Tuesday, August 10, 2010

E-Prime for Beginners

Science and SanityAnyone who has lived in Santa Fe for a bit quickly realizes that it's a Self-Help Town. Whether the self-help stripe involves physical activity such as yoga and hiking, or more ephemeral techniques such as The Secret and Tarot, there is a book, a website, or a local resource / class / guru for pretty much all of them. Because of this, it's amusing to eavesdrop on other Santa Feans while they discuss their latest shaman or bodywork class if only for the sheer range of self-help techniques out there. It's also interesting to then turn that eavesdropping back on one's own beliefs, and question, for example, why you might believe in astrology, but reading tea leaves is just too far out there for you.

Which brings me, finally, to my point. I was discussing various self-help methods with a former student of mine, and I brought up the concept and practice of E-prime. E-prime didn't originate as a quick-start self-help trick, but was developed by Alfred Korzybski and published in his book Science and sanity: an introduction to non-Aristotelian systems and general semantics. Now, at over 800 pages, I must admit that I haven't read this book. Someday I will, most likely once I've conquered Ulysses.

Anyway, implementing E-prime means simply removing all forms of the verb "to be" from your speech, writing, and thinking. So rather than saying, "I am angry," you can say, "I feel angry right now." The former could indicate that anger is your constant, permanent state or identity; the latter acknowledges the transitory nature of emotions. How's that for an easy self-help technique? According to this website, the "trick" of E-Prime is that "a change in language can alter our perception of the cosmos." The site also lists further E-Prime examples if you need more practice, and includes a fascinating list of successful advertising slogans that have "to be" at their core.

So the next time you feel stuck in your thinking or feelings, try erasing "to be" from your language for a bit. It may amaze you at how such fine-tuning of your brain programming can make a quick difference.

1 comment:

Arlo Barnes said...

I have tried to avoid using contractions recently. This helps clear up some messy rules regarding apostrophes and other things, but I do not know if it has changed my thinking.