Law of a attraction – scam? How law of attraction bullshit hurt me, how it can help you if you read this
What is the law of attraction?
Here’s a direct quote from Rhonda Byrne, the creator of the widely popular book & movie “The Secret”. The definition presented in this movie is pretty much the definitions that people think of when they say ‘law of attraction’.
Thoughts are magnetic, and thoughts have a frequency. As you think, those thoughts are sent out into the Universe, and they magnetically attract all like things that are on the same frequency. Everything sent out returns to its source. And that source is You.
Asking the Universe for what you want is your opportunity to get clear about what you want. As you get clear in your mind, you have asked.
Believing involves acting, speaking, and thinking as though you have already received what you’ve asked for. When you emit the frequency of having received it, the law of attraction moves people, events, and circumstances for you to receive.
Receiving involves feeling the way you will feel once your desire has manifested. Feeling good now puts you on the frequency of what you want.
To lose weight, don’t focus on “losing weight”. Instead, focus on your perfect weight. Feel the feelings of your perfect weight, and you will summon it to you.
It takes no time for the Universe to manifest what you want. It is as easy to manifest one dollar as it is to manifest one million dollars.
A personal account of my experiences with the law of attraction
When I was 15 I was very open to pretty much every esoteric theory there was because I suffered from sever anxiety and I really wanted to help myself (and some of the methods I read actually did do just that, even though they would have helped me a lot more if I understood the science behind them, which I’ll discus later on this website.)
One of the books I read was Ask And it’s Given by Esther Hicks. It promised me that I’ll not only overcome my anxiety, and panic attacks through affirmations and self-suggestion but also become filthy rich pretty much effortlessly. It said that the only thing that I have to do to get anything is to believe that I have with conviction. Even to my naive young mind this promise seemed to good to be true, but at the same time I thought to myself
It did some good. It allowed me to believe in myself.
This hopeful belief has persuaded me to try this law for myself. And in fact it did help. My powerful motivation to think positively has made me more open to my peers and in turn has allowed me to even make some friends, and all in all it was one of the factors that motivated me to continuous self improvement.
It also made me pretty much just happier. I began to focus more on the positive things in life and really persuaded myself into believing that I’ll become better if I just try, and in turn made me set goals for the future
But it also did some bad
There are actually quite a few ways in which the law of attraction hurt me which make me sometimes consider it a form of scam & bullshit (I’ll explain that in depth later in this article).
- It made me very uncritical of any books or theories that I read, because I was afraid that I’ll “destroy the benefit of them through my disbelief’. It also made me worried that I might unconsciously not believe in a given thing and I used it as a reason to explain why a method or technique didn’t work for me, even if I consciously did believe that it worked.
- It made me afraid of my own thoughts. At one point in my life I actually almost had a panic attack because I started to ‘think negatively’ and I started feeling guilty that I did so. Which is actually a common experience according to research studies. [nbcite refID=”2″ refName=”feelingbadaboutfeelingsad” type=”journal” author=”Bastian, B., Kuppens, P., Hornsey, M. J., Park, J., Koval, P., & Uchida, Y. ” year=”2012″ title=” Feeling bad about being sad: The role of social expectancies in amplifying negative mood” title_periodical=”Emotion” volume=”12″ issue=”1″ pages=”pp. 69-80″]
- It made me set unrealistic goals for the future. I mean since the universe will give me anything I want, why should I limit myself to things that are realistic?
- It also made me …lazy. Esther Hicks in her books repeatedly stated that ”
You don’t need to do anything” you just need to believe and it will manifest on it’s own Action that is inspired from aligned thought is joyful action. Action that is offered from a place of contridicted thought is hard work that is not satisfying and does not yield good results. When you really feel like jumping into action, that is a clear sign that your vibration is pure and you are not offering contridicting thoughts to your own desire. When you are having a hard time making yourself do something, or when the action you offer does not produce the results you are seeking, it is always because you are offering thoughts in opposition to your desire.
And honestly because back then I was still very much depressed, I thought something along the lines off:
Gee… Only playing video games and watching cartoons makes me feel joyous. Doing my homework and exercising seems so boring and dreary… and according to this law of attraction stuff it means it’s unproductive, so I don’t know if I should do any of it. Maybe I should just affirm that it will happen and try to do is as effortlessly as I could?
