Its so easy to scoff at pseudo-profound sayings, but in my dark days I have found them comforting
If youre offended by swearing, apologies, because Im about to use the word bullshit quite a lot. Its not my fault. Its because researchers who recently published a paper about the intelligence of people who believe in the wisdom of inspirational quotes were awfully fond of the word bullshit. It appears in the title, On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-profound Bullshit; its there five times in the abstract alone; and the first keyword is well, you can probably guess.
The researchers were extremely keen to know whether certain people were more likely to believe in pseudo-profound statements, and whether that had anything to do with intelligence. You know the kind of thing: phrases such as You cant start on the next chapter of your life if you keep rereading the last one or If opportunity doesnt knock, build a door.
Usually the words are illustrated with a nice background picture of a wood or a seascape. Or a bloom. Or a woman with a pony. The reported conclusion was that people who post this stuff probably arent as clever as the rest of us, much to the pleasure of anyone who has an aunt or old schoolfriend who constantly reposts stuff like The greater your storm, the brighter your rainbow.
I dont post many inspirational quotes online. I prefer to bore my friends with pictures of my child or puppy. But I have been known to use them in real life, to stick them in the pages of a learning periodical I kept when I was on a counselling course. Ive shared them with other people and had them shared with me. And in my darkest moments, struggling with bereavement or postnatal depression, they have given me more solace than I would have supposed possible.
I once compiled an entire periodical of motivational and inspirational quotes for a magazine I was working for. By the end of it, I felt as if I were the lovechild of Gandhi and Wayne W Dyer, so I know probably better than most how much some of this stuff can curdle your eyeballs. And if Marilyn Monroe told half the things that are attributed to her online then she wouldnt have had any time to construct cinemas or pose for paintings, let alone have clandestine sessions with JFK. There is some genuinely vomit-inducing stuff out there. Anything to do with living in the present tend to construct me flinch( breathe let go and remember that the present moment is the only one we are aware for sure ). A whole Pinterest wall of inspirational sayings can construct me physically unwell. But the occasional, well timed quote can be a very powerful thing.
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