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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 23-Feb-14


Sunday 23-February-14

Inspirational Messages and Rants

I just read this post, which is a rant about people posting 'inspirational messages', those brief exhortations to be good or happy that litter Facebook and office walls.

In the manner of many rants, the poster uses copious insults, accusing the reader of being a 'dumbass' and more. So why should insulting me persuade me? Why didn't I stop reading after the first unpleasantness? I was certainty tempted but I read on, curious to know what would make a person so angry and whether they might offer good reasoning.

Oops. I'm already persuaded. To read, at least.

Ranting is even more effective when face-to-face. We attend to angry people, perhaps because we are concerned, but often because of the anger message of 'if you do not listen I will hurt you'. It is not nice, but anger often works as an attentional and maybe persuasive device.

But anger does not create truth, even though the angry person wants it to. The ranter's logic starts with reason but descends into the slippery slope fallacy of showing that inspirational messages do not apply to every situation (and hence, fallaciously, to no situation).

Looking beyond the foolishness, there is some reason here. Blindly accepting exhortations of any kind is no substitute for thinking. And acceptance is not enacting. As the ranter points out, being happy is often harder than wanting to be happy.

A real danger of inspirational messages is that they become mental candy, delightful moments of sweetness that change nothing. There is also the danger of being numbed by their frequency or even reacting against their controlling intent.

The answer, as ever, is to think. Enjoy the buzz of inspiration, then muse on how you could act differently as a result. You do not need to be a perfect person, but perhaps these little messages can help you to be, on average, happier. And in this troubled world, surely that is a good thing.

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