The Law Meets the Compulsion to Control

I have been working with it and teaching it for many years. Abraham provides a beautiful, simple description of it. The Secret made it a household name. What is it? The Law of Attraction.

I have a theory about why the Law of Attraction has become so hot: It feeds the human compulsion to control. It’s not that there is anything misguided or wrong with the Law of Attraction. It’s just that it tells only part of the story. And the part of the story it tells makes people fantasize that if they just have the right thoughts and if they just have the right feelings and if they just do the right things, then they can control everything around them.

Recently, I have been getting questions and complaints about the Law of Attraction from people I know. Some complain that it just doesn’t work or that it might work for others, but they cannot “make” it work for them. Some are confused about how, when, and in what way it works. Others suspect there is something important missing about it.

From my experience and vantage point, the Law of Attraction is real and valid. One of the most common problems faced by those trying to consciously understand and employ it is that they want to jump to the desired experience without acknowledging exactly where they are in the present moment. That’s one step that cannot be skipped. Another problem is the strength and consistency with which the person chooses the supportive thoughts and feelings. But both of those issues are dealt with beautifully by others, so I’m not going to spend time addressing them. There are a few other things going on that I will address?

So what else might be coming into play?

Among other things, there is the energetic impact of others–other people, other creatures, and everything else outside of us. We might have a certain amount of control over ourselves (and, in my opinion, we overestimate how much that is), and it is true that our energetic state impacts everything around us. But we cannot control everything around us. Change yourelf and you begin to change your experience. Believe that you can energetically wrestle the world around you by using the Law of Attraction as the equivalent of a half nelson and you are going to be disappointed with what you experience. At best, you will fail. At worse, you will experience a boomerang effect sock in the jaw.

There is us and there is “the other” impacting our experience. What else?

In my model of the Cosmos (formed, among other things, through mystical experience), there is also the larger energetic source of which we are a part, the numinous presence that is both imminent and transcendent. Might we have made some agreements before we came into human form that impact our experience here? Yes. Might there be larger plans at play? Yes. Is there something called Divine Timing? Absolutely.

We love to focus on our part, the part that has to do with our thoughts, feelings, and actions. We hate to accept that our part is only part of a larger body of influences that impact our experience. We hate it. We try to manipulate others. We try to beat Mother Earth into submission. We try to make deals with God. We want control over everything and the truth is, we don’t have control over everything.

There is a good reason to support and practice the principles that make up the Law of Attraction. For a species that has such a compulsion to control, we tend to exert control over our own thoughts and feelings shockingly little. Just attending to what we think and how we feel can change your life. Don’t believe it? Try it.

But our thoughts and feelings, along with our actions, make up a sweet little package that is only one part of the complex mix of energies that is the creative soup of our experience. So if you are struggling with the Law of Attraction, it might help to step back, take a deep breath, and accept the fact (shocking as it may be) that you are not in control of everything. And if you contemplate that for very long, you just might come to like the idea.

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12 Responses to “The Law Meets the Compulsion to Control”

  1. Cindy Morris Says:

    Ah…I knew I was forgetting something!
    The breathing!
    Let me install some deep breathing and get back to you on the Law of Attraction.
    I do wrestle with the Law of Attraction because sometimes I cannot BELIEVE what comes my way..did I bring all that on myself?
    Trying to get a grip on taking FULL repsonsibility for all parts of my life and watching the manifestions from that…it can literally take my breath away.
    Hence, back to the deep breathing.

    Cindy Morris, msw
    Priestess Entrepreneur


  2. Margaret Pevec Says:

    I appreciate your comments about the law of attraction. I’ve been listening to Abraham tapes since at least 1999. I enjoy them a great deal, but periodically have to stop, because they just seem so simplistic to me…and don’t match my reality and my experience…or I have not been able to sustain optimism and high energy long enough to actually get into that flow that others seem to be able to do. I have always seen my life as a spiritual journey, and have a sense of the other forces Melanie mentions: past lives, oppressions of various sorts in this one (adultism, classism are the two big ones), the traumas from my childhood. The underlying emotional residue of these seems to trump my surface attempts to stay positive. I must say, however, that slowly but surely, I am shifting them and the gained optimism seems strong. I agree with Melanie that getting millions of people to think about what they’re thinking about can only be a good thing…


  3. Melanie Mulhall Says:


    Seems to me you just posted something on this yourself. For those readers who would like to see it, go to I left a comment myself.

    Yes, it is all a great deal to keep up with and we could all use a little more deep breathing and a little more humor about life. It’s all about the journey, after all.



  4. Melanie Mulhall Says:


    You raise some interesting points. Many things impact our thoughts and feelings. We aren’t even conscious of some of them! But remembering that it is a journey and putting one foot in front of the other, as you have done, does reap rewards.

    There are many ways to work on the toxic debris of our lives. I have worked with clients using many methods: Pshch-K, shamanic journey work, spiritual mentoring, meditation techniques, past life work, shadow work, methods using universal principles, etc. Why so many different methods? Because everyone is unique and all of us humans are very good at holding on to our stuff.

    Thank you for your candor and know that I’m right there on the road with you, putting one foot in front of the other.



  5. Margaret Pevec Says:

    Why do you suppose that “all of us humans are very good at holding on to our stuff” as you said? Do we feel comfortable with it? Is it fear of change? Why is it so hard to release old patterns, especially when we know they’re there and WANT TO!?


