Life coaches promise success and wealth on social media through the concept of so-called “manifesting.” The idea is simple: wish hard, always think positively and realize that you deserve it. Then the universe will do it for you.
Is it just mumbo jumbo – or perhaps the secret of cosmic forces?
Manuel Schmid has a doctorate in theology and works as co-director of the RefLab of the Reformed Church in Zurich. In podcasts, blogs and vlogs, he and his team discuss faith, religion and spirituality with guests.
SRF: According to one Article in National Geographic The hashtag #Manifesting has over 34 billion views on social media. So manifesting has moved from the niche of the spiritual scene into the mainstream. What do you think?
Manuel Schmid: I find it extremely problematic, dangerous and worrying that this concept is so popular and popular. Of course you can identify moments of truth. But taken to the extreme, these moments of truth have a very problematic effect – for each individual and, if this becomes widespread, also for society. I find this ideology ruthless and arrogant.
Rejecting negative feelings leads to problematic self-denial.
What do you find so dangerous or worrying about it?
The whole thing – I now say ideology – is a guide to strategic self-deception. It promotes a completely manic form of optimism. According to the “Law of Attraction”, negative thoughts automatically attract negative events. So I can’t allow myself any more negative thoughts. Such an idea leads to a large part of reality being ignored, and this is psychologically very unhealthy.
About “manifesting” and the law of attraction
“You can have anything you want,” say young and hip people on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube: the dream car, the dream partner or big money. The idea behind it is simple: wish hard, always think positively, overcome insecurities and tell yourself that you deserve it.
This newly developed self-concept should be internalized through writing, affirmations or meditation.
A self-proclaimed manifesting coach puts it this way on YouTube: “You see the million in your mind’s eye, you feel them in your cells and you’re already happy that they’re there. There may be 0 euros in your account, but you are vibrating to the tune of a million. And if you manage to stay in that vibration long enough, that reality must come true. That’s a law.”
The “Law of Attraction”
The idea is not new: The basis of manifesting is the so-called “law of attraction,” which says: “Good things attract good things.”
The roots of this idea lie in the “New Thought” movement of the 19th century. The “Law of Attraction” became known to the general public in 2006.
At that time, Australian author Rhonda Byrne published the book “The Secret”. To date, it has been translated into over 50 languages and sold over 30 million copies. It says that we shape reality with our thoughts because thoughts have a frequency. And if we are on the same frequency as our desire, then they attract each other.
So you’re advocating being unhappy a little more often?
Absolutely. It’s perfectly healthy to admit to myself at certain times that I’m desperately unhappy. And rightly so. Because I was struck by fate, because someone dear was taken away from me, because I received a devastating diagnosis. It is healthy to allow these negative feelings and thoughts. Rejecting this leads to problematic self-denial.
They also say manifesting is arrogant. What do you mean?
All the privileges that I have as a Swiss, my healthy parents who supported me, friends who stood up for me, people who opened doors for me and so on. All the accompanying factors that lead to something good happening to you are ignored and reduced to a single factor: I had positive expectations and am now being rewarded for them.
And how is the concept of manifesting ruthless?
If everyone is responsible for their own happiness, then everyone is also responsible for their own unhappiness: a single mother who struggles to support her three children, has no money at the end of the month and doesn’t know how to heat the apartment in the winter – she simply has herself to blame for her misery. She did not successfully manifest the million francs. This is really unspeakable nonsense!
You said that manifesting also has moments of truth. Which are they?
I can of course gain something from the basic idea: think positively because that attracts good things. We perceive the world differently when we start the day with positive expectations. We concentrate our perception on the positive and can name more positive things in the evening. But this is not a magical law of attraction. This simply has to do with human perception psychology.
The interview was conducted by Mariel Kreis.