I wonder if the words you use to speak about yourself actually cause you to become a different person. Research shows that the language you speak can change your abilities in some ways.


This might be a partial explanation for why affirmations appear to work for some people. Perhaps using language to tell yourself that you are a different person (happier, more successful, etc.) causes you to become more like the words.

We know that the brain is bidirectional. If it's happy, it can make you smile. But if you force yourself to smile when you are not happy, it can make you happier.


When I was in college, which was my first social experience outside the tiny town where I grew up, I noticed that a lot of people were asking me the same question: How are you? So I decided that my answer to that question, regardless of the truth, would be always be something along the lines of great, spectacular, excellent or sensational. It's the one situation in which there is no social penalty for saying out loud that you are incredible.

How are you?

I'm fantastic.

My reasoning was that over time I might program myself through repetition to become better than I was. I have no idea if it works, but I know I enjoy telling people I'm fabulous.

It would be easy to test this sort of thing. Just take a random group of kids and teach them to say good things to themselves, or even aloud, about their intelligence, on a regular basis. Then compare their test scores with a control group.

If this method improved test scores, do you think schools would be allowed to teach it? I'm guessing no, because it would seem like witchcraft to the fundamentalists.

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Aug 19, 2009

Aug 8, 2009

It is clear that you will not make any attempt to look at what I write objectively. You have a moniker that indicates humility and then go on to be the opposite. As I said, if the intention behind that is irony, good. I had thought you were religious (and still do, actually) and as such, rather than call you out on a flaw, I posted the definition as a gentle reminder, in case you hadn't noticed the pontificating tone of your writing. Believe it or not, I'm known (in real life) as a caring, respectful person, and while I disagree with most religious dogma, I don't use that as an excuse to be rude to people. Obviously I hurt you deeply, or you would have let all this go a long time ago. I posted one line to you, you posted a tirade to me, most of which reflects a poor understanding of what I'm saying. Part of that is the fact that I have tried to make my responses short, to cut down on spam. Part of it comes from your hurt feelings.

You say you aren't assuming, yet, you said that you doubted that I know people of so many faiths. In fact, immediately after saying you didn't assume anything about me, you go on to state that you doubt I know more than 6 people, despite having clearly indicated I know many, many more. You also say you didn't insult me, but turn around and do it a second time. If your circle of friends stops at 6, then I guess I understand your need to attack me personally online. I don't need to justify myself to you, but in all honesty, I have a full life outside of the computer, which brings me into direct and frequent contact with many people of many faiths. You can choose to not believe me. But that doesn't mean I don't know what I'm talking about.

All faiths do have fundamentalists. This is simple the factual truth. Even Wiccans have fundamentalists. I don't know how you could argue that. My comment with regards to similarity is not in how they practise their faiths (obviously a Jew and a Muslim do different things) but it is with regards to how they approach fundamentalism that they are the same. If you read all my comments, you know that I went on to explain that, as was appropriate for the discussion, I was more or less mostly discussing those of the Abrahamic faiths, since they would be more likely to be involved in "American" schools. I have done a great deal of study on the subject, read far too many books. I will not make further attempts to explain it in simple and concise terms for someone who is already convinced they know the answers and that I could not have anything worthwhile or intelligent to say.

Language is its own organism, in a sense. You can build all the harbours and levys you want; ask the people of New Orleans (God love them) how much good that does. Far more powerful people than you and I have tried to change the directions language took, to no avail. Check out the history of Webster's dictionary, for just one example. Many words in English cover a wide variety of meanings. It is confusing, perhaps, but obviously we manage. Rather than try to stop millions of people from using a word, you could perhaps try to come up with a defined term specifically for non-violent fundamentalism, although, as I've said, at it's heart, it's the same thing, it just uses a different method of expression.

You say you're not defining fundamentalism, but actually, you did.

You complain that I didn't respond to the content, but only took shots at you. This is patently untrue. I did respond to the way you spoke to me, yes. But I went on for a few paragraphs about the content, attempting to explain fundamentalism in yet another way, so that you could perhaps see that your conception of it is shallow. You return to attack me again, misconstrue what I've said, insult me and ignore most of my comments about fundamentalism, and take up your argument where you left it and continue.

