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The Problem With the Law of Attraction

You can’t go anywhere these days without hearing about the Law of Attraction in some form – manifestation is now mainstream.

What was once a more niche idea in the New Age community back in the early 2000’s, has become general self-help advice, like many things. This is the idea that a positive mindset brings about positive outcomes, the same for the negative.

Specifically here, whatever intentions you put out into the Universe you receive back. Ask, believe, receive. The belief that there is something bigger is working on whatever we focus our energy on, visualize or affirm.

Before we begin

I debated writing an article like this because I know how easy it to confuse criticism of a concept versus how it is put into practice. Which is to say that something can be great in theory, but once we bring it into the real world the results don’t align as we expected.

Some people practice the Law of Attraction without any problems, it comes naturally. For others, especially those who have a tendency for overthinking or anxiety, the Law of Attraction can create more problems than it solves.

There can be a lot of shame or frustration that comes with trying to manifest – that is who I am talking to with this article, although this might be helpful for anyone.

I would like to state a few caveats before we begin. The Law of Attraction as in ‘like attracts like’ what we might also refer to as cause and effect is a useful concept. We can apply this in our lives and see great results.

A positive mindset is also important no matter our circumstances, remaining hopeful and focusing on the good that is already around us helps keeps us pushing forward. Sometimes maintaining a positive mindset despite our circumstances is the only option we have.

What I really want to discuss today is the gray areas, where Law of Attraction teachings might fall short of reality and the expectations we go into this with.

Materialistic focus

One of the main issues with law of attraction teachings is that there is usually a focus on gaining something material. We might have to develop a positive mindset in order to receive those things, however the focus is often on a specific dollar amount or object.

Rather than cultivating a positive mindset for its own sake, forcing positivity in order to gain something.

Wanting to have more is not always a negative thing, we need money and a certain number of possessions in order to survive. The problem is when we make this our entire focus, and see the law of attraction as a get rich quick scheme or an escape from our current circumstances – it isn’t.

When we want something physical, specifically something that is already far out of reach, it’s good practice to question why this might be.

Just because we can have something, doesn’t mean we should. Just because we want something doesn’t mean it will actually help us in the long-term. Think of how many items you’ve brought on a whim after being advertized them, only to receive them and realize they serve no practical purpose.

Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

Questions to ask:

  • Do I really want or need this thing?
  • Do I want this thing or am I looking for a distraction?
  • What need am I trying to fill with this manifestation?

Asking myself these questions before setting an intention has been a game-changer for me. I often find that after some introspection, it’s not something material that I want but to meet some other need or gain emotional fulfilment.

Pressure to constantly ‘raise your vibration’

Another problem I see with Law of Attraction teachings is how often we are encouraged to maintain a high vibration.

We have an idea that there is such a thing as a low vibration or a high vibration, one is bad and one is good. In reality, our consciousness doesn’t exist on a binary scale. We can be incredibly high vibe and still feel negative emotions, we can be at a low point in life and still remain positive.

It’s not a black and white concept but layers of gray. Not one person is all high or low vibe most of the time, most of us exist somewhere in the middle.

This doesn’t mean those labels can’t be helpful or don’t reflect our state of consciousness sometimes, it’s just not that simple.

Along with this, we can become fixated on a high vibration as an end-goal. We might believe that once we are at a high vibe there is no circling back or regressing. There is also no stopping point, we have to keep going higher and higher.

Through this we can begin to view our energy in a mechanical way, like a switch we turn on or off. It doesn’t allow us to be with ourselves however we might be feeling or moving throughout the world.

We are always trying to reach or maintain our high vibe, never quite reaching a specific destination. A lot of the time this brings us away from the present moment, focused on an ideal state we wish to reach in the future.

It dismisses the negative

Discussing toxic positivity in relation to the Law of Attraction has become more widespread, even in communities where the Law of Attraction is taught. This is a good thing. In order to utilize the Law of Attraction, we should have an idea of the other side too.

Toxic positivity is when we are pressured to be positive or to take a positive stance on a situation when we aren’t fully ready to. Toxic positivity also describes the subtle pressure to maintain a constant positive mindset due to the fear of how others might perceive our being ‘negative’.

Examples of this include:

  • ‘Other people have it worse’
  • ‘Just focus on the positive’
  • ‘High vibes only’
  • ‘Negative events only happen because you are focused on them’

This type of advice does have its place and it doesn’t always come with dismissive intent.

