Although the 2006 film “The Secret” popularized the “law of attraction” through media attention from the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Larry King, the notion that our subjective states create all or part of the objective world goes as far back as the Hindu “law of karma.”
I am not all that interested in whether or not the law of attraction is true, and therefore I will not be trying to support or criticize it. (There are many books out there supporting and criticizing this view; I like Lynne McTaggart’s “The Field” as a support, and Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Bright Sided” as a criticism.)
What I am interested in are the natural perspectives from which this sometimes unnatural movement has emerged (unnatural to the degree that it purports magical wish fulfillment). Beyond that, I am interested in how engaging those natural perspectives can actually help us flourish, without resorting to magical thinking.
Here is one way of looking at the three main natural perspectives on positivity as they show up in popular philosophy (including some aphorisms you may have heard):
- Having more positive thoughts than negative thoughts is an indication of psychological health (“Happiness is a virtue”).
- In order to win friends and influence people you should be mostly positive (“You can attract more bees with honey than with vinegar”).
- To succeed in life, you need to have the right mental attitude (“Whether you say ‘I can’t,’ or ‘I can,’ you’re right”).
Immunity to Change coaching was founded upon decades of research in Robert Kegan’s “Subject-Object Theory,” a developmental psychology that grounds thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in the context of evolution. Because it is a “constructive-developmental” theory, Immunity to Change coaching works because it addresses the ways that we “construct” our reality. Reality is not merely “out there” waiting to be seen and operated in – we are active participants, constructing meaning (even nihilism, the notion that life is meaningless, is a construction of life’s meaning!).
There are three specific ways that Immunity to Change coaching touches on the three natural perspectives of “positivity”:
- Changing “complaints” to “commitments” (or, via-negativa goals to via-positiva goals) will result in greater success in coaching.
- Hidden beliefs are the source of not-quite-so hidden forms of self-protection, and the “negativity” of these hidden beliefs selectively removes any data that does not support such self-protection.
- Creating a vision of the future where our “via-positiva” goals are being achieved, and simultaneously our “via-negativa” hidden beliefs are absent, helps us to achieve (and measure) coaching success.
Based on the above points, it looks as though there is some overlap between the “law of attraction” and Immunity to Change coaching. But nobody would accuse Immunity to Change coaching of supporting “magical” thinking; rather, it seems likely that the “law of attraction” succeeds because focusing on positive thinking puts us into a mindset that is not obsessed with self-protection from hidden beliefs. And since many hidden beliefs have been unexamined for years, the result of the positive thinking is that the world is not nearly as bad as you thought.
There are of course some major differences – for example, hidden beliefs must be wholly examined, with or without affirmations, or else they will return to highly influence our behavior. Any life’s goal that we have which is connected to that hidden belief will be extremely difficult to achieve (remember – between goals and hidden beliefs lies self-protection).
Another difference is that there is no recourse to quantum entanglement or magical thinking with Immunity to Change coaching – it just is not necessary in order to achieve transformation. But the biggest difference is that Immunity to Change coaching is more than just a one-trick-pony; where the “law of attraction” has basically one process (think positive, because like-attracts-like), Immunity to Change coaching has nine processes.
Immunity to Change coaching is not contrary to the affirmation-movement; however, it also differs from the “law of attraction” in both its source and processes for change.