And you guys know what? This philosophy did kind off work. It made me happier, I mean my grades have suffered but I didn’t care, I was happy in the moment. I was ‘happy’, the problem came when the finals came. I was COMPLETELY unprepared for them. Up until then I tried to believe in as much as I could but I realized
Oh dear! I have only a year to prepare for the finals, and I might not get to the school I want to go… oh dear…
I tried to think positively about it I really did, and I actually did my best I could to prepare properly for my finals, but the anxiety about being unprepared became stronger and stronger, and ultimately it made me commit suicide. (This is a very summarized version of this story, but I’ll tell you more about it in the future if you’ll follow this blog)
So basically this whole experience did make me feel that
Law of attraction -scam?
I will go with the simplest most intuitive definition of the word ‘scam’
A dishonest scheme
And in my opinion the law of attraction as it is presented is in many ways a scam, although at the same time it’s not complete bullshit. Please allow me to explain
The facts about the law of attraction that make me think “Law of attraction – scam” & “Law of attraction – bullshit”
The biggest problem that I have is not with the concept that thoughts influence our physical reality (which is actually something I somewhat believe in( You can read more about it in another article I have written) but with the unethical marketing and over-hyped promises that movies like ‘The Secret’ have created in order to bring a fundamentally esoteric principle, to the general public.
They position it as a ‘law’ and it’s not a law, at best it’s a principle
The law of attraction tries to position itself as an universal scientific law, yet other than calling itself a law it fails virtually all of the requirements for it. It isn’t specific it’s not universal.
In psychology and social sciences you actually very rarely hear the word ‘law’ being used. This is because psychology does it’s best to be as truthful as possible, and in turn it knows that it cannot say that anything in the social context will definitively happen, as there are simply to many factors at stake to be able to predict much with such certainty.
But the law of attraction, even though it deals with something esoteric, positions itself as a law
But let’s now go to the dictionary and define the word ‘law’
A statement that describes invariable relationships among phenomena under a specified set of conditions.
The law of attraction is not a law. It was called a law for marketing reasons, because people like formulas and rules.
Let me give you an example from psychology. G. Stanley Hall wrote more articles about child development than John Bowlby and many other theorists, and some would argue that his contribution was as great or even greater than hers, but at the same time he is largely forgotten because he presented his ideas in disconnected essays and never put them into law or theory.
The law of attraction is not a law, if only for the practical reason that it’s not precise. Instead it uses ambiguous emotional language to persuade people into believing in it.
And of course there are various defenses which do indeed try to say that the law of attraction ,as it’s presented in the movie “The Secret” is a law
The people who say attraction is not a law cite examples such as, “I know gravity works. When I drop a book off a skyscraper, it will hit the ground. That’s proof of the law of gravity.”
They then go on to say, “When I try to attract something, sometimes I get it and sometimes I don’t. So it isn’t a law.”
Saying you tried to attract something and failed is like saying you tried to drop a book from a skyscraper to hit a particular spot and you missed. Because you missed the spot, you say gravity doesn’t exist.
The error in this defense is that it assumes that the law of gravity states ‘What goes up must go down” which is the intuitive understanding of gravity. But the actual fundamental physical law of gravity states
Every particle of matter in the universe attracts every other particle with a force which is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.
This force of gravitational attraction between the two bodies acts along the line joining their centres. This force is hence mutual.
Which is very specific and works every time, and it’s a fundamental scientific law which precisely determines are rule which is true every single time.
In turn the law of attraction, even if you do fully believe in it, does not describe a law, it describes, at best, a principle- something that tends to happen but might not necessarily happen.
For some odd reason the ‘secret’ was given to people with an extensive marketing background
For me the secret is an amazing achievement in marketing. Never before has a self-help DVD received as much publicity.
One of the first commercial purveyors of the law of attraction was Esther Hicks. She and her husband Jerry Hicks were amway distributors
The thing about amway is that their distributors really don’t make most of their money by selling products. No, they instead make most of their money by selling motivational courses to other distributors.
