Manifestation is the latest spiritual buzz word… but be careful what you wish for
If you haven’t heard about the practice of manifestation yet – then where on earth have you been? It has very quickly become the latest in a very long line of buzz words in the spiritual world, second only to the word ‘spiritual’ itself!
In the interest of full transparency, let me declare my hand here. I’m a fan of thinking things into being. I’ve been a lifelong advocate of the power of journaling and I really do know and understand the importance of being able to see yourself having what you want, being who you want, before you can attract it into your life. So, my scepticism is not targeting the concept of manifesting itself, but rather it’s aimed at the glut of emerging “experts” who are guilty of oversimplifying the process and their not-so-hidden subliminal messaging, in an attempt to glamourise – perhaps even commercialise – manifestation,
This current manifesting trend, which is basically the idea that you can think something into existence, has without question been intensified by everything that’s happening all around us; namely the pandemic, the invasion in Ukraine, the rise in the cost of living, the housing crisis; I could go on, but suffice to say that we have all been looking for ways to feel better, to not drown in a world full of bad news and scrambling for promises of better things to come. We are craving comfort and security and grabbing it where we can. But in case you need reminding manifestation is absolutely not new, and perhaps somewhat controversially, it’s not backed by science.
So, where did it come from?
I’m guessing that most of us have heard of the Law of Attraction, the ancient principle which purports that the universe will make your dreams come true if you think positively enough. Promoted by philosophers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson this way of thinking has its roots in the 19th century’s New Thought movement, which positioned positive thinking as a cure-all for pretty much everything from extreme hardship to deadly diseases.
However, this concept really started to find its way back into mainstream culture with the arrival of Rhonda Byrne’s acclaimed documentary and international bestselling self-help book in 2006, The Secret. It proved to be somewhat divisive, in a marmite kind of way, but there’s no denying that those who supported and resonated with its premise, found it to be life-changing and transformative.
The practice of manifestation has been growing in tandem with other new age philosophies, such as astrology, breathwork, tapping and monology which are all reporting a significant increase in interest. You only have to jump on Instagram or TikTok to see the rise in prominence of Manifestation Coaches and perhaps this is where I really start to feel some internal conflict.
My concerns when it comes to manifesting
To reiterate, I believe in the power of manifestation and I practice it in my daily life. I have the vision boards, the affirmations, multiple journals and the meditations all of which I use regularly and very effectively. But I also believe that those of us working in this space, have a clear responsibility to present the full picture of the impact these tools can have on our lives – the good and the not so good – rather than curate how we want the final outcome to be perceived.
It’s not your fault
As a result, I’ve become a little wary of the number of “gurus” professing to have found the holy grail in getting what they want and presenting it in a way that feels less than honest. Like so many practices, which have been hijacked by the Instagram gang, it conveniently forgets to tell you what it means when you don’t get that thing you’ve been desperately trying to manifest, or omits to give us an answer to what it means when something happens that you definitely did not want or call in.
This can, and often does, lead to strong feelings of self-blame; “I didn’t get what I wanted therefore I don’t deserve to have it. It’s my fault. I’m to blame”. “Bad things happen to people like me, I should just accept that and stop thinking I can have what I want” or “I knew it, I don’t deserve to have this or be that! What was I thinking?”
You are not your thoughts
Manifesting can also be harmful for those with anxiety, especially for those who struggle with intrusive and negative thoughts. In all forms of therapy and counselling, we are told that we are not our thoughts, we are reminded that just because we think something, it doesn’t mean that thing will actually happen. We are encouraged to separate our thoughts from actual reality, especially the negative ones. Yet the narrow representation of manifestation we are being shown totally flies in the face of that; when it tries to impress upon us that “thinking ensures having”. It doesn’t. If we rely solely on manifestation as a solution then I am also genuinely worried that it might lead to some of us avoiding seeking treatment for genuine physical or mental health concerns.
Life is hard
Those who claim to have mastered the art of manifesting and who want to show you exactly how it’s done, conveniently gloss over all manner of life’s inescapable realities and what to do if things don’t work out exactly as you want them. Imagine telling someone currently worrying and stressing, about how on earth they’re going to pay their heating bill next month, that they just need “to trust that the universe will provide”. And what about those caught up in the work in Ukraine – can they manifest away their suffering, or people with serious health concerns? Should they just think themselves better? It might seem obvious but this is where I would urge extreme caution.
Often, these inconvenient questions are side-stepped by those who abdicate their responsibility to present the full picture. The focus becomes far more about the power of thoughts than on the actual actions needed to fulfil the desire and to my mind, that can lead to complacency while we sit and wait for that wish to come true. I really want to see manifestation being presented as one possible solution but not as an answer in itself. Real life is happening around all of us, and being told to “think positively” on its own just doesn’t feel responsible to me.
I’m a believer
Do I believe in the power of manifestation? Yes. I most definitely do.
But do I think it’s as simple as it is being sold to us? Nope!
Did I believe, at that time in my life when those closest to me died suddenly, that it was my fault and that I was somehow to blame? I most definitely did not.
But the time did come, years later, when I felt ready to acknowledge that my mindset and my attitude to how things were was not helping me get back on with living my life, and that’s when I started to investigate how practices, including manifesting, could benefit me. Together with journaling, meditating and nature I slowly started to come back home to myself. Manifesting helped but it wouldn’t have worked if I wasn’t prepared to work at it also.
We are a society scrambling for meaning and let’s be honest we are looking for answers wherever we can find them. We not only want to believe that better days are ahead but we need to see some evidence in order to motivate us to keep moving forward.
Manifestation works but it doesn’t work on its own and, most importantly, you need to be prepared for the fact that it might not always work how you want it to. Plus, you cannot lose sight of the fact sometimes bad things happen to good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people. That’s what real life looks like and what it feels like.
And sometimes, as happened to me, good things occur long after you stopped believing they could; but when you’re ready to make room for new beginnings, to try new things and you’re prepared to put in the effort to get you there, then you can really start to believe that anything is possible and start manifesting better days.
I’m going to leave the last word to one of the original teachers of manifestation, Wayne Dyer, who never hid the fact that you would need to work for what you want when he said, “If you believe it will work out, you will see opportunities. If you believe it won’t, you will see obstacles”.
Which do you see?
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Author. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. Niamh has just launched THE CHANGE ACCELERATOR her Self Study Programme for those ready to change. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or www.niamhennis.com