In the end, dear poster, I have learned enough about your method of debate to determine my time could be far better spent on others in this forum. Your desire to be "right" has caused a huge amount of spam here, that could have been better spent discussing the topic, something I note you didn't bother to do. If what you're looking for from me is an apology, here you are: I'm sorry I didn't know your moniker was ironic, and that posting the definition of humility hurt you. In addition, I'm sorry that I and millions of others who use the term fundamentalist properly are seem to be insulting the apparently very selfless and good person you know. I hope you are able to accept this poor apology and to move on. [/apology] [/discussion with HumiltyRocks]
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Aug 6, 2009
An Australian newspaper (so you know it must be true...) published a study in which they experimented with school children. They were given a spelling test which was scored and results given. Half the students were congratulated and told "you did very well, you must be very smart" and the other half congratulated and told "you did very well, you must have worked really hard".

They gave similar tests and feedback weekly for a number of weeks, tracking the results. In the end the pupils who told they were smart stayed about the same over time whereas the pupils told they must have worked hard improved over time.

Certainly it's shaped the way I now offer praise to children.
Aug 6, 2009
Hey, I thought the Fundamentalists called it prayer, myself.

But I dunno.
Aug 6, 2009
HR: my *only* comment to you was the definition of humility. If your name is intentionally ironic, all the better.
I know my spelling is fine. At no time did I assume (or care if) your comment was for me. Your comments are frequently of a religious slant, you could be simply overly-excited about humility. That doesn't mean I don't understand language. Whenever someone resorts to insulting the intelligence of another poster, it speaks volumes about the insulter.

*You* were perhaps talking only about Christians, but my original comment was made before you and I was clarifying *my* statements. I know people from many sects of the three Abrahamic religions, as well as many others: Taoists, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs etc. I have many close contacts that are Christian, Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists, and since these faiths make up a large part of the world population, a large part of the fundamentalist population, *and* are more likely to be concerned with "American" schools, I didn't bother to list. You shouldn't assume so much about people you know nothing about.

You define fundamentalism as a movement holding to certain "fundamental" tenets. However, your definition leaves out an important fact about fundamentalism. It is a reaction to modernism. A means of turning away from scientific thought (not theories) and returning to a point in the religion's history where the believer thinks the scholars were correct. It is a turning away from modernity in favour of a fabled golden-age.

The interesting thing is that Abrahamic fundamentalists never do go back to the true roots. Indeed, for Jews and Christians, it would be nigh impossible, since the religions developed over many centuries. Religion is never static, so fundamentalism is more of a turning-away from the religion, in that sense, than it is a return. Yes, they return to a point, but there is an earlier point still. Do Christian fundamentalists eat pork? Generally, yes. But Jesus didn't, because he was a Jew. Yet Jesus really shook up the established way of practicing Judaism. Rhetorical question: What then, is fundamental to Christianity? Do we go with Saint Paul, Emperor Constantine or Jesus?

While many fundamentalists live their lives quietly and peacefully, many of them become vocal (which is their right, IMO) but refuse actual debate. Some of these individuals go on to found countries on the graves of other nations, force women into subservient roles, or deprive children of routine healthcare practices, all in the name of their religion. The US arms and funds a foreign nation that is known to be in contravention of UN accords and the human rights commission, all because of religious fundamentalists at home, even while the American economy goes down the toilet. These people go to work, they pay their taxes, feed the needy, but then give money to support the occupation of another land. And call themselves Christian.

All of these people, at whatever degree they impact others, are fundamentalists by the actual and accepted definition of the word. I may not like being associated with those that call themselves Christians, any more than you like your friend, who sounds like an honourable person, being associated with the "fringe" groups, as you call them. However, there is nothing anyone can do to stem the tide of a changing language; one must simply roll with it, or be left behind.
Aug 5, 2009
I tried this stuff for a while once. I succeeded only in driving myself nuts with the repetitiousness. I don't think it's for everyone. Forcing yourself to smile when you don't feel like it just turns you into a person who operates on insincere emotions. Many people can see through it and are turned off by the weird artificialness of it.
Aug 5, 2009
It's always somewhat annoyed me that people commonly use "how are you?" or some variant when they merely mean "hello". Any time I use a neutral greeting in response, nobody notices that I didn't actually answer the question they asked.
Aug 5, 2009
Wow, that Edge.org site is full of douchebags. "We're really smart!"
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Aug 5, 2009
@drazen: Totally agreed!!
I just watched this movie called "Yes Man"(Jim Carrey) yesterday. It featured a depressed guy finding magical changes in his life by starting to say "YES" instead of "NO" to everything. As much as i got the point that you just need to be more open to new things in life, I couldn't help but think that Jim's character was someone who just lost his funny bone/jovial nature due to the divorce. Not everyone has that nature or ability to crack light-hearted jokes. It just isn't in their nature. So just telling them to lighten up is hard, after all you can't lose what you don't have.
Aug 4, 2009
Hi Scott,

We become what we contemplate on. Rote self-talk doesn't seem to work. We must ponder on the meaning of the statements.

