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.

Have your say on the Law of Attraction and contribute to the greater consciousnesses of humanity ….




21 Responses to “Misunderstanding the Law of Attraction”

  • What a great read… interesting, a friend is experiencing her health out of balance as a major part from work place bullying …. yet she sees it as her fault and thinks she is attracting that into her life ….

    • Hi Helen,

      Thank you for your response… yeah, I think a lot of people are taking on responsibility for events that are really not theirs to carry. It leads to a confusion with boundaries, increased self criticism and distress, and can result in them not taking appropriate action in harmful situations.

      Maybe send your friend this link?
      Kind regards

  • I so agree with this Vanessa great points to make and excellent post! I see this all the time people mistaking blame for accountability for what happens in their lives. Yes we may have attracted this circumstance into our lives to open us up to some element of personal growth – however for me being accountable is more about being em-powered to change it because I am aware of what needs to be learned and integrated into my beliefs and actions in life.

    I believe there are different reasons lessons come to us to be learned i.e. Sometimes we are the one who is ‘learning’ how to do life differently to heal a belief that has been handed down in our family and it could be that we are being given a chance to change and heal for the whole of our family including our ancestors – this is like the universe saying to us – this pattern is hurting your family, and indeed it may de-volve your family, so here is your chance to heal it for everyone – these are huge lessons no all our own to heal and can even end up with the very family we are trying to help being upset with us, however we are always given a choice whether we move forward e-volve and em-power our lives or not.

    Sometimes they are OUR lessons to be learned and have come to us at a time when it is time and we are strong enough and evolved enough to learn them, other times lessons we have learned earlier on one level come again to be healed on another level using a different facet… As I said blame has nothing to do with it…

    Blame has nothing to do with it and blame is actually dis-em-powering. The universe is interesting and it’s laws are many – there is no one law that impacts your life, so putting it all down to the law of attraction is ludicrous, and can hurt rather than heal.

    • Hi Annie… WOW!!! Thank you for taking the time to respond in length. You have made some great points… Looks like you will love my next blog on this topic which aims to outline the unconscious aspect of the Law of Attraction and why the conscious self is not the unconscious process involved in Attraction. In that blog I will look at what you are talking about here… I agree, we have things to learn on a soul level (I’ll have trying to explain that) and in terms of family heritage.

      Stay tuned… I would love to hear your comments on my future blogs on The Law of Attraction coming soon!

      Lots of love

  • Vanessa – I loved this post, very thought provoking and meaningful. The Secret has a lot to answer for, because many people saw it as a “write your own ticket” to whatever they labelled as “success”, without understanding how the process of attraction really works. Two TV shows briefly parodied the book (Boston Legal, and Sex and the City) for that reason – far too simplistic a reading of the material.

    Which is why I loved your post so much! It’s considered, thoughtful and explains not only how attraction works, but the harm that can be done when it’s misunderstood. Thank you! I’ll be really keen to read the next in this series!

    • Hi Jill, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      I fully agree with what you have said! I have seen the harmful effects from this too simplistic portrayal of the Law of Attraction for quite a while. It is great to share experiences and ideas about what is really happening in the Law of Attraction so people can break out of thinking they are either at fault for attracting in experiences, or are in some way flawed if they cannot “attract in” what they think they should be able to or what they think they deserve.

      I am looking forward to hearing what you say about my following blogs on the Law of Attraction
      Lots of love

  • Thanks for writing this post, Vanessa! I have been to personal development seminars where they talk about people attracting negative experiences into their lives. I think it is a hideous, confusing message and very harmful to those who have experienced any trauma. It would only reinforce someone’s shame and guilt and may render people helpless in knowing how they can change things. These messages are particularly harmful when they are discussed in large group forums by so-called self development ‘guru’s,’ as the individual is left unsupported and wondering how they might have attracted harm into their life.

    • Hi Suzanne, that is a really good point! I’ve seen the effects of this statement when is thrown around between friends but it would be very humiliating and damaging to hear it in a large group with a so called “guru”, especially for those who have experienced abuse or trauma. It is so important that we begin to use language around the Law of Attraction that reflects its cause to be the unconscious and not the conscious mortal self.

