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The Truth About the Law of Attraction

It doesn't exist!

Key points

  • Law of Attraction is pseudoscience with conclusions based on erroneous, unfounded, and incorrect assumptions.
  • It assumes that one is completely responsible for any goal that is not achieved, no matter how unrealistic.
  • Law of Attraction philosophy leads to apophenia—the misguided belief that there is meaning behind random data.

The law of attraction (LOA) is the belief that the universe creates and provides for you that which your thoughts are focused on. It is believed by many to be a universal law by which “like always attracts like.” The results of positive thoughts are always positive consequences. The same holds true for negative thoughts, always leading to bad outcomes.

But the LOA is much more than generalizations: Thinking about red Lamborghinis will bring you red Lamborghinis—always. To the believers, questioning the validity of the LOA is akin to heresy and blasphemy; it creates religious fervor. To the uninitiated, it may seem silly to discuss even the possibility that such a law could exist.

The first post about this was “Throw Away Your Vision Board.” After a quarter-million hits and much hate mail, I wanted to make sure that I had a thorough LOA understanding, so I read every book from the originators of the law in the late 1800s and became a certified “Advanced Practitioner of the Law of Attraction” by one of the authors of The Secret. I then wrote “Throw Away Your Vision Board 2.” This time, the feedback was a little more positive. I also recently published the book, Throw Away Your Vision Board: The Truth About the Law of Attraction.

This post summarizes 14 reasons why there is no LOA.

If you are close-minded and believe that the LOA exists irrespective of data or information to the contrary, then this post is not for you. Thanks for visiting—now you can go back to your LOA abundance. This post is intended for those who are new to the LOA, those who don't know about it, and those who have not succeeded in using it and are open-minded and looking for answers.

1. Metaphysical pseudoscience. LOA proponents claim that it is based on scientific theory. It is at best, metaphysical pseudoscience with conclusions based on erroneous, unfounded, and often incorrect assumptions. The list of incorrect scientific information that is suggested by LOA creators is way too long for a post. Here are a few of their scientific truths:

  • Electrons have positive charges.
  • In physics, “like always attracts like.” (Magnets?)
  • Thinking burns up brain matter.
  • Only ether (not air) conducts light and thought.
  • Ether connects all minds together. When two or more minds come close together, “mind stuff” mixes, and creates a third “master mind.”
  • Higher altitudes have more oxygen and better air for breathing.
  • Vibrating sound more quickly turns it into heat, light, and then thought.
  • Thought energy is 40,000 Hz to 4 X 1014 Hz or above 7 x 1014 Hz. In reality, brain waves are slow: 1 - 100 Hz.
  • The universe hears nouns, not adjectives or qualifiers, or only sees pictures of your thoughts.
  • Every thought you have (about 70,000/day) has a specific frequency or wavelength of energy. “Thought Stuff” leaves your brain, travels through the ether around us, and causes “Formless Stuff” to create whatever you are thinking about.

Why are any of these important? Because these “scientific truths” form the scientific basis for the LOA.

2. No purpose. Material abundance and wealth are the most important manifestations to attract. The Universe sets your life purpose. You pick the specific goal based on wants; not values. This is one reason there is less passion driving goal completion — because these are not deep-seated principled goals.

3. No action. The only way to manifest your thoughts into things is to believe and live as if you’ve already accomplished your goal. LOA guru Esther Hicks said, “You did not come into this environment to create through action.” Action shows the Universe that you know you don’t have it and that you doubt its ability to manifest it for you. While it is obvious to most that action is a necessary component of goal achievement, it is completely inconsistent with a belief in LOA.

4. No plan. If the best way for me to achieve my goals is to live as if I’ve already achieved them, then there is no reason to make further plans to do so! Making plans shows the universe that you doubt its ability and lack faith. Doubt is negative and you will then attract more negative and not get your desired item. In the book The Secret, Jack Canfield proposed, “Our job is not to figure out the how. …Trust that the Universe will figure out how to manifest it.” Studies show that this way of thinking results in greater short-term satisfaction but less motivation and a lower chance of achieving goals. Curious that Jack Canfield’s website sells a program to teach you how to make an “Action Plan.”

5. No date. When you live as if you have already accomplished your goals, there is no reason to establish deadlines or timelines. As Secret author Rhonda Byrne stated, “It takes no time for the Universe to manifest what you want.” While goal-setting research supports the importance of establishing timelines to achieve success, LOA experts assert that it would be inappropriate to set a deadline for the universe to achieve your goal.

6. No challenges. Challenges are considered negative thoughts and are to be avoided. Besides, if you’ve theoretically already achieved your goal, there could not be any challenges. As Esther Hicks has stated, “Once you have recognized that thinking of what you do not want only attracts more of what you do not want into your experience, controlling your thoughts will not be a difficult thing…” There are many goal-achieving benefits to acknowledging and planning for challenges that may arise. Unfortunately, a belief in a law of attraction does not allow for you to accomplish this.

7. No compassion. Don’t get involved with anything negative like charity or helping the needy. This will attract more negativity and poverty. Wallace Wattles, an LOA founder, wrote, “Do not talk about poverty; do not investigate it, or concern yourself with it. Do not spend your time in charitable work, or charity movements, all charity only tends to perpetuate the wretchedness it aims to eradicate.” and “Give your attention wholly to riches; ignore poverty.”

