For the next few weeks, I’m going to be doing a deep dive into The Law Of Attraction.
This teaching is by FAR one of the most popular within the spirituality/self help community, and it’s a teaching that really deserves to be looked at and critiqued.
On the one hand, this law feels and sounds incredibly empowering - it tells people that they have the power to create anything they desire in their life, so long as they take control over their thoughts/feelings. It tells people that reality isn’t arising purely from action and that which we can logically understand - but rather that there’s an underlying ‘energetic’ component that, when understood, sets you free to create beyond your wildest dreams.
It gets people to start dreaming bigger, and to direct their attention towards what is wanted vs. towards what is not wanted - and this can really be empowering.
But on the other hand, this Law teaches people that EVERYTHING that is painful, hard, antagonistic or downright tragic that’s occurring in their lives is their fault.
It teaches people that there’s no reason that ANYTHING could be happening to them other than them having ‘manifested it’ through their thoughts and emotions.
It teaches people that because they have ultimate control and responsibility in their lives, that this means there’s never anyone or anything else to blame for ANYTHING other than ourselves.
Which leads to a lot of toxic and negative ways of viewing the self and others.
This Law can easily spiral into something that teaches people to dissociate from reality - and as much as this may FEEL good sometimes, it doesn’t actually give us the power we think it will.
Thoughts and feelings have an impact on our reality - and this is something to be acknowledged and harnessed. But there’s a LOT of complex and nuance to this Law that’s being ignored - and that’s what I want to explore in this series.
It’s going to be a long one, so let’s strap in and see how deep we can go!
Why Do We Love The Idea Of The Law Of Attraction?
The ‘Law Of Attraction’ is one of the most popular spiritual teachings out there today.
And for good reason.
It’s a pretty natural human instinct to want to have what we feel we need to be safe, to be happy and to be free.
Humans, for as long as we have existed, have been struggling, working and striving to figure out how we can get our needs met in this ever changing, highly complex world that, even now, we have limited understanding of.
For as long as humans have been around, survival has been a struggle. Safety has been a struggle. We’ve been doing our best to try to understand nature, ourselves and one another with the hopes that in this understanding we will be able to develop systems that allow us to have more and more ‘control’ over the resources we have access to at any given time.
We’ve been slowly and progressively working to understand how we need to behave in relation to nature and the greater ‘out there’ in order to secure food, shelter, warmth, protection and everything else we need to stay healthy AND we’ve been creating societal systems of production and consumption that then have to be understood by all members in order for everyone to play their role and (hopefully) get their needs met.
We’ve been using our pattern recognition skills to try to piece together the ‘rules’ of this planet, as well as to try to understand the rules that we are creating for ourselves in terms of cultures and we’ve been attempting to augment ourselves and our behavior in any way we need to, so that we can get what we need.
At the same time, we’ve often been in a battle with reality - coming up with tools, technologies and other strategies that have allowed us to transcend nature in many ways - meaning that we can have MORE security even within an unstable natural world.
All along the way, we’ve been creating narratives and constructs to help us categorize, predict and understand reality - using our capacity to recognize patterns and to make MEANING out of events and sequences. This combination of pattern recognition and meaning making has given us SO much power in terms of understanding and working with reality - but it also has it’s down-sides, which we will look at more as we go.
The Human Mind And Story Telling
We’ve been weaving stories about why this or that happens, why we must do this or that in order to get ‘x’ result, stories about why certain events happened the way that they did and how WE need to be in order to avoid certain experiences for as long as we’ve been around.
Some of these stories have been mostly fantasy - our human projection onto the reality that really had nothing to do with how reality actually functions - and some of these stories have been very close to truth or fully in alignment with the reality that we’re living in.
The thing is, our minds are SO good at creating meaning, that we can easily use our logic to convince ourselves that what we believe about what we’re seeing/experiencing is TRUE - even if it isn’t. Our minds are incredibly adept at making up stories, and then attaching to those stories in a way where we will then start to ignore/not see evidence that disproves our theories and we will enhance/create false associates between what we believe to be happening and reality in order to support what we believe.
Our perception isn’t perfect, and our minds are really, really good at creating a bias and then sticking to that bias eleven in the face of conflicting evidence - and this is something we need to be aware of, especially when we look at things like The Law Of Attraction.
Some of our meaning making and pattern recognition has been incredibly helpful and true.
Our understanding of ourselves and the natural world has been evolving all through human history - and this has given us more and more power to create systems of being that have taken the human race out of the food chain, that have allowed us to live longer and longer, that have allowed us to create all sorts of technologies and systems that have given us an experience of life that would be almost totally unrecognizable to people who lived a century before. We’ve created societies and cultures - HUGE groups of people all working together in a relative form of cohesion because we have the infrastructure and awareness to do so.
