September 1st, 2008

How Does The Law of Attraction Explain The Holocaust?

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Verbrechen (Oswiecim)
Auschwitz Concentration Camp

The Law of Attraction states that our lives are a result of the things we think about. But how much control do we really have over our lives? If we are all in complete control of our lives, then the Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz concentration camp was also in complete control of his life, right? So is the Law of Attraction saying that his suffering was his own fault? How does the Law of Attraction explain tragic events such as The Holocaust? Let’s start by asking two of the leading experts on the Law of Attraction-

The Secret’s Answer- It’s All Their Fault

The Secret - O Segredo, Rhonda Byrne
Rhonda Byrne (author of The Secret) explains tragedy and human suffering as “thought frequency being on the same frequency as the event”:

Often [people] recall events in history where masses of lives were lost, and they find it incomprehensible that so many people could have attracted themselves to the event. By the law of attraction, they had to be on the same frequency as the event. It doesn’t necessarily mean they thought of that exact event, but the frequency of their thoughts matched the frequency of the event. If people believe they can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they have no control over outside circumstances, those thoughts of fear, separation, and powerlessness, if persistent, can attract them to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

According to Byrne’s view of the Law of Attraction, people facing tragedy, on some level, willed their own suffering.

Steve Pavlina’s Answer- It’s All Your Fault

Steve Pavlina explains that subjective reality answers our question about tragedy/suffering and the Law of Attraction. Subjective reality is the belief that 1) there is only one consciousness, 2) you are that consciousness, and 3) everything and everyone in your reality is a projection of your thoughts.

According to Pavlina’s view of the Law of Attraction, people are facing tragedy, on some level, because you willed their suffering. The more you think about tragedy, the more you’ll see it expand in your subjective reality.

Could the Experts be Wrong?

Neither answer seems correct- both are still basically saying “If a tsunami kills thousands of victims, it’s either your fault or the fault of the victims.” Both answers perpetuate a blame-the-victim or blame-yourself mentality, and make people feel responsible for events outside of their control. Let’s take a closer look at the case for and against the idea that we each have complete control over our lives.

The Case Against Complete Control: Shit Happens

In the words of J.H. Holmes, “The universe is not hostile, nor yet is it friendly. It is simply indifferent.” Natural and man-made disasters happen all the time. Fires. Tornadoes. Floods. Diseases. Murders. Wars. These are tragedies of which we often have little control over. While it is important to do as much as we can to prevent these tragedies from occurring, we shouldn’t expect that our efforts to change external conditions will immediately improve our lives.

Footage from the December 26, 2004 Sumatran Tsunami:

The Case For Complete Control: Our Thoughts Do Impact Our Health, Lifespan, and Success

Research has shown us that positive thinking works. Dr. Martin Seligman, the director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, and author of Learned Optimism, has studied optimists and pessimists for 25 years. His research has found that positive-thinking optimists:

  • Get better results than pessimists in most areas of life
  • Live longer
  • Are healthier
  • Do better at work and in school
  • Have fewer depressions
  • Have more friends and better social lives

By contrast, negative-thinking pessimists:

  • Thinking style leaves vulnerable to depression
  • Produces inertia rather than activity in the face of setbacks
  • Feels bad subjectively–blue, down worried, anxious
  • Self-fulfilling; pessimists don’t persist in the face of challenges and thus fail more frequently (even when success is attainable)
  • Is associated with poor physical health
  • Even when pessimists turn out to be right, they still feel worse than the deluded optimists

Compromise: We Don’t Have Complete Control Over Outside Events, but We Do Have Control of Our Inner Experience of Those Events

After looking at the evidence for and against complete control of our lives, a compromise is what provides us with the right answer. You don’t have complete control over outside events, but you do have control of how you experience those events. For example, you cannot choose whether or not you get in a car accident. But if you get in a car accident, and are injured, you can choose how to respond to that injury.

Victor Frankl, holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, explains:

Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you respond to a situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.

So you can’t choose for a negative or positive situation to happen to you- but you can choose how to respond to the situations which you are given in life.

Changing Our Mindset about The Law of Attraction

The current Law of Attraction mindset promotes a blame-the-victim mentality, and makes people mistakenly believe they are responsibility for events that are out of their control. If we are to continue to experiment with and tell others about The Law of Attraction, we first need re-define it:

The Old Law of Attraction versus The New Law of Attraction

The Old Law of Attraction: Our lives are a result of the things we think about.

The New Law of Attraction: Our responses to life are a result of the things we think about.

