for maintenance work, which is something I’m not terribly familiar with practically speaking. Self-care isn’t one of my strong point.

It’s not the worst problem to have, trying to work out how to hold on to an unprecedented level of mental health. But it is perplexing if you haven’t much experience.

Before this post gets critical, I’ll say this: I got something out of the process. I did learn a couple of tricks. The counselling also provided some useful perspective; where I sit in the bureaucratic scheme of things, what may have been going on in the past when I should have first received help.

But now: The weird. This is where my reading interests collided with my mental health care.

I was asked during counselling what my stressors were, and I stated amongst other things that the persistence of a generalized “himpathy” was one of them. I defined this “himpathy” for my counsellor with reference to Manne’s work; words to the effect of a extra serving of sympathy a community affords men that it denies others (not just in relation to sexual harassment). I gave an example recent at the time: The expectation of my sympathy in relation to the angst suffered by men witnessing a Gillette advert they didn’t like.

Weirdly it was suggested that I was somehow being too hard on myself. My stressor wasn’t the concept of “himpathy” it was the “himpathy” itself. Something like it has been bothering me for a long while, Kate Manne’s Down Girl just gave it a name. It’s not like I’ve been at myself with a cat-of-nine-tales at Kate Manne’s request.

It should probably be noted that my counsellor was male.

“Himpathy” is a stressor for me. I don’t want special sympathy on account of being male. I don’t need it. I find it repulsive. The quid pro quo in the scheme also means that I’m also expected to provide this sympathy. So I’m expected to pay a cost for something I didn’t even want in the first place.

Frankly, if I fucked up and got told off by even an intemperate feminist (gasp!), it’d be less stressful than having some bro mewling around, offering unsolicited sympathy with strings creepily attached.

Can you see the reversal my counsellor made? Who am I being too hard on? Who’s the presumed beneficiary of the extra sympathy I’m denying? The Guys.

The Guys got defended, and my stressor went ignored. In a counselling session that was explicitly supposed to be for my benefit.

At any rate, Down Girl got a bit closer to home thanks to counselling, and gave me a little too much material to know where to begin at the time.

Still, things got weirder.


A question was raised early on: Am I in any clinical sense dissociative? Thanks to waiting lists it’d take a while to answer rigorously, and in the interim the seriousness as the query was walked back a good way. But having made a booking with a clinical psychiatrist, why back out?

It was the nth day in a heat wave, and after four hours sleep owing to said heat, I traipsed uphill to the clinic through a humid morning. I was the first client of the day, but he was over half an hour late. To be fair, traffic into the area had been horrendous in the morning. There’d been similar delays in prior months with both my optometrist and surgeon. 

Despite the air conditioning, I had a good deal of difficulty concentrating. I’m not sure I wasn’t experiencing a degree of heat stroke. I can’t be sure the psychiatrist wasn’t effected either.

Such diversions! I didn’t have to say much at all to get this guy going off on tangents. I mentioned that I write, and that the response to the Gillette advert was a stressor, and off we went.

I got recommendations for a couple of advertising guys who obviously scripted their “conversations” with pre-determined conclusions. I got a recommendations for Dave Rubin, Joe Rogan and the like, who I pretended were new to me in the hope of speeding things along. It didn’t work.

For a few minutes, despite never being tied to anything diagnostic or therapeutic, this was all being written down for my reference; a barrage of contrarian suggestion like I was being talked at by an overzealous YouTube algorithm with a underdeveloped interest in personal information. At least I didn’t get Stefan Molyneux as a suggestion.

Then came the Jung soft-sell. Apparently arrogance – as deduced from an uncharitable reading of a short string of words on my part – may be my “Shadow”. By this point, between being baked and being blabbed at, I was wondering how someone could draw conclusions – any conclusions – given the scant amount of data I’d offered up.

Suffice to say, the question of dissociation, despite being mentioned by me, and being written on my referral, was not investigated.

When it came time for the health advice, most everything turned out to be Jordan Peterson. Barring the 600mg of magnesium a day recommendation, even the bits that weren’t Jordan Peterson were Jordan Peterson. I wasn’t going to follow the YouTube URLs that linked to his material, because at the time YouTube was being very, very aggressive with suggesting white supremacist and InCel material if you even accidentally went anywhere near anything like Peterson.

There was other stuff on the list. Stuff that didn’t scream Jordan Peterson. Stuff not entailing a YouTube URL. Stuff with embedded videos. Embedded videos that started off “Hi, I’m Jordan Peterson”. Jesus!

“When you Jordan Peterson first thing in the morning, be sure to take three Jordan Petersons with a Jordan Peterson before your first Jordan Peterson.” – I paraphrase.

