Law of Attraction

Misunderstanding the Law of Attraction

Psychospiritual Reflections 18.12.2011

I regularly hear the statement “I attracted this in to my life” from clients, members of the new age community and friends. Movies such as The Secret portray a simple idea that if we believe and feel a certain way then we can attract in good experiences and bad ones will go away. I have found that that unless people are trying to sell something, most who say this statement are generally well meaning and genuinely want to help. Unfortunately they often have the opposite effect. There is certainly no fingers pointed or any blame, I’m sure I’ve said this statement before too! While I believe the Law of Attraction does have validity, this particular message about the process of attraction is distorted and misunderstood. The key reason why this message is distorted is because it confuses the conscious self with an unconscious or soul process called attraction. On top of that, its underlying message says that in some way a person is at fault if they experience a negative event. This message can be incredibly unhelpful!

There are two parts to attraction that I have either experienced or believe to be true. One is the unconscious or “soul” process that is unfolding and manifesting in our conscious lives, and the other is an emotional process. How we understand them and what we do with them is an essential part of whether the concept of attraction is helpful or not. This article will focus on the emotional process in the attraction process while next time I will focus on the unconscious process.

Emotion & Attraction

In The Secret emotion was explained as the “attracting force” that either brought pleasant or unpleasant experiences into your life. They also said a lot about beliefs in the attraction process, however there was a special point that it is actually emotion that ultimately attracts or repels. They spoke about “getting into the feeling space of what you want to attract”. I agree that emotion is an attracting force and that belief is a directing force. It is a bit like yin and yang! However, there is a lot more to emotional processes than simply “making yourself feel right” so that you can attract in a mansion, a gorgeous partner and a million dollars. We need to understand what emotions are really about if we are going to learn how to work with them.

Emotions are our guidance mechanism system. So rather than us trying to control them, we must learn to listen and work with them. Emotions tell us that something is in or out of alignment either in our environment or within ourselves. Even unpleasant emotions are important and ultimately helpful because they are alerting us to what is destructive. It is like pain alerts us to physical damage, unpleasant emotions alert us to emotional and interpersonal damage. So when we speak about shifting emotions, it is a false and even harmful expectation to think anyone can just change their mind and emotions and attract in abundance. It simply does not work that way!

We do have an influence in what we feel and think. However to free ourselves from embedded emotional patterns takes a great deal more than simply changing our minds. To work through emotional patterns and distress, we need to acknowledge the wounding and learn how to integrate what we have learnt through those experiences. Making life-enhancing meanings out of adverse experience is essential. Ultimately we aim to grow through these hard experiences and release the emotional attachments, however this process can take years in therapy. There are energetic and intuitive healing practices that can help speed up that process, however it still takes time because we are in the physical world.

The Harm this Message Causes

In my work as a psychologist, I have found that this message is particularly harmful when it comes to people who have experienced trauma, and especially for prolonged complex trauma. When someone is traumatised there is a common set of reactions that most people experience. This includes high anxiety, hyper-arousal, distressing thoughts and dreams related to the trauma, flashbacks and panic attacks. After someone experiences a trauma they often try to avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma because it is so distressing. They also can experience a shutdown of emotions, anger outbursts and are easily startled. Trauma is a real psychological response to events that elicit high fear or terror, feeling out of control and witnessing or experiencing serious injury or death. The effects of trauma do not simply go away on their own. They need psychological intervention to process these memories and release the emotional distress associated with them.

Due to the level of distress people experience in trauma serious difficulties arise when people believe it is their fault that they experienced these traumatic events. This is even more pertinent if the type of trauma is type II (complex trauma) as it has the added extra dimension of impaired attachment in important relationships. In a nut shell, this message slows down or even prevents the person from healing from the trauma symptoms. Complex trauma involves being seriously injured sexually, emotionally and/or physically by another person who they are attached to such as a partner or a parent. So in situations where a person has experienced abuse, being told that they somehow “attracted that experience to them” again puts the fault and blame in their court. This is not too different from the attitude that someone was raped because they were wearing a short skirt or were walking where they shouldn’t. These sorts of statements only re-abuse the abused and are incredibly harmful.

Judith Herman’s work with complex trauma signifies the importance of recognizing the wrong doing of the perpetrator in healing from abuse and human inflicted trauma. Generally perpetrators of abuse blame the abused for their own actions and people who have experienced abuse often carry that guilt and shame. So to give someone the message, no matter how subtle and well-meaning, that they attracted the abuse into their lives only serves to exacerbate the emotional distress and the effects of trauma. On the emotional level, there is nothing worse you could imply than they caused the abuse they suffered.

Where to Now?

In the next article I will take a closer look at what is meant by the Law of Attraction at an unconscious or soul level, and I will show why the unconscious process involved in attraction is not the conscious self or the person. As mortal conscious human beings, we do not attract bad things because we are not healed enough or good enough. I will also explain how appropriate healing and therapy can eventually lead to a better experience of life which may influence the experiences our unconscious mind attracts, however this is not the same as holding a person consciously responsible for events outside their control.

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