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Donald Trump and the Law of Attraction

September 7, 2017

Norman Vincent Peale, get-rich-quick scammer and author of The Power of Positive Thinking, was pastor to Donald Trump when Trump was a young man. Trump held the connection until Peale’s death in 1993 and often spoke warmly of him.

Peale & Trump (sorry for blanking the face, but this is my blog. You can still tell it’s him.) Source

Peale’s philosophy is part of a wider tradition that started in mid 1800s in the US, and perhaps best known today from the 2006 feature-length advertisement, The Secret, and known as the Law of Attraction. It is a form of Christianity obsessed with miracle-working. (It is also at the heart of much alternative medicine — Louise Hay’s cancer quackery lies squarely in this tradition too.)

This has been given some coverage in the media, as affecting his positive thinking, his egotism, and his lying,  but I argue here that Peale’s influence is profound, and may be at least one key to understanding a great deal of Trump’s behavior; especially behavior that is often otherwise inexplicable.

According to some of Peale’s (and Trump’s) Christian critics, Peale

reduced Christianity to a checklist of behaviors that, if followed, would guarantee pragmatic benefits. As he proudly stated, “We have made the mistake of thinking that Christianity is a creed to be recited. On the contrary, it is a power to be tapped”. It was a faith in the effects of faith.

It is indeed as much a program for behavior as it is a philosophy: habits of thought that are to be internalized and acted out until they become second nature to the practitioner. It is unclear whether or not Trump has indeed internalized this program and is acting out a kind of atrophied version of it. But his behavior — including those aspects that commentators find most baffling — is exactly what would be expected from a practitioner.

Trump’s declaration that John McCain is not a war hero “because he got caught” not only shocked but above all baffled nearly everyone. But it would be entirely unsurprising for a practitioner of positive thinking or the law of attraction. (They might not put it as harshly as Trump, but it follows logically that McCain, no doubt by indulging in fearful thoughts, manifested getting captured — there is nothing admirable in that. They would also think he manifested his cancer now too.)

This is what Esther Hicks, an initial creator of The Secret, said recently of Trump, seemingly unaware that Trump was already in this game when she was still selling Amway to her fellow Mormons:

Have you ever listened to Donald Trump talk? Do you ever hear him say “I hope it works out”? What do you hear him say? This is a juggernaut. This is a massively wonderful idea…. This is the best building that’s ever been built… I hire the best people and I get the best results and things always go well for me.” In other words he does not allow himself to talk about what went wrong or may not go right. He’s trained his vibration, and because he’s trained his vibration, things work out well for him, relative to the vibrations that he’s trained… Anybody who has succeeded at anything came to a place of expecting success. So the question is, how do I expect success in a venue where I have never had any experience? …Or how do I expect success when I haven’t been trained in that particular arena? And we say, You train yourself into expecting it… And you only intent is to take an emotional journey that feels really good. And before you know it… you start getting ideas; you start feeling inspiration that’s such perfect timing that when you make those phone calls things line right up. The universe organizes circumstances and events to accommodate you, but you’ve got to line up the energy first, or nothing happens in action that will please you.

Positive thinking is not merely an attitude that leads to success; it is believed to be an actual force that is set in motion by thought. Thought itself is a power that forces certain events to occur.

A central idea to this is the notion that “we create our own reality“: that by setting ourselves inside a bubble of our own positivity, we create a reality for ourselves that consists exclusively of success and happiness.

As one Law of Attraction teacher (apparently a “former high school psychology teacher”) says in an article titled Donald Trump: Law of Attraction Master:

we each get to create our own realities regardless of what anyone else is doing

This teacher, however, says she is not interested in politics, because:

I don’t see my government or my politicians as having any control over me anymore, so how they choose to conduct themselves doesn’t really matter to me.

The teacher continues:

I think we can all learn a thing or two about deliberate creation from Donald Trump.

This bubble must be maintained, however by the positive power of affirmations. Again, Trump’s demand that his staff provide him twice daily with a folder of ‘positive’ media coverage, including shots of him looking powerful, is exactly in accordance with Peale’s teachings. (These days they would call it a vision board.)

As one critic of Peale writes,

The mastery Peale speaks of is not the mastery of skills or tasks, but the mastery of fleeing and avoiding one’s own “negative thoughts.

Trump’s relations to policy advisors often appears bizarre, yet is also exactly what one would expect from a practitioner of Peale’s teachings. If you believe you can create your own reality, then why bother with experts? You can manifest everything you want just as you visualize it. Don’t listen to doubters and critics with their complicated thoughts and weighty fears. Just do it. You know more about ISIS than the generals, believe me.

According to The Art of the Deal, Trump doesn’t plan or prepare at all. He simply walks into a meeting and ad libs. (Note that this book was not written by Trump, but is rather his ghostwriter’s interpretation of Trump’s behavior.) This might seem like a recipe for disaster — as indeed it is, as shown by Trump’s catastrophic business failures. But in the short-term, it is effectively identical to a very confident bluff. This is especially so if others in the room are not expecting anyone to be bluffing, and assume that everyone knows what stakes are and cares about the outcome.

