Home Mental Health & Well-Being Manifestation Works, But Not for the Reasons You Think

Manifestation Works, But Not for the Reasons You Think

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The idea of ‘manifesting’ – that is, persuading the universe to give you something you want but haven’t been able to get – has been around for, probably, centuries. Then in 2006 the documentary The Secret was released and the whole thing was suddenly all over the place on social media, along with a veritable crowd of therapists and others, some rather dubious, promising to introduce you to the universal ‘Law of Attraction’. 

Apparently, once you have learned how to ask the universe, unlimited amounts of whatever it is you really, really want can be yours. You don’t have to work for it, and you certainly don’t have to pay for it; because when you learn the trick, it will just arrive in your life somehow as long as you believe you’re worth it. All you have to do is make it vivid in your mind, see it, smell it, feel it, hear it, know why you want it, how it will feel when you get it, believe in yourself and it will be yours. Never mind the logistics of hundreds of people all asking for the same thing at the same time; there are only so many Aston Martins or Patek Phillippe timepieces in existence so some people will have to wait in line while the really skilled ones skim all the best stuff off the waiting heap of goodies.

It all hinges around the belief that the human animal is pure energy, and since like attracts like, then make sure your energy is positive and you will attract positive things to you. Never mind the common knowledge that ‘opposites attract’ or what happens when you put two magnets together. This, somehow, is different: there are countless anecdotal tales of how people have used it to elevate themselves from penury to riches beyond their wildest dreams. Or perhaps just to reach a more modest goal. There are even more who just know their time will definitely come – eventually – once they learn how to believe a bit harder. And it’s not just about possessions or wealth, either, because when you learn how to really ‘tune in’ to the Universe, you can attract the partner of your dreams and engage in a relationship made in… well, the universe, obviously.

So, does it work? Well, in a word, yes. But not for the reasons promoted by those who want you to buy their courses, books, videos, or audio recordings (which is how they seek to manifest their riches). You don’t need mindfulness, hypnosis, special training, rare crystals or special earth minerals whose vibrations are in total harmony with Earth’s special vibrations. What you do need is: (1) an understanding of how and why it works; (2) a realistic approach; and (3) belief in yourself. Get those three elements firmly in place and you don’t need the Universe or some mysterious energy force to do its bit – you will be totally self-sufficient.

The how and why

If you plant an idea firmly into the right part of your brain – we’ll call it the subconscious for easiness – and make it important enough, it immediately starts to scan your entire world for elements of it that are already available. It won’t look for anything else, just that one thing you’ve requested. An example of this single-mindedness is if you’re asked to spot a certain word in a string of text, whether you find it or not, only that one word will be in your mind, not the rest of what you scanned. You probably wouldn’t even be able to remember what the text was about, in fact. You might have seen one of those pieces of film where you’re asked to count the number of goals scored, and you got the goals right, but you didn’t see the gorilla amble through the scene. Your brain wasn’t looking for gorillas, but for goals. So, firmly plant the idea of what you’re looking for and that’s what it will try to find.

The next thing it will do is collate everything that is associated with the ‘target’ and attempt to create an idea or scenario that is designed, as closely as possible, to help you get what you want. It’ll pop into your mind as a thought or idea that won’t necessarily make any sense and might even seem like complete nonsense. And here’s the important thing – if you don’t take action on what it gives you, that’ll be the end of it, and you’ll miss the rest of what would have come to mind. Taking action isn’t difficult. Just writing it down counts. Or recording it into your mobile. Give that magical all-knowing part of your brain the reward of an active response and it will eventually give you the whole picture of what you need to do to get whatever it is you’re after. 

And that’s the downside – you have to actually do something to get what you want. Forget those stories about truly, truly believing and needing to be a millionaire and then winning the lottery. It’s probably happened at some point, but it’s not manifestation. It’s coincidence. In fact, believing that it’s all to do with the vibrations of the universe can work against you, since you will be less inclined to take that physical action towards success. 

The psychological fact is that the subconscious knows everything you can do and can’t do, and it will keep on searching to find the best response for whatever you’ve focused on. Sometimes it takes a while, sometimes it’s almost immediate.  Sometimes it won’t produce anything worthwhile; but as long as you take action and as long as what you’re after is realistic there is a far better-than-average chance that you’ll find it. But now let’s have a look at those three important provisos.

A realistic approach

If you were trying to get an Aston Martin plopped outside your house the next day, that’s not realistic, especially if your bank balance is all accounted for. But put the idea into your brain that you really want an Aston Martin, and in your mind see it, hear it, feel it and smell it. Then amp up the desire to the point that it becomes the thing you want above all else (because that part of the brain you’re using prioritises everything by the level of importance) and you might find yourself suddenly noticing that a sales assistant is wanted at an Aston Martin showroom. Because that’s the way it works. Not magic, or a mysterious benefactor bequeathing one to you. It’s almost always the simplest possible, maybe even mundane, solution. It could even be that you find yourself laughing as you suddenly realise that you’re looking at a child playing with a toy version of the vehicle – that you would not have noticed if you had not primed your mind to look for it. It’s all about enhancing your powers of observation so that you don’t miss a single trick.

Being realistic means knowing what you want and being practical about it. You might have to get there in stages over a period of time, perhaps studying a subject single-mindedly that has the potential to lead to where you want to be. It means not hankering after a millionaire’s mansion if you’re currently job-seeking, though searching out a job or a business with the potential to advance to that status would be realistic. And it’s no good seeking to become a champion athlete if you have arthritic knees

That’s the real secret. Priming that part of your brain to find every last opportunity to achieve your goal, opportunities that you might never have otherwise noticed. And that really DOES work and has done so for many people, me included. It’s how I came to be a highly successful researcher, writer and teacher in the field of psychology – in spite of many people advising me that I just hadn’t got what it takes to be properly successful.


And here’s the third important facet of achieving your goals – belief. But it’s not about trying to muster up the belief that you can achieve it; it’s about believing totally that your brain knows every resource available to you and can combine ideas in a way that you probably could never normally bring to mind – and then it will do just that. It doesn’t care what anybody else thinks you should or should not do, either, since it’s completely focused on what you want, not anybody else’s wishes. So, attach huge importance to your goal, so much so that it’s as if you know your life will not be complete until it’s achieved, then take action on every single idea that pops into your head, even the crazy ones.  And soon, you could find yourself taking the very first steps towards your dream life. 

Terence Watts is the creator of Brain Working Recursive Therapy (BWRT).


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