Be wary of being too nice

And no, I’m not going to argue that if you’re too nice, you’ll become a doormat. We’ve all heard that before, so it’s not unconventional wisdom. Going beyond the doormat argument, I’ve found several reasons why making a distinct effort to be a nicer person towards someone can have negative side effects:

Increased inequality

I decided a while back to be nicer to a housemate. She could be quite sensitive about comments to do with her house, so I decided to stop making any. Easier said than done, of course, as I was living with her and really could have done with a few adaptations here and there. But I made a huge effort and resisted mentioning all sorts of things. She, however, mentioned something about me and the house on an almost daily basis, from food in the plughole to forgetting to turn things off. If I hadn’t made my pledge, all would’ve been pretty equal but, as it was, I got sicker and sicker of receiving comments while having to hold all mine in. I’d end up blurting them out during a disagreement, which was hardly the best time. In future I’ll be entering into these kinds of resolutions with a heavy dose of caution!

Resentment

This goes hand in hand with increased inequality. It can easily arise when you’re making a big effort for someone but that person appears to be making zero effort towards you. Sometimes it can even be quite illogical. You can think: here I am, trying to think the best of this person, and yet they’re still mean to me. Well, maybe that person has no idea you’re trying to think the best of them. Resentment is such a difficult emotion to soothe away, I find. It’s hard to give freely and expect nothing (or worse than nothing) in return.

disgruntled-angel-child
Being too nice can encourage feelings of resentment if you’re efforts aren’t reciprocated.

Unpleasant surprises

There’s a practice in Buddhist-inspired mindfulness where you wish people well, starting with yourself, then a near-stranger, then someone ‘difficult’, then a larger group of people. An unexpected side-effect of this practice for me was forgetting about people’s darker sides. Let’s say my difficult person one day was a chap called Damien. I spend time thinking about what could have led to Damien’s unpleasant behaviour. I remind myself he’s a human being with hopes and fears like the rest of us. I wish him well. Then, later in the day, or even the next day, I meet Damien and he’s a complete arse towards me. I found myself feeling more shocked and more wounded by Damien’s behaviour as if, subconsciously, I’d expected him to be more likeable, more kind, simply as a result of my meditation.

I still do this meditation but with more awareness of what might happen.

Delusion

This links in with ‘unpleasant surprise’. It’s more of a deeper loss of awareness of people’s motives. It can be beneficial to think the best of people and not assume their motives are bad. They might not have called you for ages because of a rough patch at work. They might have been rude because they had a bad day. But if you take this too far, you risk slipping into delusion. I’ve observed it, and I’ve been there myself. For about a week I convinced myself that someone wasn’t being rude to me because of anything I’d done. Only when he stopped talking to me altogether did I get the message, when it was really too late. Kindness = good; naivete not so much.

man-looking-concerned
Sometimes people’s motives are bad and we need to be able to trust our gut and not give them the benefit of the doubt!

But don’t turn into ****head!

I’m not suggesting anyone stop trying to be nice to people. Even ‘difficult’ people. I just wanted to share some of the surprising after-effects of my attempts to be a nicer person. I’m not sure what the answers are here, but I feel like being aware of the issues is always a good first step! I guess my takeaway is to still try to be a nice person but:

  • still listen to my gut if someone is acting in a mean way, rather than assuming I’m reading too much into things or being too sensitive
  • not take this too far by doing too much for someone who’s not reciprocating or appreciating it
  • reminding myself that even if I’m thinking kindly of someone, they might not have a similar focus and may have no idea I’m doing it either!

Have you got any advice on avoiding these pitfalls, while still trying to be a better person? Or just got some tales of your own on the topic? If so, please share below! And if you want to be kept in the loop in case I find the perfect solution, or just to hear more of my ponderings in future, please subscribe.

edward-lear-mother-beating-children
Trying not to be too nice could be taken too far though… Image by Edward Lear.

 

 

Related links:

 

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/97182472/posts/502 8 Signs you are way too nice

 

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/113568713/posts/981 Being too nice and bullying

 

Business context: https://hbr.org/2014/04/the-problem-with-being-too-nice

 

Believing in the law of attraction isn’t helpful

This post is a kind of short follow-on from my first post on the law of attraction, which examines what it is and whether or not it is plausible. You can find that post here. This post addresses the argument that goes along the lines of “well, even if it’s not that scientifically plausible, isn’t it a good thing to believe in?”

