Rebuttal- Ugandanknuckles

To many, the biggest issue with mantras is that they are ineffective and limited only to the chosen few who devote their lives to it. A study done by The University of Waterloo and The University of New Brunswick is in support of that idea as it says,

“…present results suggest that for certain people, positive self-statements may be not only ineffective, but actually detrimental. When people with low self-esteem repeated the statement, ‘I’m a lovable person,’ or focused on ways in which this statement was true of them, neither their feelings about themselves nor their moods improved—they got worse. Positive self-statements seemed to provide a boost only to people with high self-esteem—those who ordinarily feel good about themselves already—and that boost was small.”

Scientific proof of this common claim is enough for most people to shut out mantras completely, but this concern is flawed as it was never argued that mantras would work for just anyone. Also, mantras are more than just saying a basic statement of “I’m a lovable person,” as most would seem to believe it is.

Mantras are made to work for people who have high self-clarity. Self-clarity is defined by Melissa Dahl as, “how well we know our own strengths and weaknesses, as well as our ability to accept them.” This is where most people run into trouble. They think that self-esteem is the key. For the most part, self-esteem is overrated. Melissa Dahl, a writer for the New York Times, states that,

…high self-esteem inflates your ego, which can make the reality of how others see you harder to bear. With high self-clarity, though, you can see and accept yourself much more easily–even your flaws. But this form of self-acceptance doesn’t leave you there, gaping at your imperfections.

Boosting our self-clarity is important to using mantras because we need to be in-tune with ourselves. We have to have a good understanding of who we are on the inside before we can look introspectively for positive energy and power. Self-clarity can be learned through embracing mistakes we have made, and realizing that everyone makes mistakes. Changing ones’s philosophy from that of a pessimist to that of a realist isn’t necessary, but looking at things from a neutral standpoint rather than a negative one is key.

Mantras harness the power of sound, and Gabriel Axel wrote a great article on how sound effects the body on October 2, 2013, in the US News Website. Different sounds have different meanings, such as a car screeching to a halt followed by a crashing sound is connected with an accident and all that entails. Axel states that the word mantra is Sanskrit for “sound tool,” and that many languages evolved to include onomatopoeia to make use of the movement of energy through those words.

This evocation is qualitative and subjective and is linked with interoception (inner body sensations) and emotional sense of self, both predominantly represented in the right hemisphere of the brain. Conversely, the narrative strand of sounds in which we give them meaning is done predominantly through the left hemisphere.

Sound itself, from a physics standpoint, will resonate in different parts of the body and mind before it is assigned a meaning. The different areas where the sound resonates can make you feel different emotions, or remember old memories. Feelings and effects will vary from person to person, but the best effects are found in people who know themselves. The better the condition of the body and mind, the better the outcome. People who become well versed in mantra usage can eventually not even have to use their voices because the feelings produced by their voice can be replicated through their thoughts alone.

Horton, A. P. (2018, February 16). Positive Self-Esteem Is Overrated, Here’s What You Need Instead. Retrieved March 17, 2018, from

Click to access 03_wood_etal_selfstatements_psychscience2009.pdf

Axel, Gabriel. “Your Brain on Om: The Science of Mantra.” US News, 2 Oct. 2013, 11:27,

9 thoughts on “Rebuttal- Ugandanknuckles”

  1. I have recommendations, UK.

    1. Find some credible opposition.
    The weakness of the rebuttal argument here is the absence of a strong case to refute. You don’t give the “opposition” a good hearing, so there’s no energy in your refutation, so readers are left with the impression that you don’t take the claims of mantra-benefit seriously. That’s a mistake. The more credibly you present the best argument of your rival, the more persuasive is your own position when you demonstrate its superiority.

    2. Acknowledge the partial success of the mantra movement.
    There’s not SO much difference between “making a fist” to avoid sugary snacks and “making happy self-assessments” to build confidence. Both are conscious efforts to create good behavior by talking ourselves into action.

    If you can accept, as your sources indicate you do, that “behaving as if we are capable” improves our capability, then you should be able to be generous toward proponents of the notion that “telling ourselves we’re capable” might have the same effect.

    3. Don’t satisfy yourself with secondary sources.
    The Richard Wiseman Guardian piece is full of treasures, and the links it provides to original research flatout demand that you investigate further.

    4. Find success in nuance.
    You don’t need a slam dunk. No single behavior technique may provide “The Answer” to successful behavior modification for all personality types. You’ve started the process of identifying the split within the mantra community (who it helps/who it hurts). Follow this thread through a careful reading of the research by Carney, Hung, Laird, and others Wiseman doesn’t mention. Make your own observations about why striking a power pose should be more effective at making me act powerfully (or thinking I’m powerful) than telling myself I’m powerful.

    Is it because in one case I actively Pretend to have power and in the other I actively Lie to Myself?

    Do you find this helpful, UgandanKnuckles?


  2. I’m going to stand on my original set of recommendations, UK, until you exhaust them or explain why they’re not helpful. You’re not following your popular sources back to the original science, so, for example, you have not found much of substance to say about the differences between William James (not William Jones; he’s the “father of modern psychology” and the brother of the novelist Henry James) and the “self-esteemers.”

    And what IS the difference between telling my mirror I’m the World’s Greatest Dealmaker to psyche myself for the day and adopting the body posture, vocal pitch, and judgmental facial expressions of a great dealmaker to gain an advantage when I’m actually making deals? Which one is like a mantra, and which one, if either, achieves actual benefit?


    1. Prof, it just hit me like a soccer ball to the face in 8th grade. I need to use one of my articles that argues against my point and provide logical and well thought out evidence to refute the point that it makes?


  3. I think it might be safe for me to remove this post from the Feedback Please category now, Knuckles, but if you’re still hoping for comments from me, just drop it back into the queue.


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