We’ve had some fantastic dialogue on the comments boards of “Mind Over Broken Leg?” “He Had It Coming,” and “Hardly a Secret.” I’ve so enjoyed reading them because I struggle with where to draw the line regarding the power of the mind.
I am impressed by all the intelligent and nuanced remarks regarding this very complicated topic.
“One way of looking at it is that visualization is a lens. Before we use it, we might not see the opportunities and the path that are already in front of us. After we use it, things suddenly become much clearer, and we can walk more confidently without fear of tripping. Or, to paraphrase an old cliche, perhaps the law of attraction means that we can will the door to open. But we still have to walk through it.
“Of course, as someone with depression, I find that visualization isn’t the only answer. Rather, it’s the lens, and medication is the frame. I could hold up the lens to my eye all day, but that would be pretty exhausting, and it would be hard to do everything one-handed. Medication is the frame that lets the lens rest in place so I can have both hands free.”
And I appreciate reader Maria (on the comment board of “Mind Over Broken Leg?“) telling me to have more patience with visualization and positive thinking.
Patience did not arrive in my DNA (hence the challenge of mental illness and motherhood). The other day, when I couldn’t build a website in five minutes, I threw up my arms and said, “Forget it!”
Eric laughed hysterically and then said, “You really gave that a chance.”
Yes, mindful meditation and visualization work better with long-term goals, not immediate ones (like expecting to be on “Oprah” in two weeks with the right mental picture).
I apologize, in general, if I seem to be bashing New Agers. Because I really do endorse meditation, mindfulness, yoga, positive thinking, and visualization. It’s just that I have seen people use the law of attraction to dump their responsibilities on others.
Take my friend Sue from Nebraska. According to her dad, paying for health insurance is like asking for an accident to happen. (By worrying about “what if,” you materialize your fear into a real crisis.) But an investment advisor told her to forget about retirement planning if her dad wasn’t insured. Any savings would most likely go toward settling an atrocious hospital bill (not that anything was going to transpire). To clear her conscious in the event that her dad did get sick (as most of us do), Sue decided to shell out the cash for his insurance.
Same deal with tax returns. Sue’s dad believed that proper visualization would take care of those. Which means that my friend got stuck filing five returns this year (one for herself and four for her dad, to cover the last few years when visualization failed.)
And I guess with every year I work at my depression, I grow a little less tolerant of judgmental statements made by well-intentioned but ignorant folks with regard to mental illness: “If you could only master your thoughts and control your emotions, you wouldn’t suffer,” or “By saying you are bipolar, you inhibit yourself from healing.” That sort of thing. I’ve also heard New Age friends accuse rape victims of attracting the tragedy to themselves. Last time I checked, those kinds of allegations weren’t found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
However, the opposite is a nightmare too. I know too many people who live as victims, blaming the world for wronging them in every which way. I certainly have been guilty of this at times. (See my “Dear God” letter.) If I were to choose between being deserted on an island with a New Age quack (again, not saying all New Agers are quacks) or a “victim” of everything, I’d take the New Ager in a heartbeat. (As long as she doesn’t insist that I build the bloody boat because she is too busy visualizing it.)
But where do you draw the line?
When can you say to the “victim”, “Get up off your butt and do something about your problem!” without coming across as Dr. Phil on a bad day? Is it ever right to tell someone, “If you learned to be grateful, maybe bad things wouldn’t happen so often” or “By complaining all the time, you’re attracting these things.” How long do you stick with a mental picture before you abandon it? When is it time to abort the visualization because whatever you were going for (like an “Oprah” appearance) isn’t happening?
Oh heck, maybe I need to go back to my support groups and get squared away again. Maybe I’m reading too much again (that can be dangerous).
Anyone want to help me out with your take on this conundrum?