We’ve developed massively complex infrastructures and in this we’ve created the conditions that have allowed us to move ever towards an ‘easier’ way of life for more and more people.
Which is pretty miraculous when you think about it.
The natural world we exist in is quite complex and getting our needs met within it isn’t an easy task.
There’s still SO much about the natural world - it’s laws, patterns and all the other life out there doing what it does, all the ways it mutates and changes and is affected by time and all the activity of life - and with this we can see that a lot of the time we can’t actually control or predict the outcomes we get, simply because we remain ignorant to what’s really going on. Then even if we DO have an understanding of what’s going on, we don’t have anywhere near total control over what’s happening - enough control that we would be able to mitigate all pain and procure all pleasure that we want - because again, the systems we exist in are SO much bigger than us and our technologies a lot of the time.
There are still many diseases we can’t predict or control. Changes to climate and weather that have a cascading effect on our food, shelter and safety. Changes to how animals are behaving. Eco systems shift. Water moves.
We're in a constant game of catching up to all the changes that are occurring around us, and with this comes a LOT of confusion and grasping at straws - trying to align our ways of being so that we can get our needs met in a consistent way within our incredibly inconsistent natural environment.
Then add to that the fact that coming up with all the societal systems we’ve come up with to try to ensure that people are getting their needs met/that allow certain people to dominate others ALSO added many, many layers of complexity to life and survival. Our social structures have been at once systems that have allowed more and more people to exit the food chain, while at the same time have been used as tools to hold certain people back in order to allow others to speed ahead.
We can see that for as much as we’re mostly just walking around doing what we think we need to do to keep ourselves going - we’re working with a LOT of compounding factors, many of which we may not even be aware of.
We exist within social constructs that, for a lot of us, are rather ‘invisible’ because they are ‘the way things have always been/the way things are.’ There are many societal customs and norms that we all live by, that many of us don’t even see as a created custom but rather we just see them as ‘reality. - what we HAVE to do and be in order to be safe. Some of these societal structures are again, totally beneficial and really DO help us live lives of greater ease than ever before. Some of these structures benefit a FEW of us at the expense of everyone else. Some of these structures are downright harmful to MOST of us and are reinforced with a lot of indoctrination/threat of violence. Many of these systems again, go relatively unseen and unexamined because they are ‘just how life is’ to us who have never HAD to examine what we’re looking at, and why things are the way they are.
Within society, we are always operating within power structures that have created the systems that we live in and must abide by - and depending on how benevolent or malevolent these power structures are we may experience a relatively ‘free’ society or we may find ourselves in one that would be seen as oppressive and violent - and all the shades in between.
Reality hasn’t been created ‘fairly’ and thus the power to dominate for some has always existed - this has been the case for all of our created systems as well - and seeing this, seeing where our systems have come from and seeing where those in power are getting their ideas and how they are enforcing them is a BIG part of understanding the realities we find ourselves in.
We have many societal norms that help a lot of us live great lives without having to think about things too much. Being born in places that have relatively good infrastructure, sanitation, medicine and a good degree of opportunity for well paying work and general safety within society (meaning not being exposed to truly oppressive governments, extreme poverty, war and other deeply painful realities) means that much of what the human race has been struggling to achieve in order to create safety is just a ‘given’ for us. There are also systems in place that generally hold people back from being able to achieve safe/fulfilling lives due to the fact that our systems of consumption and production often require that there are people who have to be exploited in order for those who are benefiting to benefit.
Our Western culture specifically isn’t set up to be fair - and in this we see that a lot of people who are advantaged by ‘the way things are’ don’t actually SEE that they are advantaged, and rather believe that they are simply working harder/smarter/better than those who are disadvantaged. This is usually because this is what we are TOLD by culture.
Again so much of what we take for granted as ‘the way things are,’ are actually just cultural norms based on years and years of passed down beliefs that may have had something to do with reality at some point in history, but perhaps no longer actually do - but we are carrying on with patterns because that’s what we do as a species! We as citizens often don’t have the luxury of fully understanding history and thus there is a lot of ‘the way things are’ that we don’t really understand. We don’t question things, we don’t go into depth about how we ended up here - and this makes it easier for those in power to continue operating as they do, and to tell us anything they want us us to believe about why things are the way they are.
In other words, we have a LOT of ignorance around why things happen the way they do, how things happen and what we do and don’t have control over/an affect on in terms of getting what we want and avoiding what we don’t want.
We Don’t See What We Don’t See
The problem is, most of us don’t perceive that we are walking around ignorant. We don’t perceive that there are things going on in our reality that are beyond our understanding, beyond our comprehension or simply beyond our current awareness.