Say, for a moment, neither you nor I could think of a single thing Jordan Peterson had ever said or done that we could find fault with. Wouldn’t it still be just a bit obsessive focusing on the guy, over and over like that? Even undergrads are eventually expected not to go to the same well over and over again in their sources.

I felt like I was a text in a first year Film Studies class. Eek!

After this deluge of Peterson enthusiasm, I didn’t know where to begin in terms of an extended critique. I feel dishonest when I don’t divulge context – which is a recipe for rambling to be sure – but this threatened to unleash a deluge. I put off responding to 12 Rules indefinitely.

Maybe it’s something for the distant future.

No disrespect meant to Peterson, but ultimately I think Jung is more timeless. In the long run a focus on Jung – weird as he is, as pseudoscientific as his ideas may be – I think will be more fruitful. There’s just a whole heft of history there.


Ultimately, I started getting diminishing returns out of the mental health process and opted out. This was after sitting in a waiting room for 45 minutes when I was supposed to be meeting a new counsellor. I was already considering making that my last meeting; a “lets close my file and say goodbye” session.

I never walked into that meeting. Instead I walked out and down to the local train station and started to wonder if I was more or less sane than the people who’d been paid to help me.  If I committed to taking care of myself, really taking care, could I say that I’ve got this?

The rational answer, I think, was and is yes. I don’t want to be the arrogant prick who thinks he knows better than the people with actual training, but my experience didn’t impress on me the absolute wisdom of the process either – not that such a thing should be possible anyway. People make errors of judgement. Mental health workers bring themselves to the process. Outsourced health care has its limitations. And again, I still got something out of it all.

If this is arrogance, then so be it. In this respect Jungians can consider my shadow accepted and embraced, if glibly***. Weirdness, on the other hand, I hope increasingly to compartmentalize and critique.

~ Bruce

* It featured in the Times Literary Supplement, but (old) links now only point to an error message (and at last glance, a Cormac McCarthy quote).
** Just trying to track down the details surrounding said apology is a real down-the-rabbit-hole experience, especially concerning the supposed suspension of Nathan Oseroff. With multiple updates, corrections, and talk of people impersonating editors, it’s off-putting to say the least.
*** How else would you expect a non-Jungian to embrace Shadow arrogance, if not glibly?

Adventures in Creepersville #03: Reality Warp

I’ve done geeky things. I used to play role playing games (RPGs) once upon a time. When I first played it was the late end of the Satanic Panic, which in rural Australia seemed to lag on for longer behind the heyday of the source moral panic in the US.

You know how many Satanists, or witches, or delusional people I was exposed to in those early years, thanks to Dungeons and Dragons or Battletech? None. Not one. Nada.

In fact, the first person geek-adjacent that I encountered who could be categorized thusly was someone who deluded himself that he had psychic powers. He had a lot on his plate both socially and mental health wise, and I certainly don’t wish him ill if he’s still alive out there. He introduced me to the better side of anime – the non-creepy kind – but at any rate, he had nothing to do with RPGs.

Nope. The RPG crowd were all a bit bog-standard Stranger Things, really. Mundane.

Then the mid-90s came around, and I was introduced to some new acquaintances, and a new RPG that was published under the banner “White Wolf”. You’d be fair calling the me of this period a cranky pomophobe; I had prejudicially little tolerance for anything remotely post-truth, and the “White Wolf” games were very post-truth. Think “that’s just like, your opinion, man” in gothic fantasist mode, with added lashings of affected-scholarship.

The pretentious references to fetishized academics, and the insular caricatures of “technocrats” and rationalists; blech. You didn’t have to be any kind of rationalist to find this stuff bothersome, but boy did some pages wind me up more than I should have allowed them to. The source books would have been a whole lot more tolerable if the authors seemed a little less impressed with themselves. Cerebral narcissism is always ugly.

At any rate, it was a small mercy that at least the gamers in question didn’t emulate this pseudointellectualism in its full ugliness. No. Instead, some of them imagined that they had magic powers and/or the ability to alter reality through sheer will.

When it’s the middle of a deep recession, a lot of people your age are out of work, and you’re scraping together funds for living in a dingy flat, you can get the impression that you don’t get to be too picky about the company you keep. Never mind what this may do to your own mental health, or theirs, or what your state of mind may do to your employability or educational prospects – you don’t want to be a snob, right?

Sometimes a young, trollish, bored individual will want to break the monotony with a bit of thoughtless, impulsive, consequences-blind fun. Why not? (Well, because it’s childish, obviously).

So rather than confront people about their delusions, or do something otherwise productive, a sceptical friend and I egged them on. One time we exchanged sideways glances while one of them attempted psychic healing. Another time we watched, all the time trying not to giggle, while they attempted to increase their “mana” through an amplification loop. This other time one of my flatmate’s friends hid with me in the bushes of a local park while we giggled and watched a couple of the guys attempting to draw power from the “node” of a “leyline”.

