Eh Hem, can I have your attention please?
Gather ‘round, peeps. It’s time for some real talk about a subject that is confusing and painful for many of us: manifestation. A reader posted the following comment on “How to Manifest Anything,” an article in O: The Oprah Magazine that quoted me and I think it deserves a thorough reply:
“Manifestation is such an interesting topic for me and has been for the last 8 years. I've been trying to master it for so long and I've been struggling. I once heard someone say that everything that's happened to us, we manifested it. I simply can't believe that I would manifest such cruel things that has happened because all I want is good, happiness, success, good health, great relationships and wealth. I just don't know about this thing called Manifestation anymore.”
First, let me tell you that I get this. The struggle is real! The idea that you can have a good life just by thinking about it is so seductive and reassuring. It sounds easy. You can control your thoughts even while things that are outside your control keep happening, and if that’s all it takes… you’ll be rolling in Benjamins with the love of your life by this time next week! But, of course that doesn’t happen for most of us, so what happens next? You start blaming yourself: “I must be doing this wrong.” You look for how you failed instead of realizing that manifestation was a false promise to begin with.
It’s even worse when you’re thinking about trauma and abuse that’s happened to you. Hear me clearly: You did not manifest the cruelty you’ve suffered.
Wait, what? I just outlined a whole process of manifestation and now I’m saying it’s a false promise? I’m sure you’re wondering what’s going on here! Stick with me, because I’m going to address this in detail.
First, let’s be crystal clear about one thing: “You manifest whatever happens to you” is a form of victim-blaming. Ever notice how “manifestation” somehow mysteriously only applies to victims but not abusers? The truth is that anyone who abuses or traumatizes you bears the full responsibility of their actions.
Think about a child who is living in an abusive home. Of course that child didn’t manifest the abuse. That is the fault of the adults who are abusing them. As children, we learn from our primary caregivers how the world works and how we can be safe and functional human beings. What you experience in childhood becomes a subconscious script for how you respond to new people and situations in the future. If you were traumatized or abused, that script might be painful and challenging, even dysfunctional. It is true that our scripts can set us up to repeat unhealthy patterns and seek out unhealthy relationships, even though we desperately want love, happiness, and success, but that is not “manifestation”.
We can consider this on a global scale also. This concept of “you manifested everything that happens to you” would mean that racism is the fault of BIPOC, misogyny is the fault of women, and genocide is the fault of (for example) Armenians, European and Russian Jews, and indigenous people worldwide. I hope it is easy to see how WRONG that is!
In fact, as long as you believe that you are responsible for manifesting whatever happens to you, you are at risk for being retraumatized or having your trauma reactivated. This belief can cause you to think that someone else’s choice to mistreat you is somehow your fault, which can reverberate through your whole being and include everything bad that’s ever happened to you.
Unfortunately, the O article left out one of the key points for successful manifestation. Marla McKenna, the other person quoted in the article, hinted at it when she said, “Don’t give the universe mixed signals.” This applies to your internalized subconscious scripts, childhood coping mechanisms, and trauma responses as well as your conscious thoughts. If you are dealing with trauma, abuse, and oppression and have scripts that are maladapted for success, it will never be enough to simply redirect your conscious thoughts to focus on your desires. Behind the scenes, your old scripts are still running the show.
First the bad news: You cannot simply think your way out of your trauma. Trauma lives deep in your cells and nervous system, in a place that your conscious thoughts and affirmations cannot touch.
The other piece of difficult news is that the concept of “manifestation” is a temptation to spiritual bypassing. It lures you in with the siren song of “change your thoughts, change your life!” while completely ignoring the deeply wounded parts of you that need healing. This keeps you disempowered because you are focusing your energy on an ineffective strategy of policing your thoughts instead of on your deep and deeply necessary healing work.
Now the good news: It is absolutely possible to heal your trauma and change your script! When you dig down into the deeper layers and address the trauma on a physical level, you can release it and learn how to thrive.
I am working on recording some trauma wisdom material of my own, which I will share in later blog posts, in the meantime I would like to introduce you to Gabor Mate. He is someone I like to share in all matters trauma related.
He does not address manifestation specifically in this video, but what he DOES address is that ALL of us hold, and own our own trauma, whether collective, generational or present day. He speaks to what this is like for your brain and emotions, and points how this would affect mindset and what it's like to navigate such challenges. When you watch the video, and... I truly DO hope you find some time to watch this empathic man speak. And as you do, I would like to invite you to contemplate what it might be like for a person (possibly you) who might not connect trauma with money and doing business, and how THAT might affect your bottom line when it comes to working on your dreams. I have included a link below to a genius video of one of his many talks.
Another way to think about this work is that clearing the trauma is preparation to receive the good things that come your way. You are developing the courage to say yes. Eventually, what you want will arrive. Can you recognize it when it shows up? Do you have the humility to receive it? Do you love yourself enough to know that you are worthy of it? Do you believe that what you want wants you? The even better news is that, once you’ve done this work to heal your trauma and change your script, you are now set up to thrive. It doesn’t mean that you will never suffer or face challenges. It doesn’t mean that some people won’t try to abuse you ever again. It doesn’t mean that things like car accidents or cancer are guaranteed to never happen to you now. It doesn’t mean that systemic oppression like racism and misogyny will no longer affect you.What it does mean is that your script helps you maintain healthy boundaries, choose awesome people to be in all types of relationships with, believe in yourself, and take effective, strategic action toward your goals and dreams. It means you are no longer tripping over your childhood coping mechanisms every time you try to do something good. It means you can more readily and effectively stand up for yourself. It means that you can recognize and joyfully accept the good things that happen to you. Like many other pseudo-spiritual ideas, the idea of manifestation takes some true things and oversimplifies them. If your script expects everyone you care for to abandon you, that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy until you can change your script. But that does not mean that you made someone abandon you or that you deserve to be abandoned because your thoughts are somehow wrong. It means that you don’t yet know how to recognize unhealthy people or how to choose healthy, supportive people as friends, colleagues, and lovers… and that is something you can learn. I want to see you empowered to heal and believe in your own agency. “Manifestation” would have you believe that you are a victim of your own bad thoughts. The truth is that you are a powerful, badass human being who has the ability to heal, overcome trauma, and thrive!