But it doesn’t FEEL this way to us, because again, our minds jump in to rescue us from the gaps in our awareness.
Our minds are expert meaning making and gap filling in machines. We really, really don’t like not knowing, and our minds have many, many built in mechanisms to literally make our perception of the world around us seem seamless and unified - even when we are missing huge pieces of information.
We often don’t question why things are the way they are, because we already have a whole story for why things are the way they are. We assume our governments work the way they do for a good reason. We don’t question the foods systems and why certain items are more available and more affordable than others because to us what is makes sense. We don’t ask why particular ways of relating to one another are customary because those rules are ‘right’ by our vantage point. We have all sorts of ready made justifications for ‘normal’ so even if we DO question, that questioning usually doesn’t go very far because normalizing normal is a big part of what our meaning making minds like to do.
When we DO deeply question our norms, this generally leads to a lot of confusion and a period of time where we DON’T feel like we know or have answers - and this is HIGHLY uncomfortable. Our minds will rush in to fill in those knowledge gaps very quickly - even with stories that are deeply painful, scary or far-fetched. We’d rather feel like we know even if the truth is horrendous, than continue to stay open and curious in our unknowing.
At the same time, our minds are amazing at taking fundamental assumptions - the stories for ‘why things are the way they are’ and then using those stories to create whole narratives and explanations for larger and larger circumstances - even when our foundational understandings of how things work were totally incorrect.
Our minds have the capacity to filter information from all around us to again create justification and ‘proof’ for our initial concepts - rather than allowing for the ACTUAL full picture of what we’re seeing and experiencing to be sensed and used to deconstruct what we’ve fundamentally assumed about reality.
Our minds can literally come up with a story for how reality works, cling to this story as ‘truth’ and then go around looking for and exaggerating all the evidence that supports our theory while at the same time diminishing, explaining away and outright ignoring any evidence to the contrary.
We do this again, because in order to live in this world, in order to make the plethora of choices we have to make on a moment by moment basis, in order to feel any kind of security within the expanse of information we’re inundated with and that we don’t have access to every second of every day - we have to have some sort of foundational concept for ‘how things are’ - otherwise we would short circuit and literally never be able to move forward in any discernible way.
Without a foundational concept of how we think reality works, we would be in a state of constant paralysis due to the complexity of life.
Our stories are what give us the ability to operate as we do. All the meaning we have made, all the systems, all the ways that we do ‘normal’ THIS is how we function., Without them, there could be no order and thus none of what we’ve created as humans. Again, they can be wrong, they can be out of alignment with reality - and we can experience the results of living in ways that contradict reality, and we can then come up with even MORE stories to justify what we have - but again to have NO stories would be to have no capacity to live with any kind of forward momentum or organization.
So, as humans, we’ve been looking not only for the physical nuts and bolts reality of our world, but we’ve also been looking for the MEANING and the REASON behind all of it - as we need both of these things to feel SECURE.
That security comes from the fact that when we understand how things work, when we understand the mechanism that are creating the circumstances we find ourselves in, we then have the MOST power to shape our way of being AROUND that understanding in ways that help us meet our needs in the best and most effective way possible.
The more we can understand about our reality, the more we can PREDICT our reality. The more we can predict our reality, the more we can figure out what to do and how to be in order to get the things we want AND the more we can figure out what to do and how to be in order to AVOID the things we don’t want.
Our feeling that we understand how reality works, our continual search of ‘why’ things are how they are and our propensity for creating stories upon stories upon stories for why and how it’s all happening come from our need to meet our needs 🙂 It comes from our desire to predict and control our environment so that we can predict and control our own safety and pleasure levels.
Even when our foundational understandings are wrong, for the most part we’re able to carry on to an appreciable degree so as to find just enough evidence to support our way of being that we can keep going with it. Life is just complex enough that we can be almost 99% wrong in our ‘why things are happening’ and what we then think WE need to do/be in order to get what we want in life, and with just that 1% correct we can manage to function to a reasonable enough degree to keep going.
Our minds are amazing at coming up with reasons for why our foundational understandings are TRUE, even when the results we get in life don’t align with this. Because our minds are meaning making machines, and because our minds have filters - in order to give ourselves a sense of security and continuity in our perception, our minds are going to work really hard to look for all the evidence that supports our current way of thinking and it’s going to work hard to ignore/rationalize away any evidence that doesn’t.
Finally, we tend to think of ourselves as logical/rational beings - but in real reality, we tend to be far more deeply affected by our emotions than many of us want to admit to ourselves. Our true nature isn’t one where we are Spock-like - living from a fully formed and away frontal cortex always making the most reasonable choice based on the best evidence we have.
Let’s take a pause here, and come back for part two next week!
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