Visualisation

Apparently “Creative visualization is a cornerstone of using the Law of Attraction” [1]. Psychologists seem to vary on whether visualisation boards are a good thing or not [2]. They are commonly suggested by self-help books and even at school or college courses though the Law of Attraction site goes further by suggesting spending 10-15 minutes on this every day. While it can be a good thing to visualise where you want to get to, most psychologists seem to suggest that you do need to then plan concrete steps to get you to your goal such as enrolling on courses, joining a dating site, money management etc. [3].

Affirmations: not always a good thing

Affirmations (another major part of the Law of attraction) can also be a double-edged sword, as research has shown that uttering affirmations that we don’t truly believe can actually reduce our self-esteem [4]. As an aside, I will add that personally I’m a fan of affirmations but it does make sense to stick to things that either are true or that we can easily believe are true.

kinga-cichewicz-despondent-woman
Using positive affirmations can actually worsen self-esteem, as can the belief that everything is within our control (when things don’t go as we wanted). Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash.

Being in full control of life: a good thing?

The Law of attraction suggests that “your entire future is yours to create” [5] . Well, how lovely. But being told life is entirely in our control can be crushing if things go wrong and we feel that it is all our fault; and even minor failings to achieve our ‘dream life’ are likely to weigh on us if we feel everything is in our control, as Alain de Botton points out here [6].

And how realistic is it that everything is in our control? What about earthquakes and wars, trains going off the rails and terrorist attacks?

The law of attraction tells us “Be happy, for the universe is always on our side!” Maintaining law of attraction beliefs in the face of rape, loss of your home etc. is going to require quite some mental gymnastics. And is it going to encourage us to speak up in the face of injustice or to try to reduce famine, war and abuse? Probably not, if we think that these things are happening “for a reason” or because of people thinking negatively.

“Treat The Universe Like Your Personal Supermarket”

This is one of the principles stated on the law of attraction website. Hmm. Even if it were plausible that a somewhat demented Santa figure is in charge of granting our wishes if we order them correctly, how beneficial is such a belief? Isn’t it rather self-centred? And why hasn’t anyone wished for world peace? Numerous psychologists and philosophers have pointed out that actually we are often at our happiest when serving others and when we lose the heavy sense of our personal weighty existence, be it when ‘in flow’ during a hobby, immersed in a vast landscape, star-gazing or volunteering and immersed in helping others [7].

caleb-woods-father-christmas
While it may initially be appealing to imagine a Santa figure in control of the world, much of the law of attraction rhetoric is very self-centred, appealing to those who want to ‘order’ the ‘perfect job/partner/house’ etc. Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash.

What do you think? Comment below.

References

[1] http://www.thelawofattraction.com

[2] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-success/201107/how-positive-thinking-and-vision-boards-set-you-fail

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-psychology-dress/201111/visualize-it

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-blame-game/201205/throw-away-your-vision-board-0

[3] e.g. Oettingen and Mayer; J Pers & Soc Psych, 2002. and https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-success/201107/how-positive-thinking-and-vision-boards-set-you-fail

[4] https://lifehacker.com/positive-self-affirmation-may-backfire-on-people-with-l-1593723648

[5] http://www.thelawofattraction.com/what-is-the-law-of-attraction

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtSE4rglxbY

[7] http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/getting-in-the-flow/; http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/caring/; http://www.bbc.co.uk/earth/story/20160420-how-nature-is-good-for-our-health-and-happiness; http://dilja.co.uk/the-benefits-of-feeling-small/ http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/strengths-and-virtues

 

 

The Tampa Scale needs amendment

There is a questionnaire used to supposedly identify ‘fear of movement’ called the Tampa Scale. While I would certainly agree that it is worth identifying which patients have wrong beliefs about their condition and the effects of exercise, I also have serious concerns over some of the elements of this questionnaire. It just doesn’t seem like a rational questionnaire, and yet is very widely used and, it seems, rarely questioned.

I’m going to start with my suggested alternative, then go over the items on the original Tampa scale that I think are not going to help identify mistaken beliefs that could be causing a patient to avoid exercise and activity.

