Magical Thinking: Why the Law of Attraction Doesn't Work and why Attractors do!
The lies they tell you.
I studied the Law of Attraction for two decades before deciding that there were other explanations for the examples generally given for success. For example, while Wayne Dyer claimed repeatedly that the Law of Attraction was responsible for his publishing success, what he omitted to tell his readers was that when he wrote his first book, he self-published. He then bought up every single copy of his own work in order to get onto the New York Times Bestselling List. After that, everybody bought it because it was on the bestselling list, and, of course, because it was a well-written work, it sold. However, the book did not get on the the bestselling list because he was thinking positive thoughts, it got there because he used some marketing guile.
How my own magical thinking set the stage for my disaster
I first came into contact with the Law of Attraction in the early 80s and was immediately overwhelmed by its potential. I set about to learn everything about it, and if I was positive before, I became fanatically certain that things would work out just the way I wanted them to. So much so that I clearly remember a young man saying to me in the late 80s, "I don't know what you're so confident about - you've achieved exactly nothing." The real issue was, of course, that I didn't even have to try that hard. I was positive by nature and always felt that there was a way to resolve anything. Ironically, it was only after I started believing in the Law of Attraction that my life started going downhill.
Let me give you two examples of this. I was explaining to a positive thinking guru who taught the law of attraction that my car was constantly breaking down. He explained to me that I had to go out and buy a new car and affirm each day that the money would come in so that I could meet payments at the end of the month. So, despite the fact that my salary didn't cover the payment I would have to make, I followed his advice. Consequently, I spent the next seven years in dire financial stress. The money never did arrive, and it meant my daughter and myself had to do without many essentials.
Still another example is when I received a piece of junk mail from my bank selling 'loans.' Believe it or not, I had never seen junk mail before I received that mailing. So when it spoke to me of loans, I thought it was a signal from the universe to do a course that was particularly expensive. What a disaster. I was never able to meet the payment. And the course was a complete disaster. So much for signals from the Universe.
The history of magical thinking
Helena Blavatsky, a spirit medium, first used the term in a book she wrote in 1877. Naturally the idea that by merely thinking something one could have it was appealing to most people. So by the end of the 19th century, several other books were written about it - notably Prentice Mulford and Ralph Trine.
Unsurprisingly everytime someone wrote a book on this concept, the author got rich. So more and more people climbed on the bandwagon. In the 50s Frederick Bailes wrote extensively about the Law of Attraction in his book, ' Hidden Power for Human Problems '. Raymond Charles Barker also wrote about it, his best known book on the topic probably being, Treat Yourself to Life'. Both are still available. In addition to this, Dr. Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science, wrote extensively about it in 1927.
Books like 'Think and Grow Rich' by Napoleon Hill in 1937 made millions for its author, and still continues to make millions for its publishers - nevermind the fact that its contents were completely spurious.
Louise Hay climbed on the bandwagon with 'You can heal your life' with a load of unsubstantiated garbage and, of course, if you've never heard of 'The Secret,' lucky you.
Everytime someone wants a good topic that will ensure that they make millions, they write a new version of how all one has to do is think something and then the even will follow.
Cognitive therapy, reality, and the law of attraction
There are many examples of people changing their thought patterns and experiencing benefits as a result. However this has less to do with our thoughts being magically translated into reality than our thoughts showing us how to accomplish something.
A cognitive therapist helps us to remove traumatic patterning caused by events that prevent us from seeing situations as they are and then applying working solutions to resolving issues.
All logical discussion insists that we compare apples with apples, not apples with pears. If one were to have a stunningly beautiful woman and a very ugly one in the same room, regardless of what their thought patterns and values were, there's a 99.9% certainty that every male in the room would choose the beautiful woman. No matter how negative the thoughts of the beautiful woman, and no matter how positive the thoughts of the ugly woman, the vast majority of men would still gravitate towards the beautiful women. That's because beauty (not thoughts) do the attracting...
A cognitive therapist might teach someone dealing with her appearance to accept it and then to deal with it in the ways open to her - facial surgery, cosmetics, etc.
Cognitive therapy is not about magical thinking; it is about seeing reality as it is regardless of whether that reality is fortunate or unfortunate.
Attributes that attract others
There are certain attributes that attract human beings. Some of us are born with these attractors while some of us develop them quite easily along the way. Others struggle to attain them and eventually have some limited success. For the most part, we all have some attractors. Unfortunately many people who write about the law of attraction don't mention that they have an abundance of these attractors and that has more to do with their success than any form of magical thinking.