And Esther and Jerry Hicks even have written in their book that they used to teach the contents of the book “Think And Grow Rich” (Napoleon Hill himself referenced and thought the law of attraction, and so it’s very plausible that the Hicks did nothing but rehash his information) for a very long time before creating their own brand
Other than Think And Grow Rich the Hicks have based their materials on the works of another author. Jane Roberts who was a semi-popular channeler in the 60s. Jane never had a marketing background, so in turn her materials (which were most closely aligned with hermetic philosophy) were written in a far less overhyped, intellectual way which might be one of the reasons why she never made millions of them.
Think And Grow Rich + Amway + Jane Roberts= Abraham
The thing about Rhonda Byrne is that she didn’t achieve her success by only thinking about it.
She had to work for it, and sometimes very unethically
Dan Hollings was responsible for the marketing strategy behind the movie, while Drew Heriot directed it, and they both didn’t get their share
Rhonda began her adventure into positivity when her daughter has given her the book “The Science of Getting Rich” which is the dominant source of most of the philosophy given in the movie “The Secret”.
Joe Vitale was a copywriter (he wrote ads) & marketing specialist – turned self-help author who among other things now sells 5000$ rolls-royce rides and sells the law of attraction as a very efficient method to get a new car
Joe Vitale again positions ancient principles (that were never intended as tools for material gain) as practical tools to get rich. He does it not only with Hawaiian methods (as in his zero limit book) he also does it with parts of the Russian culture in his product called “the secret siberian wish maker doll”
He among other things also claims that he’s able to cure physical problems by saying “I love you” I actually have to say that when I was 17 I actually did do it. I repeated “I love you I love you” in my mind before a test. I don’t really know weather or not it healed my teacher, but I know it didn’t really achieve the intended consequence- I got an F. Back then I just explained it as me doing it wrong. But now some blogs have persuaded me that this might not be the case
I personally think that this person takes concepts that have some truth in them but distorts them to make what they promise seem ‘easier’ and positions it a ‘quick and easy’ solution to serious problems. Basically he does what every marketer dreams of doing. He sells people what people want. A magical key to getting rich, and the truth is that true spirituality, is anything but that.
The article recently posted on the Verge very well explains my real problems with Joe and all the other marketers that sell the spiritual concept: Everything they do, every word they say has one true aim – to make money. Nothing else. It’s all a very materialistic, empty pursuit. (Also he sells leads to boiler rooms, designed to con old ladies out of their money. (I am not joking it’s in the article. He’s partnered with a company called Prosper )
Joe for example aims to ‘upsell you’ towards his higher-priced coaching packages, for which his ‘cheaper’ materials server as a form of pre-sell (advertisement), and this is the case for many people who sell the law of attraction.
James Arthur Ray:
I can be very aggressive about this person, because he’s currently in jail and I don’t have to worry that an american lawyer will travel to poland and sue me for expressing my honest opinion without bothering anyone. (That’s the american way)
James Arthur Ray is responsible for the death of two people. In 2009 and he conducted a ‘retreat’ in which he did his own version of the native american sweat lodge. (2 People died 18 were injured)
I personally think that the reason that James did not immedietly help the participants of his retreat was because he actually believed that he might make the situation worse by ‘focusing on the negative aspects of the experience he’s now living through’. Which is a thought process that I myself have experienced when I was a devout believer in the law of attraction.
And needless to say, the law of attraction didn’t really save James from that accident. While I’m 100% certain he did not believe that something like that could happen.
For me this incident is the best example of what law of attraction bullshit, and by that I mean distortions of actual esoteric & psychological principles, can do to people. Even people who have as much power and influence as James Ray, as I think that if James took all the possible precautions and he would never allow for that to happen.
As the truth is that in real life it’s not always safe to be 100% positive (As James, I am sure was at that time)
Julie Norem calls this phenomena ‘defensive pessimism’ – certain situations require us to envision to worst. [nbcite refID=”3″ refName=”positivenegativethinking” type=”journal” author=”Norem, J. K., & Chang, E. C. ” year=”2002″ title=”The Positive Psychology of Negative Thinking” title_periodical=”Journal Of Clinical Psychology” volume=”58″ issue=”9″ pages=”993″]
A medical doctor serves as the best, and most easily understood example. Which doctor is better? The one who haphazardly settles for the most optimistic diagnosis, or the one who carefully thinks about all the possible, even the most negative, options.
