Casual Argument- Ugandanknuckles



If I told you that whenever you were sad or felt bad about yourself, you could just sit down and chant some magic words to be happy, would you believe me? There are people who actually think you can do just that. While the practice is rather old and dates back to the early modern era, possibly earlier, we know now that there is no such thing as magic.

An excerpt from an article written by Lori Majewski on the benefits of mantras titled “9 Empowering Mantras to Shift Your Mindset,” will help give you can idea of how bs the whole “mantra” movement is:

I didn’t “get” Kaur or her mantras right away, though. The ones on her album Feeling Good Today! initially struck me as too simple, too obvious, and, dare I say, hokey. “Feeling good today, I am feeling good today,” she sings on the title track. “I am happy, I am good. I am happy, I am good,” she intones on “I Am Happy.”

Still, I kept the songs on in the background as I went about making myself breakfast, during my morning yoga practice, and throughout the workday. Ever since, I’ve started most days singing along to Kaur’s mantras. Whenever I get up on the wrong side of the bed, a dose of “I am happy, I am good” right-sides my mood; it helps me to approach the work day with confidence and anticipation. Far from corny, I now see these, yes, simple phrases—and mantras in general—as quite powerful.

She has no evidence to back up the idea that these songs that sound like something off of a children’s CD were the reason she felt better, nor does give a specific example. She could just be trying to promote Snatum Kaur’s CD as part of a business deal. Majewski and many others subscribe to the idea of chanting or mantras as a way to feel better, rather than finding something more effective.

Hard facts, however have proven her to be wrong- mostly. A study done by The University of Waterloo and the The University of New Brunswick shows that the only people mantras actually help are the people who don’t need them. People who already have high self-esteems or feel good about themselves don’t need to feel better. People like to try and prescribe people with poor self-image/self-esteem cure-all mantras, but it has the inverse effect. It doesn’t help that a highly publicized and praised figure promotes this system. Oprah Winfrey is a proponent of the mantra movement for anyone and everyone, but I doubt she’s ever done much research on the topic.

Sas Petherick, a well known self-help blogger from New Zealand, explains why mantras are bullshit fairly well.

Our super-smart brains see straight through us wanting to want to believe something we actually don’t.

So you might find yourself saying a version of ‘I am: loved, whole, fit, abundant, free, successful, strong, beautiful, joyful, unlimited, powerful, creative, expansive, sexy, thriving, rich… I am enough!’ *ends with dramatic flourish*

Except actually: its Lady Moon Time, he’s left a wet towel on the bed AGAIN, you suspect Little Miss might be being bullied at school, the car needs new tyres, you have four missed calls from Mother, no pension plan, your favourite frock is feeling a bit tight, you’ve spent three days ignoring the ominous letter from The Bank, you can’t have a family holiday this year without extending the overdraft, you’ve found yourself having a tiny cry in the loo after every meeting with that bloke from sales who makes you feel about nine years old….

Its no wonder that after a few days of repeating an affirmation, we start to think – actually, this is bullshit.

When our reality is in such contrast to our mantra – those  hopeful thoughts of a different result – we end up feeling trapped in a circuitous loop of repeating the same crappy patterns.

You are not going mad – this is exactly what is happening. Because our brains are hard-wired to look for patterns and make connections. So when thing X happens we believe it will result in outcome 56 – we focus on the evidence that reinforces what we think about X.

We expect these things to work, but then our lives prove the opposite. We need to confront the issues in our lives before we attempt to try to move passed them. Sitting there repeating that you’re a good person isn’t gonna help if you’re an asshole to everyone around you, and telling yourself that you can be successful is useless if you’re not gonna take steps to try and better yourself. At the end of the day, action speak louder than words, but if you do manage to get your actions right, some words are alright.


Wood, J. V., Perunovic, W. E., & Lee, J. W. (2009). Positive Self-Statements. Psychological Science, 20(7), 860-866. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02370.x

Majewski, L. (2015, March 27). 9 Empowering Mantras to Shift Your Mindset. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from

The stuck record: why mantras feel like bullshit. (2014, August 21). Retrieved February 26, 2018, from

6 thoughts on “Casual Argument- Ugandanknuckles”

  1. If I already agree with you, Knuckles, this is a comforting piece of prose. But if I have any doubts about your point of view, the fact that Sas Petherick finds my self-help practice to be bullshit doesn’t dissuade me at all.

    Now, it’s not your job to talk readers out of their nonsense by force of rhetoric. You’re not really in a position to dislodge the notions they have of how to attain emotional well-being. But you could offer some perspective that gives them a reason to examine their beliefs objectively. And THAT simple practice might guide them to an understanding.

    I’m recommending a more academic approach here, Knuckles, and a less casual tone. Be willing to instruct rather than deride. And if you can find a way to offer “cover” to readers who need their minds changed but don’t want to feel belittled, there’s plenty of material in the source you named in your References section but didn’t utilize to its advantage.

    If people are granted ‘‘permission’’ to think of ways in which a positive self-statement
    they are repeating is not true, they should believe that such negative thoughts are to be expected and do not violate a standard. In Study 3, we attempted to grant such permission to half of the participants by telling them they should focus on ways that the statement ‘‘I am a lovable person’’ might be true and also might not be true. We told the other participants that they should focus only on how the statement was true. We predicted that, paradoxically, participants with low self-esteem would be better off when allowed to focus on how the statement was not true than when asked to focus solely on how it was true.

    This description of methodology, along with this description of a common response to people trying out mantras with bad results, gives readers a chance to congratulate themselves for being self-confident enough to be helped by mantras and also intelligent enough to resist the self-delusion of claims like: I’m perfect in every way.

    However, outlandish, unreasonably positive self-statements, such as ‘‘I accept myself completely,’’ are often encouraged by self-help books. Our results suggest that such self-statements may harm the very people they are designed for: people low in self-esteem.

    In other words, disparage the overhype of the practitioners who think everyone (who buys their program) can become happily self-deluded; but don’t disparage your readers who might be sincerely hopeful, reasonably self-aware, and in need of some guidance.

    That still won’t be an ACADEMIC paper, so to speak, but I’d be happy with a hybrid that expresses attitude (you’ve demonstrated plenty of that) with an academic strategy that is more likely to persuade than alienate your readers.

    Is that helpful?


    1. To be clear on your criticisms, you want me to go back and utilize my sources better as well as take a less aggressively… sassy(?) tone?


  2. I followed your reference link to the Waterloo Wood study, entered the basics into the Rowan Campbell Library Database search, found the source, then entered the same info into “Son of Citation Machine” to get a bibliographic citation for an academic journal in APA style.

    This is what it gave me:
    Wood, J. V., Perunovic, W. E., & Lee, J. W. (2009). Positive Self-Statements. Psychological Science, 20(7), 860-866. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02370.x

    Use that technique on the other two sources and revise your References section, please.


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