1. Happiness is a huge attractor. Most people will gravitate towards those who exude a smile, joy, and warmth. Sadness, depression, grumpiness, and bad temper are not attractors. They tend to repel.
2. High energy - there's something very attractive about people with high energy. Watch them dance. They are fascinating to watch.
3. Good grooming, great clothes - we all watch the way others are dressed (rightly or wrongly). We like 'cool' clothing. An attractive, groomed appearance keeps us coming back to the theaters.
4. Education - Well informed people are interesting to talk to, tend to know about what they're doing, so if an opportunity comes along, people would prefer to give it to them.
5. Being well connected - A lot of people are impressed because one has a famous mother/father/sister/brother or the man next door is a major celebrity. By association, most believe something clings to them as a result of the connection.
6. Money - Many people want to be rich and like to be in the company of rich people.
7. Talent - There's nothing more amazing and wonderful to us all than superb talent. We are all drawn to it. It has nothing to do with magical thinking. Talent comes through the gene pool and is one of those attractors that some are simply fortunate to have.
8. Outstanding communication skills - People with excellent communication skills are highly sought after because they have the ability to connect to others. This is one of those attractors that can be developed.
9. Charm - People who are charming, able to duck and dive and play the political and social game are in high demand because they smooth the way for getting things done. Again, this is something that can be learnt.
10. And beauty, of course - it is the number one attractor of all. Everybody knows that people who are good looking or beautiful earn higher salaries and are perceived to be more intelligent.
If a person had eight out of these ten attractors, they would be set for success. To write a book or tell people that their success was a result of their magical thinking, i.e. the law of attraction is either dishonest or the result of ignorance. Unfortunately it is misleading to many who believe the writer, unaware of the true cause of the person's success.
Positive thinking does not prevent disaster anymore than it brings success
Do you seriously believe there wasn't one positive, well intentional, 'spiritual' person amongst the many hundreds of thousands that died in the 2004 Tsunami? Of course, there were. And what about the terrible, terrible shootings that took place at Virginia Tech and other schools across America? The Law of Attraction would have you believe that these people received their unkind fate as a result of their negative thinking.
That's simply not true.
There are far too many amazing, stunning people who have great attitudes, but simply were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Our world is complex. The reasons things happen is complex. It is not a simplistic 'I think, therefore it is.'
We live in a world ruled by Mother Nature (natural law). Also keep in mind that the actions of millions of people all over the world cause events that are outside our ability to control. We can control only certain events in our own lives. Beyond that, we are only able to respond to what happens to us. None of this has anything to do with our thoughts magically creating our reality.
Cause and effect - logical sequence
The real law behind all things is cause and effect. Cause, however, is highly complex. Let me demonstrate.
Take the dawning realization that our food choices have a lot to do with the diseases we get or the health we maintain. In previous times, illness was considered the judgement of the gods. Now we know it has to do with a collection of choices we have made over a period of time. However, factor like living next to a nuclear power station and suddenly we find ourselves radiated. Years later, despite our focus on our health, we come down with cancer. The point is that all things have a cause, and that while we can control some of those factors, we cannot control them all. In addition, because there are so many causes for each effect, we mostly do not have the capacity to know what all those causes were. A good example is the weather.
We know, broadly speaking, that things like El Nino will warm up the ocean temperature. We know that there is an increase in storms - even hurricanes. We also know that these changes contribute to a change in world climate. However we are unable to exactly tell how and when and where each small wind increase, each factor that warms the ocean will play out eventually. In the same way, we might conclude that someone who is always stealing will eventually land up in jail. But, because we don't know the specifics, we cannot tell at what point, for what crime, and/or whether he will eventually get away with it.
However, all of it is cause and effect. The burglar may get away with his crime because he was particularly crafty in his crime or he may have left the country. There are hundreds, if not thousands of factors, that result in outcomes. And none of them have to do with magical thinking or the law of attraction.
Things happen because hundreds of other factors combined to bring about a certain event in our lives. Those things comprise genes, chemistry, the country of our birth (first world, third world), the circumstances of our birth (abusive, happy, rich, poor, mentally ill, healthy, talented, pretty, ugly, etc), natural world events (weather, climate, asteroids falling on top of us, tsunamis or earthquakes, etc.) To even presume to think that our thoughts have any effect on this is presumptuous.
Why the law of attraction doesn't work
The law of attraction doesn't work for a very simple reason. Our minds and thoughts do not have the power to change anything. To change something, some sort of force or energy is required. The human mind does not emit large swathes of energy. It cannot say, "Stop the train" and the train stops. The human mind is an analytical calculator not a power station sending electricity and energy to get things done. If that had been the case, we wouldn't have needed arms and legs to get things done.