This would leave a practitioner free to focus on simply maintaining dominance on an interpersonal level, without regard for strategy or what gets destroyed in the process. Such a practitioner is also free to come back tomorrow and assume he has a clean slate and nothing that he said yesterday is valid.

Such behavior is also likely to cause great chaos, and chaos suits this kind of actor perfectly. While everyone else is trying to stop everything from going up flames, our protagonist, with his assured belief in his ability to create his own reality can appear like he is the only with any control — unburdened as he is by concerns about long-term consequences. (Needless to say, trusting such an actor with access to and power over the vast resources of the most powerful state on earth is not likely to end well for anyone.)

Such behavior would have political commentators scratching their heads and trying to discern which political strategy the practitioner is using. They may, after eight or ten months throw up their hands and declare there is no strategy. But there is. He is trying to create his own reality.

If Trump did indeed internalize this philosophy, there is every chance it has so much become second nature to him, that he has forgotten the ideas behind it and it has devolved into a set of habitual behaviors.

They might deem the practitioner mentally unstable, but he isn’t. They may ascribe a narcissistic disorder or psychopathy to the practitioner, and they may well be right, as such a psychology is well suited to success in business. But the power of positive thinking very effectively simulates a psychopathic mentality, where empathy is obliterated by the idea that victims have themselves have caused all their own suffering, and shows of sympathy are merely a sop to lame social conventions.

Words are seen as creative powers in themselves. For Peale, this is the power of God, the power of the Word. Put to service in this manner, words become more like blank checks than indicators of a common reality. Lies cease being lies and turn into affirmations of creative intent. To the outside world — to non-believers — this looks very much like lying. Yet it isn’t quite, and the subtle non-verbal clues that usually accompany a lie are confusingly absent. For a comparison, compare Trump’s calm, assertive demeanor while lying, to his son’s quite terrified performance on Fox News. (For a clip of Trump lying, google “Donald Trump”.)

Believing your own myth is not just a danger with this stuff; it becomes an attraction in itself. If you feel like you’re an expert, then you’re an expert. This is especially easy if you don’t really know what expertise looks like, and would have no way of processing expert advice even if you did hear it.

This is perfectly summed up a law of attraction teacher, and star of The Secret, James Arthur Ray. (Ray, convicted of three counts of negligent homicide for cooking his victims to death by confining them in a fake sweat lodge under false pretenses, is also a compulsive and semi-literate twitterer.)

James Arthur Ray: “If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it.”

With this mentality, a practitioner could easily wind up explaining that the person he consults with most on foreign policy is himself. “I have a very good brain.” Such an expert be eminently qualified to simply open his mouth and see what comes out, when pontificating in the knowing tones of the expert, that yes, he would have a deportation force to round up 11 million people; he would punish women who have an abortion; he would allow Saudi Arabia to have nuclear weapons; and yes, indeed he did fire the head of the FBI to stop the Russia investigation…. and so on.

Anyone who has ever met a dedicated fan of The Secret or the law of attraction, will have noticed this person does seem to live in a fantasy world or alternative reality. It is indeed a kind of cult. Unlike, say, Scientology, followers are overtly forbidden social contact with non-believers, but the nature of the belief itself isolates them from those who don’t share their beliefs. This is exacerbated by their fear of those who indulge in “negative” thoughts and emotions. They are indeed encouraged to exclude such negative energy sources from their life. Similarly, critics find these teachings instantly repellent and exclude themselves. Interaction gets swiftly polarized.

A similar dynamic appears with Trump’s followers. For them, what comes across from Trump is not a policy agenda or promise of a better life. What they get is the feeling of winning. and they have won, and will be getting drunk off it for the next four years, if not for the rest of their lives. The media keep waiting for “his base to crack”, but they won’t. Nor are they a “base” — which implies something will be built on top of it. what they are is followers, and though they would not perceive it so, they inhabit Trump’s alternative reality with him, and it’s great in there. They are still winning, exactly as Trump promised, only much better. And they won’t be getting sick of all that winning any time soon.

Posted by Yakaru

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8 comments

  1. OMG, Yakaru, this is mind-blowing! Did you come up with it or discover it somewhere? I’d not thought of it, but it makes perfect sense. The business world is rife with this crap, and you describe exactly how someone putting the LOA into practice behaves. As you say: “the power of positive thinking very effectively simulates a psychopathic mentality”. Psychopaths rise in business and politics, the LOA is a how-to, whether you started out one or not, and there he is, Psychopath in Chief. The scum de la scum has risen to the top. Shows the method works, anyway. Now we need an antidote. We have to hope he doesn’t think waging war on NK will be a great success and make him a tremendous hero. Somebody needs to find a way, any way, to make sure he doesn’t think that. Yeah, any way. And then the human race needs to find a way to stop breeding psychopath leaders before we all expire.


