Friday, December 11, 2009

Be a Scofflaw on the "Law" of Attraction

Periodically I'm asked what I think about "The Secret," the "Law of Attraction," and Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich." The basic idea is that the universe is your servant, and responds to your deepest thoughts. If you think the right way ("magnetically") about wealth, for example, the impersonal universe responds by delivering money to you. This magical thinking is an enormously popular idea with multiple incarnations in human history -- and fundamentally it's a religious idea.

I don't believe this religion squares with Scripture at all. Our thoughts our important, but our thoughts have no control over our environment, and the universe is not impersonal!

In fact, this kind of magical thinking is fundamentally narcissism. (Definition: inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.)

Sam Vaknin has written this about the narcissism of "magical thinking":

"Magical thinking is one of the hallmarks not only of pathological narcissism, but of a panoply of mental health disorders, including a few personality disorders, most notably the SCHIZOTYPAL personality disorder.

Magical thinking postulates that one is able to exert influence over other people, inanimate objects, and events, merely by projecting one's thoughts. Infants get over this worldview at age 3. Narcissists and other mentally disordered people don't.

The Law of Attraction teaches us that we are responsible for our actions and cognitions and should bear their consequences (which is a good, mature principle of action). But, it also claims that our thoughts translate into real-life events. We are, therefore, to blame for everything that is happening around us, to us, and to others, merely by mutely thinking about it! This is an onerous and terrifying burden to bear. It is the exact opposite of empowerment!

The Law of Attraction is also a fallacious organizing principle: we cannot always tell good from bad, because we cannot see into the future. Some events are blessings in disguise; the fortuitous or serendipitous character and the utility of some occurrences and people becomes known only much later in life; too much of a good thing (wealth, fame, even happiness) is frequently counter-productive.

The dichotomous, black and white view of the world, propagated by the Law of Attraction ("good" vs. "evil" or "bad") is considered a pathology in its own right: it is a defense mechanism known as "splitting" which characterizes early childhood (ages 6 months to 1 year) and vanishes in healthy adults."


So my counsel is to be a scofflaw of the "Law" of Attraction. Put aside childish notions about how the world works, and teach others to do likewise.

(Giving credit where credit is due: The link between magical thinking and narcissism came from a personal newsletter of Perry Marshall.)

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