For example, knowing that other people do have it worse can be a great way to put things into perspective and motivate us. However they aren’t always helpful and there are many ways to approach and process negative experiences. We need options.

I think this becomes particularly dangerous is when we dismiss physical illnesses, inequalities and hardships in favor of wishful thinking. Rather than actively getting help when it’s needed, we push things to the side and hope for the best.

This applies on both a personal and collective level. If our physical realities are a direct representation of our state of mind, how do we conceptualize poverty, a lack of resources, political corruption and all the other unsavory aspects of the society we live in?

When we do find ourselves in these situations (abuse, poverty, a negative state) it’s easy to judge ourselves too harshly. We might have been able to take more responsibility or do things differently, but these things are also a part of life.

No manifestation technique is going to eliminate negative experience completely. Some problems require physical action or outside help alongside a shift in mindset.

This is one of the reasons shadow work has become so popular in recent years – the awareness of the negative and consciously working with it rather than against it.

With shadow work we realize that we don’t have to ignore the negative in order to have good or whole lives. Acknowledging our negative thoughts, beliefs and behaviors means we are aware of them and can address them, rather than pretending they don’t exist.

The importance of a positive mindset

Despite what I’ve said, I’m not dismissing that a positive mindset can serve as a great tool.

Our mindset has a huge impact on our physical lives; that should go without saying. A persistent negative outlook on life doesn’t get us anywhere, we become demotivated, anxious, and aren’t able to appreciate the good things that are in our lives.

However it’s important to keep things in perspective. A positive mindset and self-responsibility go a long way to shift just about any situation for the better, even if that is only in our outlook at first.

To have positivity as an option can be a life-saver. Often we practice positivity not because we are avoiding reality but because we know that within our current circumstances we need a positive mindset in order to survive, cultivate hope and ultimately thrive.

Having a down day, feeling negative or falling into some unhelpful thought spirals is not going to undo all of the progress you’ve made. Making space for periods of time where we aren’t feeling the best is also a big part of growth.

When we sit with our negative emotions as they come, we don’t have to view them in a wholly negative light. They can help us release tension or excess energy, show us where we have work to do and be channelled into positive means.

Overall, improving our mental health is what’s important here. This is what a lot of people try to do indirectly through the Law of Attraction, but end up feeling more pressure, stress and self-judgement.

What to do instead?

It’s easy to criticize a concept and not offer any real alternatives, so here I want to outline what works for me.

  • Acknowledge your limits first
  • Set intentions that align with what you actually need/what is helpful
  • Listen to your intuition & see what resistance comes up
  • Take action based on these insights

When it comes to manifestation I find it much more useful to look at it terms of bringing your own unique energy to the world. What gifts are you suppressing that need to be expressed? What do you wish to pursuit, but don’t out of fear or doubt?

Rather than focusing on what you can gain from the Universe, how can you work alongside the Universe within your unique circumstances? What can you bring to the place you live and the community you are surrounded by?

The first thing I do is acknowledge my limits. This might seem counter-intuitive, but if done with the right awareness it becomes illuminating. I outline this process in the shadow work guide.

We might want a million dollars but are we willing to take on the responsibilities that come alongside that? We might want to manifest a dozen different things, but are we even passionate about them?

Asking these questions allows you to get clear on what you actually want to manifest and what is actually helpful for you. You can set intentions according to these insights. I like to write my intentions down on a piece of a paper, light a candle and say a prayer in relation to them.

Once you are done with praying or affirming, blow the candle out.

When we try to manifest something we are going to notice a lot of resistance, whether that be fear, doubt or other negative thoughts. Rather than pushing these to the side, sit with them! What are they trying to tell you? What blockages do they highlight?

The final step is to take action! This is often left out of a lot of Law of Attraction teachings, with the assumption that as long as we are in the right place mentally and energetically, things will come to us.

What I’ve found is that through setting intentions, I am made aware of what I need to do on a physical level to make that a reality. My energy is in the right place, and from that space I can take inspired action.

Without getting into the right mind space the actions we take don’t have a lasting positive impact, and might even harm us in long-term. Without taking physical action we become restless, all of the energy we build up with setting intentions festers.

Manifestation requires both our physical and non-physical focus.

What has your experience with the Law of Attraction been like?

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