And similarly, when you’re dealing with something that can be potentially threatening to someone elses life. You simply have to take into account the worst possible o outcome
I hate to attack one self-help notion with another but I really think that Murphy’s law is very applicable to this particular situation:
Anything that can go wrong will go wrong
And when you’re literaly dealing with fire. You have to be prepared for it.
I have to say that I’m afraid to recount my opinion about Bill Harris. Because I know that he and his lawyers have tendency to attack anyone who does that…
Plus in this article I think that just recounting my personal experience that I got with a copy of holosync that I got from allegro.pl (the polish ebay) won’t put me into trouble if I emphasize that those are just my personal experiences. Which they are.
Holosync is a brainwave entertainment technology (I will write extensively about the problem, and usefulness of them in a future article if this critical article gets at least some views) that claims you can mediate like a zen monk in a minute by only listening to this tape.
I myself have tried this on myself, and in my opinion it just put me into a state of trance, which I mistook for mindfulness, an error which greatly contributed to the destruction of my mental health (Again I’ll write more about that in future articles).
But I think that the general problem with the marketing of brainwave entrainment that I see on those sites, is the same problem that I have with the marketing of the law of attraction – They position it as a magic bullet that can effortlessly cure all of your problems, and there are no magic bullets, no secret techniques, no miracles that will make you rich and happy in an instance or an hour. There are things that help, but to say that there’s a magic bullet is to lie.
And I think people like James Ray and other marketers who try to sell spirituality as a get-rich quick scheme do a very strong psychological disservice to people who truly need help, and start believing that they can have it all without doing anything, as I once did.
The secret (As a movie) is filled with deliberate distortion and misinformation
This movie repeatedly misquoted famous people such as Churchil to imply that the they believed in the law of attraction.
For example they take this quote by Churchill, who abhorred anything metaphysical:
And claim that the supported the notion that thoughts create our own reality.
They do this with multiple different people, but this article is to long as it is for me to diesct each of them.
It even misquotes the people who were in the movie
There were two scientists in the movie. Fred Allan Wolf and John Hagelin and while both believe that our thoughts do have an esoteric influence on our reality, they do not support the “get rich quick” message of themovie, and the law of attraction movement.
About which Fred Allan wolf has written quite extensively on his blog and I consider him to be one of the genuine people featured in the secret, who’s true thoughts were heavily censored for marketing purposes.
On their own both Fred and Hagelin are physicists who take the controversial stance that there is some evidence that our some parts of our reality are indeed influenced by our internal experiences, but their stance is far less hypey and ‘motivational’ than the stance of the proponents of the secret. It’s more in aligment with the proponents of Hermetic philosophy and authentic Magick.
The law of attraction appeals to our desire for instant gratification and uses corresponding marketing tactics
Because the secret teachers promise you the secret to get money wealth and power without any work, and they know that this promise will largely appeal to people who are the most desperate and naive they charge the highest prices they can for it. (As from a marketing perspective it’s easier to sell a 2000$ product to 10 people than a 10$ product to 2000 people)
For example Joe Vitale sells car ride for 5000$
Believing in the law of attraction can decrease compassion towards suffering
The type of black and white thinking encouraged in the secret also has the tendency to discourage us from being compassionate to suffering people, and even towards having any contact with suffering people
Let’s quote Byrne the author of the book ‘The secret
Here is her response to a question about the women and children being raped and butchered in Rwanda:
These seemingly common sense quotes can very often encourage people to avoid any kind of people who don’t encourage or support them.
Of course the same applies to people with all problems: depression, anxiety, poverty etc, and even things like horror movies. I once read an account of a 40 year old woman who became profoundly afraid of watching horror movies and the news after watching the movie The Secret.
It was done before almost two centuries ago
In self help literature the idea of positive thinking is anything but new. Authors such as Wallace Wattles, Napoeleon Hill, James Allen Ernest Homes, and Norman Vincent Pale all advocated positive thinking
Nothing in the secret is new. And even the concept of marketing this esoteric principle is not new. In 1869 in
the US a book called “The Mental Cure” became a bestseller. It basically thought exactly the same thing we’re now being thought in the secret – That you can become healthy and happy using your mind and that the physical laws of the universe might not apply to you if you just try hard enough.
