In lockdown 1.0, my friend added me to a WhatsApp group named ‘21 Days of Abundance.’ For three weeks, I tuned into celebrity guru Deepak Chopra’s daily meditations (Oprah and Gaga are fans) and completed short written tasks for ‘prosperity and abundance.’ Admittedly, his dulcet tones were certainly a relaxing escape amidst from the fraught reality. Though, spoiler alert, I’m still patiently waiting for the money I asked the universe for to appear in my bank account.
This concept of manifesting- otherwise known as the Law of Attraction - is the idea that we can attract anything into our lives by simply asking for it. It has origins in Buddhism, but has become popular over the last twenty years as our increasingly non-secular society turns to new age spiritualism. Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne, author of the famed manifesting bible, The Secret is largely to blame. Since 2006, her book has sold 30 million copies and been translated into 52 languages. Despite the obvious holes in her theory - we all know logically that bad things can happen at complete random - the appeal is alluring. Your dream house/relationship/career achieved, simply by asking the universe? Who wouldn’t say yes to that.
In 2020, as our ‘normal’ lives were put on hold, manifesting gained traction once again with Google searches up 400% during lockdown and a new appetite building on social media. On TikTok, #Manifestation now has 4.3 billions posts with Gen Z content creators distilling manifesting techniques like scripting (writing in the present tense your vision) and the 3,6,9 method (writing out your desire three times in the morning, six times at lunch and nine times in the evening) into a digestible format.
On Instagram, it’s a win-win formula for manifesting influencers: portray an ‘aspirational’ lifestyle (shiny apartments! Maldives trips! designer bags!) and share your manifesting tools to achieve it, monetise said tools via courses, events and paid-for content and reinforce the message you have manifested that money. Take Kathrin Zenkina, known as Manifestation Babe on Instagram, who claims to have started in 2016 with $25,000 in debt and now runs a multi-7 figure business thanks to her manifesting coaching, programs and retreats. Her Rich Babe Academy program will set you back $1,998.
It’s an enticing proposition, and even more so in times of such uncertainty. However, if the global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that control is all but an illusion.
From a scientific perspective, it’s also a little murky. “There is no evidence behind manifesting within psychology but there is evidence for something called imagery,” Psychologist Dr Alessandra De Acutis notes. She explains how there is research suggesting that visualising things can make them more likely to happen. “This has nothing to do with the Law of Attraction, it’s about rerouting your neural pathways over time,” she adds.
Relying on a tool like manifesting can potentially be problematic too. “There is a dark side to this,” Dr De Acutis says. “Manifesting can make you fall into a trap of only acknowledging positive thoughts and therefore dismissing negative ones.” Embracing the entire spectrum of our feelings, the good and the bad, is important and pushing away the negative isn’t healthy. “We can avoid crucial signals and move away from what we want instead of towards it,” Dr De Acutis warns.
Of course, embracing a positive mindset, practicing gratitude and setting goals in no bad thing, but relying entirely on a process like manifesting is not a foolproof method. We need to take action too. Maybe that’s a better use of energy than writing your desired bank balance out 100 times.