The Law of Attraction Is A Con
Let me start by saying, I am not attacking Law of Attraction believers because I think that we’ve barely scratched the surface of what the human brain is capable of.
I’m not even sure whether I believe stuff like levitation, mind reading, and yes, even manifestation are beyond the realm of mankind, after all I’m a Life Coach not a soothsayer..
Maybe they are and maybe they aren’t.
The one thing I am sure though, is nobody truly knows otherwise they would have proven beyond any reasonable doubt by now. A Nobel Prize and as much cash as you can carry to the bank is awaiting you if you can do so.
When I originally posted on this subject the first comment left was this:
“I AM a believer, but I’m not going to argue with anyone. I don’t need that sort of negativity in my head, or in my life, so I just won’t go there.”
It beautifully summed up exactly what I find most frustrating about the Law of Attraction, or more accurately, the people that believe unequivocally in the Law of Attraction.
The person in question did in fact go on to post some more detail, but it was vague at best and didn’t even come close to answering some of the bigger questions and inconsistencies.
My Law of Attraction Background
I’ve read several books on the Law of Attraction including material by Wayne Dyer, Esther and Jerry Hicks, Michael Losier and Thomas Leonard. I’ve also watched and listened to hours of video and audio footage on the topic trying to understand it in detail.
I say that to point out I wasn’t always coming from a position of skepticism. In fact, in 2005 after listening to some Thomas Leonard material given to me during NLP training, I started to embrace the idea quite fervently. I really wanted it to be true.
So how do I now know the Law of Attraction doesn’t exist? The answer is, I don’t, I’m just being contrary with the title.
It’s impossible to prove a negative which is why you get such raging debates around such diverse subjects such as God, UFO’s, Ghosts, the Loch Ness Monster and of course the Law of Attraction.
If you found a real life living Alien camping out in your garden shed you could then prove that there were such things.
No doubt you would have to show him to the authorities, introduce him to the media and make sure you apply for the correct Alien permit from the local Sheriff’s Department.
Then, presuming men in black cars don’t spirit the little fella away to Area 51, you would have concrete evidence that Aliens do indeed exist. You’d even have the paperwork to prove it.
To prove there are no Aliens however, is slightly more complex. Not only would you have to check your own garden shed, but every other garden shed the world over.
And that would only be the beginning, because then you’d have to check the rest of the globe inch by inch, all the while checking the rascal has not deviously doubled back behind you.
Once that task is completed you would then have to do the same with the rest of the Universe. A tall order I think you’ll agree and the reason you’ll never be able to prove in any scientific or conclusive sense, Aliens do not exist.
Therefore, I nor anybody else can prove the Law of Attraction does not exist. Yet it would be possible to prove it does, even if that task has been beyond anybody to date.
Can Meditation Defeat Crime?
IN 1993 there was an attempt to prove that mass Transcendental Meditation could reduce the crime rate in Washington DC.
Depending on which report you believe and on which day of the two month experiment it was, between 2,000 and 5,000 people attended the event.
I can’t tell you as somebody that abhors violence and strongly believes in meditation how badly I wanted this to one be true.
However, if you try and research this event you are deluged by the same very official looking report in a myriad of different guises.
Every time I read something supporting the story it always linked back to this page which on closer inspection isn’t the Government body it appears to be.
When I first heard about this experiment in the cult movie (and one I love by the way) ‘What The Bleep Do We Know’ I was stunned and not especially surprised.
I do believe that thoughts have power, even if I have no idea what that power can do or even if we have the capability to harness it.
Then last week I was reading the interesting book, ‘Nudge’ and my belief was shifted.
According to the authors Professor Cass Sunstein and Professor Richard Thaler, the reports are fabricated nonsense. In fact, they insist the murder rate hit record heights during the period of the meditation.
I cannot substantiate that, but I can find evidence that confirms 1993 was a record year for homicide in Washington DC.
This would suggest that if the crime rates did dip so steeply in June and July (crime usually drops during bad weather) it must have been an absolute bloodbath of Biblical proportions for the rest of the year in DC.
Even so, this story has developed a life of its own online. Why do you think that is?
It’s because people want to believe it. It gives hope. How amazing to think we can meditate crime away, wouldn’t that be absolutely fantastic? Damn straight it would, and as a pacifist I’d be the first to sign up.