Of course this book was written in a far more complicated way, but the basic principle is the same.
The advice of looking for blessing and taking responsibility for how we see things is in of itself not bad, neither is it new.
It’s the new spin the secret gave to the old idea of positive thinking that can be potentially harmful
Propagators of the secret very often play the blame game.
One of the most dangerous things about it is the ”blame the victim ” approach which specialists in the law of attraction like to use
“If law of attraction doesn’t work for you, you’re doing it wrong”
This approach can be very harmful precisely to the people who many self help books claim to help: Sensitive people with low self esteem and disturbed people in general
Additionally it’s bad, because for an explanation to be scientific it needs to be falsifiable.
And the secret ,just as many other alternative approaches out of fear of failure did everything they could to make it not the case.
That’s why they try to shift the blame for the failure of their ‘magic bullet’ on to the client, and use the following responses when the law of attraction doesn’t work:
“You weren’t thinking clearly enough”
“You weren’t feeling strongly enough”
“We didn’t imagine our goals in enough detail”
“We didn’t take enough action or we didn’t take the right action”
“You didn’t really believe you could attract it”
“you had an unconscious counter intention”
‘Your subconscious didn’t believe”
“Your superconscious didn’t believe”
“You might have thought you believed but really you didn’t or there was some unconscious, unnoticed resistance”
“I dunno, you did it wrong”
Proponents of the secret uses other cult-like marketing tactics too
Additionally the law of attraction uses immoral cult-like marketing tactics
In the movie the secret the teachers are given big names and their background is not properly explained. They use terms like “Philosopher” Or “Visionary” while promising salvation.
In their seminars and courses they also very often practice love bombing and one of the secret teachers actually claims that ”I love you” is a magical phrase that can heal diseases
Additionally the law of attraction by design controls ones behavior and shifts the brain for the method not working on to you while at same time making you paranoid about your thought process.
And as James Arthur Ray has proven, the secret gurus position themselves as just that – all knowing gurus, that will give you the keys to success and happiness if you only trust in them and give up their free will to them.
There is a lot of truth to it, but it’s oversimplified
The truth is that the basic principle of the law of attraction IS based on an ancient esoteric law. It’s based on the ancient philosophy of hermetics.
The phrase “law of attraction” was actually first used in 1880 by Blavatsky in her work entitled “Isis Unveiled”.
Let me give you a short summary of Blavatsky and her ideas in this video:
But ultimatelly all that magick and other esoteric disciplines, at best, can do is to increase your luck which I have explained more thoroughly in this article
And there is a lot of truth to the secret about which I have written extensively in this article
Most proponents of the secret have never seriously applied it in their real life
I know for a fact that one of the reasons why people claim ‘oh the law of attraction works’ is that they never applied it, and were really never serious about it.
I was once on a course in bioenergetic healing (hands on healing) and only about 5% of the attendees (including me) actually did the exercises the instructor told us to do at home.
And similarly from what I read on forums and blogs, and by interviewing some people who claimed to practice the law of attraction I came to the conclusion that they only treated it as an interesting concept, and didn’t do anything to proactively practice it, as I did when I was a teen, about which you have read in the beginning of this article.
