Here is the premise of the Secret, as well as other systems that use the principle of the law of attraction. You can call it whatever you like, positive affirmations, the power of positive thinking, Bernie Siegal's Love, Medicine and Miracles, Deepak Chopra, and on and on.
Put on your thigh high wader boots, and cover your ears, the bullshit meter is about to sound off loud and long:
Thoughts have an energy that attracts like energy (sometimes borrowed from Quantum Mechanics, minus any evidence). You must control this energy by practicing four things:
- Know what you want.
- Ask the universe for it.
- Feel and behave as if the object of your desire is already with you, or is on its way to you.
- Be open to receiving it.
Of course, if you think negative thoughts, the universe will manifest those negative thoughts in your life as well. So you must think positively at all times so that the universe will manifest all of your desires.
Before the Secret was around, there were plenty of other similar methods of thinking - positive affirmations and the like. As I've mentioned before, even though I was an agnostic in my late 20's and early 30's, I was very spiritual. I believed this bullshit 150%. I'd read books, learned from "gurus", had a few college teachers, doctors and nurses suggest these techniques, and even had success with it. I taught others how to manifest their dreams, too. In a way it was the core belief of my spirituality.
When I fully embraced the fact that there is no god about 9 years ago, and acknowledged that there is no evidence of a benevelent creator or universal force that watches out for me, I still didn't quite give up the positive affirmations. They had seemed to work in big ways in my life. But they started really messing with my head, too. And this is where I realized that they can be quite dangerous.
If you believe you have control over events and objects in your life based solely on your thoughts, you feel you are much more in control than what reality supports. While I believe we all must be responsible for our actions, thinking like this goes grievously too far.
I developed this fear that my thoughts controlled my husband's success or failure at driving to and from work. If I had a worry based on the weather conditions that he might have an accident, I would panic and had to tell him to drive carefully, and I had to think only positive thoughts while he was on the road. This became an obsession in which I had to tell him to drive carefully before leaving or he would crash. It didn't have anything to do with his driving skill, the safety of our well-maintained car, or anything else. It was all down to my thoughts. The problem is, the more I tried to avoid thinking about accidents the more they filled my mind. If he did have an accident it would have been my fault entirely. It wouldn't have anything to do with the stupid deer that stand in the road, the patch of black ice, or the idiot that stopped dead at a green light because he was texting his girlfriend.
This then led to other obsessive thoughts that seemed to be incredibly important for our happiness and safety. Innocent random thoughts became terribly important. Mild concerns harbored doom if they weren't countered with positive thoughts. A mild and common worry about leaving the coffee pot on would lead to thinking of the house burning down, a brief worry that would turn into a horrid panic. I had just sealed my fate by having that flash in my mind. It doesn't help that my mind is graphic and vivid in technicolored detail for such things. That only led me to believe I actually had power over such events.
Sure, I do have some power. I can remind my husband to check the brakes or replace the tires on the car. I can make sure I don't leave appliances on that could overheat if left alone for a long time. But I do those things anyway, just like the rest of us. And sure, mistakes happen, which can lead to accidents and misfortunes.
But the idea that your thoughts alone are so powerful as to change physics, to affect physical objects and the will of other people is crazy. You use your thoughts to make decisions on what to say or what action to take. Nothing more. I'm happily surprised I didn't start wearing a tinfoil hat to keep those pesky negative thoughts inside my skull.
A lot of people use this belief system to try to gain wealth and money. Of course I did it too. This is where it seemed that I had the most success. But like everyone else, I would cherry pick the results of all the thousands of times I controlled my thoughts and forced myself to repeat positive affirmations over and over to just those few that were amazingly, positively successful. That's anecdotal evidence, my friends. It isn't scientific. It isn't reality.
Of course I felt I had full power over our finances, just by my thoughts. When I write that and read it, I see how insane it is. Our financial successes and setbacks had nothing to do with the economy, the job market, my husband working 2 jobs at one point, the housing market or anything else? No, it was all due to my thoughts. Yes, that's crazy, I know.
Once I realized how far I'd gone with crazy thinking, I forced myself to do a test. For a week, I didn't tell my husband to drive carefully when he left for work. If I had worries and negative thoughts, I tried to rationally remind myself that they were simply that: irrational worries. I didn't force myself to repeat positive affirmations. And you know what? He didn't get in an accident. I tried different mind experiments after that, every one unscientifically confirming that my thoughts were staying in my head and simply causing stress and worry. Nothing more.
Here's another angle. If you get cancer, it's your fault for being afraid of cancer and worrying about it. If you are a woman and you get mugged and raped, you were afraid of being attacked and you attracted it to you. Again, your fault. That's the way that screwed up belief system works. Blame the victim because it strengthens the flawed and unproven system as "effective".
But it's completely unscientific and downright cruel to tell a cancer victim, a child with leukemia, or a rape victim that they did this to themselves just through negative thinking when there is absolutely no evidence to such bogus claims.
I used my personal examples to explain this insidious system of false belief, hoping you could learn from my errors. Even an intelligent nonbeliever can fall into the trap of the law of attraction. In fact, the reason I am writing this is because I hear people say "what you think about is what you attract to yourself" or some variation thereof, even within the atheist community.
It leads me to understand that not all atheists are critical thinkers or skeptics. But in this case, it's a good idea to examine the evidence (NONE) for our thoughts controlling objects both near and far, physics, and the actions of others. Seems silly when you think about it. Your thoughts are in your head. So don't fall into the same trap that I got stuck in. Think for yourself. You'll be glad you did.
I have written some follow-up posts to this one: