What the Law of Attraction Really Means (And why it’s not that different from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)

Have you heard of the Law of Attraction? Of course you have. And probably from that The Secret movie that was all the rage a few years ago, right? Basically, the LOA is a teaching within the New Thought philosophy which is usually summarized like this:

“People who think negatively and emit negative energy attract negative circumstances into their lives, and conversely people who think positively and emit positive energy will attract more positive circumstances. To get what you want, you just have to think positively about it, and really want it.”wishing

Many people dismiss the LOA as a bunch of new age mumbo-jumbo (at best) or as blaming victims of systemic oppression for their own subjugation (at worse), I will admit that I have heard LOA concepts taught in ways that made me raise my eyebrows and smdh (shake my damn head). You can find tons of ridiculous examples in the world today. But here’s the thing…

When you break it down, the Law of Attraction is really just a promotion of two basic concepts:

  1. Your thoughts create your reality
  2. You can control your thoughts, and therefore help create your reality

BAM! And there you have it. No new-agey hocus-pocus required. The thing is, any good Cognitive Behavioral Therapy specialist who paid any attention in graduate school would tell you the same thing. So, why all the extra layers of fluff surrounding the LOA? Who knows…I think people just like fluff. But if you want to know how to really use the Law of Attraction to manifest good things in your life, wishing on a star won’t help. The practical steps you actually need to follow are not quite as magical as what some LOA proponents would suggest, but they are a heck of a lot more effective in getting you what you want.

  1. Identify what you want. This one is simple: You can’t reach your destination if you don’t know what it is. Get radically honest with yourself and become super clear about what you really want in your life. Think it clearly, say it out loud, and write it down. Not for the Universe, but for yourself.
  2. Figure out why you want it. Think about not only the particular object or circumstance you’re after, but what feeling its attainment would bring to you. So, you want a new job. But why? Are you looking for a sense of passion, security, new beginnings, or growth? Do you want to buy a house because you want the pride of ownership, the safety of a new neighborhood, a feeling of spaciousness, or a sense of victory over those who thought you’d never afford one? It’s almost more important to know why you want something than to know what you want. This is because while our material desires change over time, core needs tend to find a way to resurface repeatedly until they are met. You might find that your core need could be met in numerous ways, not just with the one object or person you’ve become attached to. You need to be open and flexible to solutions that may look a little different than what you ask for..
  3. Identify your beliefs about what you want. Envision yourself achieving the goal you just identified and make note of the thoughts that immediately pop into your head. Are the thoughts that will help you achieve that goal, or are they self-limiting and self-defeating thoughts like, “People like me don’t do that,” “I’m not good enough to do that,” or “Such-and-such won’t let me get that?” Many of us have inner critics who tear down our highest hopes and dreams way before we even get a chance to pursue them. The key is to critically examine these thoughts, and counter them with more helpful thoughts (if they’re just plain negative talk), or find a way to address them (if they hold a kernel of truth). For instance, the thought “I don’t know enough about that subject to start a business” could be a signal that you need more training, not necessarily a sign that you have to give up. You can track your automatic and habitual thoughts on your own, but it’s helpful to have a therapist who is skilled in CBT to assist you in objectively questioning and challenging some of your more ingrained beliefs. This can be very difficult, but CBT has proven to be one of the most effective forms of therapy in overcoming negative thought patterns. If you’re not a therapy kind of person, you can also check out some online coaching platforms like Lantern that utilize a CBT model.
  4. Create good vibes. Okay, so maybe this sounds a little like the woo-woo stuff that I said was unnecessary, but I promise you that it actually works. Develop a routine of visualizing and affirming your own goal, whether through images or words. Only speak about your desires and intentions with supportive people, and preferably those who have achieved something similar. Again, these habits that you’re forming are not for the Universe to remember your goal…they’re for YOU to remember your goal. We live in a world of distractions. Daily practices like visualization, contemplation and regular check-ins with a coach or friend can help keep you on track in terms of working toward your goal.
  5. Did you catch that last line from #4? Working toward your goal. Yeah, that’s right. I think that this is where a lot of folks misunderstood the Law of Attraction. They heard: Just tell the cosmos what you want and it appears. Well, if that’s their understanding of LOA, let’s wish them luck. But as for you and me, this is the part where we move toward what we want. We take that class, put in that application, plant that first seed, or put in that first load of laundry. We align our time, energy, and effort with where we say we want to end up. We develop the skills we need to develop, forge the social connections we need to forge, and use the resources at our disposal in the interest of our vision. We take advantage of opportunities that come our way (and because we have done the work to become more conscious of our negative thinking habits in #3, we are more open to and willing to try those opportunities when they appear).Some of us will face more obstacles than others, or less opportunities. Despite how unfair this is, we try our best.

But…wait! If we have to work towards our goal anyway, what’s the point of LOA? If it just boils down to a combination of our efforts, resources, and luck, what’s the point of all the out-there “manifestation” stuff?

Great question. The LOA is not so much a method of making things appear in your life, as it is a way of preparing yourself to go out and get the things you want in your life. It is essentially a way of thinking, a mindset that you cultivate to increase the likelihood of your success in getting what you want.

And in that way, it’s not very “out there” at all. In fact, it’s pretty much an inside job.

Happy manifesting, my friends!


2 thoughts on “What the Law of Attraction Really Means (And why it’s not that different from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)

  1. I noticed a long time ago that people can get pretty nearly anything — but they can’t get everything. Whatever you want with singleminded passion, if you live long enough and never take your eyes off it, it will happen, but it will cost everything else.


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