  6. Melanie Mulhall Says:


    I don’t know that I have better answers than you do on this. Yes, I think we’re comfortable with them. But I also think that they sit in our subconscious and we are unaware of many of them. That’s why I love using Psych-K. It addresses issues at the level of the subconscious.



  7. Drea Says:


    I also think something more innocent lies beneath our compulsion to control: A need for comfort and certainty. Someone frustrated by their lack of success using the principles of The Secret might also be dismayed that they haven’t found the sense of (peace? success?) associated with the outcome they used The Secret for in the first place. The expectation that The Secret will yield fast, obvious results couples with the expectation that life will somehow be better soon. Losing both is dual disappointment.

    This is a great blog; keep up the good work!



  8. Melanie Mulhall Says:


    Ah . . . comfort and certainty. It does seem innocent, doesn’t it? Wanting comfort and certainty seems part of the human condition. But I believe you are also making my case on control for me. We want to be able to control the things around us so we can have comfort and certainty. We want to be able to control the comfort and the level of certainty. This is, in my mind, exactly what is sometimes referred to as the cocoon. We try to insulate ourselves from the reality of life, from life as it is in the moment, from full throttle living. The more we insulate ourselves, the more we find the need to insulate ourselves. Life becomes more, not less, painful.

    Thanks for your kind words and insightful comments, Drea.


  9. Alyce Barry Says:

    I agree whole-heartedly, Melanie. The Law of Attraction is valid, but it’s not the only law at play. One might be called the Law of Learning, which says we’re here to learn things. A friend is at work on a book on the topic, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

    One of the problems I have with books like ‘The Secret’ is that readers start distrusting their own minds for playing ‘negative’ thoughts that might attract negative experiences. For years, ‘negative’ thoughts flew through my head predicting the deaths of loved ones, and all are still alive and well, thank goodness.

    One thing I gotta say for the people who promote the Law of Attraction, however, is that it generates a lot of business for them. Anyone who doesn’t get what they want believes they must be doing it wrong and return for more instruction.


  10. Melanie Mulhall Says:


    Yes, one pitfall of focusing on the Law of Attraction is that it can make us begin to fear our own thoughts. To some extent, that fear comes from a misunderstanding of how the Law of Attraction works and your raising the issue gives me an opportunity to address it.

    When we begin to practice the art of setting our intent by focusing on the thoughts and feelings associated with what we want, it is important to remember that, while our energy fields certainly do impact others, it is our own lives we are setting out to address and on which our thoughts/feelings have the biggest impact. That means, among other things, that “negative” thoughts about others are more likely to impact us than those others. (While your example was not one of deliberately trying to think negative thoughts about others, it is, I think, important to point out that our thoughts about others–intentionally focused or not–impact us more than others.)

    One reason to avoid sending negative thoughts to others or obsessing about the lives/health/wealth of others is that our thoughts about others tend to backfire, attracting the negative to us instead of the other.

    Your work with shadow has, no doubt, made you sensitive to looking in the mirror when we have negative or disturbing thoughts about others because those thoughts provide clues about our own process: our fears, our unfinished business, and everything else that needs to be healed. As I see it, shadow work is a valuable antidote to the energetic draw of the negative. We recognize it and deal with it through shadow work and it ceases to have a negative effect on us. Your own work is, then, a valuable aly to the Law of Attraction.

    Of course, there are times when we do pick up on the energy of possible futures. Holding the information that comes through us intuitively in a “for what it is worth” mindset instead of being attached to its truth is, in my own experience (and work as an intuitive) a good practice.

    Another thing that is overlooked by some new to the Law of Attraction is that a random thought does not have much force behind it. If one has a fleeting thought about the future (and inevitable for all of us) death of a loved one, that fleeting thought does not carry much energetic force. Likewise, if one has a fleeting thought about her own death, it also does not carry much energetic force. Of course, obsessing about the possibilty of your own illness or death certainly does begin to have some energetic momentum to it and will, over time, have a negative effect of some sort.

    I agree that a good deal of business has been built around the Law of Attraction. I have seen some ghastly books that seem to have been put together quickly to take advantage of the phenomenon. That said, I have a great deal of respect for the work of those long gone, like Raymond Hollowell and Ralph Waldo Trine, as well as the current work of Esther Hicks. These folks are the real deal.

    There is so much we could have a dialogue about on the issues you have raised, Alyce. I have just touched lightly on some of them. Thanks for your thoughts on this subject and for your good shadow work.

    For those unfamiliar with Alyce Barry’s work, look for her book, Practically Shameless, or go to her website,



  11. Debbie Mihal Says:

    “For a species that has such a compulsion to control, we tend to exert control over our own thoughts and feelings shockingly little.”

    Somehow, put that way, the concept really sinks in. It’s profoundly true and something I will meditate on throughout the day.

    Thanks, Melanie!


  12. Melanie Mulhall Says:


    Yep, we (our species) seem to want to control everything around us but seem to believe that if we are thinking or feeling something, it is somehow separate from us and we have no control over it. Nothing could be further from the truth! But I suggest we gently move from a problematic thought instead of try to control it. Otherwise, it is just more of the same. As for feelings, it is true that when we also gently move from problematic feelings–like gently moving from anger to a more neutral feeling–we also improve our circumstances. But I would hate to encourage people to suppress or deny their feelings (Alyce, I am sure, would have something to say about this, too) because doing creates huge dysfunction.

    Thanks for your comments, Debbie. We all could use a bit of reflection on just how much we let the tail wag the dog where our thoughts and feelings are concerned.



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