In 1988 a British politician and Margaret Thatcher wannabe named Edwina Currie, decided that she wasn’t satisfied with having a face that merely looked like an Ass, she wanted to talk like one too.
At the time she was a Junior Minister for Health looking to make a name for herself within the Tory Party. Well she certainly achieved that when she made the asinine statement:
“Most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is now affected with salmonella”
Even if it were true and even if she did believe it, it’s not the kind of thing you’d expect a Minister of the Crown to be spouting off about.
As you can imagine egg sales plummeted, farmers revolted and Currie had enough egg on her face to kill her stone dead in seconds if her words had been true.
That is the epitome of making an outrageous claim without outrageous evidence to back it up.
As it happens, most eggs weren’t infected with salmonella it was about as true as the Easter Bunny, but the damage was done nevertheless.
Of course a lot of people rolled their eyes as they tucked into their egg and soldiers for breakfast that morning, but a great many didn’t. They took what they heard at face value and stopped buying eggs or eating products that contained eggs.
Think of any major conspiracy theory and you’ll usually find outrageous claims with little or no outrageous proof to substantiate them. I was a huge JFK theory conspiracy theorist for many years. I was almost obsessed by it and JFK is still one of my favorite movies.
Then about 5 years ago the BBC ran a program on the magic bullet theory. I settled down eager to have my theories confirmed only for a computer simulation to prove beyond reasonable doubt that it could have happened as suggested at the time.
I and many others had an outrageous claim, but no outrageous proof and I was genuinely devastated.
I wanted it to be true and as such I went out looking for proof to back up that belief.
We all do that, it’s human nature. and it’s called ‘Confirmation bias’ and is summed up beautifully by Robert Anton Wilson:
“What the thinker thinks, the prover proves”
As well as confirmation bias, a lot of people are heavily invested in the idea of the LoA too. To change their mind now would mean a huge loss of face and nobody likes losing face. Do not under estimate the power of investment in an idea.
A lot of people have been, and still are, making outrageous claims about the Law of Attraction, without scientific proof to substantiate those claims.
There are a million and one anecdotal stories about how the LoA worked for this person or that person, but nobody has proved a damn thing.
Does that mean it’s nonsense? Of course not, every major scientific breakthrough was preceded by a period of doubt and often ridicule.
However, it does increase the likelihood it’s nonsense and suggests a much closer investigation is needed if it is going to attain any credibility.
I think we can all agree, The Secret was the reason most people became familiar with the LoA. Unfortunately it’s not cool to admit that, so everybody I speak to about it seems to have got into it just a tad before The Secret came out.
The fact the film is littered with inaccuracies and contradictions seemed to have bypassed most people’s critical judgment on first viewing (including my own).
That may well be because like the meditation experiment people WANT to believe in it. The Secret sold it as a short cut to success and let’s face it, who doesn’t want a short cut to success?
Let me know if you ever find one.
But for every person that stuck a picture of a house on a cork board and then bought that house, how many tens of thousands didn’t?
For every person that mocked up a fake headline and it came true, how many didn’t? For every person that was cured miraculously from a life threatening illness, how many died?
I can point you to at least 2 graves that contain people who eschewed medical intervention until it was too late because they believed in the Law of Attraction.
You’re Just No Good At Manifesting
The rebuke to that question elicited the response along the lines of “Yeh but the ones that didn’t get it didn’t really believe it”
Oh please. Does that mean that all those American Idol wannabes don’t actually believe they are good enough? If so, then they are damn fine actors and Oscars await them all.
Taking that a stage further, does that also indicate the person that wins American Idol each year is the ONLY one that genuinely thinks they can win it?
Do you think every person that survives a life threatening illness believed they would do so?
Or is it more reasonable to believe some people genuinely and wholeheartedly believed they were going to die and didn’t. And of course vice versa.
It makes you wonder how hypochondria even exists because these people would be ravaged with disease sent to them courtesy of the LoA.
What is the deal with people who suffer from mental illness that genuinely believe with all their being they will become movie stars? If they are sending out the right vibes wouldn’t the LoA deliver the goods?