Suggested alternative to the Tampa Scale (for identifying mistaken beliefs − obviously some are true and some untrue as in the original):

 

1. I need to move as little as possible to avoid injury 1 2 3 4
2. Just because something aggravates my pain that usually does not mean it is dangerous 1 2 3 4
3. Sometimes it is a good idea to exercise even though it’s painful 1 2 3 4
4. When people with pain gradually increase their level of activity, they often don’t experience increased pain 1 2 3 4
5. Although my condition is painful, I would probably be healthier if I were more physically active 1 2 3 4
6. Even though something is causing me a bit of pain, I don’t think it’s actually dangerous 1 2 3 4
7. Some people with chronic pain find that exercise reduces their pain levels 1 2 3 4
8. If I exercise less, I’ll get weaker and am then likely to experience more pain 1 2 3 4
9. Worries about injury put me off exercising 1 2 3 4
10. Pain always means I have injured my body 1 2 3 4
11. Pain always means I have injured my body 1 2 3 4
12. Simply being careful that I do not make any unnecessary movements is the safest thing I can do to prevent my pain from worsening 1 2 3 4

Now for my analysis of the original

The ones that make sense (ish):

3. My body is telling me I have something dangerously wrong. (I suppose ‘dangerously’ suggests an element of dramatization if the problem is not life-threatening etc… though surely more a sign of ‘catastrophising’ than movement avoidance?)

Similar to: 11. I wouldn’t have this much pain if there weren’t something potentially dangerous going on in my body.

 

7. Pain always means I have injured my body.

(Probably the most useful one in my view, as this is definitely false and a harmful view.)

 

8. Just because something aggravates my pain does not mean it is dangerous. (Very similar to number 7. Patients need to be informed this is true, if they are not aware it is. Though I would suggest amending it to ‘Just because something aggravates my pain usually does not mean it is dangerous’ because sometimes pain is a sign of danger, obviously! Pain can warn us we are about to tear or break something.)

 

10. Simply being careful that I do not make any unnecessary movements is the safest thing I can do to prevent my pain from worsening. (Does sound a bit extreme, and shows lack of awareness that inactivity may increase pain long-term.)

Related to: 17. No one should have to exercise when he/she is in pain. (Quite moralistic but I suppose passible. ‘Sometimes it is a good idea to exercise even though it’s painful’ would be better.)

 

14. It’s really not safe for a person with a condition like mine to be physically active. (Probably a wrong belief in most cases where the questionnaire would be used, so fair enough.)

The ones that are problematic either in general or for some conditions (such as Ehlers Danlos):

2. If I were to try to overcome it, my pain would increase. (Sounds like an unhealthy battle that might well happen that way! Pacing and acceptance of pain are surely more accepted approaches? How about ‘Gradually increasing my level of activity often doesn’t lead to increased pain’?)

 

5. People aren’t taking my medical condition seriously enough. (No comment needed surely?! Whoever thought that was a sensible one?)

 

4. My pain would probably be relieved if I were to exercise. (For many people this won’t be true, so strongly disagreeing is the rational option.)

The same goes for: 12. Although my condition is painful, I would be better off if I were physically active. (What does ‘better off’ mean? Why not say ‘healthier’? That would be true in more cases. Being physically active – another subjective term  – might make some people less happy due to the increased pain and fatigue and so ‘better off’ might not feel appropriate to them.)

 

6. My accident has put my body at risk for the rest of my life. (Ambiguous. Surely accidents do create a greater risk of re-injury in many cases? Or does it mean at risk of death, which probably would be a wrong belief?)

See also: 1. I’m afraid that I might injure myself if I exercise. (In some cases this might be highly unlikely, in other cases quite likely e.g. if you have EDS and are prone to dislocations and sprains, even during very mild exercise).

The same applies to: 9. I am afraid that I might injure myself accidentally.

A related one is: 13. Pain lets me know when to stop exercising so that I don’t injure myself. (Again, is this really unreasonable in all cases? Since when was completely ignoring pain a good idea?)

And: 15. I can’t do all the things normal people do because it’s too easy for me to get injured. (People with EDS are generally advised to avoid contact sports, for example, so again this is not going to be unreasonable in all cases.)

Also: 16. Even though something is causing me a lot of pain, I don’t think it’s actually dangerous. (Are we really advocating that people do things that cause a lot of pain? I’ve generally not been advised to do that, and indeed if something does cause a lot of pain that could be a sign you are about to or have injured yourself.)

 

Are you a medical practitioner or patient? I’d love to hear your views!

Do also check out my post on re-examining the concept of kinesiophobia in chronic pain patients.

kinga-cichewicz-woman-sitting-in-window-enclosure
Do you think my scale is a better one for identifying when patients are being inactive due to wrong beliefs? Comment below! Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash.

 

Re-examining ‘fear of movement’ (kinesiophobia) in those with chronic pain

 

(This post is especially relevant to doctors and physiotherapists and others who work with those in chronic pain)

What many physiotherapists and doctors don’t understand about chronic pain

In medical jargon there is the expression kinesiophobia, ‘fear of movement’. I’ve always found this an odd concept. It is said that many chronic pain patients experience a fear of movement because of associating movement with pain. So, the assumption is that they fear pain. Those with chronic pain are, by definition, those who live with the most pain. It doesn’t seem natural to me to talk of fearing something that is already a major part of your life. If you wear a suit to work every day – you may dislike it, sure, but you wouldn’t fear it, would you? You might wear it only when obliged to do so, and wear super-casual clothes the rest of the time i.e. you may well limit your exposure to it, but fearing it would be unusual.

Chronic pain is something only those who experience it can truly understand. It isn’t accurate to think ‘well, I know what pain is, so chronic pain is just having that a lot of the time’ (which those without chronic pain tend to think either sounds awful or not too bad at all). Prior to getting chronic pain I regularly played full-contact rugby. I loved it. I loved tackling people. I didn’t mind the bloody lip, the bruises and feeling a bit battered. Doing this once a week was, however, NOT a taste of chronic pain in any way. Nor was ju-jitsu, or taekwondo, or boxing. Nor was period pain, or toothache, or a headache. The relentlessness (and total pointlessness of the pain) is not possible to imagine until it happens to you.

quino-al-unsplash-rugby-ruck
Just because you’ve experienced pain, it doesn’t mean you know what chronic pain is like. (Photograph by Quino Al on Unsplash)

Imagine you enjoy sitting out in the garden when it’s sunny. One day it’s raining and someone asks you why you’re not sitting in the garden. Er, duh. It’s not much fun in the rain. Do you fear rain? No, it’s just not enjoyable sitting out when it’s raining. So why do some medical professionals really have a problem understanding that people’s preferences change when they live with chronic pain? If anyone wants me to live like I did prior to chronic pain, I want them to sit out in the rain, and enjoy it.

Movement avoidance isn’t necessarily due to fear of harm either

Now imagine you’re someone who enjoys going on walks and also reading. Imagine that you have the option to either read for a while or go for a walk while someone repeatedly stabs you in the neck with a fork, and you can’t stop them. I think I can guess what you’d choose. And what if someone tells you that, although the fork stabbing might be unpleasant, it’s not harmful. You’re still choosing reading, right?

Now what do you think about patients who avoid some pain-inducing activities, choosing to do something else instead?

Only when someone tells you that if you don’t choose the walk you’ll get unfit and get stabbed with a fork during even more activities would you reconsider.

head-in-clamp-pixabay
People need to be given a clear and meaningful reason to do a painful activity, otherwise it just won’t appeal. It sounds simple, but seems to get forgotten.

 

A common belief is that patients avoid movement because they believe pain signifies damage to the body. Well, I’m sure some people do, and it’s certainly right to point out that pain can be completely meaningless and unhelpful, as is often the case with chronic pain.

But that’s not necessarily going to make someone start being as active as they used to be, because some activities are just not appealing any more, or not as appealing as pain-free options. I get headaches watching films, so don’t do it as often as I used to, but have gained a great love for podcasts and audiobooks. I’m not scared of the pain watching a film brings on… I’d just rather do something else.

Of course, what really is an issue and what patients do need to know is that if they avoid all physical activity, they’ll lose muscle tone and may experience more pain in the long run. Knowing this will potentially reduce ‘movement avoidance’ in patients who are motivated by long-term goals; perhaps not so much others.

Also, I’ve come across a few things recently suggesting the role of physiotherapists when dealing with chronic pain patients is to get them moving more. Hmm. Well, if that’s what the patient wants, fine. I’m not totally sure, however, that everyone goes to a physiotherapist wanting to be persuaded to sit out in the rain more, or spend more time getting stabbed with a fork, to continue the metaphors.

christopher-burns-unsplash-tennis-player
I’m doubtful as to whether patients attend physiotherapy in order to be persuaded to do more physical activity despite the pain. (Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash)

More exercise doesn’t always mean less pain long term

As far as I’m aware, it has not been proven that people with all types of chronic pain will be able to get back to their previous level of activity if they do it gradually. I’ve really tried, both with sudden increases in activity and the opposite, gradually increasing walking time by just one minute per month. In neither case did my pain levels decrease and in neither case was I able to keep up the increase, as the increased pain interfered too much with my sleep. I recognise that many people may find that doing more activity builds muscle and enables them to do more with less pain: but it can’t be the case for absolutely everyone.

