I‘m seriously fed up with many of the so-called self-help gurus. I call them the pep squad. They’re the ones with bright shiny plastic colours on their websites and their book jackets. They write about positive thinking and publish books and articles with titles like “How to achieve instant ecstasy” and “The Easy Way to…”.
Of course we all need people in our lives who will be our cheerleaders, who will love us, support us and listen to us. That’s not what I’m talking about.
The law of attraction
You’ve probably heard about the law of attraction. It’s big business. It talks about the power of the mind and emotions, and like attracting like: negative thoughts will attract negative events, positive thoughts the reverse.
It explains how we can attract objects, people and abilities into our lives by believing we already have them.
What I find most pernicious and invasive about it is that it comes with its own built in disclaimer: if I wish I had a new car and I don’t get one, then obviously my belief is simply not strong enough. I just need to have faith in the universe and my new car will manifest itself into my driveway. (And no-one is asking the question whether, in this world of ecological catastrophe, I actually deserve or need a new car.)
It’s incredibly superficial.
Is there something to it?
I’m not saying that positive thinking is a complete crock.
We all know people who moan and whine their way through life. (That’s not you, right? Thought not, just checking.) And it does seem that life is either genuinely harder for them or perhaps that they make heavier weather of it.
I’m optimistic by nature (with a healthy streak of cynicism) and I tend to believe more often that I can do something than that I can’t. And I’m convinced that’s helped me in life because it’s given me more confidence. When I do catch myself complaining, I stop and I’m sure that creates a beneficial cycle.
You can put yourself in the way of a positive life by the actions you take or don’t take. As Quentin Crisp once said:
You have to lean out of the window so the Fates can see you.
But where the law of attraction is dangerous is in its promise of instant, effort-free results. Life just isn’t like that. (The gurus would say life isn’t like that for me because I don’t believe it!)
Consider inspiring people like Christine at Blisschick, who writes openly about her long struggle with complex post-traumatic stress disorder but has not let that stop her from beginning to dance at the age of 40, becoming certified to teach yogadance and, in her most exciting venture yet, is about to open her own movement studio for women. (If you’re anywhere near Erie, PA, you gotta check it out.)
And what about Janet Oberholzer, who nearly lost her life and her legs in a terrible accident. She’s recovered, and enjoys again her passion of marathon running, but she’s open about fighting depression and that sometimes she feels lousy. Her book about her experience, Because I Can, is published this month. When seeking a publisher, she was told:
…since it’s been more than a year or two since the accident and my injuries, the story doesn’t have as much appeal…It took four years, additional surgeries and months of therapy before I returned to running…Because it is a one-step-at-a-time story it doesn’t have as much shock value.
Neither of these women has had an easy or an instant journey. But their lives are real, their achievements wonderful.
Stops and starts
Our lives aren’t clear, linear progressions full of fluffy clouds and sunshine. Things happen to us that are not our fault, things happen to us that are our fault.
We probably all have those big moments of inspiration or Damascene conversions, but that doesn’t solve everything for ever. It’s the steps we take every day afterwards that really count. The falling down and getting up again.
That’s what all those glittery gurus selling their snake oil will never tell you.
Over to you
What are your views on positive thinking and the law of attraction?