Readers! Take heed: The following is not going to be an unabashed endorsement of the Law of Attraction. In fact, one could make the argument that the Law of Attraction is less of a law and more of an imperfect idea; albeit an idea containing some important slivers of truth. Like any religious, spiritual, or other ideological movement originating from a group of flawed humans, the Law of Attraction is subject to the influences of unsound logic and avarice. From this point of view, one could also contend that any perceived deficiencies stem not from the “Law” itself, but in the expression of it through the filters of its various teachers.
For all of its shortcomings, the Law of Attraction contains principles that are undoubtably beneficial to any holistic recovery program. The Law of Attraction focuses on the power of the mind; positive thoughts attract positive outcomes and negative thoughts attract negative outcomes. This rings especially true for individuals struggling with substance use disorder. Due to a combination of factors including brain maldevelopment, trauma, and substance induced damage to neural pathways, those suffering from substance use disorder tend to have difficulty breaking free from negative thinking patterns.
When harnessed correctly, the Law of Attraction can be used as a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), i.e. when you change the way you think, you change the way you feel and behave. However, practitioners must pick and choose the principles they adopt with caution.
A Brief Rundown of the Law of Attraction
Wikipedia makes professional researchers cringe, but in the case of the Law of Attraction it is one of the few resources presenting an objective viewpoint:
“In the New Thought philosophy, the Law of Attraction is the belief that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, people can bring positive or negative experiences into their life. The belief is based on the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from “pure energy”, and that through the process of “like energy attracting like energy” a person can improve their own health, wealth, and personal relationships…Advocates of this mind-power paradigm generally combine cognitive reframing techniques with affirmations and creative visualization to replace limiting or self-destructive (“negative”) thoughts with more empowered, adaptive (“positive”) thoughts. A key component of the philosophy is that in order to effectively change one’s negative thinking patterns, one must also “feel” (through creative visualization) that the desired changes have already occurred”.
The New Thought philosophy is a spiritual ideology that may appeal to recovery newcomers who wish to practice the twelve steps but are resistant to traditional religious paradigms. According to Wikipedia, the New Thought philosophy “developed in the United States in the 19th century, [and is] considered by many to have been derived from the unpublished writings of Phineas Quimby…New Thought holds that Infinite Intelligence, or God, is everywhere, spirit is the totality of real things, true human selfhood is divine, divine thought is a force for good, sickness originates in the mind, and “right thinking” has a healing effect”.
Many celebrities credit the Law of Attraction for their success. Oprah Winfrey, Jim Carrey, Conor McGregor, Will Smith, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, and Denzel Washington are among dozens of proponents of the Law of Attraction.
Jim Carrey posits, “As far as I can tell, it’s just about letting the universe know what you want and then working toward it while letting go of how it comes to pass”. Oprah Winfrey advises, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough”.
The Law of Attraction: A Grain of Salt
If you’re looking for the Law of Attraction’s greatest critic, look no further than Neil Farber, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Farber has made it his life’s work to undermine the credibility of the Law of Attraction but, not unlike the defenders of the Law itself, he stands to profit from his condemnation. However, Dr. Farber makes some valid points. In Dr. Farber’s eyes, the Law of Attraction deemphasizes action; the emphasis is more on visualizing outcomes than on setting measurable goals and acting on them. Dr. Farber writes, “The reality is that there is more involved in getting what you want then simply cutting out pictures and imagining that your perfect ending has already occurred. In one sense this would be nice; little effort, maximum benefit. On the other hand, with little effort comes little respect and appreciation for the outcome and no development of resilience or the ability to rise to a challenge”.
Dr. Farber is correct in the sense that a luxury car and a multi-million dollar mansion aren’t going to materialize in your life just because you wish for them. On the other hand, these goals also aren’t going to manifest if you sit around thinking, “I can never have what I want. My goals are out of reach. I’m worthless”. Positive thinking, visualization, affirmation, and vision boarding are all “cognitive reframing” techniques that can mold your mindset to be success oriented and help you recognize opportunities when they are presented to you. Furthermore, people generally want to surround themselves with those who share similar values and thinking patterns; if you are a positive person, other positive, success oriented people will be more likely to flock to you.
How the Law of Attraction Can Transform Your Recovery
A shared theme among people with substance use disorder is the inability to have or maintain dreams, goals, and aspirations. If you are stuck in a perpetual cycle of drug and alcohol seeking behavior, not only do you not have time for dreaming, you also don’t have the resources (mentally, physically, spiritually, and financially) to plan for or pursue goals. To add insult to injury, many people with substance use disorder don’t feel worthy of success. Due to social stigma, shame, and damage to regions of the brain that regulate emotion and decision making, people with substance use disorder may falsely believe they don’t deserve anything better than a life of suffering.
The Law of Attraction won’t deliver recovery – or a life of success – in a neatly wrapped package with a bow, but it does provide a great jumping off point (and landing field!) for the formulation and manifestation of dreams, goals, and aspirations. Before you can make a plan, you must first be able to visualize a goal and mentally prepare yourself to pursue and receive success. Practicing the Law of Attraction will help you create the positive mindset necessary to believe and achieve.
The following are Law of Attraction practices you can implement to visualize your goals and positively reorient your thinking patterns:
- Make a gratitude list
- Write down positive affirmations
- Create a vision board
- Read self-help books
- Research your goals
- Spend time with positive, likeminded people
- Declutter your space
- Let go of toxic relationships
- Practice acceptance (Embracing reality as it is – rather than expending energy fighting it – frees you to work on how you want it to be.)
- Engage in mindfulness (Be gently aware of your own thinking.)
- Refocus negative thoughts with positive thoughts
- Cultivate kindness in your community
- Do things which bring you joy
If drug or alcohol use has made you lose sight of your dreams, goals, and aspirations, please call (888) 649-1149 or contact us here.
Autumn Khavari is the Process Recovery Center’s in-house writer. She received an education in Substance Use Counseling from Beal College in Bangor, Maine.
Farber, N. (2013). 8 Key Principles to Succeed. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-blame-game/201309/8-key-principles-succeed
Law of attraction (New Thought). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_attraction_(New_Thought)
New Thought. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Thought