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Manifestation Gets A Bad Rap: Allow Us To Explain What It Really Entails

We asked spirituality and psychology experts all of our burning questions about it.

  • Posted on 27th Apr, 2022 12:30 PM
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Manifestation has become nothing short of a buzzword in recent years, but what actually is it? And how can you get started using it to attract what you want in life? To find out, we asked spirituality and psychology experts all about what manifestation is—and what it isn't. Here's what they had to say about using this often misunderstood practice.

What is manifestation?

Manifestation works closely in tandem with the law of attraction. Both essentially suggest that we can "manifest" (aka call in, or attract) what we want in life with the right mindset and action.

As psychiatrist Anna Yusim M.D. explains to mbg, the idea of manifestation was popularized by Rhonda Byrne’s book and movie, The Secret, describing the universal principle that our thoughts create our reality. "We are what we think, consciously and unconsciously. In other words, what we attract into our lives reflects the contents of our mind," she explains.

Or as spiritual author Shannon Kaiser puts it, "We are all like magnets, both reflecting and attracting what we hold in our thoughts." Meaning, if you're in a negative mindset, that mindset will be reflected back to you in your life—or vice versa if you're in a positive mindset.

"When we put out thoughts of lack and emptiness, we attract more of exactly that: lack and emptiness," Yusim explains, adding, "When we shift instead to thoughts of sharing and giving, we get the same energy coming back to us."

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How the law of attraction works.

The law of attraction is one of the 12 universal laws, which focuses on shifting your thoughts and mindset to the point that the shift ripples out into the life you live. "According to the law of attraction, by changing your thoughts, you can change what shows up in your life," Yusim explains. 

And this law is actually backed by many psychological theories, she notes, such as Aaron Beck, M.D.'s cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) model. In CBT, you work with a therapist to change your thought patterns, which in turn change your feelings and behaviors, and thus, you change your life.

A good way to remember this is the phrase, "Thoughts become things." Every action, behavior, and choice is predicated by a thought, so when your thoughts begin to align with a more positive vibration and state of being, you're better equipped to make choices that align with what you're looking to manifest.

Common misconceptions about manifestation.

Thoughts are the only requirement:

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Manifestation and the law of attraction certainly have their appeal. After all, it sounds like a pretty good deal to simply "think" things into existence. But unfortunately, it's never that easy.

As Yusim notes, manifesting isn't about deluding or deceiving yourself. "While changing your thinking is a powerful tool for drawing what you want into your life, it is a not a replacement for taking the actions necessary to accomplish and attain those very things," she explains, adding, "Nor should you blame yourself and your misguided thinking if, despite your best efforts, you cannot manifest what you want via the law of attraction."

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The law of attraction is foolproof:

If manifesting were that easy, everyone would be doing it with roaring success—but alas, that is not the case. And in fact, there are a lot of reasons why someone can struggle with manifesting.

For one thing, Yusim explains, if you ask the universe for something that isn't for the highest good of everyone involved, the universe is unlikely to grant your request. Further, if you aren't specific on what you're asking for, or don't really have a good idea of what it will look or feel like, it will be more challenging to bring it into reality.

To that end, it's also important to really believe you can have (and deserve) what you asked for. If your conscious mind is saying one thing but your unconscious mind is saying the opposite, Yusim says, that's a common problem that gets in the way of manifesting.

What you want will show up exactly how you imagined it:

One last misconception about manifesting is that what you asked for will show up exactly as you imagine it. This isn't always the case. Sometimes, Yusim says, we aren't able to receive something when the universe tries to give it to us, because we're too fixed on an idea of exactly how it should manifest. Manifestation requires being open to unconsidered synchronicities and possibilities.

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5 ways to start manifesting.

1. Write in a manifestation journal.

One popular manifestation method is using a manifestation journal. As manifesting expert and abundance coach Jocelyn Kelly Reid, previously explained to mbg, using a manifestation journal "can be extremely therapeutic for releasing our emotions and giving us a safe space to express everything that tells us that we can't have what we truly desire." (You've gotta get that out of your system to make space for your manifestations, after all.)

And as neuroscientist and author of The Source Tara Swart, M.D., Ph.D., previously explained, journaling can also help you recognize a scarcity mindset versus an abundance mindset—because manifestation simply doesn't work with a scarcity mindset.

2. Use the 369 method.

The 369 method can be done in your manifestation journal, or on its own on a regular sheet of paper. In either case, it involves writing down what you'd like to manifest three times in the morning, six times during the day, and nine times in the evening.

Hypnotist and author of Wishcraft Shauna Cummins previously explained that this method aids in manifesting by helping you to consistently focus on what you desire, in order to help your brain "find what it's looking for, and therefore [become] more likely to magnetize your desires into action."

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3. Recite positive affirmations.

Knowing that manifestation has a great deal to do with your thought patterns, beginning a positive affirmation practice can go a long way in starting to reframe any negative thoughts that are inhibiting your manifestation process. Opt for an affirmation that means something to you, such as, "I am worthy of all I desire," or "I am a magnet for abundance." (Check out our list of 50+ affirmations for more inspiration!)

