Think of a large sum of a paycheck, feel the energy of finance abundance, sustain a positive mindset and send it to the universe. Concerning the latest trend 'shut up, I'm manifesting' spread across edgy social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, the law of attraction, manifestation, positive energy, and vibrations are the key features of achieving the desired results (Archrival, n.d.). The topic of manifestation became fashionable during a pandemic as people started to wish for the end of the pandemic, strong health, and financial security while undergoing harsh times (Archrival, n.d.). Since 2017, Google searches for the phrase 'manifestation' have risen significantly, skyrocketing by 669 percent and reaching its peak in mid-July 2020 (Jennings, 2020), supported by numerous manifestation techniques appeared on the internet (Holly, 2020). For instance, the '55x5' which requires us to write down the affirmation continuously 55 times per day for five days, or the '369,' to draft our desire three times in the morning, six times in the afternoon, and nine times at night (Holly, 2020).
According to the self-help book The Secret written by Rhonda Byrne (2006), one can desire and get what they utterly wish if it has been positively manifested. The author believes in the power of positive thinking and the law of attraction. Therefore, anyone who focuses on the positive outcome by visualizing and asking it from the universe, positive changes will knock on the door (Byrne, 2006). The central argument of this book is that the sole way to achieve any dream we may have is to concentrate very hard on it as if pretending that we are already stunning, prosperous, and extremely happy people can make it come true (Byrne, 2006). On the contrary, science-based critics deliver that there is a tiny amount of evidence that manifesting works and no actual numbers to identify its use (Haupt, 2021); this makes one wonder about the accuracy of getting the wished effect after manifestation. Therefore, this essay investigate whether the power of manifestation is real.
The 'New Thought' Movement, which gave rise to positive thinking, is where the positive thinking movement and positive psychology originate (Roginski, 2022). It emerged from the American Transcendentalist movement and other philosophical and scientific studies of the relationships between the mind, body, and soul during the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth (Roginski, 2022). The founder of this movement, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, an American clockmaker, mentalist, and mesmerist, cured his tuberculosis with positive psychology as the prescribed medication, calomel did not work for him (Yarlagadda, 2019). He believed that all illness is essentially a mental issue.
Through the world of high technologies and social media platforms, and Rhonda Byrne's documentary and book, The Secret, the idea of positive thinking and manifestation entered popular culture. In the documentary, she claims that the proper manifestation has cured her cancer, attracted fame, and fortune (Byrne, 2006). Furthermore, on the official website of the book, individuals have the option to play a bingo-like game with phrases like 'ask, believe, receive,' or to print a blank check to imagine and put down how much money they want. Such methods of manifesting the desired outcomes are meant to help people with positive imagination, feeling, and utterly believing in the dream. As evidence, the official website consisted of 1340 pages, shares the actual stories of people who have experienced the law of attraction; from glowing skin to mortgages being miraculously paid and many more cases have been detected throughout the manifesting period.
From the scientific perspective, Ariela Vasserman, a psychologist at NYU Langone Health delivers that there has not been any scientific investigation and study into the idea of the 'self-fulfilling prophesy' (Haupt, 2021). Additionally, Thea Gallagher, director of the outpatient clinic at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety, does not recognize the notion of manifestation as it does not possess any data or scientific explanation (Haupt, 2021). On the same note, a cognitive neuroscientist, Rhiannon Jones, warns that the manifestation might be mentally hurtful (Jennings, 2020). She said “could be very dangerous to people who already have anxiety disorders, but potentially, it might even be enough to start those symptoms happening in someone who originally doesn’t". After all, logically, one may think that people who are just positive thinking to get something and leaving it for the sake of the universe without putting any constructive effort are just no Einstein.
As a supportive argument, Gabriele Oettingen, a German academic and NYU psychology professor, demonstrates the provable wrong misconceptions of the manifestation and law of attraction in her book Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation. According to Oettingen:
the more positively people dream about the future, the better they feel at the moment. But you need the energy to implement your wishes. People relax and their blood pressure goes down. But you need the energy to implement your wishes, and over time, they actually get more depressed, partly because they’re putting in less effort and have less success. (2015)
Crucially, she acknowledges the optimism people rely on to overcome unmanageable situations, however, she also emphasizes mental contrasting technique. Individuals should not solely focus on the desire, but shift the focus evenly on the obstacles as well (Oettingen, 2015). Moreover, Oettingen established the free app WOOP, an abbreviation for 'wish, outcome, obstacle, plan,' which is similar to manifesting but has a more practical plan to help you achieve the goals.
Certainly, manifesting is not harmful, and instead can be heartening, however, expecting positive things to happen in someone's life by just thinking positive is not enough. As previously mentioned, manifestation or the law of attraction is a concept of bringing the dream into reality through active-positive thinking. The Secret revealed that manifestation has helped the author heal from disease and received popularity in the world. Nevertheless, scientists argue on the actual use of manifestation as no scientific research has been conducted nor has figurative data been gathered. Critics claim that overestimation of the power of manifestation may bring mental health issues.
Oettingen believes, balance the focus equally on desire and obstacles will make better use of the law of attraction. It will not be only a thought but rather a strategic and effective way to achieve the desired result. Therefore, it can be concluded that manifestation does not work solely based on a positive attitude, but should be aware of also putting an effort to accomplish the goal.
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