Victus Spiritus


I'm Ordering You Not to Read This Post

15 Sep 2009

You have likely guessed from the title that this post is focused on reverse psychology and specifically the declared disagreement, NO. After reviewing cognitive biases and cognitive dissonance, the rebellious urge that makes us susceptible to reverse psychology deserves some attention. It's role in our decision making needs to be understood from a motivational view.

Inspiration and motivation are the key primitives to liberating our latent talents. Even skill mastery's predecessor can be traced back through will and determination. When the will to succeed is carefully inspected, at it's core we discover an inspired decision. Said simply, we don't travel through hell and back to get the mail (mine's 90% junk nowadays, so I'd prefer forwarding it directly to the flames). Of course there are exceptions to every rule, namely the need to discover our limits. We'll often push ourselves to the brink of our perceived breaking point and beyond (good times).

First and foremost there's an unusual power in NO. We say it differently than yes. It has a defiantly charming ring, and quickly conveys our disapproval of a statement or command. It is with the simple negative with which we best define: who we are, and what we're about. Yes, we do this by complying with statements we agree with, but much more so by declaring NO to hypotheses we are opposed to. In worthwhile debates the often intricate dance of NOs ends most beautifully with agreement. If not of shared beliefs, assumptions, or outcomes, then upon mutual respect of opposing stances.

There's a magical moment of childhood when our persona has developed enough to declare NO! We mistakenly overuse it, based on the emotional reaction of our caregivers. NO is more active than yes, it demands attention. We associate our identity with defiance.

The goal for this post is recognition of passive compliance, and to raise awareness of the meta-cognitive feature of reverse psychology, in particular how NO is intimately bound to our identity. By decoupling NO from sense of self, we make less biased decisions. Using authority to negate great works simply to express one's presence is childish and a destructive element to social health.