Or does it know the difference between a pure and not so pure vibration? Did it send them their mental illness in the first place for vibrating at the wrong frequency? Serves them right for having a chemical imbalance.
And what about huge sporting upsets, how are they explained? I don’t know a St Louis Rams fan who didn’t believe they’d beat the New England Patriots in the 2001 Superbowl. They were the biggest favorites in Superbowl history, yet they lost.
The LoA would go some way to explain that if the Pats fans thought they’d win, but they didn’t. They were more amazed than the Rams fans.
Rams fans, players and all the media thought they’d win. Pats fans and undoubtedly some players thought they’d lose.
That’s a fairly prosaic example, but it still doesn’t make much sense to me. Was the LoA having a day off or had it just had a tidy wager on a New England upset?
Coincidences Happen…..Every Day!
And what about big lottery winners? Are they the creme de la creme of the manifesting world beating out millions of others, or did they just get lucky? If that happens to be you and you believe in the LoA, you’ll undoubtedly claim that was the reason.
Yet for every 10,000,000 people that don’t win the lottery, one has to, and to them it may well ‘prove’ the LoA. Coincidences have to happen in nature, they’re an absolute certainty, even if they can seem very weird and very personal at the time.
A lot of people believe in manifestation and as such some of them will win the lottery, it’s a given, but it doesn’t prove squat.
Have you ever heard an amazing story told by somebody that was booked on a flight that later crashed and everybody on board was killed? Often the lucky soul will believe it wasn’t their time or that their guardian angel was looking out for them.
They seem to forget that almost every major commercial flight that takes off has at least one passenger missing for some reason or other.
The businessman that misses his connection isn’t thanking his guardian angle at the time; he’s just pissed off that he’s’ going to miss his important meeting and his luggage is now on its way to Delhi.
Except of course if the plane goes down, then he forgets he was pissed off and realizes he was the chosen one.
Before The Bullshit Called ‘The Secret’
Prior to The Secret the ground had been laid by the likes of Thomas Leonard and of course by Esther and Jerry Hicks.
Leonard the co-founder of Coachville and ICF (International Coaching Federation) is often described as the father of modern day life coaching and was without doubt a highly influential figure.
He wrote an interesting book called ‘The 28 Laws of Attraction’ (formerly 28 Principles of Attraction).
It begs the question though, how useful was being able to manifest abundance to Thomas Leonard? Well not much as it turns out, because as the more astute of you will have noticed I referred to him in the past tense.
He died in 2003 at the tender age of 48. I would have thought manifesting a bit more life would have been higher up on his to do list.
Esther Hicks the poster child of the LoA movement, is undoubtedly a brilliant live performer and her use of the Milton Model of Language is brilliant.
She may indeed be a conduit for a higher being called Abraham.
On the other hand, she may be a highly skilled con artist.
When I say con artist, that would still apply even if she has positive intentions because she would be knowingly deceiving people.
And there is also a third option, that she has lost the plot completely and is doing it all unconsciously.
Putting aside any beliefs you have for a moment, which of the above is the most likely, statistically speaking?
Or as Scottish philosopher David Hume more eloquently put it:
“No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish”
I have not seen or heard of anything she does that cannot be explained by cold reading, artfully vague language and a shit load of confidence. So is that the explanation, or does Esther Hicks weave miracles?
One of the most distasteful aspects or more accurately byproducts of the LoA is the high and mighty attitude of some of the devotees when you have the temerity to question their beliefs.
Don’t get me wrong; there are of course some thoughtful, considered and highly intelligent people such as Wayne Dyer that support the LoA, and they have my respect.
However, there are also a lot of evangelical drum beating, smug types that hang around on message boards and think non-believers are heretics deserving of their wrath and occasional patronizing sympathy for not ‘getting it’.
As the risk of seeming flippant, what the hell are these people doing on message boards defending their position. Can’t they do something more productive with their unearthly powers?
Maybe they could manifest food for the starving, shelter for the homeless or a head of hair and waist size less than 40” for Joe Vitale.
There has been a noticeable shift over the last year or so brought on by backlash against The Secret.
Whereas a couple of years ago there seemed to be few dissenters, now in the aftermath of people like Wayne Dyer coming out publicly and saying “they (The Secret makers) missed the point” they are everywhere.
