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Read this and see how it makes you feel:

Negative thoughts are destroying our way of life and if we don’t do something about them, we will be overcome by what they do to us! Luckily we have the power to say no to negative thoughts. We have the power to fight against negative thoughts. We have the power to banish negative thoughts from our lives. We just won’t allow them near us. We just won’t allow ourselves to associate with them. And wherever we see them, we will work to eliminate them. For once these negative thoughts are gone, our lives will be everything we ever dreamed.

Now substitute the word “Jews” or “Muslims” or “Christians” or “Blacks” or “Immigrants” or simply “people who don’t agree with me” for the words “negative thoughts”.

Despite its beautiful wrapping paper, the whole Law of Attraction (LOA) thing, at least as some people practice it, is based on a similar kind of thinking. We found an enemy (negative thoughts in this case). If we eliminate this enemy, all will be well. It’s the same underpinnings, just with a pretty bow. And ironically…it’s a negative way of looking at the world!

The world is made richer by all of its differences. What might sound like negative thoughts to some – thoughts objecting to the way things are – may in fact lead us to wonderful discoveries and inventions. May create new works of art. May even eventually lead us to peace – once we can hear other ways of thinking that at first sound wrong or “negative” to us. But to accomplish all this, it helps to remain open to all thoughts.

We are made up of yin and yang. Good and bad. Perfect in our imperfections. Conflicting thoughts that sometimes fight within us to help us come to better decisions in the end. But we are also strong enough to handle those thoughts – we certainly don’t have to banish them, as if they were inherently bad. Consciously eliminating a piece of who we are as human beings is not only unnatural, it’s dangerous. Kind of a Stepford Wives meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers world that leaves the power in the hands of people doing things we don’t want (or need) to think about.

People I know who believe in the LOA also believe we don’t need to worry about all the bad stuff going on in the world or what our elected officials are doing with the power we give them. We don’t have to roll up our sleeves and get involved. We don’t need to speak out. We only have to envision a better world. I’m sure that’s working well for the poor people of Iraq. Or Darfur. Or the Katrina survivors who still don’t have a home. Just think harder, dears. You’ll get it.

But of course, the LOA teaches us to reject “negative” words like the ones I just wrote. Under the guise of being positive, it uses censorship and self-censorship as its storm troopers. Using restricted thinking to build a fortress and protect itself. A “new” secret way of being. A new society cleansed of the darkness that stands in the way of real progress. Hitler said stuff like that too.

Not to be negative, but…aww c’mon guys! We are given free choice. We are given the power to reason. We are given the power to do our own critical thinking. We can trust in our own good nature to find the “light”. We don’t need to banish thoughts the way you would a fearsome enemy. Look where that kind of head-in-the-sand thinking has gotten the world!

In fact, I think that we gain more from looking at these “negative” thoughts head on, giving ourselves the chance to learn to trust ourselves and see how we truly feel about things. And to make decisions based on all of who we are. What if there’s an important message in that negative thought we’re trying so hard to banish? Are we really served well by just labeling them all as “bad”?

There’s Definitely a Place for positive Thinking

All this is not trying to suggest that we can’t choose to have a positive outlook. If you hear yourself say “I just can’t do that!” it helps to at least start with the thought “Well…maybe I can!” The struggle within ourselves that eventually lets us see we CAN is real empowerment.

And it’s certainly important not to just sit and whine about all that’s wrong with our lives. “Woe is me! Why don’t things ever go MY way?” There’s nothing gained from feeding our negative thoughts day in and day out. But it does help to look at the situation honestly, and see what we might learn from it – giving ourselves a bit of whining time if needed – and then take whatever positive action we can to make things better, even if only a little at first.

So am I admitting being positive does help? Heck yes! In fact, I’ve always put the idea of a successful outcome in my own head when I take on a project – and it really does seem to make a big difference. The words “Yes I can!” are wonderful allies. But throwing a mental curtain over all our negative thoughts isn’t the answer. It never resolves what’s really going on. In fact we might even miss something worth paying attention to. It’s kind of like hiding from ourselves.

Speaking of hiding…I’ve heard people use the shield “If you can’t say anything positive, don’t say anything.” Well…if it’s about whether you like someone’s hair or dress, I can go along with that now and then. But if you have thoughts that can shed light on something or right a wrong or simply want to give yourself permission to have a voice…well then by all means speak up! (Uh…and be prepared to listen, too. It’s one of the most important things any of us can do.) Ideas or opinions that might not seem positive at first, may in fact result in something positive in the end. A blending of yin and yang to form something greater and even more powerful!

And as for the idea “there are no accidents”, as if every single thing that happens to you or those you know is pre-ordained or like a purposeful move on God’s chess board…where is the free will in that? And where is our own personal power? Not that I don’t think there may be some larger force at work at times, and not that I don’t believe a positive attitude seems to attract positive energy – but to give this outside force responsibility for every single thing that happens to us? Part of the fun and challenge of life is dealing with things as they come – and seeing what we can make of them.

Ban the Blame, Not Negative thoughts!

