|One gang leader argued this so enthusiastically he thrust out his arm with such power
and such force he dislocated his shoulder and collapsed screaming in pain before the
An evil doctor stepped forward. 'Mm!' he said, 'it appears you've dislocated
your shoulder. But ...
'For me to reduce the dislocation, I must move the shoulder from where it is, to where
it is not. Clearly that is impossible.
'So unless you recant on your argument, I can do nothing.'
The monks translating this stuff, immediately left the story here, because, being fine
people, they did not translate naughty words.
Let's come back 2000 odd years.
Suppose some rival gang member says to you:
You do, of course hit them with the full power of the Being Specific Model:
- How do you know that?
- According to whom am I stupid?
- Stupid. Compared to whom?
- What criteria do you use to make that evaluation?
- How can one or more apparently stupid acts, lead one to the global conclusion that
someone is stupid?
Five shots. One after the other, leaving the gangster quivering and reeling!
Now let's think. Who started this fight? According to that fascist group advocating
genocide for the 'to be' family, the culprit is the verb 'to be.' The word 'are' started
the fight! Incredible? Then consider this:
I am depressed.
This sentence suggests that:
I was depressed,
I am depressed, and
I will be depressed.
It suggests, because of the word 'am', that there will be no change. It also suggests
that it is true that I am depressed. All sorts of assumptions follow the use of this
little word 'am.' Of course, using the Being Specific Model, we can ask:
Who is depressing whom?
How are they doing it?
How do you know, specifically, that you are depressed?
What specific thoughts, ideas, feelings, mental images, etc are you experiencing now
that make you appear depressed?
Yet at root is this word 'am.'
Suppose instead of using a part of the 'to be' family, we used a more accurate word,
such as 'appear' or 'seem.'
I appear depressed.
Now this sounds a little funny. We are inclined to ask ignorantly, 'Are you depressed
But really this is a much more accurate statement. It isn't a fact that I am depressed.
I don't know beyond any doubt that I am depressed. I appear to be depressed. To whom? Well
to me, but perhaps my doctor said I was depressed, so I'd appear depressed to that person.
What makes it appear to you that you are depressed?
What do you see, hear, feel, think that makes you appear depressed?
Substituting the words 'appear' or 'seem' and similar words when we use a 'to be' word
can radically change the way we think about the statement. It can jolt us out of the
belief that everything remains the same into the idea of change.
You appear stupid. (Doesn't have the force of 'are', does it?)
Mm! Interesting. How do I appear stupid? (Not worth a fight, is it?)
Of course, we cannot make others do this substitution of 'appear' for 'to be' words,
but what happens when we make this substitution mentally ourselves, and respond
I am not a member of the e-prime gang, but I do find many of the ideas interesting.
When thinking about a problem, it can help to rewrite your thoughts without the verb 'to
It can blow charge out of words and statements.
It can encourage us to learn rather than to fight.
It removes false certainty in statements.
Why don't you try removing 'to be' from questions and problems and notice how this can
open new ways of thinking? Also, try mentally translating statements by others with a
strong 'to be' element, into ones that use 'appear'?
Use the Being Specific Model to make the statements more specific.
Let me know how you get on.