For me and for many others, limiting movement is about keeping pain levels bearable and being able to work, sleep and enjoy life as much as possible. It’s not always about fear or a poor understanding of pain, or even poor motivation levels. It is a way of coping and it is a pain management system. It might be the best option for some of us, and though exercise-loving physios may struggle to understand, life’s not all about physical activity. Since developing chronic pain, I’ve really enjoyed doing more art, writing, reading and listening to the radio. I do what exercise I can each day, ideally a short walk in my area looking at the nice gardens and the wonderful lake, and sometimes chores and a few all-body exercises. Chronic pain sometimes requires adaptation and change, and perhaps medical professionals should take the time to delve a little deeper into why a patient is avoiding some things, what could help them to do it again, and whether they have found any alternatives.

Related links:

 https://stickmancommunications.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/hypermobility-reluctance-to-exercise.html

 

The dramatic variations in how people view spark/chemistry

My dramatic misunderstandings of spark/chemistry

My first misconception about chemistry was that it was always mutual. Somehow I managed to hold onto this belief into my late 20s. I now know it’s definitely not always mutual but I still find it a little strange as it can feel like a physical thing: like when static causes your hair to stand on end. I suppose it’s one of the reasons people so easily get carried away and sometimes even ask ‘didn’t you feel it too? I thought you did.’

Not only that, but I also discovered not everyone views spark and chemistry in the same way – at all. An ex of mine called chemistry ‘a bond’, which I found odd, and on Quora etc. I’ve seen it described as ‘intrigue/wanting to know more’, ‘imagining someone naked and feeling fluttery’, ‘child-like excitement about seeing the person’, ‘the urge to touch and kiss a person’, ‘a romantic attraction’ and ‘feeling understood’. I personally call spark the urge to touch and kiss someone and chemistry the excitement and electricity that I occasionally feel when kissing someone, usually someone I’ve liked for a while. But most people consider ‘spark’ and ‘chemistry’ as interchangeable.

everton-vila-151243
The most obvious meaning of ‘spark’ or ‘chemistry’ is a physical feeling like electricity. Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash.

 

What causes spark/chemistry?

Now, this is an area of some debate. Some scientists claim pheromones – chemicals we release and can subconsciously smell – may have some influence on our experience of spark or chemistry, but it’s not entirely clear how that works or how much is due to that [1]. Many articles present it as the only factor but that doesn’t explain why it’s often not mutual.

Others see spark/chemistry as a complete mystery, while others believe chemistry can be created and is quite situational. The latter fits with my experience as I’ve felt it develop more around people who are a bit flirty with me, and in situations where I’m often physically close to someone, as well as developing over time when I feel someone would be a great match for me, and suddenly start seeing them in a more sexual light.

How long should we give it to develop?

A friend of mine says she can evaluate whether or not she feels a spark for someone immediately on meeting them. For me, that has hardly ever been the case and the more usual scenario is that I feel it a few weeks after getting to know someone. But it can even be years on in a friendship. That has happened to me several times and it feels no different to if it had been immediate. So, presumably we’re all different in this respect. According to one study, a quarter of singles don’t expect to feel chemistry until the second date, and a third don’t expect to see that spark until three dates in − or more [2].

pablo-heimplatz-317359
Not many people expect to feel like this on a first date. Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash.

 

Fifty-three percent of singles in a Match.com survey said they would be prepared to go on a second date with someone they initially felt no chemistry with to see if the person ‘grew’ on them [3]. And this approach is recommended by most of the online dating coaches I found [4]. Some recommend two dates, some three, and some even say giving someone a chance on six dates is a good idea [ref]. But if you’ve been in the dating game many years and have never felt chemistry develop after the first date, you might understandably ignore that advice (I may still refer to you as a fussy ****** though!).

Can I create chemistry?

