The Law of Attraction is a concept that was derived in the 19th century by Phineas Quimby, a spiritual teacher who had been ill throughout his early life and began using the power of thought to improve his health when medication was not helping him. From this experience, Quimby developed the concept of the New Thought movement, where Law of Attraction was originated. The theory behind the Law of Attraction is that thinking and believing positive or negative things will bring about positive or negative outcomes in a person’s life. This theory suggests that thoughts can become an energy source that can attract what people desire. There are many things that psychologists and researchers can agree on when it comes to thinking positive thoughts and visualizing positive outcomes, but many experts have been skeptical about the way the Law of Attraction has been marketed and its responsibility for getting people exactly what they want.
While there is no clear research that thinking and believing something will happen can actually make it happen, this theory appears to connect to some positive psychology principles that do have research support. In general, research does find that having a positive outlook can help you to feel more positive in general, which helps you to see possibilities in places and situations when you may not have seen them if you were thinking more pessimistically.In addition to this, an added benefit of more positive thinking is that, in times when you are experiencing a more negative emotion, a person can draw on more positive thoughts and feelings to redirect themselves out of a negative experience.
Does this mean that as long as you think something is going to happen, it is absolutely going to happen? Not exactly. Thoughts and feelings, while connected, are not inherently linked. You can think something is going to happen, but if you have a lot of evidence for why it won’t, you may not actually feel like it will, thus leading to feelings of anxiety, fear, or doubt, which spark more negative outlooks on life and decrease your ability to see the possibilities around you. Take winning the lottery, for example; everyone knows that there is a very low statistical chance of winning the lottery. You hear about it every time there is a huge amount of money pooled up in a lottery game! The odds of winning are usually 1 in multi-millions of chances! With this knowledge in mind, you can think great thoughts and be positive about your desire and ability to win, but the lingering knowledge that it is difficult to achieve is still there. That, in combination with all of the “what if’s” that come up about if you actually do win, it’s very difficult to clear your whole mind to visualize and think completely positive about something with so much at stake.
The Law of Attraction and positive thinking may not help you immediately win the lottery, but the fundamental principles of positive thinking can improve your relationships, your work experiences and success in business, and relieve mental health symptoms as well. Trying to avoid all negative thoughts or feelings, though, is a recipe for making them grow and block out your chances at feeling happy and secure. Instead of trying to manifest a particular positive event in your life, visualizing positive events as a whole and reminding yourself of all of the good things happening in your life can help you to succeed with many successes. Also, when you have negative thoughts or feelings, the best way to navigate them is to allow them in and accept them (because everyone has negative thoughts and feelings sometimes!), try to find evidence for them, and either try to change what is valid and let go of things that are not! This will help you to feel confident that, even when you are not feeling your best, you have tools to help you get back on track.
Dr. Shannon McHugh is a Licensed Clinical and Forensic Psychologist in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults who have developmental and social delays, behavioral difficulties, and those who have experienced traumatic events