Your thoughts are powerful things—they influence your behavior, your mood, your decisions. They determine what risks you take and which ones you don’t. But there’s one thing your thoughts cannot do: Manifest a perfect partner out of thin air.
Intellectually, you know this. But a smaller part than you care to admit remains under the sway of magical thinking. If you just had the right thoughts, the right circumstances would happen, and the right people would appear. I can see how you’d be tempted to think that way. But I beg you to stop.
Let’s all admit we read “The Secret”
Yup. I totally did. In the seven years since The Secret was published, featured on Oprah twice, and sold almost 20 million copies (yes, in that order), the popularization of the central core of the book, the Law of Attraction, still holds many under its Vulcan mind-meld grip (despite the take-downs, harsh criticism, and parodies). (Also, please watch this interview with Barbara Ehrenreich on The Daily Show—so worth it.)
I can see why: Who wouldn’t want to believe that all you have to do is think the right thoughts and the love (or car, or job, or money) of your dreams will find you?
Written by Donna Byrne and published in 2006, The Secret featured a cadre of “new thought” leaders (including James Ray, who not long after The Secret was published, was found guilty of negligent homicide in the deaths of three people who participated in his insane sweat lodge exercise). Citing quantum physics and the ubiquitous Law of Attraction, these experts tell us that like attracts like, and that your thoughts function as cosmic magnets that draw toward you what you project. Think good thoughts, get good things. Think bad thoughts, get what you deserve.
3 Crazy Ass Ideas, and How to Break “The Law”
Let’s take a look at how key premises of the Law of Attraction can do you more harm than good in the search for love and partnership.
1. If you want to meet a man, make room for his imaginary car in your garage.
A woman in The Secret swears that the reason she hadn’t met someone special yet was because she was taking up all the room in the garage and sleeping in the middle of the bed. Once she cleared up the garage and made room for her fantasy man’s imaginary Honda Prius, and started staying on her side of the bed, thank you very much, what do you know! He appeared!
Look. You can put a Gillette Mach 3 on your sink, but when you wake up there will not be a man shaving with it. And if there is, call the police.
Correction: Make room in your LIFE for someone special.
Look, if you like sleeping in the middle of your bed, by all means. My god. It’s your bed. Sleep the way you want. Two-car garage notwithstanding, it is a good idea to make room in your life for another person—and while that may mean doing a huge clutter clearing, or just purging your ex’s stuff.
But you should also clear room in your schedule—to go on dates, to go out with friends, to accept invites to dinners rather than justifying another night in. If you’re too busy to meet someone, you’re too busy to spend time with one.
2. You make bad things happen by thinking them.
Donna Byrne says that your thoughts don’t just control your life, but the world around you. You create the world with your thoughts.
…Did you catch that? You can control the universe with your mind! This is also widely known as delusion.
And this is also where The Secret and I part ways. This is the ultimate sucker punch of the Law of Attraction—because it essentially shifts the blame of misfortune to you. Car accident? Your fault. Cancer? You manifested it, whether you like it or not. I’m sure there are more than a few nutjobs out there who truly believe that the people of the Philippines must have manifested that typhoon based on their sense of lack.
According to the Law of Attraction, you are a powerful transmission tower, emitting frequencies out into the universe more powerfully than any manmade machine. It’s as if every fearful or worried thought was a draft of an email in your mind that you never intended for anyone to see, but—surprise!—the Law of Attraction hit “Send” and now it’s out there!
Correction: Stop writing bad endings for yourself.
You don’t control the world with your thoughts—but you do control your actions with them. And if you think, and thus act, as if nothing and no one good is coming your way, it can be hard to stay open to possibility. I don’t think you’re magically manifesting lousy boyfriends, but you may be saying yes to men with the expectation that they will suck, because you already know they do. And voila! You aren’t psychic. But you are right.
Changing the way you approach people, situations, and pretty much every interaction you have with another human can and will affect the outcome. You don’t have to avoid all negative thoughts (good luck with that), but you must look at them with curiosity and compassion so that you can begin to shift your behavior in the world—and the way people respond to you.
3. You’re not manifesting hard enough.
Some women believe they’re just 10 pounds shy of being able to meet the right guy. If I were just thinner, taller, smarter, funnier, they think, love would be mine. Of course, you and I know love is not a beauty pageant or a talent contest.
(Read: Why you shouldn’t wait til you lose weight to date.)
But even if you have come to terms with who you are and how you look (no small feat, to be sure), you can start to wonder, Well, if nothing’s ‘wrong’ with me, then why aren’t I in love/coupled/married by now? That’s when it’s easy to fall prey to the lure of magical thinking—essentially, that it’s your fault for not thinking hard enough or wanting it bad enough.
Let’s get one thing straight: You are not alone/uncoupled/sans husband because you didn’t visualize correctly or acted as if you’ve already received the thing you want (another “rule” of the Law of Attraction, and which will definitely make you look and feel insane).
Blaming yourself for not thinking the right thoughts compounds stress and self doubt, and is no better than castigating yourself for not being the right weight.
Correction: Thoughts are nothing without action.
I knew a woman years ago who wanted a partner desperately. She spent a good chunk of time visualizing him: what he would look like, sound like, be like. She had a version of this perfect partner fully crafted in her mind, down to the fact that he loved eggs benedict, owned a cat, and subscribed to Rolling Stone.
Then one day, she met him. Or, someone very similar (turns out he’s allergic to eggs and subscribes to the New Yorker, but close enough). She fell instantly in love. She believes, in some ways, that those focused hours of thought created a psychic current that drew him directly to her.
It also helped that she put a profile on J Date.
No More Magical Thinking
It isn’t about what the Universe wants. It’s too busy expanding. It’s about what you want. And those who claim the world works by remote control are at least to some degree superstitious, lazy, and risk averse. (Read my rant on how fate is not your friend.)
Here’s where motivation guru Lisa Nichols makes good sense: “Your ability to generate feelings of love is unlimited…love everything you can. Love everyone you can. Focus only on things you love, feel love, and you will experience that love and joy coming back to you.”
You must love to be loved. And love isn’t a happy thought; it’s an action, an effort. If you dream of love but act out of fear, you’re not going to find what you want.
Except you don’t need a quantum physicist to tell you that.
A version of this story appeared on yourtango.com