Potentially, yes. There is a consensus on advice I found online on this topic. Tease a little, playfully, make suggestive remarks, be confident, use brief light touch to the arm/back/shoulder/hand, kiss on the cheek, and make a little eye contact with a teasing look. Stop if your love interest looks uncomfortable or doesn’t seem to be flirting back. Signs of encouragement may include leaning towards you, touching you too, suggestive comments etc.

Maybe offer a massage and, if it’s accepted, include a few light tracing touches along with the regular massaging. Touch is important as some people won’t feel chemistry until there is touch [5].

Pick up on flirtation coming your way and try to reciprocate it and show it is appreciated. Take it easy on compliments and being ‘too nice’ by trying to be constantly accommodating: this de-values your worth and reduces excitement.

Consider activity-based dates rather than going to coffeeshops/bars/restaurants. Some people never feel spark in such places [6].

One writer recommends six intimate dates and actively doing things that could create chemistry e.g. active dates, creating nice-smelling environments, doing something totally new, trying out different locations etc. [7]

Finally, if it’s going well and playful touch has been reciprocated, don’t take too long to go in for a kiss!

morgan-sessions-17278
Some situations can help chemistry to develop. Photo by Morgan Sessions on Unsplash.

 

He/she says I’m attractive and a great person but there’s no spark

Probably not worth arguing with the person or sending them a link to this post. You could briefly try being flirtier but if that doesn’t get them to change their mind, move on. In any case, they may have used it as a polite excuse rather than pointing out what it is about you that turns them off.

As Dumpling girl on the Plenty of Fish forum says to a guy who was told ‘there was no spark’: ‘She wanted to let you know that she recognizes that you [are a] physically and otherwise attractive person. But not everyone is going to be attracted to everyone. It doesn’t really matter why. What matters is that it’s not there, and you can’t (and she can’t) force it to be there. You shouldn’t think of yourself as any less attractive because she in particular isn’t attracted to you.’ [8]

Women may be fussier than men about spark. Men are 80 percent more likely than women to go on a date with someone they don’t yet feel a connection with [9]. Some men don’t seem to know what ‘spark’ means and seem more likely to ask about it online.

If someone’s told you there’s no spark, take consolation in what one member of Not Alone wrote: ‘ i went out with a guy who was VERY handsome, VERY intelligent, kind, funny, hardworking, and all that jazz. but ya knwo what, i just wasnt feeling it like “that”. on paper it was a match made in heaven, but it wasnt what my heart wanted.’ [sic] [9]

abo-ngalonkulu-68397
If someone says there is no spark, it’s probably not worth pursuing them much further. Photo by Abo Ngalonkulu on Unsplash.

 

 

A few other interesting comments I found

Being realistic

‘what you should and should not experience with a romantic partner: a basic level of personal and physical chemistry, a realistic view on that person’s strengths and weaknesses, and a belief that although you’ve been more wildly attracted to other people before, you’ve never had a better relationship in your entire life. That’s why you lock it in.’ [10]

Four types of reaction

Another writer describes four types of reaction to someone: 1. heart and mind (friendship) 2. mind and body (friend-with-benefits type interest) 3. heart and body (short passion) 4. heart, mind and body (good relationship potential). She recommends avoiding number 3 and warns that with number 2, someone often gets hurt. [11]

No spark after four dates: time to stop?

I read a large number of Quora responses to this question. Most said yes, if there’s no spark there probably never will be. But a few said it’s not like that for them.

What about you?

I’d love to hear about your experiences: what is spark/chemistry for you? When do you usually feel it? Do you think it can be created?

References and related links

[1] http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=116833&page=1
[2] https://greatist.com/live/relationship-advice-go-on-second-date-even-if-there-was-no-chemistry
[3] https://www.bustle.com/articles/139494-how-many-people-actually-feel-chemistry-on-the-first-date
[4] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/francesca-hogi/the-80-approach-to-dating_b_6165478.html
https://www.glamour.com/story/how-long-do-you-wait-for-the-s
https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/24959291/posts/1624851371
[5] see [2]
[6] https://forums.plentyoffish.com/datingPosts14123376.aspx
[7] https://www.womenshealthmag.com/sex-and-love/how-to-create-sexual-chemistry
[8] see [6]
[9] see [3]
[10] https://www.enotalone.com/forum/showthread.php?t=393752
[11] http://www.evanmarckatz.com/blog/chemistry/how-long-should-i-wait-for-chemistry-to-develop/
[12] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-copeland/dating-after-50_b_5647768.html

