Articles

The Things I Want to Believe… (or a rant about the Law of Attraction)

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Everyone’s enlightened!

It seem’s like in the last few years nearly every one I know has had some sort of spiritual (damn, I wanted to get part way through this without using meaninglessly ambiguous terminology) enlightenment. I do not exclude myself from this sweeping statement, nor am I trying to nullify any potentially valuable changes people have made to the way they think about reality. I just want to know, how long we can go on patting ourselves on the back for realising that reality doesn’t exist before we realise that knowing that doesn’t actually change anything? The way people talk is changing but our lives remain pretty much the same…

I am sure there are lots of reason why this empowerment of thought has not lead to real social change. For this article I want to examine one:  the ‘Law of Attraction’; the idea that we create our reality purely through our thoughts, which I consider bullshit, albeit planted firmly on sound psychological principles.

Firstly, it’s not a law:

‘A scientific law is a statement based on repeated experimental observations that describes some aspects of the universe. A scientific law always applies under the same conditions, and implies that there is a causal relationship involving its elements (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_law)’

Such repeated experimental observations have not been made. It is actually nearly impossible to test the Law of Attraction according to this criteria because the people who developed it as a concept have cleverly written in the clause that if you don’t whole-heartedly believe in the Law, then it won’t work. Therefore it cannot be tested scientifically because for a fair test to take place the testers would have to forego any belief bias until after they had conducted their experiments.

Secondly, I keep hearing/reading people claim that ‘scientists have found proof’ that the Law of Attraction is true; well, this is a lie. Someone please name the scientists and name the experiments, because I haven’t found any. There are many writers (find a list of them here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/srinivasan-pillay/is-there-scientific-evide_b_175189.html) who claim that the ‘law’ is based on sound scientific principles but they are not scientists themselves…

Science fiction is when you take a concept that scientists do not fully understand, such as the peculiar way that matter behaves at a sub-atomic level, and create your own concept by combining your imagination with the little you understand of the actual scientific information .

The Law of Attraction is science fiction; we don’t know why measuring matter at a sub-atomic level can appear to change the nature of that matter. We need to do more experiments.

When scientists say things like ‘your belief system determines the reality you see’, you need to remember your belief system is not just about what you think, it is about how you have evolved to perceive reality. A prawn will have a very different belief system to that of a human being regarding how the world looks because its eyes work in such different ways.

Most ‘proof’ of the law of attraction is really mean anecdotal evidence, such as this:

 http://www.joeseeber.com/law-of-attraction-proof/

The problem with anecdotal evidence concerning the Law of Attraction is that only anecdotes supporting the existence of the Law will be deemed relevant by those who espouse the Law; if I claim to have tried using the Law of Attraction to get the things that I want but that it didn’t work, then someone who believes in the law will tell me that it is my belief that it didn’t work that prevented it from working, eventually.

There is a fundamental flaw in any system that requires you believe in it in order to prove that it works; such a system can never be scientifically proven because it is nearly impossible to conduct control experiments. For a believer, the only time the law is relevant is after it has worked, until that moment you have to keep believing in it or it won’t work…

Sounds a bit like the Emperor’s New Clothes…

So why has the theory that we can have anything we want just by wishing for it become so popular when it is little more than a science-fiction tale? Well, as well as tenuously borrowing credibility from Quantum Theory, the Law of Attraction also manipulates data regarding the value of positive thinking…

If I believe I am definitely going to get a certain job, for example, then my senses will be attuned to finding that job and I will be more likely to notice an advertisement for that kind of job. If I make it through to the interview stage, my belief that I am going to get the job will give me the confidence to interview well, improving my chances of getting the job. The fact is, if you are actively thinking about something you want, in a positive way, then your mind will be more prepared for finding and achieving that thing. This is not a scientific law or a magical spell, this is confidence; of course positive thinking works.

However, if a meteorite blows up the workplace before I start the job then I won’t be able to do it. This might be a pretty rare occurrence, but it is possible.If someone else believes whole-heartedly that they can get the job and that person has better qualifications than me, they will probably get the job, no matter how hard I believe otherwise. It’s possible the company is hiring to replace a long-term employee, who might decide just in the nick of time not to quit.

There are numerous factors in life that we CAN NOT CONTROL. Understandably, the Law of Attraction is very appealing to people who, like myself,suffer from control issues. For people with illnesses like depression or bi-polar disorder, or for people with neurological conditions such as autism, the idea that we create our own reality may not only be comforting but it may also seem intuitive; such conditions are often accompanied by a lack of empathy and increased sense of anxiety, an inability to see the world from someone else’s perspective and an innate fear as a result. The Law of Attraction both confirms that you are in control of your own reality and negates the importance of other people in shaping it.

I do not think that this is a healthy idea. As an autistic person, I would love to believe that I am the all-powerful master of my own universe, and sometimes I even tell myself that I am; when I am struggling with a particularly negative experience it can really help to tell myself that I am in control of how I respond to that situation. I can choose whether to be upset or not; sometimes it is incredibly difficult to overcome negative thoughts purely through positive thinking, but it is good to try. I can’t actually change reality though, just how I think about it and, to a slightly lesser extent, how I respond to it emotionally, however, people who claim to have mastered the Law of Attraction say they they can change reality; so, my final question is, why do they all seem to choose to wish for such mundane things?

The people making money (from selling videos/books/seminars/etcetera) about the Law of Attraction all just seem to want money; whilst it is true that the Law of Attraction has brought them money, lots of people make money from selling salvation. Lots of preachers claim that if you believe in God he will reward you financially, and funnily enough these people tend to be the only ones for whom the theory works. So how do you make money from the Law of Attraction unless it is by selling people the Law of Attraction?

Well, the law proposes that if I open an envelope and imagine a bill inside, then I will find a bill but that if I open an envelope and imagine a cheque inside, then I will find a cheque…

That’s called manifestation!

Now, this claim seems both extravagant and bland to me; money isn’t important, you just use it to buy the things that are, it’s a middle-man. If you can manifest your own reality(!), why bother with a middle-man? Why bother manifesting something as boring as money?

Instead of thinking about money, you should think about what you really want. If you want to live on a beautiful desert island, visualize that island, visualize being on that island, believe that it is going to happen for you…

Now, either get off your arse and do something to make it happen or prepare to spend a long time sitting on your arse imagining. If you do the former, remember you made it happen through a combination of factors, all of which were facilitated by your positive mental attitude. If you do the latter, remember that your sore bum doesn’t really exist unless you measure it.

We can choose how we think about things and our actions can change reality, in accordance with a specific set of scientific laws, some of which we do not fully understand yet. That’s about it.

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