      It is also far more empowering and life enhancing for us to focus on how the person (the conscious self) responded to traumatic events or adversity as it emphasizes resilience and coping with adversity rather than that they they “attracted” the experience to them.

      Thank you for your comment
      Lots of love

  • That is really an interesting article, thanks so much for sharing it.

    And I agree, it’s not helpful at all if someone who has experienced a negative or even traumatic situation is told “you have attracted that into your life” as this means “it’s my fault”. That might be correct if I have a single vehicle accident that it is (mainly) my fault, but there are always other parts to the equation as well.

    I have to admit I never looked at this message from this point of few, so it is quite an eye opener. What the law of attraction ment for me is that I can learn something form every situation, which I can take with me as a positive step forward in my life. But I am not so sure if I would be able to see that straight away in a traumatic experience.

    Really looking forward to your next post :)

    • Hi Renee, thank you for responding to my blog. We don’t usually think about the effects of statements like this one until we hear other people’s experiences in different contexts. My work as a psychologist opens this opportunity up for me. So I’m glad to share this.

      I strongly believe that you are right that we can learn something from every experience. Whether we believe in the metaphysical or just the physical, making life enhancing meanings out of our experiences can be the difference between coping well or not coping in certain situations. A part of being human is asking… “why did this happen?” Sometimes the only place we can go for answers is the spiritual. I also believe in a sense of spirituality is generally a strength and the Law of Attraction makes sense to me personally when it is seen as an unconscious process.

      I hope you enjoy my other articles
      Lots of love

  • This is very interesting and not something that I have thought of before! The law of attraction (The Secret Movie) is what I have been following for some time -but to look in deepth to situations that occur around us is an interesting concept.

    I really dont like the saying that “because we thought it, the situation was our own fault”! Because sometimes life gives us experiences for other reasons!


    • Hi Lisa, I agree that life does us experiences for many reasons, and it’s not our fault because we thought it. In fact I’ve witnessed people get extremely paranoid because of this idea! I believe there is something to an attractive force in our lives, I just think that our conscious selves are not responsible for it… rather, there is something unconscious at work!

      Thank you for your comment
      Lots of love

  • Hey Vanessa
    It is so refreshing to see someone talking about this from a new perspective. I had a ‘friend’ try and stick me with the ‘if you think they are mean, you must be mean’ mirror thing that metaphysical peeps so love a few weeks ago… sometimes we just have to be willing to know what we know… and I know that I am not mean – I also don’t always see it coming because it is not part of my universe!!

    I also sense that sometimes people have the attraction thing confused with choice… I know that I choose everything that shows up – consciously or unconsciously… but that doesn’t mean I blame myself for everything that doesn’t work out how I expected… it does however stop me from having to be the victim of the circumstances I find myself in! Such a big difference to the guilt and blame that the ‘attraction’ theory creates!

    thanks for your thoughts on this! what would it take for more people to see a different possibility here?

    • Hi Lisa, you made a really important point here about our “choices”. I would love to discuss this with more people and ‘nut-out’ exactly what we mean by making choices consciously and unconsciously. It is like when people say we chose our circumstances or made the decision to do certain things before birth. When I write on the unconscious processes involved in the Law of Attraction I will take a closer look at this. Another important word that comes to mind here is “responsibility” … what is it to be responsible for unconscious “choices” or “decisions” as a conscious self. This is really interesting stuff!!!

      There is so much to cover about the unconscious process and the ramifications on the conscious self, maybe I will write several more blogs on it!

      As for your last question… I think if we are talking and writing about different perspectives to the law of attraction then we expand our community awareness of it and get closer to the truth of the matter…. so let’s all openly discuss it!!!
      Lots of love

  • giles nowak:

    Vanessa, I enjoyed your thoughts in “Misunderstanding the Law of Attraction.” It is refreshing to find some balanced thoughts – the ‘new age’ perspective has become so.. diluted & over-simplified.
    Thank you!

  • Vanessa,

    I think some people get very superstious with the LOA thing and start to repackage beliefs into LOA.