What are the odds that the “node” was on public land, and not in one of the neighboring private yards of the very-much residential area? And only just around the corner from the flat, too. How convenient.

I’m sure if I asked, I would have been told something along the lines that the “node” affected the minds of council planners, causing them to allocate the space as a place of public wellbeing. You never have to be wrong when you can warp reality though sheer power of will!

Their theology for the most part was lifted from Mage: The Ascension, which gave them the idea of others simply being “un-awakened” individuals who collectively suppressed magic through the power of their consensus: Sheeple, albeit magically. You could see this manufactured special status in any number of “metaphysical” bookstores or crystal shops in the 1990s; “my life is drab, people don’t think I’m special, but I’ll show them! I have a special relationship with reality!”

Yes you do, Moonchild. Yes you do.

Despite this having been a bit stressful to tolerate near constantly, and despite it helping to speed up the fraying of my own sanity, I don’t want to piss on these guys. They could be fun to be around. They could be creative. They tolerated a good deal of my bullshit when they shouldn’t have. And some of them had serious personal problems leading into the reality warpage to begin with.

At any rate, this low standard for grasping at reality left the door open for other sorts of weird-and-creepy. Of course a friend of my magic-believing flatmate’s magic-believing friend, visiting at one point, would inform us that women enjoy being raped. My mouth flapped-wide-open at that. I wanted to say something, but it was one of those “so obviously wrong, but so hard to find where you went wrong” type scenarios; I didn’t know what to articulate.

Suffice to say that despite my shocked muteness, that guy never got to enter my home ever again, and I haven’t seen him again in over twenty years. Good riddance.

Fantasy was the over-arching theme with these guys: Having reality your own way. Sadly you get a lot of that around geek stuff, and it’s a good part of why I don’t really do geek conventions. It’d be nice if fantasy would more readily stop at its genre boundaries and stay out of everyday life.

It bears repeating, time and again: You may want to help them, but unless you have a reliable support network, and preferably some clinical qualifications, there’s a severe limit on what you’ll be able to accomplish. Back then mental health awareness wasn’t what it is today, but encouraging people to get help should have been the prescribed action. I still feel that I failed some of these guys in that respect, and of course failed myself.

And whatever you do if you find yourself in a similar situation, don’t do what I did, which was to fall into the trap of morbid curiosity: “What the hell is it with these guys? Why on Earth? I need more data!” You’ll just end up wallowing in an unhealthy, creepy environment. This is especially problematic if you already have mental health problems of your own.

Escape, and escape with anyone else you can get away with who needs to! Don’t let a feeling of disloyalty, a bleeding heart, or a post-truthy kind of inclusion born of a role-playing game tell you otherwise.


Next in Adventures in Creepersville, I think I’ll address an interest in the work of View Askew Productions, renting videos, reading comics, laughing about what terrified us, and bad habits acquired.

~ Bruce

Where’d Tahani belong?

Fair notice: Spoilers inbound.

So. The Good Place has finished. I have to confess that the last two seasons were on the brink of loosing me. Ironically, not being a virtue theorist, it was the relative de-emphasizing of character development that almost switched me off. That not withstanding, yes, the heartstrings were pulled by the finale.

(Although you have to wonder why Chidi wasn’t confident that he’d still wait around for Eleanor, letting her work her way through being able to let him go unselfishly, and then just sticking around after she’d achieved that state.)

In all of the almost-losing-me though, most annoying was the apparent stalling of Tahani Al-Jamil’s character development. God. The name-dropping didn’t stop. I don’t have the foggiest as to whether or not this was a considered creative decision, or just an afterthought, but given that the world’s having a narcissism epidemic, the Good Place’s answer to a Cluster B personality disorder could have been toned down more than a little.

This leads into where I’m having a problem with the story logic of the last season.

So the cosmic afterlife schema gets a major patch and reboot, and now there’s a test that people retake until they get in to The Good Place. Tahani gets in with the first cohort: the regular cast.

In earlier seasons, Tahani showed increasing self-awareness, even reaching an epiphany, but then continued with much the same behaviour even after being paired with obnoxious gossip-columnist John Wheaton. Sure, Wheaton was a part of a plot to make the experimental Good Place fail, but that’s all prior to the test in the final season.

Eleanor seemed on-mission and considered, Chidi overcame his indecisiveness, and Jason became less impulsive, all before the test to get into the good place. But Tahani’s final spurt of personal growth in the final season seemed to get crammed into a few scenes in the last episode, after the test.

I get that final seasons can get crammed and all that, and I enjoyed the final episode, but it would have been really satisfying to have seen a story logic in the final season as tightly sewn together as the first.

Tahani Goes To Hell is just going to have to remain fan-fic I guess.

~ Bruce