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Is It Law of Attraction or Just Magical Thinking?

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Attract abundance with The Law of Attraction

Attract abundance with The Law of Attraction

The Law of Attraction

Do you ever think about positive thoughts versus negative thoughts?

Do you feel bad or guilty about having negative thoughts?

Do you try to be more positive?

Most of us think a lot of thoughts each day. Up to 80,000 (or 3,000 per hour)! Do each and every one of them matter?

It was just a few decades ago that bad thoughts were merely... bad thoughts. Sometimes bad thoughts were actually good, because it allowed us to vent about our boss in the only safe place-- our mind.

Along comes The Law of Attraction and it changed the way we think about thoughts.

We now pay really close attention to the types of thoughts we have. We label them “good” or “bad” and believe an imminent good or bad experience will result because of our 80,000 thoughts. Who’s keeping score?

LOA (Law of Attraction) suggests the universe is an omnipresent score-keeper.

The Law of Attraction is not only a popular self-help subgroup, but it has shaped our daily lives, our beliefs, and our thoughts in a profound way, even if you've never read or watched anything about the topic.

The Law of Attraction is the belief that positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences into a person's life.

This notion should be simple except for the fact that negative thoughts are a natural part of the human condition. Most are harmless and even helpful.

Rather than create negative experiences in our lives, they've done the exact opposite throughout history; they’ve helped us survive!

People are now uncomfortable with negative thoughts though, even fearful that those thoughts may end up a reality, and this ends up being worse than having the negative thought itself.

The belief that positive or negative thoughts produce a physical reality dates back to early Psychology when a common attribute of certain mental disorders was referred to as magical thinking.

The similarities between magical thinking and Law of Attraction are striking!

Do good thoughts lead to a good life?

Do good thoughts lead to a good life?

Today, it’s impossible to scroll through your social media without being bombarded with positive thoughts, affirmations, mantras, and quotes. And this certainly beats worse things we could find out there, but how exactly are you being affected by the positive-thought brigade?

Is too much of a good thing, bad?

[Studies show viewing positive thoughts or positive affirmations make depressed or anxious people feel worse.]

Our belief is so wrapped up in the power of positive thinking that it's hard to take an objective look at how it affects us.

We assume that good equals good and bad equals bad, but our thoughts (and life) are more complex than that.

You'd think that seeing everyone enjoying their life on social media would equate to similar positive feelings in us, but it doesn't. Not even close.

What we've learned though Psychology now is that viewing everyone's "perfect" life on social media has a negative impact on us; it leads to mood disruption, depression, anxiety, and even suicide in some.

Reality consists of many variables and is more complicated than the common belief that our thoughts create our reality.

People are absorbed in positive/negative hyper-awareness, but it’s not that simple.

However, this positive/negative notion is everywhere from the books you read to the conversations you have with others.

WE WATCH WHAT WE THINK.

WE WATCH WHAT WE SAY.

The Law of Attraction and positive thinking have become so woven into the fabric of our daily lives that we may not notice what affect it actually has on us, good or bad.

George's Story...Pain and Pretending

George was a great salesman. He was orderly and put together and everybody liked him. He had a great business going, a wife and three kids.

One autumn weekend, George arranged to take a short vacation to Virginia (in addition to a sales convention he was attending). It was beautiful this time of year. His wife insisted on visiting all the sights to see, including a cathedral church set against the colorful foliage of the fall leaves.

But on the way out, George was suddenly struck by a thought that if he didn't donate money in the church box he would die soon. Before he could question this thought, he was searching his pockets where he found a few bills and some change. He felt better for the time being.

It wasn't until later in the week, after they returned home, that he was driving from work and had another disturbing thought, If you don't call your wife, you will die soon. So he called his wife immediately. All was fine for the time being.

However, these thoughts came up more and more and he knew that they were getting more ridiculous, but they also paralyzed him in fear if he didn't do as the thoughts commanded.

is-it-law-of-attraction-or-magical-thinking

This is when George came into therapy. He was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive thoughts. And knowing that many others had this same issue, he felt a lot better.

