A podcast for new atheists, lifetime atheists, ex-evangelicals, truth-seekers, and free-thinkers
Episode 81: Toxic Positivity – The Law of Attraction Distraction
I wonder how many people have gone broke, lost their homes, lost their jobs (or just quit their jobs) or even lost their lives because somewhere down the line they got into their heads that all they need to do is think about having more cool stuff, a paid-off house, and all the money they need without ever having to work for it. Because that's what the Law of Attraction teaches and this concept carries with it levels of toxicity that make many things in evangelicalism look good by comparison. I'm Spider...
…and tonight we will be taking a closer look at the Law of Attraction and why this is a particularly dangerous thing for ex-evangelicals. Spoiler alert: a LOT of us were taught to think this way, even by pastors, spiritual leaders, and pew-sitters who also decry prosperity doctrine. Why does this thinking slip under the radar and ruin so many lives? We'll get to that later, but first...
When your grift is losing momentum but you need cash now... what do you do? You don't call J.G. Wentworth. No, you hold a telethon and sell 100 percent pillow-free pillows and brag about your planes while you hit people up for more cash. It's Christians behaving badly... for days on end!
The Law of attraction is the belief that you create your own life with the thoughts you think and the emotions you feel. If you project positivity out into the universe, good things will happen to you. If you project negativity, bad things will happen to you. Proponents of TLA believe that we are all under complete control of our lives – the things we have, the people, the amount of money, our health... all of it is under our control. If we're struggling financially, it's our fault. If we're sick, our fault. If we can't find a suitable partner, our fault. That being the case, we need to start manifesting better.
Do I have to mention that there's no science behind this? (not a valid part of quantum physics)
Everything is energy, we give off vibrations, etc...
“Like attracts like” [ad lib]
Science proves that opposites attract
We've already achieved our dreams, have all the money we want, and the level of good health and well-being we desire... we just ned our THOUGHTS to catch up with those achievements.
You won’t find any scientific studies that conclusively prove the existence of the law of attraction.
There is some research to support positive thinking and visualization.
A 2005 review found that people with positive affect were more likely to enjoy increased levels of happiness and success. [explain why - “perception is everything”]
A 2010 review found that visualizing your desires increased the likelihood of them becoming a reality. [explain why]
Though scientific support is lacking, many people around the world believe in the law of attraction and use it in their daily lives.
Stupid things I thought I'd done...
Found items around the house
“manifested good parking spaces”
Made toxic people leave
My vision board is still crammed in a corner in our home office... mostly because I haven't found another use for the cork board. I manifested exactly nothing on it.
The Dangers of LOA
I love how one of the sources I skimmed for this episode has taken the LOA acronym and re-monikered it Lust, Obsession, and Attachment because if those concepts don't nicely encapsulate what this thing is, I don't know which ones would be better. Source: https://lonerwolf.com/the-law-of-attraction-suffering/
Let's be clear: you cannot... CANNOT manifest anything by thinking happy thoughts. We aren't living in Peter Pan's universe, I'm sorry to say. And that is why getting too immersed in thinking the way you have to in order to make LOA “work” is toxic to say the least.
(we'll steer clear of any spiritual woo-rific advice, but she does have a realistic view about this particular subject... and, as the saying goes, a broken clock is still right twice a day)
This brand of toxic positivity can have serious consequences including:
Worsening health, even death
Dissatisfaction with relationships/inability to be happy or content single
Staying in toxic relationships while attempting to manifest changes in one's partner
Loss of income (you quit your job because you're unhappy, you miss job opportunities while you're busy manifesting your dream job
Loss of self-confidence and self esteem, depression, believing that you're a failure
The manifestation mindset and the unwavering positivity that is required to make LOA work can have serious detrimental effects on how we view ourselves and the world around us. All emotions are valid and necessary if we want to live a balanced life.
“This is dangerous, because it has a very real risk of invalidating people’s emotional state and mental well-being. Negative feelings and low moods are valid, and they are real. You have to be able to acknowledge them first before you can have any hope of healing them.” -Emma Halley
Suppressing emotions to the point of denying them any place in your thought life is dangerous. Early on in my therapy when I was trying to get my anger under control, my therapist at the time did NOT tell me to suppress the anger. He didn't tell me to confront it. He told me to listen to it... [ad lib]
So there's reason number one why LOA is dangerous: it seriously fucks with your emotions. In fact, it holds any emotion that stands in the way of manifesting what you want hostage. You're not allowed to be sad, angry, scared, lonely, or generally unhappy because these things block the signal you send to the universe about what you want and need.
The next reason is the sheer level of paranoia and delusion it instills in you
You stop being able to think rationally
You start panicking when things go wrong because, “clearly I'm attracting this but... HOW??”
