What is a manifestation, and does it work?

Aiva Strelca 26.10.2022
what is a manifestation

My guess is that almost every person reading this article has at least some idea of what a manifestation is. The term has recently regained popularity via social media users, especially among Gen Zers. There are manifestation courses and coaches, not to mention YouTube channels and Instagram influencers, that make a great deal of money by teaching the world various manifesting methods.

Before hiring a sensei to help you transform your life, let’s explore what a manifestation is, what manifesting can look like, and whether it works or not. 

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What is a manifestation?

manifestation at work

Manifestation refers to various pseudoscientific self-help strategies that allegedly make an individual’s wishes come true by mentally visualizing them. Speaking simply – if you think it, it will come. It’s closely knit to the law of attraction – a spiritual belief that positive thoughts bring positive results into one’s life while negative thoughts result in adverse outcomes. 

Besides positive thinking, manifesting can involve various rituals, for example, affirmations, the pillow method, the 369 method (the methods are briefly explained further in the article), and more – all to effortlessly bring you your best life.

Thought leaders and celebrities such as Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Oprah Winfrey, and others have widely discussed the power of manifestation, not to mention a large number of social media influencers whose businesses revolve around this pseudoscience. 

Manifestation techniques

To draw a clearer picture of what manifestation can look like, let’s briefly explore some common manifestation techniques.

  • Journaling

Journaling one’s thoughts daily is a widespread manifestation component. It’s a way to recognize the thought patterns blocking the manifested outcome or whether a person is completely aligned with the goal.

  • Visualization or vision boarding  

The process of creating a visual material of the goal you’re manifesting, as well as imagining what you want to achieve in the future, are two essential manifesting methods. They supposedly help with having a clear direction of one’s goal, and the vision board serves as an efficient reminder of one’s manifesting process. 

  • Positive affirmations

Repeating positive affirmations throughout the day is a manifestation method that promises to rewire thought patterns and bring you closer to your goal. The affirmations should always be spoken in the present tense and resonate with you on a higher level.   

  • The 369 method

The 369 method is pretty simple – a person has to write down their affirmation/goal three times in the morning, six times during the day, and nine times in the evening. Manifestation experts claim that this method effectively holds your goal in your mind and helps tap into your subconscious. 

  • The pillow method

This is a method of writing affirmations and putting them under your pillow before sleep. The thought behind this method is that your affirmations are the last thought of the day before falling asleep, which could help reprogram your subconscious beliefs. 

A note before we proceed. Some of the techniques that manifestation coaches swear by are also used in different types of therapy. Thus, this article doesn’t undermine, for example, the overall mental health benefits of journaling, vision boarding as a goal-setting method, or affirmations as a mindfulness practice. However, it does ask to perceive these techniques in the context of manifesting with a grain of salt.

Does manifestation work?

does manifestation work

If we asked Oprah or Rhonda Byrne, the author of The Secret – a bestselling book that introduced manifestation to the modern world in 2006 – the answer would be yes. But considering that they sell manifestation, there may be a certain level of bias. 

There is no scientifical proof that manifestation works. None. One cannot bring things into reality by simply dreaming about them. Yes, there are coincidences and cases of unbelievable luck, but it’s not the result of a person’s affirmations – or at least there’s no science to back it up. 

The merely positive part about manifestation is that some techniques involve practical steps that can actually contribute to reaching the desired goal. Hence, every action has a reaction, and that’s a science-based fact

People can control their thoughts on some level and change how they react to situations, but that’s directly linked to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapeutic treatment with nothing to do with the concept of manifestation. Therefore, exploring your options to undergo CBT sessions to work on negative thought or behavior patterns is much more helpful than hiring a manifestation coach – after all, it’s science. 

The dark side of manifestation

manifestation dark side

Despite being seemingly harmless, manifestation has been criticized for several reasons, such as hurting people’s mental health, forcing people to make poor life choices, and more. 

Toxic positivity, which manifestation often cultivates, can be harmful to people with anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), as it invalidates negative thoughts and emotions, which only increases negative thinking, worsening mental health conditions

The basis of the law of attraction – every thought eventually embodies itself – is also tricky from the mental health perspective. 

The belief that thinking something is the same as doing it is a significant risk factor for developing anxiety disorders, OCD, depression, or worsening symptoms. Additionally, if the essential technique of manifesting – repeating specific phrases – takes up a significant part of one’s daily routine, it can begin to resemble a ritualistic approach, which often characterizes anxiety and OCD.

Speaking of poor life choices – manifesting can lead to reckless actions like leaving a decent job to make space for the “dream career”. While a career change isn’t bad in particular, if a job is exchanged for unemployment that’s spent manifesting wealth and career growth instead of learning new skills and exploring the job market, the outcome will likely be nothing but down-and-out. And ditching a job is just one example.

Manifestation coaching is a prosperous industry that keeps growing. And from this point of view, it’s a bit hypocritical – all the coaches selling manifestation knowledge are engaged in business rather than spending their days manifesting, aren’t they? 

Don’t rely on manifestation!

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A concluding thought on manifestation

Before I started to write this piece exploring manifestation and whether it’s effective, I spent a great deal of time thinking about what I should write here and what I’d want the result to look like. 

Some might say I was manifesting. 

Did it result in an article? Well, eventually, it did. After I sat down and started doing actual work. And yet thinking about a ready-made piece didn’t make the writing process disappear. 

Don’t get me wrong. I do not deny the power of one’s mindset here completely. I’m also among those people trying to remain positive in stressful situations just because it helps me stay sane. And yet I have only seen people do great things in life by working towards them, not by purely dreaming about them. 

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