2016 was my year of spirituality. I felt like there was something missing in my life, and went on to reconnect with myself and this instinct that I always had to find meaning, happiness and a connection to something beyond myself.
I moved past most of the things I held as truth back then. Although there’s a lot to be said about my time of spiritual exploration, I will stick only to what’s relevant to this article. One of the things one had to adhere to in order to be a true spiritual gang member was the Law of Attraction (short, LOA). The main idea behind LOA was that thoughts create reality, and we can totally have what we want, as long as we depict very clear, specific visualizations of the outcomes we want. Dream it, claim it, own it – seems to be the royal pathway here.
The trouble is things are not as simple as they sound. Yes, you start with depicting very detailed images of what you want and revisit them in your mind as much as you can, but at the same time you had to:
- Relentlessly curate your emotions and mental state – it’s something LOA calls “vibration.” Basically, what they say is that as long as your vibration is not in the frequency of joy, and peace, and confidence, and acceptance, you will not be able to manifest what you want.
- Have complete and utter faith in the method. Upon the presence of the tiniest amount of doubt, the magic spell breaks and, again, you will not be able to manifest what you want.
- Really really want what you are visualizing, but at the same time be willing to give it up. Dream about it a lot, be happy and excited about it, but at the same time be completely okay without it. Otherwise, your vibration will actually lower, because when you desperately want something, what you are actually transmitting to the Universe is “I don’t have this”. So, yep, no manifestation. It’s as tangled and complicated as it sounds.
Even back in my more spiritual times, I couldn’t really resonate with LOA. Part of me was actually thinking that all of it seemed like a very random and arbitrary process. And despite the numerous claims of it being based on “scientifical experiments”, none of those experiments were ever posted on a respectable research website. Simply put, I was having a hard time to buy it.
To some degree, it is okay to be aware of the influence your thoughts have on your behavior. Yes, thoughts are most of the times the triggers of our actions. So LOA has the benefit of raising awareness of our thoughts, invite us to take responsibility for our mental and emotional states, and for many people it is uplifting and inspiring.
But it comes with a lot of disadvantages as well:
- It makes us work less. Esther Hicks, one of the guru’s of LOA actually has a quote saying “You did not come into this environment to create through action. Instead, your action is meant to be a way in which you enjoy what you have created through thought.”. So basically if I consider myself to be pretty good at manifesting, I will spend most of my time dreaming and visualizing and little to no time actually working for it.
- Studies show that when dreaming of idealized outcomes, that don’t match reality, our motivation and energy to achieve goals significantly decreases. Partly due to the fact that on a certain level, we feel that we have already reached the goal and we needn’t worry or work too much to achieve it. We fail to create a plan, we fail to think about the milestone and necessary small (or big) steps to get to where we want.
- LOA encourages us to keep positive and not focus on obstacles or hardships that may come along the way. For an anxious person, for someone who worries a lot, for someone who feels rather discouraged in front of challenges hearing that they don’t have to think about the hard stuff that may come along the way is a huge relief. But it’s actually the worst idea. Trouble is, in real life, refusing to acknowledge the obstacles and the challenges is a sure way to fail and hit rock bottom really fast.
Honestly, though, my biggest problem with LOA is that it sets an impossible standard and it’s based on a huge misunderstanding.
What’s the impossible standard? Well, having a mind that’s 100% feeding you positive, encouraging thoughts. Feeling happy and joyful all the time. As humans, we actually have a range of emotions way larger than that. And that’s normal. And healthy. For me, believing that feeling sad, disheartened or afraid was a problem that needs to be fixed was, simply put, a huge pain in the ass. Having to maintain a glow of constant joy was actually the source of a lot of frustration.
What’s the huge misunderstanding with LOA? Well, on the one hand, the fact that our thoughts influence the outer world. Regardless of how powerful your ability to manifest things is, that company won’t hire you if they don’t think you’re qualified enough. A new car won’t just fall from the sky, attracted by the irresistible magnet of your mantras.
At some point, I decided to review the process of me getting the things I wanted – or not getting them. What I noticed was that:
- Sometimes I got something and only afterwards realized how much I wanted that
- Sometimes I thought about a certain goal for a flickering moment, forgot about it, only to later find myself accomplishing it
- Some goals I reached through moderate belief in my ability to accomplish them and with constant work
- Sometimes I wanted something really, really, really bad. I visualized it, done all the right things, and I still didn’t get what I want
- Other times, I felt crappy, angry, disappointed. I gave up on everything. And then I suddenly got what I wanted.
So actually, there was no magical connection between my thoughts and feelings and the results I got. The best predictor of me getting what I want was not in the quality of my thoughts, but actually in the quality of my actions. *drops the mic*
And that leads me to what I consider the biggest misunderstanding in LA: that negative thoughts must become negative actions. There’s a principle in behavioral change that talks about contrary action – basically, about doing the opposite of what your thoughts are telling you to. For example, if I know I have a tendency to back out of taking new assignments at work, assignments that would be very beneficial for my work, upon noticing my tendency to say NO to those, I remind myself that actually saying YES is the better way to do so.
Thinking is a very random process, although it may seem so serious and unquestionable. I keep saying something, and I wonder if people understand what I mean: just because you’ve been thinking a thought for a long while, that doesn’t mean that thought is true.
Just like we have habits related to behaviors, we have thought habits. We have a habit of thinking we suck, we aren’t good at anything, that there’s something inherently wrong with us. We have a habit of thinking things will go really bad with us. Or that we aren’t allowed to be this happy and that something bad will soon happen to re-establish the “balance”. It’s like you would have a broken record playing in your house saying ”this house is going to burn”, and you spend your life being afraid and worried because you forget it’s just a broken record.
LOA (and frankly some approaches in therapy) tell us that only after we fix and change these thoughts are we going to be able to have the things we want.
But that’s just not true, y’all. You can still be filled with self-doubt and negative thoughts and continue to do your own thing and work for what you want.
Actually, if you were to talk to people who are generally seen as accomplished and successful, and if they were to be honest to you, you would find out that EVERYONE has the same nasty thoughts game going on in their heads.
The key difference is they stopped believing their thoughts. And they started doing what they want to do. They stopped waiting for fear, doubt or worry to disappear, and became really good at working with these companies.
It is so liberating. It’s a lot more realistic and definitely more productive. You should try it.