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The Law of Attraction Revisited

It's the principle of the thing.

There are many who believe in a law of attraction—a “universal,” perfect law that dictates, “like always attracts like.” In other words, positive always attracts positive and negative always attracts negative.

Proponents of this law suggest thoughts are tangible things that leave your brain as energy, travel around the globe, influence others’ thoughts and create whatever you are thinking about within the “formless stuff” of the universe. They argue that just like in electromagnetism, “likes attract.” Oops, it is actually opposite charges that attract. Anyway, ignore that!

Supporters assert, “If you think it, it will come …” If you want a new three-story red brick house with five bedrooms and a pool in the back on three acres of land, think it and focus on it—then it will be yours. Law of attraction proponents teach that as a universal law, the law of attraction, like the law of gravity, always comes through—whether you believe in it or not, it always works. This sounds very simple. Whatever you think about is what you will receive. What could be easier than that? Law of attraction experts even use the edict “ask, believe, and receive.” By these criteria, the success rate for goal fulfillment, using the law of attraction, should be close to 100%. Is this the case? No, not even close. Most people attempting to fulfill their goals, using the law of attraction, are unsuccessful.

What, then, are we missing? The experts have revised their early suggestions about the ease of use. It is still a universal law, but no longer works without your help. Now instead of merely thinking about getting your goal, you are to visualize having already attained your goal. Bring the perfect future to the present. Live and feel as if your goal has been accomplished. It is only through the practice of this type of visualization, that you will be able to set your thoughts, feelings, words, emotions, and actions in alignment with your goals. By living as if your goals have been realized, you remove all doubt (negativity) that your goal will be realized. You will also never make any plans or consider any challenges (both express doubt and thus negativity). Further, to maximize your chance of success, you should not surround yourself with what you do not want such as anyone who is not in perfect mental or physical health. In other words, you should not be a healthcare provider or join any support groups.

As I said, the success rate for those using the law of attraction is incredibly small (0.1% according to the law of attraction authority, John Assaraf). To save the concept of the law of attraction, books now describe different techniques to properly invoke the law. We now have new cues, keys, secrets, hints, interpretations, and mysteries behind the law of attraction—all trying to explain why invoking this universal law typically does not work.

I have a different impression of why it doesn’t work. It doesn’t exist! There is no law of attraction. The foundation behind this law is metaphysical pseudoscience and faulty suppositions. You haven’t had to buy books on how to use the law of gravity, you shouldn’t have to buy them for a law of attraction.

I propose that we replace this law with a principle, the Principle of Attraction. This principle of attraction is an evidence-based phenomenon with a foundation in positive psychology, goal-achieving research, and mind-brain sciences.

How does a Principle of Attraction differ from a law of attraction? The principle of attraction states that “like tends to attract like.” Positivity usually attracts positivity and negativity usually attracts negativity. What are the consequences of adopting this principle?

  • An appreciation for the power of positive thinking.
  • Positive people tend to have greater success in their careers, higher salaries, better jobs, better relationships, improved health, and more altruism.
  • In terms of personalities and fortune, like tends to attract like.
  • Positive people tend to be surrounded by like-minded positive people.
  • You cannot control everything that occurs in your life. Natural disasters and diseases may occur irrespective of your level of optimism.
  • Helping those in need is beneficial for both the helper and the beneficiary.
  • Aligning your thoughts, feelings, and actions with your goals, directs your brain’s reticular activating system (RAS) to sift through millions of bits of sensory information to focus on your goal. Thus, like often attracts like is a phenomenon that occurs within each of our brains, not due to a universal law.
  • Adopting the concept of like tends to attract like, opens us up to visualizing the process, not just the outcome. We become more “present-minded”. This allows us to prepare for challenges and set up an action plan.

Below is a summary of some of the consequences of a Principle of Attraction versus a law of attraction:

Issue: Law of Attraction; Principle of Attraction

  • Positivity: Yes, yes
  • Victims: Blame victims; victims not responsible
  • Support group: Detrimental; Beneficial
  • Helping career: Detrimental; Beneficial
  • Sick children: Their fault; Not their fault
  • Unsuccessful: Blame yourself; Maybe your responsibility
  • Visualizing: Outcome; Process
  • Purpose: Wants; Value-based goals
  • Plans: No plan; You create a plan
  • Action: The universe acts; You take inspired action
  • Dates: No timelines; Set timeline
  • Challenges: Don't consider; Plan for challenges
  • Compassion: Ignore needy; Empathy is healthy
  • Mindful: About future; About present
  • The goal: Perfection; Optimal
  • Success: Anecdotal; Evidence-based

The principle of attraction is not magic and is not a universal law. It is a social scientific phenomenon, which implies that you have an active role in this process, your positive attitude, beliefs, and behavior will most likely bring you more of the same; yet, you are not responsible for all bad things that may occur. Positive thoughts may not stop a terrorist attack and sick babies are not bringing illness upon themselves by negative thinking (as suggested by the law of attraction).

Don’t leave your goal fulfillment up to the universe. Adopting a principle of attraction decreases self-blame inherent in not achieving a goal when using the law of attraction. Converting from a law to a principle eliminates our need to blame victims of abuse, traumas, or natural disasters. This does not eliminate the possibility of God or the universe playing a significant role in your success. It does, however, limit your ability to predict the role that God or the universe may play. This reminds me of the old adage: Pray as if everything depends on God; act as if everything depends on you.

A principle of attraction allows you to plan, prepare for challenges, take responsibility for establishing your goal-setting journey, and adopt an optimistic/realistic perspective rather than being unfulfilled when you don’t achieve perfection. Believing in a principle of attraction is empowering.

There will be more about the Principle of Attraction in my upcoming book, Throw Away Your Vision Board; until then, check out and like my Facebook page.

More from Neil Farber M.D, Ph.D., CLC, CPT
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