You start blaming yourself when someone else cuts you off in the checkout line (I was visualizing myself standing right there...), when you get stuck in traffic, and when you stub your toe. Everything suddenly means something. There's a reason why you dropped your toast bread-side down. There's a reason why you stepped in dog poo. There's a reason why that light turned red as you were approaching it even though you KNOW you were visualizing it staying green.
And yes, there are reasons for all of these things... [ad lib]
The next huge danger is in the way many people who trust LOA start neglecting things, particularly their health. In the movie The Secret the commentators cover their tracks with this one by affirming that seeing a doctor for health problems is necessary but then turn around and say that whether or not you ever get well is up to YOU. Doesn't THAT sound familiar....
“You focus on being well. Let the doctors manage the dis-ease...” or some such. Of course the message there is if you're afraid to die, you'll die no matter how great your doctor is. And that message is, of course, bullshit.
But what happens when someone decides to go off chemo or dialysis or prescription drugs because they believe they can cure whatever ails them by visualizing being cured? Well, we know what happens...
They go off their meds and set themselves years back in therapy
They go off their meds and self-harm or harm others both physically and emotionally
They decline life-saving treatments and therapies because “I'm feeling better every day. I don't have cancer. I don't need a new kidney. My kidneys are healthy. My heart is healthy.”
“I can eat whatever I want. I'm not diabetic. My blood is perfectly normal.”
Fortunately they stop short of out and out encouraging self-harm but that messaging is almost always implied more than it is stated plainly. Rhonda Byrne isn't about to sit there and say, “smoke like a chimney! You will NOT get cancer unless you tell the Universe you want it,” or, “experiment with all the illicit drugs you want. Really experience what they have to offer. You won't die. You won't overdose. Simply tell your body that it can manage one more line of blow and enjoy your ride,” but I remain convinced that this is only true because the lawyers forced them to take those parts out.
And, if we're going to have balance to the messaging here then those things would have to be part of the equation. We're basically supposed to tell ourselves that we are invincible. We are far from just mortals. We have an infinite existence to explore. They go so far as to posit that we don't remember our beginnings because we never had a true beginning. So if I'm basically immortal and I can wish cancer out of my life, why can't I simply tell my body not to overdose? Why not jump off a cliff and simply visualize bouncing like a superball? They won't tell you to do any of those things, partly for legal reasons, but in larger part because they flat out know they're full of shit.
One more huge danger inherent in LOA is a little thing called survivorship bias. This is the part where you hear a person's story of success against insurmountable odds or by means of raw perseverance or visualization, and so on, after which they go on to posit that anyone can accomplish what they did. This was a big thing in MLM... “we're going to tell you how we went diamond and how you can too!” Am I the only one who noticed that they never, ever got around to that second part? It's all just a matter of “we did this and there's nothing special about us, that means you can too!”
The problem is that nothing could be further from the truth. The timing and opportunity that one person experiences that leads to success will not de facto lead anyone who applies the same formula to their situation. Let's look at one prime example involving lottery tickets... [ad lib]
I swear I'd have more respect for these people if they simply said, “I know a sure fire way to get anyone you ask to give you money and for just $20 over venmo I'll show you precisely how.”
And if you need any further proof that this entire concept is flawed, all you have to do is look at the lineup of “experts” Rhonda Byrne assembled for the movie version of “The Secret.” It looks comical now...
Bob Procter – Canadian self-help guru
Joe Vitale – Spiritist and energy healer
John Assaraf – Prosperity guru (jesus-free word-faith idiocy)
Laural Langemeier – “Money expert”
Marie Diamond – Feng Shui master
Michael Bernard Beckwith – Founder of the Agape movement
Neale Donald Walsh – Author, Conversations with God series, actor, screenwriter, and speaker
Jack Canfield - “Transformational speaker” and founder of Chicken Soup for the soul
Not an MD or PhD in the bunch. Just a whole lot of OMG, WTF, and SMH.
The book version reads like a condensed or just succinctly-put version of every other self-help book out there. Byrne first spends 94 pages setting up the con before delving into topics like:
The secret to money
The secret to relationships
The secret to health
The secret to the world
The secret to you
The secret to life
And I look at that list of bullet points and what I see is the roadmap for most of Joel Osteen's books. His messaging is more subtle but in a reboot of The Secret, it would not surprise me if he was on that panel spouting the same platitudes with different nouns and verbs. The messaging between the secular “Secret” and the “christian” Word of Faith prosperity doctrine are similar to the point of interchangeability with the manipulation of a noun here and there, depending on whether you want to talk about God or just “the universe.”