A week or so went by and he came back to therapy seemingly cured. His therapist suggested he still go through therapy. George lived a "perfect" life for about as much as his obsessive-compulsiveness had served him. Only It wasn't serving him anymore, but he was still feeling better knowing that many people have obsessive-compulsive thoughts and/or behaviors.

The next week, George was back in therapy, now tortured by his thoughts. 'It's like I have one bad thought and in order to get that thought to go away, I have to do what my mind says. Last night I took a drive all the way back to work at 2 am just to make sure I hadn't run someone over earlier that day.'

George was now looking haggard, sleepless, and had lost a few pounds.

As the therapist suggested, they went through George's life. George thought it was useless, but he was desperate and he wanted the therapy to work.

His life wasn't as ideal as he believed it to be even though he considered himself a positive, easygoing person.

His wife was severely depressed and would have violent rages. His oldest kid was getting in trouble at school. He had almost no relationship with his kids except one, the youngest, Christopher who was a kind and gentle soul.

As he divulged his past in therapy, it wasn't neat and tidy either. His dad was schizophrenic and committed when he was just 6 yrs old. He hated visiting the hospital and felt ashamed.

They went to live with his grandparents where he witnessed his grandfather beating his grandmother weekly. His mom was overly religious and one night when George was just a kid she insisted he stay up all night to pray for the preacher whom he didn't even like.

The next therapy session, George showed up in great spirits. 'I haven't had one bad thought in over a week.'

'Oh really?' asked the therapist.

'Yes. I'm cured.' George reported.

He did seem to be doing well even at the following session. He was sleeping more, eating more.

This is when he finally confessed to the therapist that he'd made a pact with the devil.

His therapist inquired more.

George explained, 'Well, you see, I don't really believe in the devil so it's not exactly real. It's just that now if I have one of those bad thoughts, to keep me from listening to my mind's command, I have made a pact with the devil that if I listen to the command, I will die.'

'And this seems to be working?'

'Well it was, but then I made a second pact that really works.'

'I see, what is that?'

Once again, George explained. 'If I have one of those thoughts and do as my mind commands, then my youngest, Christopher, and I will both die. I love him more than anything so you know I won't risk that. Ever!’


Can the quest for positive thoughts cost us our peace of mind?

Can the quest for positive thoughts cost us our peace of mind?

The therapist was stunned. After a few moments he spoke, 'George, you have a defect. It's called magical thinking.'

’What?! I thought therapy was supposed to make me feel better. And what was I suppose to do? YOU weren't helping me!'

The therapist went on to explain, 'Most of your problems have been caused by trying to make yourself feel better and now have they? No. Look at you! You haven't faced any of your problems because you want to feel better fast, but these problems have turned into big ones that require more than a quick fix, George.'

‘Let me explain... Magical thinking is the belief that thoughts in and of themselves may cause events to occur. People who have experienced trauma can think this way. It's common in childhood too, but we usually grow out of it.'

'And, George, you've got a character flaw accompanied by magical thinking. Your "easy-going" nature is cowardice. You take the easy way out. You thought therapy would be easy too. You try to avoid facing your marriage, your children, and your past. You believe that changing your thoughts is your salvation, but they are only a symptom. This has nothing to do with those thoughts. Instead of facing reality, you've gone and made a deal with the devil. Well if all you want is the easiest possible relief from the pains of reality then the devil is your man.'

George finally spoke, 'If I reverse the pact then I have to go back to the terrible thoughts.'

'I expect that's right,' the therapist agreed.

'But how can I choose pain?' George mused.

'By facing it.'

'How do I face it?'

'Well, If you think about death, think about it. Don't try to avoid it. If you try to think about puppies instead, you'll have a rabid beast on your hands.’

George returned to his thoughts the following day, but something changed. He was more willing to examine them and understand them.

Eventually he talked his wife into getting therapy as well and the marriage improved. Two months later his obsessive thoughts resolved.

He no longer thought of himself as an easy-going person, but a sensitive soul instead. He was sensitive to pain, to stress, to the passing of seasons, but in his vulnerability to pain, he found his courage and humanity.

People use magical thinking to avoid realities.