Don’t focus on my impairment, ask me what I can bring to the role — Scope’s Blog

After graduating from university, Lauren embarked on a long and difficult journey to find a job. In support of our new campaign, Work With Me, she spoke to us about the barriers she faced and gives some advice to disabled people who are still searching for a job. When I graduated with a good degree and […]

via Don’t focus on my impairment, ask me what I can bring to the role — Scope’s Blog

A new religion is growing: belief in the law of attraction and human ‘energies’

For me, whenever I consider any religion, two big questions arise: 1. Is it plausible? and 2. Is it helpful? I think the law of attraction is a new religion that is steadily growing, largely unnoticed, and it’s about time we all had a good look at it. This post will cover ‘Is it plausible?’ and in a future post I will look at the second question.

What is the law of attraction?

The basic principle of the law of attraction is that you tell ‘the universe’ what you want in a specific way, and it will be delivered to you. In their words:

‘Visualize your message as a letter with ‘The Universe‘ printed on its envelope as an address… If you were waiting for new shoes, perhaps you would make space in your shoe rack. Likewise, make space in your life for the order that you have placed with the universe….Speak, walk, talk and breathe as if your reality has already changed for the better, and your original message will be delivered.’ [1]

It falls in a category involving a host of other beliefs such as belief in chakras and ‘energy therapies’.

A new religion

The United Kingdom has, of late, very much become the land of atheists or, at least, those who identify as having no religion (48.5% in 2014, outnumbering the 43.8% who define themselves as Christian). And yet I have become increasingly aware of a new religion, one that many might not call a religion but which I suggest should be seen as one: the law of attraction. It requires faith and something similar to prayer. It offers to its followers rich rewards. And it has a community of followers with their own online and real-life groups where they meet up and talk about using the principles of this ‘law’ in their lives (at the time of writing, on Meetup alone, law of attraction groups have over 1 million members!).

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There are over 1 million people in law of attraction groups on Meetup. Photo by Papaioannou Kostas on Unsplash.

 

‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne is a book on the Law of attraction that is, according to the book’s website, a worldwide best seller available in 50 languages with over 20 million copies in print. [2]

Its followers may well disagree with me and say ‘a religion? Oh no, it’s just another law of the universe like gravity’. But this is not very different to how followers of other religions will also tell you that God is real, a fact. The only difference is that churches don’t necessarily try to convince you God is real by reference to quantum physics (though a few probably do).

I had a message once from someone renting out rooms who thought I might like to live there. Based on me having said meditation is one of my interests, this home-owner told me that he and other persons in the house were law of attraction believers and another person there was a ‘heretic’. A jokey remark, of course, but, I think, hinting at a deeper, and more disturbing, reality.

While most religious people nowadays are aware that others may not believe in God and are usually quite discreet about their beliefs, the same can’t always be said about law of attraction followers. Those who believe that the law of attraction is a real phenomenon can say things such as “I know a great person who can really help with blocked energies”. They don’t realise that the existence of personal energies has not been proven or they assume that for some reason you will share their beliefs (e.g. because you both like meditation). I am constantly coming across law of attraction believers, and it’s time to speak out.

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People often assume that there is evidence that people can send out energies. Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash.

 

Scientific?

The essence of the law of attraction is as follows: ‘Whether we are doing it knowingly or unknowingly, every second of our existence, we are acting as human magnets sending out our thoughts and emotions and attracting back more of what we have put out.’ [3] ‘When we fill ourselves with negative energies and emotions such as fear, anger, sadness or general pessimism, our frequency is lowered and the universe can only expand on this, promoting greater negativity in our lives.’[4]

As with all religions, no hint of doubt in the phrasing there. But is this real science?

I have been unable to find any genuine, qualified scientist supporting the proposition that we send out different vibrations according to how we feel. And, even were that the case, it would need to be proven that such vibrations attract things to us such as new jobs, new partners, money, illness, etc.

Some refer to experiments on water: however, these are by no means accepted by the scientific community, may not have followed scientific methods, and the ‘scientist’ who carried them out is not well qualified or widely respected [5]. It is also unclear how these ‘experiments’ (where people acted in various ways towards water: really!) could prove the idea that we can send out ‘positive vibrations’ to bring us what we want.

