Is the Law Of Attraction valid? Or is this school of thought just a ploy to push puffed-up media? Skeptics denounce the teachings LOA at every turn, and LOA teachers are often referred to as “fast-talking salesmen,” “glorified motivational speakers” and the like. Criticism notwithstanding, many persons have welcomed LOA teachings, and have been able to successfully create joy, love, and abundance in their lives. Skeptics are quick to note that these personal accounts are subjective in nature, so they do very little to authenticate a universal “law.” Furthermore, not everyone seems to have the ability to attract abundance, no matter how hard they “work” at putting the teachings into practice. The answer to this discrepancy may be due to the gray-matter between your ears.
Pioneering brain research not only supports how LOA could actually work in relation to human brain make-up, but also substantiates the inner workings of a brain in relation to human pattern recognition. This research can explain, in scientific terms, why some people have a more difficult time than others when it comes to engaging LOA. This research also holds some promise for perpetually “stuck” persons looking to banish hopeless financial
situations, relational ruin, or emotional turmoil.
LOA HAS ITS ROOTS IN COGNITIVE THERAPY:
Therapeutically speaking, LOA is considered a “cognitive therapy.” Cognitive therapists work with clients to switch chronically negative, unsupportive thoughts (e.g., “I am ugly and fat,”) to happier, supportive thoughts (e.g., “I appreciate the miracle of my body”). Studies by Mark George, MD and his colleagues of the Neuroscience Institute found that joyful, loving thoughts actually calm the brain, whereas angry, negative thoughts arouse the areas of the brain that induce depression and anxiety.
Cognitive therapies interact primarily with a human’s prefrontal cortex. A healthy prefrontal cortex has the ability to “trump” our more primal human impulses, which originate in the brain’s amygdula,(also referred to as the “amygdale”) in order to help one for example, restrain from punching his/her boss in the jaw. However, those with a damaged or sluggish prefrontal cortex usually execute very poor regulation of their emotional impulses. Yes, we all hear about those disgruntled employees who do, indeed, clock their boss in the jaw. Such action is good for short-term stress relief, but wreaks havoc on a person’s future.
The prefrontal cortex is responsible for the orchestration of thoughts and actions that correspond with a person’s internal goals. What’s more, a healthy prefrontal cortex has the ability to override emotionally driven behaviors that lead to impulsive action, avoidance, and procrastination. A person with a sluggish prefrontal cortex will not be able to focus his or her thoughts for any length of time. In the absence of external factors (e.g., an overzealous parent or a prison warden) he or she will be unable to consistently initiate actions in support of future goals. Of course, all of this translates into an impaired ability to engage LOA.
THE AMYGDULA (AMYGDALA, AMYGDALE)
The amygdula is an almond-shaped cluster existing just above the human’s brainstem. Acting as a storehouse of emotional memory, the amygdula is often referred to as the human’s “old brain.” It dictates our “fight or flight” response that helped our ancestors survive over the last million years, well before mankind’s brain developed the cortex regions that create rational thought. The Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) lists over a dozen different types of anxiety disorders. These include Agoraphobia, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and generalized Anxiety Disorder, among others. All anxiety disorders have the common factor of a hyperactive amygdula.
People who have endured life-threatening circumstances may develop a hyperactive amygdula and can exhibit intense “fight or flight” reactions well after the initial threat is gone. For example, a door slam down the hall or a loud car motor will startle such individuals significantly more than it would a normal person.
THE BRAIN’S PROPENSITY TOWARD PATTERN RECOGNITION:
Another point of consideration that relates to LOA is the brain’s propensity for pattern recognition. In a groundbreaking 2002 article in Money magazine, Jason Zweig explains the role that different brain areas play in our ability to execute sound money decisions. Generally, pattern recognition involves two areas of our brain: the nucleus accumbens, and the anterior cingulate. These areas are responsible for humans viewing the world in
predictable patterns. Pattern recognition is what helped cave dwellers survive; “This plant is good to eat.” “That land is the home of dangerous animals.” “These tracks are from an animal that I can kill and eat.” “Sunrise, light, sunset, dark, sunrise, light, sunset, dark” This ability to recognize patterns is the very essence of our survival as a human species and is “wired” into literally every sensory response we have.
Not surprisingly, past emotional trauma seems to be a factor in a person developing “runaway” or “hyper” pattern recognition. A poorly functioning anterior cingulate and/or the nucleus accumbens leads to a person having poor emotional regulation, with a host of dysfunctional behaviors to boot. What could very well have helped the caveman survive is the same emotional-behavioral pattern that modern day doctors call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Even as early as 1995, the work of Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., shows that persons suffering with PTSD produced brain scans with low activity in their anterior cingulate. This suggests that the anterior cingulate is not allowing the right and left hemispheres of the brain to share information, as this is one of the roles of this brain area.
In fact, from an archaic reference, the caveman with hyper pattern recognition was the one that survived the arduous conditions of the time. A caveman who did not possess this ability might have ignorantly walked into a dangerous animal den, for instance, even after a previous experience (such as watching a neighbor be killed by the wild animal living in that den) had shown him that it was unsafe to do so. Of course, this caveman was more prone to die off, thus did not contribute his slower-to-recognize-patterned brain to the gene pool. Furthermore, the caveman’s average life span was 15; there was no need for long-term planning, so you could say that, with regards to the Law of Attraction, our ancestry is “stacked against us.”
