Debunking the Law of Attraction

EMILY JACOB
ReConnected Life

The law of attraction makes me angry. I consider it to be a hugely offensive and sickening belief. It more than saddens me that so many people believe this myth – and when friends and those I otherwise respect deeply talk about it, my heart sinks. And a level of distrust emerges.

Let me explain.

First of all, what is the Law of Attraction? It’s called a ‘Law’, so it must be true, right? Like gravity. An accepted truth about how our universe operates.

The Law of Attraction is the belief that positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences in a person’s life.

It’s a belief that’s been around a very long time but was made popular when the book ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne came out in 2006. It has become hugely prevalent, and almost universally accepted, by those in the self-development community, as well as more widely. It fits very neatly into ideas of self-actualisation, the peak of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Simply put, the Law of Attraction states that our thoughts create our experience.

If our thoughts are negative, we will have negative experiences. If our thoughts are positive, we will have positive experiences.

On the surface, there is seemingly nothing contentious about this. We all inherently know that when our mood is dark, so is our experience of what’s happening around us. We know that when we can reframe a negative to a positive, find the silver lining, we feel better. Our experience changes.

This is core to the NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Communication Model, to the One of Many™ Cycle of Creation (I am a Master NLP Practitioner and a certified One of Many™ coach), and also central to the CBT Model. It is what philosophers of all flavours have been preaching for centuries – Plato said “Reality is created by the mind, we can change our reality by changing our mind.” Observing the worst of human suffering at Birkenwald concentration camp during the Holocaust, Victor Frankl wrote in ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

An event happens, it goes into our brain, it is processed by all our filters and previous experiences, by our current experiences; we make meaning of that event, that meaning affects our mood & emotions; our mood and emotions affect the action we take in response to the event.

If the meaning we make can be positive, our mood will be more likely to be upbeat, the action we take will more likely be welcoming of the event.

Let’s take an example.

I’m making my coffee in the morning. Instead of safely putting the coffee granules into the waiting mug, my MS hand flicks out and the granules on the spoon fly out everywhere. This is the event. On this morning, I am tired, perhaps I didn’t sleep so well, my brain processes this event into evidence that my MS is worsening, that soon I won’t be able to fend for myself, that I’ll lose my independence. These thoughts impact my mood. Suddenly I am feeling helpless, scared, victimised by the disease. I decide to go back to bed and cry instead of doing the day. My world, my reality, has got smaller. Because a teaspoon of coffee granules sprayed across the worktop.

The same event happens on a different day. On this day I am still tired, but I notice the pattern of where my brain wants to go, I stop it. I tell myself lots of people are clumsy. It’s not a sign of anything, it was just an accident. And anyway, spontaneously flicking joints can be funny, not disastrous. These thoughts mean that my mood becomes accepting of what happened, it just was – there is no need to create more thoughts than that around it. I stay balanced and focused. I finish making my coffee and go about my day.

Most definitely, it is true that our thoughts create our experience of our reality.

And yet.

This is not what the Law of Attraction actually states. The Law of Attraction is the belief that by our thoughts we attract positive or negative experiences. It is not saying that our thoughts can impact our mood and therefore our experience of our reality – it is saying our thoughts are magnets for what comes our way.

Believers of the Law of Attraction use this to ‘manifest’ good things in their lives. They believe that if they wish for something, and take action towards it, the ‘Universe’ will hear their cry and gift it to them.

Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I understand the attraction in the Law of Attraction. The idea that just by dreaming of winning the lottery, and buying the ticket, the universe will gift you with a win is alluring. Dreaming of the perfect man, defining who he will be, suddenly you will meet him. I wish.

And as with all myths, there is a grain of truth in this – when the good things happen that you wished for, you can thank the Law of Attraction. Confirmation bias means that you’ll see the evidence that it works, but ignore the evidence that it doesn’t. And the way our brains make sense of events means you’ll filter out anything you don’t want to see, and see everything you do: when you tell your brain to look for red things, it’ll see all the red things, and ignore the green.

In one sense the Law of Attraction operates like a cult: but a very judgemental one.

If you’re a believer and you don’t get what you tried to manifest, you tell yourself you just didn’t believe enough, your actions weren’t enough to convince the Universe that you really wanted it. If there are those with ‘negative energies’ around you, maybe they ‘contaminated’ your energies. Believers of the Law of Attraction talk about discarding those around you who don’t share your positive energies.

Let’s break this down a bit.

When you believe, not managing to manifest what you wanted doesn’t mean that the Law of Attraction is not a law at all, but a fantastical pipe dream, it means you didn’t want it enough: you weren’t good enough, you weren’t positive enough, you weren’t enough. That hurts. That creates negative inner self-talk, shame, judgement – and the very negative thoughts that mean the person starts to believe they really are attracting bad things because they aren’t being positive enough. It works as self-fulfilling prophesy in the victim-blaming logic when manifestation fails.

And. The idea of discarding those around you with negative energies? Perhaps those people, your friends, need some love, some support, someone to care? If someone is carrying negativity, it’s because they’re hurting. Discarding them, that is quite heartless really. Of course, everyone needs to protect themselves first – we can’t heal and help if we are not fully resourced. Yet compassion costs nothing.

These cracks in what the Law actually means are not however the reason why I get so angry with the Law of Attraction.

It’s all very well believing that you can attract good things by thinking good thoughts. If you don’t fall into the self-blame cycle when you fail, and you remain compassionate and a good friend towards those in your circles who are going through tough times, there is nothing insidious about holding this belief in this way. You might think it’s totally benign.

Except.

The Law of Attraction also states that if you have negative thoughts you will attract negative experiences.

If you believe in the Law of Attraction, you are upholding victim-blaming.

Too many times I have heard the Law of Attraction referred to in self-development circles, in real-life, and online, inferring that because I was depressed and in a bad place after my divorce that I attracted the rape. That I was raped because of my negative thoughts.

And it’s not just me. I get messages from others, confused and full of shame and self-blame. Does the Law of Attraction mean that somewhere in the back of our minds we were attracting it? Teaching the Law of Attraction is a victim-blaming tool that re-traumatises those in your ‘tribe’ that you are trying to help heal.

Negative thoughts do not cause cancer. Negative thoughts do not cause someone to become a victim of sexual violence. Negative thoughts did not cause Grenfell. Negative thoughts did not decide who caught Covid, and who did not.

You cannot choose to believe in the light side of the Law of Attraction, without also believing in the shadow side.

This is why the Law of Attraction makes me so angry, and why I say it is an offensive belief. Victim-blaming is already systemic enough within our society. In my coaching work, I’ve seen that the self-blame that sticks with us over the years and decades can be harder even than the trauma to overcome. It’s time we ditched the Law of Attraction and saw it for what it is: a fantasy cult that encourages toxic positivity and has victim-blaming at its heart.

Now, this is not to say that there isn’t room to believe in fairies and hope for miracles – magic does happen. It just doesn’t happen by the power of your thoughts.

#selfhealing #selfrescue #postraumaticgrowth #anotherway #itgetsbetter #ReConnectedLiving

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