When you believe it, you will see it.
You are the creator of your own reality.
Change your thoughts, change your world.
What you think about, you bring about.
Your external reality is a reflection of your internal reality.
Over the past few years, buzzwords like manifestation, vibration and the law of attraction seem to have exploded, with influencers and YouTubers explaining how they have manifested their dream life and countless books lining the shelves with instructions on how to attract your desires through the power of positive thinking.
I absolutely agree that having a positive outlook, setting intentions and visualising your goals can be incredibly powerful and life-changing, and indeed shifting your energy often seems to enable different experiences and opportunities to emerge. However, there’s something about the law of attraction that doesn’t sit so well with me.
Not wanting to rustle any feathers or offend any of my friends who wholeheartedly believe in this ideology, I put off going anywhere near this topic, but after finishing Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy, I have found myself standing in the shower each night (obviously the place where the best thinking happens), piecing together sentences and trying to find the best way to put this into words.
What worries me about the belief system around positive thinking, manifestation and the law of attraction, is that they fail to take into account systemic issues and factors that are completely out of our control, that can be real barriers and causes of social discrimination, no matter how much you “raise your vibration”.
Just Mercy is a true story, an account of Bryan’s experiences as a lawyer in America, trying to get innocent people released from prison or death row when they should never have been there in the first place. A lot of the cases in the book illustrate that we clearly aren’t all on an even playing field here. Social discrimination is real, and if you happen to be born with coloured skin, a disabled body, or lack financial resources or education, the chances of “the universe” being on your side are a lot slimmer.
A lot of the people he writes about have been sentenced to a life behind bars or a ruthless execution, yet I definitely wouldn’t say they are solely responsible for “attracting” these circumstances. So many are loving, positive and totally innocent, yet were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were convicted wrongly in court because of racist assumptions and social discrimination.
Yes, this is definitely the extreme end of the spectrum, but you can see where I’m going with this.
Manifestation might be real, but it’s also rigged. For example, I have a hard time believing that someone with coloured skin or a disabled body with minimal access to money or education will have the same success at “manifesting” the job of their dreams as someone with beauty, fair skin, wealth and abundant social connections (or even just thousands of Instagram followers).
At university, the acronyms CAGES and CAGED were burned into my brain, standing for Class, Age, Gender, Ethnicity, Sexuality and Disability. The fact these acronyms themselves allude to being trapped speaks volumes. Depending on your life circumstances and the body you were born into, it’s not always as easy to be the creator of your own reality.
I worry that the less these sort of ideologies are questioned, the less empathy we have for others who are suffering or struggling, assuming that they are somehow entirely responsible for the cards they have been dealt, therefore it’s not our problem.
It’s a way of thinking that treats each person like an island, completely disconnected from any social or political webs, or able to overthrow and dismantle all obstacles and adversity on their own, often just by embodying more positive energy. It also perpetuates individualism, rather than community, and suggests that it’s normal for our focus to always be on our own desires, rather than the needs or feelings of others.
As much as I would love to have some answers on this, I don’t. Sometimes I still catch myself internalising these ideas, and when I do, I’m far more likely to dismiss someone who is having a rough time than to offer a hug or my ears.
I believe that love and positive energy have transformational power, but I think it’s also crucial to remember that playing a game well is a lot harder when you’ve been dealt a shit hand, something which isn’t always the fault of the player.