The worst part of this “ban negativity” thinking is that if things don’t go the way we envision – even when it’s because of events totally out of our control – we’re taught to blame ourselves for not doing it right. Or to blame those we hang out with. Oh excuse me…we’re taught to simply work harder on being positive and to surround ourselves with more positive thinkers like us. But for most people, that kind of thinking still makes it feel like you and/or your friends are to blame if things don’t go the way you envisioned they should. Like you just didn’t do it right.

And so you buckle down and think more beautiful, positive thoughts. And surround yourself with more beautiful, positive people (remembering to stay away from…ugh…negative images like fat people or sick people.) But meanwhile you’re not trusting a part of your own nature that is giving you some important information – yes, even in the form of negative thoughts or images. You’ve now trained yourself to ignore certain thoughts and replace them immediately (like brainwashing), rather than looking directly at them and seeing where they’re coming from and why they’re coming up at all – and maybe actually being brave enough to learn from them. Or to see parts of yourself – like compassion for those less fortunate. Better to just close yourself off to all that and spend your time visualizing wonderful possibilities instead.

As Ann Landers used to say…wake up and smell the coffee! This isn’t positive at all. It actually closes us off to our whole self and the real world around us – and negates who we are as human beings!

But then again, it sure is easier than all that painful thinking. And we so want the simple, easy answers, don’t we?

Of course, there are some things that actually do have easy answers and, with just a little thought we can find them. And many other things can be made easier – with the help of some concerted up-front effort. But just thinking good thoughts to chase away the evil spirits is not the answer. Nor is making negative thoughts into bogeymen. It’s what a five-year-old might do. When we grow up, we can handle things we couldn’t as a child.

Goal Thinking as the Whole Package

One of the things I find most troubling about The Secret is the heavy focus on goals. “I see myself rich.” “I see myself thin.” “I see myself happy.” “I see myself healed.” (Actually, I believe present tense is required like “I am rich.”) Now there’s nothing wrong with positive thinking per se. In fact, I used a technique like that when I went in for surgery a few years back – I saw myself surrounded by skilled, caring doctors and nurses – and it really helped. (Of course, so did having a great surgeon and doing things to strengthen my body ahead of time.) But many people come away believing that thoughts alone are the whole package. Thinking positive thoughts alone won’t get you very far. In most cases ya gotta do something more than just visualize success to actually get there.

The real joy is not the goal but the journey. Working on your own or with others toward a meaningful purpose can be an extremely wonderful thing whether we achieve every goal or not! Sure bring along your positive thoughts. It’s the attitude and perspective you bring with you that makes all the difference. I like to think of it as a cloak of positive colors that you can wear anywhere – without restricting what you can or can’t think about. Single-mindedness may get you to precisely what you want at times, but boy will you miss a lot along the way!

The journey is a process enriched by freedom of thought – and trusting in yourself. By allowing things to advance organically and with a mind open to all input (rather than in just a very rigid goal-oriented “I have all the answers” direction), you may in the end get more than you ever imagined!

We never know if we’ll get there – wherever there is – and that’s ok. Every single person can’t possibly get every single thing they want – especially if one person’s wants negates another’s! As we travel along, our wants change anyway. Many people find when they actually get to their goal it’s not all like it seemed in their dreams. But the world is made better by this type of positive effort. And for allowing for differences of opinions and points of view. And for being open to people who dare to say “NO! You’re wrong. It won’t work.”

How Opposing Views Can Actually Help

Rather than responding to that with “Let’s just think more positively” which closes off other opinions (and fosters something called groupthink), I think we get much more with something like “Tell me why. I want to hear your thoughts.” If you trust in your convictions, you can hear opposing views. While it might not change anything, maybe, just maybe you’ll actually come up with a new way you never imagined.

I’ve learned from the many work projects I’ve managed that it pays to make room for even the perpetual naysayers. They can add more than we realize and it’s good to make room for them. If people become afraid to speak up for fear of being labeled “negative”, then we close off important channels of communication and new ideas. (Of course, there comes a point where it helps to come to agreement on a course of action despite the differences.)

The truly unsettling thing is that I’ve seen people using this “positive thinking” to accuse others of spreading negativity and for being the cause of their own problems and illnesses by attracting all that negativity to themselves. Oh ick! I even read one blogger who blamed an entire group of people for the tragedies that befell millions of them during war, saying they had earned it over the centuries. WTF??? More blame. More thought control. The mark of a cult and the mark of a repressive regime.

The Real Secret

So the real secret is that LOA, at least as some people practice it, is not so positive after all. It just appears to be that way on the surface. When we make people or thoughts the enemy, we’re only closing ourselves off to the real gifts of the world. And we’re closing ourselves off to the beauty of who we are – warts and all.

And of that, I’m positive.

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Some other posts on The Secret/LOA:

Psst! 20 Things that Aren’t So Secret. Pass It On!

NOTE: In case you were wondering, the words at the start of this piece are not a direct quote from anywhere. I wrote that section to help make my point about turning thoughts into enemies. As MusEditions says in her post on this matter (thanks for mentioning this post!) “Thoughts are just thoughts. I relax and let them be.” Amen.