Paganism and Word-Faith Tie-in [ad lib]
Why so many evangelicals and ex-evangelicals fall prey [ad lib]
Are there any positives to any of this? It might surprise you to learn that there are...
The thing is that for any of the above to be of any real benefit, you also have to acknowledge the slew of variables that come along with almost every situation we face in life. You cannot simply visualize something in your mind and expect the universe to plaster it into reality and you can't laugh your cancer away watching funny movies and staying positive.
My last thought on this is that LOA actually teaches you to think small, not big – you're expected to live your life situationally, not looking too far down the road other than to visualize your ultimate goals with no clear picture of how to get there. Having a realistic view of things reminds us that we play a bigger role in our successes, failures, relationships, health, and more, than just what we think about them. We need to participate actively in the process, not just make a wish and sit there. Change and success require way more than that.
Change and success require action
Change and success require commitment
Change and success require effort
Change and success require being ok with failing
Change and success require sacrifice
Change and success require a desire for real, lasting, change
Change and success require opportunity
Change and success require preparedness
Change and success require having reachable goals
Change and success require leaving your comfort zone once in a while
Change and success require not feeding your mind thoughts of entitlement – no one, not even the universe owes you anything
Change and success require different definitions in different contexts – don't let anyone convince you that you want things that you don't simply because they're things that are out of your reach. If you didn't want it yesterday, you shouldn't start coveting things because some self-help guru told you you should. Pursue the life that YOU want. Do things that make you happy or lead to happiness, stability, and contentment. Note I said DO things, not THINK about things... and as a final note, please keep this in mind...
Change and success do not come from visualizing things or denying the negatives in life. They don't come from only thinking happy thoughts and yes, I'm sorry to break it to you, but there are plenty of things in life that are beyond your control. And the sooner you get around to understanding that, the more you will learn about things like personal responsibility, your real abilities and the need to set reachable goals and develop good problem-solving skills. Because those are the things that set in motion thought processes and actions that lead to getting and staying unbound.
Up first, it's a grifter collab! To do what? Raise money of course! For whom? Themselves!
Jim Bakker is hosting some sort of...telethon? To combat cancel culture? Whatever, the point is that it's going to be Jim Bakker and...Mike Lindell. It's two, two, two grifts in one! (and if you know that reference, you're probably my age!)
Bakker and Lindell were together on this telethon which was called “Take Back What The Devil Stole From You," for three days. Most of what Mike Lindell did during this three-day 'athon' was...sell his products, including a set of Children's Bible Pillows, that features illustrations of bible stories.
Now, the news stories call them “Children's Bible Pillows” but if you see a screenshot of the broadcast where they're advertising them on the screen, you read the small print...it says “Children's Bible PillowCASES”. For one hundred dollars. Just five pillowcases with crappy cartoon art.
Jim Bakker and Mike Lindell talked together about how evil cancel culture is, how the Devil is stealing America. Jim Bakker encouraged Mike Lindell to talk about his conspiracy theories about election fraud.
"Mike is going to be with us for three days," Bakker announced. "It's a very unusual event to have a telethon."
The televangelist complained that "the enemy" had seized his bank accounts. He said that he needed the public to buy Lindell's Bible-themed pillows "just to stay alive."
"That's the cancel culture," Lindell agreed, pointing out that most major retailers have stopped selling his pillows.
The broadcast was sprinkled with conspiracy theories disputing former President Donald Trump's loss in the 2020 election.
"We're going to take back what was stole from us!" Bakker exclaimed at one point.
"Well they stole our country," Lindell asserted. "And they stole it at lower levels, at micro levels and macro levels. They stole it at all places."
Truly fascinating conversation. Since both of these people are having legal troubles, Bakker for selling colloidal silver solution that can turn your skin blue and Lindell by Dominion Voting machines...Maybe the telethon was for their legal defense fund. Someone's gotta pay for that stuff and it won't be them!
Ah yes. Time for Kenneth Copeland's Victorython – this seems to be a theme today, I wonder if autumn is the time when all grifters start begging for money? - a fundraiser for Copeland's ministry.
Of course what better time to bring up the fact that both Kenneth Copeland and his buddy Jesse Duplantis both have jets? Usually these sorts just explain that they need them for their ministry, even though they actually use them for private flights—unless they really need to go to Hawaii to minister to the beachgoers.
Duplantis bragged about being a multimillionaire at the same time he was chiding people for not 'giving enough'.
At least he says that 'after the rapture, anyone can have his jet.' Nice.
And Kenneth Copeland has his own reasons besides the “tube full of demons” defense he made a few years ago:
So the vaccine isn't the mark of the beast, but the mandate is? Well, that's why Copeland needs your money.
And this from the guy who has supposedly defeated COVID TWICE.