• Valérie Gillet

Of mice and (sadistic) men



As a coach in training, I've seen a shocking post shared recently.


It's the story of a 1950s psychology experiment involving mice. Scientists threw them in a pool of water to see how long it would take them to drown.


Most of them would sink after a few minutes. However, if the scientists took them out just before they gave up, dried them, fed them, let them rest, and then plunged them back, the mice could swim for 60 hours before letting go. They kept hoping the scientists would come back and save them.


The post would end on a positive note: Be like the struggling mice. Keep swimming.


This is the most pointless lesson I've read in a long time.


1. Who would be sadistic enough to watch living creatures try and survive until they die and call it an experiment?

2. Who would be perverted enough to save the mice just before they die and put them through the same ordeal a second time?

3. Who would be emotionally anesthetised enough to see it as a great lesson in resilience?

4. Who would be unkind enough to share a story about people torturing mice to help people realise they're more resilient than they think?

5. Who would be blind enough to read any post related to drowning mice and comment "how inspiring"?


Pardon the obvious reference, but the Jews in Auschwitz also scratched the walls of the gas chambers until they died of asphyxia.


What if they had been taken out after a while, dressed, given a mug of hot cocoa and then thrown back to the chambers? Would it have been "interesting" to time how long it would have taken them to die?


Don't you see the sadism of the experiment, let alone the utter lack of empathy?


One thing is to inspire people to face life difficulties with a certain level of paradoxical determinism in the way we aspire to happiness as we wait for the universe to show us signs that someone or something is going to save us while we try not to sink and die. Not to judge others' vision of life (except I totally do), but this is bordering stupidity if you ask me.


Another is to tell people to be like the mice who are tortured and die at the hands of sadistic psychopaths without even noticing the incongruence between the premise and the conclusion.


Why advise people to be like the mice when the real lesson here is not to be like the scientists who torture and kill hopeless creatures just to prove a point?


Let's build a society of kindness, empathy and reciprocal growth, not numb resilience and sadomasochist relationships.


And let's stop sharing self-help posts without the proper training and intellectual tools to understand them for what they really are: window dressing for empty promises of personal success and fleshless pseudo-psychology "à deux balles".

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