Rhonda Byrne in The Secret takes this a step further: “If you see people who are overweight, do not observe them…If you think or talk about diseases, you will become sick. What you think or surround yourself with — good or bad, is what you will bring upon yourself.” If you believe in LOA, avoid any of the “helping or health” professions such as physician, nurse, hospital worker, clergy, psychologist, police officer, paramedic, etc. Avoid professions in which you deal with poor people, such as accountant, mortgage broker, banker, lawyer. While research shows that charitable work, empathy, and volunteering are beneficial to both the giver and receiver, avoid these things if you believe in LOA.

8. No support. Since you will always attract what you think about, you need to avoid any type of support groups for people with mental or physical illnesses or for people with similar experiences. Research shows that support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Weight Watchers, or breast cancer support are beneficial. The LOA incorrectly predicts that you will make your problems worse.

9. Mindless. To invoke LOA, you need to live continuously in an unreal future as you anticipate that it will be once you’ve achieved your goal and only visualize a successful outcome. This shows faith in the universe. Thinking about plans, actions, and challenges are discordant and negative, so skip the process and focus on the result; live without regard to the present.

This is the definition of mindlessness. Being fully aware of and attentive to the here and now is mindfulness and has been shown to produce powerful health and wellness benefits, such as greater life satisfaction and happiness.

10. Blame yourself. As the LOA is supposed to be a perfect, universal law, positivity should always attract more positivity. The corollary of this is that you alone are completely responsible for any goal that was not successfully achieved, no matter how unrealistic the goal. This assumes that you not only control your thoughts and actions, but also those of everyone around you…and nature. The fact is, you don’t. Sorry to break that to you.

11. Blame the victim. The only reason anything bad could ever happen to you is that you were thinking bad thoughts. If someone rear-ends you in a car — 100% your fault. If you get breast cancer — 100% your fault (not genetics). If you get raped or abused — 100% your fault. Children getting killed by terrorists, sick babies in the intensive care unit, victims of floods, hurricanes, natural disasters, the Holocaust — yes, their fault. We all know deep inside that this is ridiculous to even suggest. However, it is a basic, fundamental premise of the LOA. You never attract something you are not thinking about.

When anything bad happens to anyone, they are to blame. Don’t feel sorry for anyone who has cancer or a disease or starving children in poverty; they brought it on themselves. What causes obesity? Slow metabolism? No, fat thoughts.

From LOA experts:

  • “Disease cannot live in a body that’s in a healthy emotional state.” (Bob Proctor)
  • “You cannot catch anything unless you think you can, and thinking you can is inviting it to you with your thought.” (From The Secret)
  • “Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results. Suffering is always the effect of wrong thought in some direction.” (James Allen)
  • “If man will think only thoughts of perfect health, he can cause within himself the functioning of perfect health…” (Wallace Wattles)
  • “Every individual creates every aspect of their experiences — we are in complete control of our health throughout our entire lives. There are no accidents.” (Esther Hicks)

12. We’re not perfect. The LOA is a “perfect law” and should result in a “perfect” life. We are told that no goal is too big if you can think it; there is no such thing as an unrealistic goal. From The Secret: “You can think your way to the perfect state of health, the perfect body, the perfect weight, and eternal youth. You can bring it into being, through your consistent thinking of perfection.”

Reality check: Life is not perfect. It can be great, fantastic, amazing, incredible, even optimal. But perfect? Won’t happen.

What’s the problem with this way of thinking? Why not expect perfection? Fantasizing and striving for perfection makes you feel better in the short term but actually reduces your chance of attaining your goals and results in more unhappiness and blaming. If you are only going to be satisfied with perfect results — perfect health, perfect body, perfect family, perfect marriage, perfect friendships, perfect kids, perfect house, perfect job, perfect life; you are in for a perfect disappointment. Research studies support this.

13. Placebo effect. Placebos are inactive, ineffective substances to which a positive effect has been attributed. The greater your expectations and beliefs that something will be effective, the greater chance it has of creating a positive response. The mind is a powerful tool. We can increase or decrease our heart rate and blood pressure through visualization. A few individuals using LOA have a firm belief that it will work and so it does. People tend to have more success with the LOA for smaller items for which they did not make a vision board — finding money on the street, getting a check in the mail, hearing from a long-lost friend. Is a belief in a law of attraction any better than rubbing a rabbit’s foot, tossing a coin in the fountain, or pulling apart a wishbone? Test it yourself; the answer is no!

14. Anecdotal evidence. Evidence that the LOA is an effective way of attaining goals is anecdotal, nonscientific, and self-reported. This fact does not prove it doesn’t exist. But closely scrutinize whether you want to invest time, money, and energy into something that is ineffective and potentially harmful.

People are much more likely to publish successes than failures. We also practice apophenia—the belief that there is meaning behind random data—when we focus on coincidences without regard to the much greater number of times that we do not experience coincidences. How many times did you think of that person and they didn’t call you? Of the 2,000 people I thought of today, only 2 actually called. That’s not a great percentage—0.1%. But if I think of it in terms of the people that called, we get a different story. I thought of Bert and he called me — that’s 100%!

If you read LOA websites and posts, you’d guess that it is might be more than 90% effective: Everybody seems to be achieving their goals this way. Talk to experts who deal with the general public trying to use LOA, and there’s a completely different story. The failure rate is huge! In fact, LOA expert John Assaraf estimated that the success rate is about 0.1% and we believe this number to be correct.

I’m sorry for the doom and gloom, but these things need to be said. Millions of people are wasting time, money, and energy in an ineffective and detrimental system.

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