Years ago, I had two very precious rings. I was the beach (in Port Elizabeth, South Africa) and left at about three in the afternoon. Later that evening, as I was preparing for a date, I realized that I had left my rings on the beach. I was devastated. The chances of finding one's rings on a beach with ever shifting white sands and sea water are precisely zilch. In any event, first thing the next morning I went to the beach to the place I had been sitting. There lay my two rings. Law of attraction? No. Just plain lucky that Mother Nature didn't have the wind blowing, that nobody walked by and trod on them and saw them. Many times people attribute coincidence or some other factor to the law of attraction. It isn't.
Does anyone make money from the law of attraction?
Yes, the authors, the gurus who teach this nonsense for a price. They make a mint telling people that they can have what they want. (Who wouldn’t want to believe that they can have exactly what they want simply by believing it?)These authors may genuinely believe what they are saying (or not). However, when they do, it's inevitably because they never understood the power of their own attractors or they didn't calculate their actions into the equation (Wayne Dyer buying up his own books in order to get onto the New York Times Bestselling list).
Basically it's easy to con people who so desperately want to believe anything that if someone tells them what they want to believe, they will believe it.
Have you ever thought what other factors could have brought about outcomes in your life?
Some articles to read about why the Law of Attraction doesn't work
Why The Secret Doesnt Work and Why You Should be Glad it Doesnt Giving Up Control
This is a review of the book 'The secret.' The writer states "The idea that God is a genie ready to respond to our whims is all at once seductive, juvenile, and almost immediately falsifiable. If you doubt the latter, buy a lottery ticket tonight, and see how far “the secret” will get you." He brings up some other good points, including a quote from George Bernard Shaw about the real thing in life that brings us satisfaction and meaning.
Barbara Ehrenreich on the 'Delusional' Cult of Positive Thinking
The author became ill with breast cancer and writes about the endless advice to 'think herself well.' She shows how damaging positive thinking is.
How Positive Thinking Sets You Up to Fail
An interesting article by Heidi Grant Halvorson on the destructive effects of positive thinking. She states, "Scientifically-speaking, focusing all of your thoughts on an ideal future reliably leads to lower achievement. In other words, you are less likely to achieve your goals when all you do is imagine that you already have achieved them."
Does Confidence Really Breed Success?
William Kremer of the BBC World service writes an article about the supposed positive impact of high self esteem. He states "Research suggests that more and more American university students think they are something special." He then goes on to quote from a study that "suggested there has been a 30% tilt towards narcissistic attitudes in US students since 1979." However studies show that thinking highly of yourself does not lead to success so much as delusion.
Why do people believe in the law of attraction
If one hasn't been successful and problems seem insurmoutable, it's comforting to believe that a very easy thing like thinking thoughts can magically transform one's reality. When people who are successful tell one that they succeeded because of their thoughts, they do a grave disservice to others. They should take into consideration their talents, education, level of attractiveness to others, lucky opportunities in meeting people, energy level, and many more factors. These people are just selling something that others want to hear and becoming very rich as a result of doing so. It's called a con!
The book, Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell gives a far better explanation as to why some people succeed and others don't.
Two fundamental reasons for failure
There are several reasons people cannot reach their goals or get out of a hole. One is lack of opportunity. Living in excessively capitalistic (e.g. USA), countries with caste systems, (e.g. the UK or India), or totalitarian states (e.g. the old USSR) means that there is opportunity for some but not for everybody. When closed doors meet every effort, regardless of how hard one works, the fault is not one's own.
Another reason for failure is lack of knowledge. Most people simply do not have the right type of knowledge to be able to do what they want to. As an example, I am a professional writer. I can spot a grammatical error a mile away. Yet someone who has never really heard English spoken grammatically will not recognize that they write in error. "I didn't do nothing" is a classic example. To many that sounds correct. Yet it isn't, and those who speak that way and desperately want to be creative writers never realize that their failure stems from a lack of knowledge and skill. One of the reasons many cheat to achieve some goal is because they don't have the capacity or the knowledge to achieve it.
The law of attraction is a dangerous delusion
A study I read several years ago noted that positive people were inclined to die younger. This is because they were so buy 'believing positively' that they weren't focused on reality and didn't see the dangers. It is also a fact of life that if you believe that something is magically going to come to you, you're not going to figure out a common sense way of attaining. Magical thinking, however it is expressed, leads to unattained goals, depression, and in the words of Barbara Ehrenreich, has had a profoundly negative impact on the economy.
© 2015 Tessa Schlesinger