While most of us rely on Google as our main signpost to sources of knowledge, this is not necessarily wise. The top links resulting from a Google search are, presumably, usually companies who have hired a search engine optimisation firm to get them there. Life coaches and energy medicine practitioners need you to find them in a Google search and, as a result, if you search for ‘human energies’ or such, you will find material from those who rely on such pseudoscience to make money.

Really the only major balance to all of them is https://sciencebasedmedicine.org, which clearly states ‘Scientists can detect and measure minute energies down to the subatomic level, but they have never detected a “human energy field.”’ [6] This website contains articles written by qualified scientists who expose the pseudoscience so commonly used by practitioners of ‘energy medicine’ such as reiki. While believers of the law of attraction may not also believe in energy medicine and vice versa, there is often an overlap and ultimately both rely on similar claims (e.g. that energy can be purposely sent out from our body to do things like order us new shoes or heal someone’s bad back).

Writers at the New York Times, Psychology Today and some other sources have also refuted the law of attraction [7].

sidney-perry-einstein-street-art
No qualified scientists support the existence of the law of attraction. Photo by Sidney Perry on Unsplash. 

 

But what about anecdotes where it has ‘worked’?

The law of attraction and the philosophy around it share some similarities with common sense psychology, and so may sometimes appear to work. Psychological studies have long acknowledged the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ whereby, for example, someone who is always told they are bad at maths may indeed do badly in maths exams due to their poor self-confidence [8]. Likewise those with good self-confidence will probably achieve most in life due to their willingness to try new things and their belief that their endeavours are worthwhile and will pay off. There is nothing radical about this. Believing goals are attainable is crucial to keep us motivated and determined, and believers of the law of attraction are likely to have such a belief.

Elements of the law of attraction are backed up by fact or simply obvious, such as this statement taken from thelawofattraction.com home page:

A key part of the Law of Attraction is understanding that where you place your focus can have an intense impact on what happens to you. If you spend your days wallowing in regrets about the past or fears of the future, you’ll likely see more negativity appearing, but if you look for the silver lining in every experience then you’ll soon start to see positivity surrounding you every day.

People who want to see positive change in their lives don’t need to consult the law of attraction website, books or groups. There are plenty of other sources that can help people and which don’t rely on fake science. Not only that, but there are sources of help that have been tested by eminent psychologists (such as Martin Seligman, Rick Hanson and others), unlike the law of attraction. The law of attraction can actually lead people to worse mental health, as will be discussed in my next post.

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It is useful to be confident of our abilities but we don’t need the law of attraction for that. Photo by Clarisse Meyer on Unsplash.

 

As for ‘energy medicine’, it can work by causing relaxation and stress relief and due to the placebo effect. So, yes, it may help but it may also cost people a lot of money and cause them to fail to pursue more useful (and more scientific) remedies.

What next?

Left unchallenged, these beliefs will spread. After centuries of truth-seeking and moving away from believing the earth is flat and lightning is God’s wrath, we are at risk of slipping back into superstition and investing great time and money in such beliefs. Google isn’t helping. The internet is awash with support for this theory and proper analysis is hard to find. The same is true for energy medicine. Next time you meet someone who assumes you are a believer, please show you aren’t. Please share this post, or one in the related links below, and help us keep on the path of truth and wisdom.

References

[1] http://www.thelawofattraction.com

[2] http://www.thesecret.tv/about/rhonda-byrnes-biography

[3] http://www.thelawofattraction.com/what-is-the-law-of-attraction

[4] http://www.thelawofattraction.com/how-to-raise-your-law-of-attraction-frequency/

[5] https://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/a_grain_of_truth_recreating_dr._emotos_rice_experiment (an amusing read)

[6] https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/therapeutic-touch-pseudoscience-the-tooth-fairy-strikes-again

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/26/books/review/Chabris-t.html?_r=0

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-blame-game/201609/the-truth-about-the-law-attraction

http://guardianlv.com/2014/02/the-secret-law-of-attraction-doesnt-work-heres-proof

[8]  http://users.ox.ac.uk/~sfos0060/prophecies.shtml

Related links

https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/energy-medicine-noise-based-pseudoscience/

https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/therapeutic-touch-pseudoscience-the-tooth-fairy-strikes-again/

https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/full-of-energy/

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/complementary-alternative-medicine/Pages/complementary-alternative-medicines.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/complementary-alternative-medicine/Pages/placebo-effect.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/news/Pages/Howtoreadarticlesabouthealthandhealthcare.aspx