The Psychology of Magical Thinking

  • Magical thinking | psychology | Britannica
    Magical thinking, the belief that one’s ideas, thoughts, actions, words, or use of symbols can influence the course of events in the material world. Magical thinking presumes a causal link between one’s inner, personal experience and the external phy
I am who I am

I am who I am

How Law Of Attraction Works...and Doesn't Work

There's many different theories and thoughts on the Law of Attraction, but all of them involve an element of positive thinking. In fact, it's a key ingredient.

If you were affected by George's story (a real patient case study in the 1970's), you may realize that magical thinking and LOA/manifesting/positive thoughts/affirmations have a lot in common.

The focus of LOA is on WHAT YOU WANT, but if your mind has a tendency to wander to that which you DO NOT WANT, you may inadvertently cause excessive worries and fears that bad stuff will happen to you if you think bad thoughts. This is plain superstition, but can result in more distress than good fortune and abundance.

In other words, if you are prone to believing your thoughts alone can cause physical realities, then you may also reason if good thoughts cause good things then bad thoughts cause bad things.

Let me reinforce the idea that your thoughts are not that powerful. Lighten up! This is good news, I promise!

Is Law of Attraction and Manifesting, Merely Magical Thinking?

If we were to take LOA to its logical extreme, we'd have to consider a belief in anything, including things that haven't been scientifically proven.

To be a victim of distressing types of magical thinking (like George), logic wasn't present. It's the belief that anything can cause anything and that is the problem.

You may also attribute your thoughts or behaviors to something after the fact, but this hindsight bias, it is not real cause and effect.

We must know one truth: Our negative thoughts do not directly cause negative events. They can cause over-thinking, stress, and worry so that we don't perform as well or become preoccupied and make more mistakes, but the thoughts themselves are not a causal factor in your reality.

This means positive thoughts do not cause positive events to occur in your physical reality. This may be a hard pill to swallow if LOA represents magical thinking for you, but this can give you some perceived control because what you do is the most important factor in whether something manifests. If you choose positive thoughts, your attitude and behavior may be more favorable.

Truly affecting your physical reality takes concerted effort, plenty of planning on your part, and specific behaviors, not as much random acts of the universe (sorry).

Speaking of swallowing pills, you may wonder why the placebo effect occurs if our thoughts do not cause physical realities. But a placebo pill does not work based on positivity or negativity. It works based on expectation.

Make Law of Attraction Work For You:

  • Connect what you want to a goal and connect that goal to specific and consistent actions you take. This is a solid display of cause and effect.
  • Focus on what you want, not what you don't want. If you want more money because you are fearful of being poor, you are running from something rather than facing it.
  • The state you are in matters. Meditation is great for manifesting as you are in a relaxed state. Hypnosis also puts you in an altered state to receive positive suggestions. When we make deals with the universe (or the devil), we should not be under duress in a state of stress or anxiety.
  • Practice gratitude. You can remind yourself what you are thankful for as well as notice what you like and love in your life already. This keeps you grounded in what it feels like to have what you do want.
  • Use visualization. Studies show visualizing the process and goal fulfillment, improves performance and achievement of the goal.
Law of Attraction or Magical Thinking

Law of Attraction or Magical Thinking

Imagine how much more freeing it would be to live a life apart from labels! The key to this mindset, of course, is to realize that your feelings about an event do not change the event itself.

Comments

Laurinzoscott from Kanab, Utah on March 21, 2020:

Wow what a great topic, and yes although I agree on many points...im still rolling thoughts around in my head...it is definiteky a little iof both methinks....but gey...im a dumb man...anyway Awesone Read!!!!!

Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on February 22, 2020:

James,

I love your logic. I know we’re both interested in those types of thoughts, behaviors or events in our society that are based on false logic but passed off as real and accepted without question.

Excellent quotes pertaining to this subject. I especially enjoyed the plane example.

What Rhonda Byrne portrays is power and greed, feeding people lies and playing on the psychology of magical thinking for her own benefit. If those who’ve faced past trauma are more susceptible to magical thinking then she is clearly taking advantage of those people.

Law of Attraction is based on superstition and magical thinking.

Thanks for the comment!