    It is meant to be an empowerment tool for people to have a sense of creating the future. It is so complex… what has to happen to create reality that LOA is only one small aspect.
    Great blog post!

    • Vanessa:

      Hi Adrian, thank you for responding to my blog on misunderstandings of the Law of Attraction.

      I agree, that it is far more complex than what some people think. I think the simplistic beliefs and the that reality did not match those beliefs left a lot of people frustrated and disappointed. I also agree that it can be empowering when we approach it with wisdom and balance!

      Have a great 2012
      Lots of love

  • JoyousLadyJ:

    The Movie, The Secret, did not tell the secret. That is the irony of it. The secret was edited out of the secret. For the full scoop go to Abraham-Hicks dot com (lots of free info on their site and on Youtube and at AbeForum).

    When you understand Law of Attraction fully you do not attach blame to having attracted into your life something when you were creating unconsciously. You understand, from that perspective, that most humans on the planet are creating unconsciously but you are lifted up by the knowledge that you can be a deliberate creator.

    Blame of any sort (to the victim or the perp) only perpetuates the problems. When you understand that the same person will be have differently at different places on the emotional guidance scale (smarter when you are feeling happier, more creative and resilient when you are happier and less smart when not happy and less creative and less resilient when not happy — see Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D’s Broaden and Build theory for details as well as her excellent book, Positivity) so the rapist or abuser is low on the EGS and society does it best to keep anyone who it perceives as having broken the rules low on the Emotional Guidance Scale which just ensures their continued bad behavior.

    On the flip side, parents and others who try to frighten their children make their children a match to the abuser because the fear makes them a match to the one who is committing the crime. Attempting to look at blame or cause will never solve the problems. If the parent made the child afraid with words of warning and examples of what happens who taught the parent to be afraid (their parent, their life, the news?) – you can never find the beginning or cause by going backwards and attempting to do so it never fruitful.

    However, understanding that our vibration which is the sum of our active thoughts and predominant thoughts impacts our life experiences and then knowledge of how to change our predominant thoughts, NOW THAT IS EMPOWERING! That has the power to change our future, the future of anyone who learns this. It has the power to raise the former criminal to higher points on the Emotional Guidance Scale from which they could not even conceive of committing the crimes that were, when they were lower on the EGS, what they did as a matter of course. What made the criminal so low? Again, there is no way to find the beginning, it was a combination of his or her thoughts and environment but, again, the benefit can come from looking forward and changing the future; not focusing on the past.

    When the understanding of the Emotional Guidance Scale (EGS) and Law of Attraction is widely enough known our prisons will empty in a generation as we change the way we respond to little things in youth (our current responses push people down and hold them down on the EGS) and as we lift individuals up rather than push them down the crimes will stop happening because they are not committed by people who are higher on the EGS.

    For the individual who is attempting to overcome trauma there are many ways of looking for it but KNOW that in every problem are the seeds of an equal or great solution and growth. KNOW that when you begin focusing on what the experience has given you the answers will appear.

    More comments have been posted in the Linkedin group Positive Psychology and Spirituality: The Crossroads

    Best Wishes to all

    PS When you change the words of the song from “I will survive” to “I will thrive” life has gotten good. :o)

  • Hi Vanessa, a very interesting perspective you’ve put forward here with regards to the secret. When I first discovered the secret it was very exciting for me…for me to embrace it as I feel it to be truth I have to look at it from a spiritual perspective as apart from the human experience… The bigger picture in terms of coming to earth to experience adversity (amongst the good things too) to expand the soul’s awareness is how I choose to see things. When we are at various levels of growth and awareness I believe we drawer into our lives experiences that we have the power to work through…I see the earth as a learning planet btw. I don’t believe we drawer any situation into our lives that we aren’t ready for..As for trauma etc…I think of it as pre arranged before we came to earth so we may learn about grieving and compassion as well as other things like discernment, protection etc… To learn through adversity isn’t easy but would we actually learn if it wasn’t so? The law of attraction as I see it isn’t necessarily about what people want (although we can use it that way) but what we are ready for on a soul level. Hope this doesn’t sound too trite! enchanted wishes, Jen

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