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Is Manifesting Just A Road To Wishful Thinking?

Rethinking the pros and cons of manifestation and how we can manage our expectations.

Credit: Life science / Shutterstock

Manifesting has become a key word in the millennial vernacular; it has taken TikTok by storm and has provided social media users with a new way to restructure their frame of mind and cope with the ever-changing environment of the 21st century. 

However, just how effective is the manifesting technique in altering perspectives and ensuring a positive impact, rather than solely acting as a premise for wishful thinking? 

https://www.tiktok.com/@amathyne/video/7018706555163954437?is_from_webapp=1&sender_device=pc&web_id6902717698812511750
Credit: TikTok / @amathyne

For The Guardian, Ammar Kalia documented Jennifer Doyle’s recent lockdown experience which introduced the technique of manifestation as a tool to pull her out of her ‘low point’. She mentioned that she ‘was in a bit of a hole’ and ‘struggling’ to envision thoughts that were not rooted in negativity.  It was a close friend of hers that suggested she use manifestation to help her out of her rut. Doyle claims that the implementation of manifestaton completely ‘shifted’  her energy, prompting her to focus on her desires in life, rather than all of the negatives; a true lockdown success story. 

The Guardian also reproted that Google Trends recognised an increase in the searches for manifestation at the height of the pandemic in July 2020. Meanwhile, on TikTok, videos tagged with #manifestation, have acquired over 14B views; marking the act as a global trend.

According to ThePathProvides.com, a website that offers tips for the practice, manifestation techniques can include ‘writing your life as if you already had what you wish to manifest’, ‘dimension jumping’ which involves believing there are ‘many worlds’ and different realities that can offer you various levels of success and the ‘5 x 55 method’. 

However, whilst manifestation seems to be helping a large majority of people, it is not without its faults, for in using manifestation as a tool to improve your mental health, this can often lead to a reliance on solely “trusting the universe” to offer you support. Dr Denise Fournier compared manifestation to a ‘slippery fish’ due to its conceptuality, rather than its practicality. Stating that ‘in pragmatic terms, it is the practice of translating something from thought…into a tangible reality’. The practice stems from ‘using intention to create an image of a goal you want to achieve’. Fournier also notes that is relies on ‘discipline’ to keep you ‘oriented towards that goal’. 

Manifestation became popular in the globally renowned book, The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne, a self-help book that looks at how you can apply the laws of attraction to ensure personal success. This movement has been extrapolated onto YouTube and TikTok with tutorial videos on ‘how-to’ perform the techniques. 

Credit: YouTube / @Anila Sita 101

However, Alana Leggett, life coach at Life Coach Directory, recognized the downside of manifestation which she notes is accountability. She mentioned to The Guardian that although manifestation is a malleable term that can be ‘mould[ed]’ and applied to different ‘belief system[s]’, it relies on the individual ensuring ‘consisten[cy]’, holding yourself ‘accountable’ to ensure that you dedicate your energy to your manifestations. Leggett compared this accountability with the concept of new years resolutions – ‘look at how many people make and break [them]’ – dedication is key! 

So, for all its flaws, is manifestation worth the hype?  Psychologists have identified that whilst it provides comfort for people to rely on their positive thoughts, manifestation is difficult and unreliable for people suffering from poor mental health. Neuroscientist Rhiannon Jones mentioned to Vice that depending on your thoughts is a side effect of OCD and symptoms can develop ‘in someone who originally doesn’t’ possess OCD tendencies; a fragile foundation for your future prospects. Additionally, in NYU professor Gabriele Oettingen’s book, Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation and on her website WOOP, she reiterates the problems with this foundation, stating that people ‘need the energy to implement [their] wishes, and over time, they actually get more depressed, partly because they’re putting in less effort and have less success’. 

So whilst manifestation has provided a comfort blanket for many, maybe we are taking it too seriously? TikTok trends have escalated and commercialized the practice, transforming it into a trend to rekindle relationships and conversations with exes. However, does that mean we should cancel out success stories like Doyle’s? Surely, recalibrating our thoughts to ensure a positive outlook can only help when navigating social media battlefields and overwhelming expectations – just remember to tread with caution and diligence. 

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