FAILURE TO EVOLVE:
People with hyper pattern recognition tendencies do not thrive well in today’s world. Such persons may be in enormous debt and have a history of bad relationships. They are more likely to use drugs or alcohol in order to quell anxiety and feed their need for instant gratification. They may have gambling or sex addictions, or be hopelessly overweight due to an inability to control emotional eating (which is, again, governed by the decision-
making ability of the prefrontal cortex). Sadly, these patters are pervasive and endure even after years of cognitive-behavioral interventions, including LOA. Furthermore, our survival instinct is intimately connected with the same areas of the brain that generate extreme pleasure, the nucleus accumbens. The irony is that LOA states that we want to “feel good” in order to send out the magnetic signal of happiness. What needs to be teased out a bit more (for some) is the downside of living a life of instant gratification. This is one point of skepticism of LOA that is well-taken.
So now we can understand the cyclical nature of so called “unsuccessful” persons who attract the same type of dead-end job, marry another unsupportive or abusive spouse, etc even though these qualities do not contribute to a good life. LOA practitioners and counselors can stop shaking their heads, wondering why in the world certain clients “just don’t get it” and why these “stuck” persons (who claim over and over again that they really, really want to fix their life, and they are trying really hard to use LOA!) continue to make bad choices, even after hours upon hours of intense LOA coaching. The problem lies within the structure of their brain that simply “stalls out” upon the intake of new information, especially when the information does not fit their experience of the world through vigilant pattern recognition.
In a nutshell, the person that has the most difficult time putting LOA into action is the one that 1) has a hyperactive amygdula, 2) has a low functioning prefrontal cortex, 3) has impaired functioning in the anterior cingulate, and 4) has a nucleus accumbens that is “running the show.” Persons with just one of these brain problems will be more successful at implementing LOA than persons with two or more of these circumstances. It stands to reason that a person with completely healthy brain functioning will experience the most success in implementing LOA. This is because his/her prefrontal cortex can override panic responses of the amygdula. He/she can visualize and consistently act upon goals, with little interference from the anterior cingulate or nucleus accumbens.
Does this mean that people with less-than-ideal brain function are doomed for failure? Not necessarily. Scientists and mental health professionals are incorporating therapeutic methods designed to enhance the functioning of the human brain. Such interventions can assist clients in the ability to take action in support of future goals.
EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING (EMDR):
EMDR was serendipitously discovered by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the 1980’s while working with combat veterans suffering with PTSD. EMDR is considered an integrative therapy and has proven superior to cognitive therapies as it facilitates the actual processing of information that is “stuck” in various brain areas. (Shapiro, 2007) We mentioned earlier the work of Bessel van der Kolk who showed that persons suffering with PTSD had brain scans with low activity in their brain’s anterior cingulate. After EMDR treatment, these same persons produced SPECT scans with activity in the anterior cingulate, and subjects reported relief from PTSD symptoms. (Symptoms include: hyper startle response, intense anger outbursts, insomnia, generalized anxiety, and obsessively thinking about past traumatic events.) To learn more about EMDR, visit www.emdr.com. Another site with a wealth of information is www.emdria.com, which is the EMDR international organization and includes a list of certified EMDR therapists.
Another well-established therapy that can help “train” a brain is neurofeedback. Neurofeedback practitioners assert that a brain can be “taught” through operant conditioning to normalize a myriad of dysfunctional patterns that contribute to mental illness. Persons that develop anxiety disorders may actually have a predisposition that makes them susceptible to such disorders. This can explain why some people develop PTSD after the experience of emotional trauma and some people do not. “We see a lot of theta (brainwaves) and cingulate problems in persons with PTSD,” says Bob Gurnee of the ADD Clinic, (formerly Scottsdale Neurological Institute) in Scottsdale, Arizona. “It’s like they can’t turn off their brain.” Bob also explains that persons with PTSD live their past trauma over and over in their minds, because their inferior brain function keeps the information from processing correctly.
“The brain pattern of PTSD is similar to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) where traditional therapy doesn’t
seem to help,” Bob Gurnee explains. “Then the client will try neurofeedback and the problem is corrected.”
Perhaps the most encompassing website on this intriguing therapy is the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research. You may also want to visit the site of Daniel Amen, MD: This site delivers thousands of fascinating 3-D visuals of brain scans of various conditions.
EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUE(EFT):
One very effective method of quick stress reduction is EFT. EFT uses the gentle manipulation of acupressure points, or meridians to calm the emotional body. This is done while focusing on a past traumatic experience or negative symptomatology. With a person’s stress response quelled, the prefrontal cortex has a better shot at overriding impulse-response and redirecting habitual behavior. Even better, EFT has proven to be an effective treatment for overcoming procrastination, cravings, and unproductive behavior that leads to depression, frustration, and perceived powerlessness. And unlike other neuro-therapies that require highly trained practitioners, EFT is easily learned by anyone. Those new to EFT can download a free, simple EFT tutorial here. Additionally, practitioners and lay persons alike can download an easy “Using EFT to Optimize Your Brain” treatment plan at www.firstcausehelp.com/EFT. You can also check out the official EFT website at www.emofree.com for an incredible amount of information about this fascinating therapy.
With the emergence of such remarkable therapies like EMDR, neurofeedback, and EFT, can we not predict that those extremely challenged with engaging LOA will be infused with new vitality and effectiveness? Of course we can. As teachings of LOA gain momentum, it will be interesting to follow how such therapies impact the ability of every person to engage LOA and create the lives of their dreams. Including YOU!