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Is Manifestation Problematic?

by Melissa Boberg

If you’ve spent a significant amount of time on social media (or have fallen down specific YouTube rabbit holes), you’ve likely come across a common topic of conversation: the Law of Attraction.

Manifestation, or the Law of Attraction, centers on the idea that you can elevate your vibration in life by changing your thought patterns and self-talk. In changing your internal mindset and habits, you then can “attract” or manifest the external aspects or experiences you want. For example, if you want to attract new, meaningful friendships into your life, this mindset suggests that you act as though you already have these meaningful relationships, and carry yourself accordingly. Then, because you have raised your external vibration via these internal mechanisms, meaningful relationships will come into your life. Even if we ignore all the misogynistic tropes that tend to be associated with these abstract or hypothetical practices, the Law of Attraction still remains controversial; some people claim that it is a scientifically-supported theory, while others think it is problematic and ignores many background privileges.

As someone who cares about manifestation, meditation, astrology and other holistic concepts of thought, it would be unfair for me to critique those who engage with the Law of Attraction; it can be super helpful for people. There are tons of people on social media who credit these practices of manifestation for helping them achieve their goals or escape their undesirable situations. Further, it seems wrong to critique the idea of encouraging people to practice more positive thinking and positive self-talk—after all, could that do any harm?

However, the topic becomes more complicated because it seems to support some negative ideas about realistic positivity. I came across a video on a social media platform from a teenage girl who was complaining about how the Law of Attraction had negatively impacted her without her knowing. She claimed that because she experienced anxious thoughts and spent her time thinking about her worst fears, or about worst case scenarios, she had “accidentally manifested” these negative situations into her life.

Immediately after seeing that video, I realized the sort of red flags we have to look out for if we are to incorporate the Law of Attraction into our lives in a healthy way. To generate a positive relationship between ourselves and manifestation, here are a few key things to keep in mind:

We can’t control our thoughts, but we can control our responses to them. When we find ourselves encountering negativity or helplessness within our headspace, it is best to try to balance out these thoughts with positive energy—but, we are also not at fault for the bad things that might happen to us. If you have a bad day and you dwell on it for a little, or are feeling beat up from it, that does not mean you are asking for more bad days. It’s pretty dangerous to manipulate our mental processes to the point where we get upset with ourselves for reacting to a few bad days here and there. Manifestation can act as your tool to help you think more positively about the future and about your life in general, but it is not a force that should make you feel bad about yourself. We are humans—not positivity machines.

Along the same notion, a lot of people equate manifestation with the idea of “toxic positivity.” It seems oxymoronic in title, but toxic positivity can be really dangerous. Messages that are overly positive might say things like, “No bad days!” or “Only happy thoughts!” These types of quotes imply that you have complete and total control over the events that might happen to you or your emotional responses to them. We can all agree that there are certain events that might contribute to a “bad day,” over which we have no control. So, it’s important to keep in mind that positivity at all times, under any circumstance, is unrealistic; it also invalidates very real experiences and emotions that are just part of being a human. Manifestation should allow you to feel capable of and empowered to handle your bad days and move forward onto better ones—not feel like you are somehow deserving of bad things for not manifesting hard enough.

Lastly, although the Law of Attraction can be used by anyone, many prominent figures on social media tend to attribute their wealth, success or privilege to manifestation. This sends an extremely dangerous, coded message to their fans or followers: that they, somehow, attracted a seemingly “better” life, so they must be more deserving of it. This type of logic very much ignores the various privileges and unique circumstances that contribute to any person’s success; and, oftentimes, there are some significant socioeconomic factors behind the rise to social media fame. You are not less deserving of good things just because you may not have the “dream life” that a social media influencer presents. Moreover, it can be dangerous to talk about complicated social topics like wealth as if they are attainable to anyone via something like manifestation, because this seems extremely ignorant of the political, economic and social contributors. If we are to encourage use of the Law of Attraction, we should also respect its limitations—and keep in mind the social discrimination that keeps certain communities from having the same access to simply using “positive thought” as a means of escapism.

Overall, manifestation can be fun, light-hearted and interesting. It’s important to practice keeping goals in mind, so using the Law of Attraction can be a really healthy way to build a strong relationship with yourself. If you ever feel up for it, I’d encourage you to get out a journal and practice using such techniques. However, please keep in mind: Bad days don’t mean you deserve a bad life—they just mean you’re a human.

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