I'll Tell You The Secret: Manifesting Is A Con


25/05/2016 1:23 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
Getty Editorial
I tried to manifest a Ferrari and all I got was this lousy model.

I really can't deal with the notion of 'manifesting'. Honestly, I've tried, but I just can't get myself near the goal post. If you haven't heard of 'manifesting' you're likely disconnected from the new age, spiritual world -- but these days the 'mindfulness' and 'wellness' industries are so all pervasive that I would be surprised you hadn't stumbled upon it somewhere along the traps. When talking about manifesting, it's often about 'showing' or 'revealing' our own lives, through thought and action -- we manifest the result we're after.

It's by no means a new concept -- just look towards ancient texts such as the Bible. Manifestation quotes are omnipotent, for example: 'You reap what you sow'. But these days, people often refer to the book The Secret when they're talking about manifestation.

Have you ever noticed how people sort of whisper the title, 'The Secret', almost in reverential tones? Their eyes will dart around as though to check no one is listening.

"People!" I feel like exclaiming. "It's not a real secret, more than 19 million copies have been sold and the book has been translated into 46 languages! There are a whole lot of people that know about The Secret now, so you may as well shout it from the rooftops rather than refer to it in a furtive tone."

The general message of the book is: what you ask for you shall receive, what you imagine, you shall be. Yes, it's quasi-biblical in nature. So, essentially if you manifest positive thoughts and visualise certain elements of your desired life, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo (classic Fairy Godmother style), they'll be granted.

Now, I'm all for positive thinking, taking action and steps towards leading the life you want or being the person you desire, but the concept of manifestation has manifested in new and alarming ways. Take, for example, scrap-booking and mood boards. There's a whole lot of scrap-booking going on out there -- in fact, I've even been invited to a scrap-booking party. This is where people (usually woman, with a few blokes thrown in for good measure) come together and rip things out of magazines and paste them into a scrap-book of consumer desires.

"I really want that figure, or that car, or that diamond ring. Yes, Tiffany's please. How about this Christmas table setting, or that so-on-trend outdoor décor, and some hip wall art to boot!" This scrapbook becomes a tangible indication of what we want our lives and ourselves to look like, the bi-product being a desired identity too. Pasted with clag glue and carefully embalmed into some sort of creepy reduction of our consumer soul.

Mood boards are sort of the same, just a snapshot of the creepy. For example: this is my dream wedding, or wardrobe etc. The strangest part about this manifestation exchange is that the person might not yet have a partner but is imagining a princess cut ring.

It's misguided and misleading. Somehow all this 'manifestation' and 'secreting' is taking us further from the truth. Studies show that surrounding ourselves with more stuff and completing arbitrary life milestones won't make us happy -- in fact, they're likely to make us less so.

Take, for example, some thinking from Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California and author of The Myths of Happiness. She explains that there is rich data which shows when we reach or purchase a static milestone or thing our happiness levels only show a small spike followed by a quick plummet to the original mood levels or lower. It's called 'hedonic adaptation'. We get used to said thing in a ridiculously short time span.

Lyubomirsky writes: "One such happiness myth is the notion that 'I'll be happy when (fill in the blank)'. I'll be happy when I get that promotion, when I say 'I do', when I have a baby, when I'm rich and so on. The false promise is not that achieving those dreams won't make us happy. They most certainly will. The problem is that these achievements -- even when initially perfectly satisfying -- will not make us as intensely happy (or for as long) as we believe they will. Hence, when fulfilling these goals doesn't make us as happy as we expected, we feel there must be something wrong with us."

So what are we manifesting here? Products? Events? Identity? Happiness? Wholeness? Somehow manifesting that lounge from Nick Scali doesn't really cut the mustard.

If we were manifesting health, or authenticity, a real sense of identity, then I would be all for it. It makes sense, after all, those are the core blocks of life. But instead we're trapped manifesting products and events consumer culture told us we wanted.

Too hark back to a dusty relic in the library, Capital, Marx wrote about 'artificial consciousness' driven by the economy, capitalism and product, all of which were obfuscating our real drivers towards truth, which, in Marx' case, was revolution. We could argue as to whether any of these concepts are relevant anymore, but in a broader context, isn't our current desire for product obfuscating some far greater truths?

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to manifest a Ferrari into my driveway. Cut out an image of one from an car magazine, stick it on a mood board and stare at it day-after-day imagining the smell of the interior, that unique Ferrari sound as I screamed around corners. Then I would find a photo of a Ferrari and paste it in my instagram feed with a series of motivational hash tags such as #manifest #thepowerofthemind #visualise.

No seriously, are we really there?

More On This Topic