4. Use a visualization or vision board.

One of the best ways to tap into the power of manifestation is to get clear on what your goal or desire will look and feel like. Vision boards allow you to create a tangible, visual representation of your goals, and visualizations have a similar effect (though they're internal, as opposed to being presented on a physical board). Either can help you begin to feel into what you're asking for, and align more with what you're working towards.

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5. Speak it into existence.

Kaiser is a fan of literally speaking your wishes out loud, to bring them out of your head and into this reality. It's a great method if you're just getting started, and you can do it virtually any time. "Wake up and declare out loud to the universe, 'I would like X,'" Kaiser explains.

Just remember that you then need to follow up this statement with aligned action towards your goal.

Get started with this psychiatrist-approved method.

For beginner manifesters, Yusim has a straightforward method that involves asking for what you want, believing it's possible, and then co-creating and receiving your blessings. (Literally, the ABC's of manifesting.) It's a simple, three-step process, and can be infused with any of the methods mentioned above.

  1. Ask: Start by getting clear on one thing you'd like to change in your life. For instance: I’d like to hear from a good friend I have not heard from in a while. Be as specific as possible about what you would like to happen, as well as the time frame in which you would like it to happen. Through your thoughts, ask for exactly what you want. You do not have to ask over and over. Just ask once. In this process, you do not need to know how it’s going to manifest.
  2. Believe: The belief necessary for manifesting is often the hardest part for most people. To experiment with the law of attraction, you must, at least for the brief period of this exercise, eradicate your doubts, and believe (in your thoughts) and feel (in your heart and body) that what you’ve asked for is already yours. If you have trouble actually believing it, begin by make-believing. Act as if you have it already, and as you make-believe, you will start to truly believe. Since thoughts are a powerful form of energy and “like attracts like,” you are changing your thoughts to draw into your life exactly what you want. Begin to feel exactly what you will feel once your request arrives. Feel and believe it with your heart, mind, body, and soul. Invoke your five senses to experience exactly what you will feel like when you receive what you have requested: What will it look like? Feel like? Sound like? Smell like? Taste like? You may invoke the mantra “I am receiving now. I am receiving _________ now.” Then feel it as though you have already received it.
  3. Co-create/Receive: In this process, you don't have to figure out how what you have asked for will manifest in your life. Leave that to whatever higher power you wish to invoke. Depending on what you’ve asked for, the amount of concerted action you must take to co-create it will vary. For smaller things, like manifesting a parking spot or hearing from a friend you have not heard from in a while, asking and believing may be enough. For larger things, like manifesting a new job or life partner, you must take action consistent with the future you desire and avoid, to the best of your ability, actions that are inconsistent with that future. In implementing the Law of Attraction, be open to how your desired wish may manifest in your life. It may show up differently from the way you may expect.

Manifesting love.

If you're single and looking for love, using manifestation techniques to call in your soul mate certainly sounds appealing.

According to Kaiser, the first step is to notice how you could be subconsciously resisting love. For instance, she explains, if the universe keeps bringing you unavailable people, this could indicate something within you is still unavailable. So, once you identify why you might be resisting love and intimacy, you can begin the process of working through some of those blocks. (Easier said than done, but this guide can help.)

From there, "If would like to manifest a new life partner, tell the people you are close with of your intention and begin to keep your eyes and ears open for how this person may show up in your life," Yusim says.

And remember, the universe has a way of bringing things to us that we may not expect. Try not to get hung up on exactly who or what you imagine this person to be, but rather be open to the possibility of meeting someone new.

Manifesting money.

Money is, of course, another area people often want to tackle with the law of attraction—and it starts by identifying whether you're operating from a scarcity mindset. Similar to manifesting love (or anything from that matter) removing the subconscious blocks that are interfering with your desires is key.

"If you would like more financial abundance to show up in your life, you need to begin thinking thoughts of financial abundance rather than of financial lack. You are even encouraged to start envisioning scenarios that signal financial abundance to you: opening your mailbox to find paychecks for large sums of money, being offered a higher-paying job, eating dinner at a nice restaurant, or whatever financial abundance means to you," Yusim tells mbg. 

The trick, she adds, is rather than thinking thoughts about wanting those things, you can think thoughts about already having those things. (Thoughts of "wanting" are actually thoughts of lack—we want what we don’t have.)

"According to the law of attraction, such thoughts attract more lack. In contrast, thoughts of already having are thoughts of abundance, which would attract more abundance. The way of manifesting something in your life, therefore, is to think thoughts of it already being in your life," Yusim explains.

From an abundance mindset, if you would like to manifest a new job or make more money, start telling people you know of your intention, and take aligned action, networking and/or applying for jobs online, she suggests.

The bottom line.

Thoughts become things—but only when you follow them up with action. Whether you're looking to manifest love, a new house, or the next phase of your career, there are many ways to put the law of attraction into intentional practice in your life. Next up: Applying the other 11 universal laws...