This passage is from Maps of Meaning, by the psychologist Jordan Peterson. It is from early in the book where he describes some of the turning points in his life as a young man. His experience may sound odd at first, but he is showing that insofar as he lacked adequate truthfulness in speech, he was divided: there was an urge to truth deep within him, and it would not let him be.
One of the basic ideas of counselling is one of the basic ideas of Western civilisation: truth is curative. In recent decades this idea has been thrown into question within the affluent West, in the context of postmodern and relativist philosophies, but it is rarely in question in places and times where life is harder and people suffer more. A life of truth gives you strength and courage in the face of harsh reality. It makes you more oriented to the good in contexts where it is even more tempting to look after number one. And in reality, whatever the circumstances, it is the only way to create a genuinely meaningful life. We all need to listen to the voices of truth within us.
I can imagine the young Peterson visiting a superficial therapist. The therapist might tell him that his problem is a lack of self-esteem. They would probably assume that such esteem is mostly a feeling, albeit one which is necessary for functioning well. They would view self-esteem as something to be cultivated through techniques. It might never occur to them that the root of self-esteem lies in how you live your life. Do you want to respect yourself? Then do things that you respect! Instead they would teach a young Peterson to subdue, discredit, ignore, or distract himself from this nagging voice.
A different kind of counsellor, one with greater depth, might ask the young Peterson if he is living truthfully? Has he has gained enough clarity about life? Is he saying what he knows to be true, or just making noise where truth or silence should be? Of course this counsellor would at the same time be listening out for whether Peterson's experience is pathological. Some people suffer under cruel super-egos to put it in psychoanalytic language. But there is a real and deeply important difference between pathological noise and the clear voice of conscience. Throw the baby out with the bath water and you have killed your future. As C. S. Lewis wrote, "We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst."
With respect to Peterson's voice, we all hear - or more often feel - something like that. But some people will push it out of sight and out of mind. This is what the narcissist does to the level of a personality disorder, but we all do it to some degree, and it constitutes one of the great struggles of our lives. Taking up this struggle is what makes you a human being in the profound sense of the word. Somebody with eyes that see and words which speak truth.
Regardless of what you think of philosophical debates about subjectivity and objectivity, the human world is real for any human being: you cannot escape its realities except through death. As a human being, certain things just are reality, whether you like it or not. Pain for example. It may not exist objectively in the universe, but it is an inescapable reality for you. Physical pain exists because human reality is embodied and sensational. Emotional pain exists because human reality is also composed of meanings and values. You cannot escape that except by losing the capacity for speech and thought. Even nihilism - the attempt to deny the reality of meaning and value - is painful in experience (at least, it is so when it is actually lived, as compared to the idle and smug blackboard version). Particular values may be relative, and there may be a range(s) of values, and degrees and hierarchies - people often avoid the challenges of navigating such complexity by believing in simplistic philosophies - but evaluation itself is not relative, the truth that human thought and feeling and action is evaluative is a fact that you cannot avoid. Certainly not in practice or in experience. The point of all this? There are realities in which, as a human being, you move and breathe and your being. The are the realities of human nature, of the human condition. And among them is embodiment within value and meaning. Flout these realities in certain ways and your life will go badly and you will suffer.
For those who consistently flout the fundamental realities of life, whether at the level of facts or values, reality will so to speak take its revenge. Such consequences may be subtle or they may be coarse. It may take the form of disaster in your outward life, or it may be that you live as a fundamentally superficial being, which is never to have really lived. Or it may be that a rot sets in - fear, resentment, melancholy - which accompanies any life that is not nourished by contact with truth and goodness; a life that has ignored or crushed that voice within which calls for better.
Like Peterson, and Socrates long before him, we need to listen to the voice of conscience. If we create a life that ignores it then we will suffer the consequences. So too will those we live with, for we may become distorted, resentful, callous, and even (in order to justify ourselves to ourselves) malevolent. If we listen to this voice then we will discover depths of wisdom, strength, and compassion within us which we never suspected. You have no idea of what you are capable, if you will only listen to your being and to what life is asking of you, and step forward with the humility and courage to overcome the obstacles to such obedience. The voice of truth inside you can be hard to obey, but it is your dearest friend.