To prevent ourselves from monitoring our thoughts too much, it is better to set aside a specific time for affirmations and contemplation each day.

Our mind seems to have the ability to execute our conscious decisions subconsciously. Hence, the key is to allow our mind to ponder on the desired end result. I've become a much better carrom player by just seeing the pouch and hitting freely without worrying much about what the outcome will be.

You can try this in your indoor soccer games. Just ask your team to see the goal every now and then. The number of goals scored will increase.

My goal now is to use affirmations and outcome thinking to become as big a success as you are.
Aug 4, 2009
I used to work with a man who was like that.

"How are you, Fred?"

"Absolutely super!"

It was really cloying and annoying at first. But over time, as you really got to know him, it went to work on you. You started to like him, and then you realized you just couldn't be in a bad mood around him.

It was great.
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Aug 4, 2009
I used to be religious - and depressed. Deeply, mind-numbingly, soul-deadeningly, depressed. The kind of depression in which your blood turns black and you can't get out of bed in the morning - because you've forgotten how, let alone why. This was a long time ago. Thinking back on that time is like peering through a lens into some strange, distant sunless world. I don't live there anymore thankfully. I wouldn't know how to go back there if I wanted to. That part of my life is long over. I'm very grateful for that because I am keenly aware that many people never make it out. I was a teenager, and rash. Things could have ended very differently.

I can't say affirmations were the cure. They aren't strong enough on their own - but they are connected. Changing self-talk was essential. It took a long time. Years, actually - and no psychologist ever said or did anything helpful in all that time. It was my faith. It's one thing to try to say "I'm fantastic" when you don't believe it. Maybe that supplies a bit of a boost when you are close to that way of thinking anyway, but it does nothing for the person who values herself below the level of pond scum.

When you say - and actually believe: "God loves me", it's a whole other thing. When you begin to believe that by hating yourself you are dishonoring god - and you try to take seriously the biblical instruction to "take every thought captive" - and apply it even to routing out the self-hatred - then there can be progress. I should know.

I no longer have the faith I had when I was climbing out of the pit I was all but born into - but I'm grateful I had it then. I believe in positive self-talk - but if that is all you do, it is just a gimmick. The effects won't last. It's like the sweetener in a recipe. It makes the food more appealing - and more likely to be consumed, but the actual nutrition (that brings the growth) comes from other sources.
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Aug 4, 2009
That's EMILE COUE (with accent aigus on the first and last "e". He was, if I recall correctly, one of the inspirations of the movie THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE. Never saw it.
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Aug 4, 2009
Certainly from the point of view of Buddhism, what you say about yourself is delusional and must be shed before you can achieve enlightenment. There is no self and you aren't who you think you are. Meditation and other techniques (even Couéism) may help you to un-think and un-say the stories you tell yourself or have been told by others. Hence the folk saying: Don't tell a child he's stupid--he may believe you.
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Aug 4, 2009
It's called Couéism says Wikipedia. "Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better." -- Émile Coué (1857-1926) Here it is again, in French: "Tous les jours à tous points de vue je vais de mieux en mieux."
Aug 4, 2009
The worst/best thing in the world is to realize that you have become the person that you are.
Aug 4, 2009
Scott, when you announce that you're fabulous, do you sing-say it?
Aug 4, 2009
It's not just the fundies, but the !$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%* types. How DARE you praise kids that aren't worthy of praise?! Are we just going to start giving EVERYONE a trophy?! Why, when I was a kid my dad taught me I was a worthless pile of !$%*! and by God I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, after working in the acid mines to buy boots!

If there's one thing I've learned about living in this country, it's that if you can think of a way to help people, about half the people will complain, no matter what reasoning or evidence you have for it.
Aug 4, 2009

I haven't done toastmaster, but this is how I understand they work:
1. you give a short speech on anything
2. everyone takes turns praising you, regardless of how you did
3. repeat

Not exactly self talk, since everyone but you does the complimenting. But apparently the end result is that people are much better public speakers after the mindless praise.
Aug 4, 2009
Here's a "fundamentalist" spin on that - God created the universe with his words, not his hands. "Let there be light" and such. Or in the gospel of John, the Word is God, and Christ is the Word made flesh, the Word is the power of creation. The bible also teaches that the tongue (what you speak) has poweful impact. See James, or Proverbs 18:20-22, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue". So some "fundamentalists" probably already know what you needed a "study" to tell you.
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