James A Watkins from Chicago on February 21, 2020:

I love your outstanding and needful article! Well done. I wrote a little bit about this in my latest book, if I may quote from it:

"Rhonda Byrne sold 19 million copies of her book The Secret, about the so-called ‘Law of Attraction.' If you are poor, have no job, sick or depressed, can't read, addicted to drugs or alcohol, abused or battered, in a lousy job, can't pay your bills, or facing foreclosure, bankruptcy, and ruin, the only reason for it is that you thought negative thoughts! Or have negative friends."

One famous women's health expert, Dr. Christiane Northrup, promotes the Law of Attraction: "The way the universe works is that we attract to us whatever we are vibrating." Does this mean victims of rape and murder were ‘vibrating' the crimes they suffered? Do negative thinkers walk in the rain right next to positive thinkers walking in the sunshine? If a plane crashes are only the negative thinkers killed?

Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on February 19, 2020:

Carolyn,

Yes. Exactly. Our thoughts ALONE (without action and several other variables) do not have the power to control external events.

And you’re correct, LOA involves much more than just positive thoughts. My hope was to weed that out for everyone and in addition inform those who give too much power to thoughts alone.

Thanks for the comment!

Laura

Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on February 19, 2020:

LOA is more complicated than just "thinking" your way to a good life. You must also take action. Thoughts lead to words, words lead to action, action leads to results. It's the results that we are all after.

Also, just "thinking" about something positive, without actually believing it, will not help at all.

Excellent article!

Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on February 19, 2020:

Chitrangada Sharan

I agree that a positive thought in the morning can set the tone for a good day. I like to meditate in the morning. Clear and organize my head.

That’s a good point about positive thoughts improving your attitude. Positive thoughts may not directly affect physical reality, but they do affect how we deal with experiences in our physical reality.

Thank you for the comment and additional insight.

Laura

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 18, 2020:

An excellent and insightful article, and I feel enriched, after reading it. Thanks for explaining these aspects of human psychology, which many of us come across almost everyday, but don’t know how to deal with them.

I believe the positive thoughts, do help us in keeping the right attitude, which in turn helps us to get through the good, as well as the tough situations of life. It’s all about maintaining the balance. Accepting failures, in the same way, as we would celebrate the success.

One positive thought, in the mornings, can prepare us for the whole day.

Thanks for sharing this wonderful article.

Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on February 18, 2020:

Oscar,

Yes I agree. I like the frog/horse analogy. I also think a good sprinkle of LOA and positive thinking can help people get through tough times as long as that’s not the only thing they’re relying on. It’s kind of like that saying, ‘Pray to God but row for the shore.’ There’s a point at which we keep at it or let go but also know our part in each of those scenarios.

Very interesting with the codependency addition. I can definitely relate to that.

Thanks!

Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on February 18, 2020:

Thank you Umesh Chandra Bhatt

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on February 18, 2020:

Interesting article. Good approach.

Oscar Jones from Monroeville, Alabama on February 18, 2020:

Yes, a very positive mind can help to release those endorphins that make you happy. BUT not everything is good for you, so there has to be a (practical) reference point. A frog will wear himself out if he begins to believe he's a horse, and carry heavy loads, and especially if he tries to gallop along with his frog legs.. good thoughts! Even upbeat people who practice faith meditations meet a time or moment that nothing seems to pull them up.. In those times its important to just hold on.. hold tight. because there will also come a time when you know its time to let go.. and in those cases you don't quite know which to do, someone surely will come along and tell you, " hold on", and then " let go".. but what's important is that after awhile, if that person or thing you're depending on doesn't tell you when to let go; well, that you can demonstrate the ability, or maybe a better word, comprehend, that if you're holding on really tight to something, then there is an associated response that suggests at some point its the right thing to let go. Lots of codependency arguments can come up, But not to the extent that you actually destroy every relationship that has any negative effect on you, for you wouldn't be human, and there would be no (perfect) humans to replace them with if you did release them from you, BUT knowing that there is a point that you might have to remove yourself from toxic, or other negative impactful relationship. But little bits of loa and little bits of magical thinking might be part of the success formula, if its well controlled and not let to morph the frog into something he's not capable of. good read!