Sure, the idea of having complete control of our lives gives us a sense of security, as we are led to believe that we are able to exert control over the great forces of the universe. But is that sense of security not a false one?

Help Popularize The New Law of Attraction

The Law of Attraction helps us visualize our responses to life. It helps enable positive thinking and personal growth. But the current popular thinking about it is wrong. If you are in agreement that it is time to change our mindset about The Law of Attraction, and would like to tell others, please use the Share This button below. If you have a blog, please share this post with your readers.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Mädchen aus Ostberlin, grave-digger

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7 Responses to “How Does The Law of Attraction Explain The Holocaust?”

Shawn Kinkade

September 1st, 2008 - 6:56 pm

Great post – I’ve spent some time thinking about the right way to explain what I don’t like about the (old) Law of Attraction and I think you nailed it for me.

There is a huge amount of research into the value of positive thinking, but that doesn’t mean you abdicate hard work and responsibility just because you ‘believe’.

Thanks for sharing.


Derek Ralston

September 1st, 2008 - 7:33 pm

@Shawn: Thanks! I’ve been thinking about it for a while now also, and as you said, there is a lot of value in positive thinking, so we shouldn’t dismiss LoA entirely- just change our mindset about it.

Nice blog by the way- I lived in KC until February, it seems to be growing a lot with the P&L district and all… Sounds like you are a great help to local business owners.


September 5th, 2008 - 5:19 pm

Thanks for this post. I’ve shared it on Technorati and Facebook. Many of the specialists featured in the movie The Secret have expressed their concern that the movie didn’t cover all the bases. There is more to it than just wishing yourself a nice brand new car. Action is necessary, and that was only touched on slightly in the movie.

Of course, we don’t have complete control over the events in our lives, because of the intentions of other people, because of random acts of nature, etc. As you eloquently said, we have control over our reactions to the events in our lives, and it’s a very important distinction!

Derek Ralston

September 6th, 2008 - 1:43 am

@Jessica: Thanks for sharing the post! Hopefully after people see The Secret, most of them do more research into the subject, versus accepting all the information shared as factual (as most of it is anecdotal). As you mention, the movie is definitely missing the element of action.

I’ve been thinking more about the idea of complete control, and there is definite value in believing that you are responsible for a portion of what happens in your life (from a psychological perspective). It’s all about where you draw the line. To me, the belief of complete control is not realistic, or healthy, but others differ:


September 6th, 2008 - 4:46 pm

I saw someone on some positivity blog mention that she needs to feel responsible for every thought she has, as if she has control over her thoughts. I do not agree. Our brains are like radios, and thoughts are like radio stations. Most thoughts are not original to us; we pick up on them as a radio tunes in to a station. We have a choice to feel like we own the thought or not. Discrimination is important, lest we get lost in pessimistic thinking.


April 4th, 2009 - 4:58 am

Thank you for this post — I know you wrote it some time ago, but I just found it this morning and it was very helpful to me. I’ve been trying to reconcile the ideas of the Law of Attraction with some of the atrocities in the world, like Darfur. I can’t believe that ALL the people in those refugee camps are “vibrating” wrong and making horrible things happen to themselves. Yet, I DO like some of the ideas given by the LOA for individuals. I think your post brought together those notions very well, and I love your compromise. Thank you!


April 23rd, 2010 - 7:54 am

Thanks for the post – realise its old now but I have a response anyway. I have been very concerned about the whole Law of Attraction thing, not just the “secret”, but ir pervades a lot of the modern growth movement, and my concern is how it excuses all sorts of bad behaviour from people while blaming the victim.
I would be more restrictive than you in terms of defining the area we can control. I quote from your quote:
“but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”

You use the term “respond to” which usually includes feelings, thoughts and actions. I would say that you can control what you do, but not necessarily how you feel . If for example somebody’s daughter is raped and tortured, most people would feel outraged by that, and not able to choose to feel good about it. Or substitute “your spouse has an affair”, “you are found guilty of a murder of which you are innocent”, or many other awful things that can happen to people. After most of my adult life in the growth movement trying to change the way I feel about bad things happening to me – when they happen – other than detaching myself and numbing myself emotionally, there is no good way to do it . I am convinced that certain feelings are hardwired as a response to certain things. So I would say that you can choose how to act in response to something, but not how to feel – once a certain threshold has been reached, I mean. I can choose to ignore and forget being carved up by a bad driver within a few minutes, but not an unfaithful spouse, for example. There is a grain of truth in your idea of response which includes feelings, but it is not universally applicable unless you modify response to mean “behaviour” rather than what goes on inside as well. Just my humble opinion.

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