Trying to find a LoA advocate that likes The Secret is trickier than finding an athlete that openly admits to taking steroids. Yet the thing sold millions of copies, and after all, Oprah loved it.
Is It Just Visualization?
The backlash has resulted in people previously claiming you can manifest something into your life by thought alone, to you can manifest something into your life by thought and then some action too.
Er, yeh right. So let me get this straight. You think about something and then do it and that makes it more likely to happen? Cool, that certainly is a radical concept and food for thought, I must mention it to my clients.
Visualization is a very valuable tool and there is no doubt whatsoever that it does work. I have written an entire section for How To Be Rich and Happy in which I explain how it works and why anybody can benefit from it.
There has even been successful research led by Dr Nick Hall into using visualization to defeat cancer. Whereas the results were not conclusive they were very encouraging.
It’s not especially complicated to grasp the basics and doesn’t require divine intervention to make it succeed. When we focus on something we want there are a number of reasons that make it far more likely to happen than if we give it scant consideration.
The same goes for optimistic thinking. Over twenty years of groundbreaking research done by world renowned expert Dr Martin Seligman in the field of Positive Psychology, has proven beyond any reasonable doubt the benefits of adopting such behavior.
So before anybody accuses me like the last time I posted on this topic, of being negative, I’m not. I’m inquisitive, intrigued and doubtful, but that is not the same as being negative.
Show Me The Science
We all know the LoA isn’t a law in any scientific sense of the word and thankfully even the most hardcore supporters seem to have now begrudgingly accepted that.
In actuality it’s a theory that few scientists take seriously.
Just because it’s been embraced by so many people, doesn’t necessarily make it true. And yes out of the tens of thousand of scientist worldwide, I’m sure you can fine one or two that are LoA advocates, just as you can find some that think the link between smoking and lung cancer is tenuous.
Lot’s of people believed witches floated, the earth was the center of the solar system, mentally ill people were possessed by the devil and Orson Wells was announcing a real life Martian invasion that happened to coincide with Halloween.
Millions of people still believe the self development urban myth that we only use 10% of our brain when science had proven beyond doubt the decimal place is in the wrong place and the true figure is 100%.
I know it probably doesn’t seem like it, but I honestly have mixed feelings about the LoA.
However, it concerns me some supporters are too quick to brush off legitimate questions about natural and not so natural disasters like the Asian Tsunami of ’04 and the Holocaust.
It also worries me that some people see their lives as a mess and think it’s all down to them.
The mother that loses a child in labor and thinks it was her fault or the life coaching client that sits down and says “My life is shit and I know it’s my fault because I’ve seen The Secret” I’ve now heard the latter or words to that effect, three times from clients, although thankfully not recently.
On the other hand I know some people that have made extraordinary changes for the better in their lives and site the LoA as the reason.
Belief is probably the most powerful thing known to mankind and if these people believe so strongly in their ability to change, then it’s perfectly reasonable to suggest they will. We really don’t need a LoA to explain such incidents.
Is The Law of Attraction A Religion?
To me the LoA is religion for people that don’t believe in religion. It gives hope, it helps make sense out of a world that doesn’t make much sense a lot of the time.
The human mind is conditioned to look for order, to see patterns where there are no patterns and none of us are immune to that.
The skeptic in me wants to say this:
If you believe in the LoA read up on stuff that contradicts it. Look for examples that you attribute to the LoA and see if you can explain them in any other way.
Read with an open mind, and if you are unsure exactly what that entails, watch this:
Then if you still believe, that’s cool, go with it.
The idealist and hypocrite in me prefers to say this:
It has been proven that faith gives people meaning in life. In fact, people with strong religious convictions (without going over the edge into evangelicalism because then it reverses itself) tend to live longer.
So if believing in the LoA makes you feel good and gives you a sense of purpose and control in your life, why upset the apple cart?
So there you have it, I have ended up with a complete cop out. And the reason is because I simply don’t have an answer. I think I do, but that’s not the same thing at all, is it?
What’s your take? Are you a believer or a non-believer. Interestingly enough, when I was asking around on Twitter for a counterpoint a few months ago, only one person stepped forward and the resultant post In Defense of the Law of Attraction was somewhat less than convincing.
Image: ‘Unicorn Crossing’ Courtesy of Catherine