  2. …oh yeah, “given some coverage in the media”. I’ll have to check those links out. Thx.


  3. For people who already have an impression of how damaging belief in the loa is, it is kinda mind blowing! I’m glad someone else also thinks so too.

    I’d already figured out that Trump was just repeating the basic motivational speaker schtick in his political campaign, and even that hasn’t been covered nearly enough by the media, and then I found out about his connection with Peale. Then I googled it and found all the loa folks creaming their jocks about him.

    The occasional mentions in the media of this theme only ever get one superficial aspect of it. It’s often reported that in the Art of the Deal it was said he doesn’t prepare, and that seems mad enough, but in fact it’s far worse.

    There are several key aspects, all of which one needs to get the whole picture — miss out the fact that it’s a behavioral program, and you miss the compulsive and irrational aspect of Trump’s behavior.

    Apart from that, his behavior is the same as every other loa scammer I’ve come across. I think the Republicans have realized he is indeed mad as a hatter, but they haven’t figured out that there is this particular method to it. I hope they can keep him somewhat under wraps. Thank christ he’s as stupid and ignorant as he is. (I always thought he would win, but I didn’t realize he is that clueless.)

    I will be writing more about this….


  4. When Trump was but a presidential candidate, a friend and I were discussing his chances.
    My friend liked his bold (yet tiredly right-wing) messages.
    I sensed a rising rebellion of sorts. It seems to me that the Left had been more the rebels a long time ago, speaking against an older, conservative style. For some reason it felt to me that the big wheel had turned and that the the Right would now rebel against a long term of progression.
    It seemed to me, a foreigner with little if any knowledge of American politics, that Clinton had some serious likeability and corruption problems and that although I disliked Trump, he would be the rebellion of the Right, especially with his apparent strong stance on things like national security and economic gain.
    Like lettersquash, I had not thought of a LOA connection. Personally, had no knowledge of Norman Vincent Peale and enjoyed absorbing the rational and balanced description you have provided us.

    Opinions vary on the exact motive of the North Korean dictator, from a punk who seeks only to be a bigger fish in the pond of Earth to a seriously dangerous, explosive threat to the rest of the world.
    Do views on the scale of his true motives group closely with the scale of politically Left to Right?
    Am I clueless to the realities of American politics?

    I have long understood the fallacy of the LOA and it’s foul use by practitioners of psuedo-science/medicines, but now understand Trump’s behaviour and words better than I did.

    All the best,
    Woody


  5. Thanks for your thoughts Woody!

    I was convinced right from the start Trump would win, as soon as it was clear that he would get the nomination. I knew he’d pull all this crazy shit and just blow Clinton out of the water. She got more votes of course, but it is insane that the guy was and still is so popular. (He’s around 5% or something in Germany.)

    The danger, I think with NK is that Trump has no idea what nuclear war means or what deterrence is. He has no idea of the stakes he is suddenly playing for as president, but thanks to his loa delusion, believes he’s the greatest expert and the smartest person in the history of the world.


  6. Interesting stuff Yakaru. I hadn’t realized the roots of this went back so far with him. The Christians he’s hanging around with these days are similar – they’re all preachers of the prosperity gospel, which naturally appeals to him. Trump is the classic user – he’ll use anything that furthers his cause, including whatever form of religion serves his purposes best. That earlier link was a very good fit for him.


  7. I should have realized it myself a bit sooner. Having written about the behavior of several classic loa scammers here, it should have been clear to me that the same warning signs are all over Trump’s behavior as well.


  8. On another thread, “@Bunny” left a comment that is also highly relevant to this post. I will simply quote it here, and encourage readers to read her earlier, quite heart-wrenching comment on that thread as well.

    @Bunny wrote:

    I have been researching this (positive thinking movement).
    Norman Vincent Peale and Trump, not surprising, the entire philosophy seems to make you unempathic, narcissistic, and intolerant.

    I believe that Positive Thinking is being funded at a very high level. Eg. Templeton Foundation for one, another Dale Carnegie funded Napoleon Hill , supposedly, Wall street funded Evangelicalism see Kevin Kruse’s book,

    Wall street has a vested intersst in pushing a certain type of spirituality.

    Two books i ran into which i will probably purchase and am passing along:
    “Surge of Piety: Norman Vincent Peale and the Remaking of American Religious Life” by Christopher Lane

    Peale was funded by some high rollers.

    Much more recent:
    “The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold us Well-Being”
    by William Davies

    This is scary scary stuff. (just read the preface on amazon)
    Basically they have devices to monitor your “well being” including if you are thinking “happy thoughts” based on physiological data.In future, not showing satisfaction and being chirpy enough at your job, could get you fired.

    And of course you probably know about Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Brightsided”.

    As economies become worse worldwide, they are pushing this happy clappy positive thinking view, which quite frankly IS sadistic.



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