The secret can be dangerous to your mental health It has been proven to do that to me and many other people
The truth is that even outside the scope of the fragile, suggestible people with mental problems the secret also hurt stable normal individuals
From a psychological perspective the unhealthiest thing you can do is to try to avoid your internal thoughts and emotions. This is called experiential avoidance and has been proven again and again, to be one of the unhealthiest mental practices you can do. [nbcite refID=”1″ refName=”experientialavoidanceanxiety” type=”journal” author=”Feldner, M., Zvolensky, M., Eifert, G., & Spira, A. (n.d). ” year=”1996″ title=”Experiential avoidance and behavioral disorders: A functional dimensional approach to diagnosis and treatment.” title_periodical=”BEHAVIOUR RESEARCH AND THERAPY” volume=”41″ issue=”4″ pages=”p403-p411″]
Additionally secret basically tells you it’s bad to feel negative emotions, and the feeling that you ‘shouldn’t feel negative emotions has been actually proven to increase them [nbcite refID=”2″ refName=”feelingbadaboutfeelingsad” type=”journal” author=”Bastian, B., Kuppens, P., Hornsey, M. J., Park, J., Koval, P., & Uchida, Y. ” year=”2012″ title=” Feeling bad about being sad: The role of social expectancies in amplifying negative mood” title_periodical=”Emotion” volume=”12″ issue=”1″ pages=”pp. 69-80″]
To quote Daniel Wagner from the book “White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts”
Dr Reynolds then tells a truth which I, and numerous other people have expressed before:
(The Mindful Question method will help you with that)
Another danger in the concept of the law of attraction is that it encourages black and white thinking, a trait which is very often associated with depression and some mental disorders.
Many people with anxiety and depression often can’t help but to think about their illness and potential problems.
I was actually one of those people and when I believed in the law of attraction as dogmatically as I did, I was actually got a panic attack a few times just because I began being afraid that the thoughts that came into my mind will attract the thing that I was afraid off.
Time and time again I saw people who believed n the law of attraction avoiding anything remotely negative like a plaque, they couldn’t watch TV, use the internet, and sometimes even go out.
It can also be damaging to your physical health
As the law of attraction claims to be an ‘universal law that works any time’ it can discourage people from actually doing the work needed to accomplish their goals as they might feel that they have failed if they didn’t ’attract it’ using the law of attraction
Medical and psychological treatment very often does require us to face and talk about our problems, and if someone believes in the law of attraction to such a dogmatic extent that I believed in when I was young it can be potentially very harmful
The secret propagates something that I would like to call “New age Fundamentalism”
I find it interesting that my own experiences pararel the ones of Thom Rutledge in it that the secret has made me something that I could only call a “spiritual fundamentalist”
Let’s now look at yet another definition. This time of fundamentalism:
a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles
And indeed the secret, threatening to punish me if I do not do so, persuaded me to become very dogmatic and inflexible in my spiritual beliefs, something that again has had a profound negative impact on my mental and physical health. (I’ll write more extensively about this in the future)
If you take the magic out of it, it’s common sense
Is the law of attraction useless? Not at all, because if you take into account all of the excuses of why the law of attraction doesn’t work ‘sometimes’ and when you’ll even cut off all the authentic occult influences you’ll get this:
“To get what you want you must know what you want, have a desire to get it, believe you can get it and be willing to do whatever it takes to get it and have a lot of patience and persistence in doing so”
It’s just common sense. And in turn the historical esoteric perspective is also not that ‘motivational’ about it.
Additionally there is research that hypnotic suggestion helps even with healing and obviously helps you achieve your goal as when you do believe that a goal is possible you are more likely to see opportunities that will allow you to achieve that goal
Although I personally believe that there is something more to it, about which I have written extensively in this article.
That is not to say that the law of attraction is useless on it’s own. I think it’s very helpful for some people. It definitively encourages positive thinking, and goal setting which in today’s demotivated society is a very important thing
I also think that there is truth in the law of attraction even in the metaphysical sense of the word. I just personally think that the marketing of the movie has distorted it, ultimately taking all the truth out of it
I do admire people who try to improve themselves through the law of attraction and other methods. That’s why I have written this article as an unbiased version of all the articles that scream ‘law of attraction scam!’ and ‘law of attraction bullshit!’ on the internet.
I personally think that a group coaching environment which is very often created by many specialists in the law of attraction is the most helpful in the achievement of those, and other positive goals associated with the law of attraction. I especially recommend this coaching program as it involves practical tools to heal the actual negative emotions in relation to your goals, which will stop the negative thoughts associated with them automatically, freeing you from most of the negative aspects of the law of attraction that I talked about.
I’m also writing a book talking about the truth behind the secret ,and how you can use everything good about the law of attraction (from both the psychological and esoteric perspective) without the dangerous misinformation common in the popular books on this topic
If you want to get notified when I’m finished with it, please submit your email and subscribe.
Let me end this whimsically by showing you some of the popular parodies of the commercial idea shown in the secret:
Category: myth busting