The Law of Attraction is the idea that thoughts influence the chance of something happening. From what I understand of this principle, it teaches that what one thinks about most often is probably what is going to end up happening. If you worry about filing for bankruptcy or being diagnosed with terminal cancer your chances of developing these types of problems becomes much more likely. Conversely, the Law of Attraction also teaches that we are much more likely to become wealthy, healthy and successful if we truly believe in them. Your thoughts, then, become your reality, for good or for ill.
Drew, my significant other, suspects there might be something to the Law of Attraction. It is one of our few areas of friendly yet profound disagreement over the years. I have several major objections to his principle even as certain aspects of it do appeal to me.
Objection Number One: The existence of something doesn’t depend on what we thinks about it. Either it exists or it doesn’t exist, it works or doesn’t work. If my family doctor prescribed a round of antibiotics for me, for example, she would never say, “Lydia, these antibiotics will only work if you truly believe you are feeling better before you take them!” The success or failure of the antibiotics may be influenced by the type of (hopefully not antibiotic-resistant) infection and whether I take all of the pills on time, but the thoughts I have while taking the medication isn’t going to have anything to do with how quickly it cures me.
Objection Number Two: Is a child who is being abused somehow creating his or her reality by thinking about it too much? If he or she thought happier thoughts would the abuse stop? All of the answers I’ve heard to these questions either assume that the abuse is the result of bad karma from a previous life or claim that child abuse will stop when the rest of us stop thinking about it.
Objection Number Three: Discrimination, whether it’s based on age, gender, social class, race, religion, country of origin, sexual orientation or other factors, is part of the social reality for billions of people on this planet. There are individuals and groups in this world who will not give you a chance if you’re not part of the right crowd. It isn’t right, it often isn’t legal…but it still happens. The Law of Attraction cannot change this. We’ve been discriminating against one another for at least as long as we’ve had the written word.
Objection Number Four: What happens when it doesn’t work? From what I’ve read on this topic, many practitioners of the Law of Attraction say that people who try it without success weren’t trying hard enough or never really believed that they deserved the things they were attempting to attract. This reminds me of something a Christian family friend once told me: “You don’t really have an allergy to milk products, you just think you do. The devil is tricking you and if you really believe in God you’ll be able to eat or drink anything.” I wanted so badly to believe him that I tried a piece of milk chocolate. Yes, I was still allergic. It didn’t make any sense to me; at the time I was more dedicated to my faith than I ever had been before.
And Yet…there are aspects of the Law of Attraction with which I do agree. Someone with an optimistic attitude who treats others with an abundance of kindness, generosity and respect is generally going to have an easier time in life than an individual who who expects the worst out of themselves and those around them and treats them accordingly. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but most people align themselves with the former type of person, not the latter. Believing in oneself builds confidence and when others sense confidence in you they will change the ways in which they interact with you for the better.
In many ways, the Law of Attraction reminds me of prosperity theology. Both of these groups take nuggets of psychologically-alluring (and occasionally even true) information and wraps them in materialism, miracles, mythology, and self-blame.