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Manifesting: When positive thinking backfires

Manifesting is a form of wishful thinking, and wishful thinking leads to false conclusions, often through the inaccurate weighing of evidence. The wishful thinker overinflates their optimism about the likelihood of a preferred outcome.

News Arena Network - Birmingham - UPDATED: July 10, 2024, 09:30 PM - 5 mins read

Manifesting: When positive thinking backfires

Manifesting: When positive thinking backfires

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Have you tried manifesting? It’s hard to escape on social media – the idea that you can will what you desire into reality through the power of belief. This could be financial success, romantic love or sporting glory.

 

Singer Dua Lipa, who headlined the Glastonbury festival in June 2024, has said that performing on Friday night at the festival was “on her dream board”. “If you’re manifesting out there, be specific – because it might happen!” Manifesting gained popularity quickly during the pandemic. By 2021, the 3-6-9 manifestation method was famous. A TikTok viewed over a million times, for instance, explains this “no fail manifesting technique”. You write down what you want three times in the morning, six times in the afternoon and nine times before you go to bed and repeating until it comes true. Now, content creators are explaining countless methods to speak your dreams into reality.

 

But the idea that if you wish for something hard enough it will happen isn’t new. It grew out of the self-help movement. Some early popular books that peddled this idea include Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich from as long ago as 1937, and Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life from 1984.

 

The trend really took off with Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, a book published in 2006 which claims you can bring about whatever you desire through the power of manifestation. It has sold more than 35 million copies and boasts many celebrity fans. Drawing upon the “law of attraction”, Byrne proclaims: “Your whole life is a manifestation of the thoughts that go on in your head.”

 

Manifesting as an intellectual vice

 

But there is a dark side to manifesting. Popular trends such as the 3-6-9 manifestation method promote obsessive and compulsive behavioural patterns, and they also encourage flawed thinking habits and faulty reasoning.

 

Manifesting is a form of wishful thinking, and wishful thinking leads to false conclusions, often through the inaccurate weighing of evidence. The wishful thinker overinflates their optimism about the likelihood of a preferred outcome. In philosophical terms, this kind of thinking is called an “intellectual vice”: it blocks a rational person’s attainment of knowledge.

 

Manifesting urges people to dream big and imagine in detail everything they desire. This sets people’s expectations unnaturally high, setting them up for failure and disappointment. It’s arguably a form of toxic positivity.

 

If you believe your own thoughts have the power to create reality, you may end up downplaying or ignoring practical actions and the efforts of others. You might manifest by saying: “I attract positive things to me”. But in doing so, you may not notice or credit the role of luck, chance, privilege and circumstance in explaining why some things happen and others do not.

 

Logical errors

 

Manifesting leads to logical errors. Someone who practices manifesting – and who finds that something they manifested comes true – is likely to attribute these desired outcomes to their prior hoping or wishing. But this does not mean hoping was the cause of the outcome. Just because one came before the other does not mean it was the cause: correlation does not imply causation.

 

If you believe the power of wishing for something results in what you want coming true, you will disproportionately attribute your mental activity with causal efficacy over other causes.

 

For instance, if you study hard for an exam and achieve a good grade, you might end up attributing this outcome to the daily mantra or repeated affirmations you said leading up to the test, rather than crediting the effort you put into studying. For your next test, you might keep on manifesting, but study less.

 

And when a hoped-for outcome does not occur, you might find yourself accounting for it in positive or fatalistic terms: the universe has something better planned. The negative outcome becomes additional evidence that you should still think positively, and so you won’t change your approach.

 

While it may seem initially appealing, manifesting may also encourage victim blaming: that if someone had thought more positively, an outcome would have been different. It also fails to encourage people to make backup plans, leaving them vulnerable to luck and circumstance.

 

Manifesting is very self-involved. The wants of the manifester are central to their focus and the use of their mental energy and time.

 

If you rely solely on mental power to achieve your desires, you will not succeed. Try to consider the various factors that support and resist your goals. Finally, remember that sometimes the thoughts we think are imaginative, fictive, fanciful or fantastic. It is enriching and positive that in many cases, our thoughts do not come true.

 

This article first appeared in The Conversation.




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