I remember one lunchtime in infant school being by the door to the playground where a dinner lady was on duty. A classmate of mine offered her a sweet from a well-filled bag. I asked if I could have one. I was immediately told by the adult that “it’s rude to ask for things. You should wait to be offered.” My friend was too embarrassed to give me a sweet until we were around the corner and out of sight, when she happily did so without any further prompting. Ironically, the reason I was in the corridor in the first place was that I was late out from lunch due to being punished for not eating my dessert (a common occurrence – cue a lifetime’s unhealthy relationship with food, but that’s another story). The moral of the story? Don’t ask for what you want, but take what you are given and be grateful for it.
I grew up believing that the only way to get something was not to really want it. And I wasn’t the only one. I was reminded of this the other day when reading Germaine Greer’s “The Whole Woman,” in which she says (on page 320): “The things you want don’t tend to turn up until you have given up looking for them.” As we grow into adolescence and adulthood this belief develops into such behaviours as “not wearing out your welcome” “playing hard to get,” and “don’t appear desperate” – basically, pretending not to care. This applies not only to our dealings with prospective romantic partners, but with friends, possible employers, or potential clients, in all sorts of situations ranging from discussing marriage or interviewing for your dream job to something as simple as a Saturday night out. This can be a delicate balance for many people, for example, as an actor you are expected to promote yourself to casting directors, producers and directors, but at the same time must appear happy to be passed over or ignored, when everyone knows the truth is you would probably gnaw off your own leg for that one-line part on The Bill.
And often it really does seem that you are more likely to get things when you’re not looking for them: you accept one job and are offered several others, you start a relationship and everyone seems interested in you, you spend months looking for the ideal flat or house without finding it, but as soon as you sign the lease on something less than ideal, the market seems to be flooded with perfect properties. To paraphrase an old saying: “Make the gods laugh. Tell them your plans.”
All this, I believe, goes somewhere to explaining my problem with implementing the Law of Attraction and its various related mental laws. One of the basic tenets is “Think about what you want, not what you don’t want,” which seems to make sense, however it totally contradicts the theory of only getting what you want when you stop wanting it (for want of a better name, let’s call this the Law of “I’m not bothered.”)
And yet … I consider myself a scientific person. I have a BSc and have studied both mathematical logic and cosmology at third level. I can program computers, and I read hard science fiction and books about physics for fun. The Law of Attraction seems to make sense. The Law of “I’m not bothered,” despite the apparent statistical evidence in its favour, doesn’t seem to have any logical theory behind it. So why have I (so far) failed in applying the former?
I believe the answer lies in depth, and balance. We need to appear not bothered to a certain extent: neediness is very unattractive and nobody wants to employ or go out with someone like that. However, “appear” is the operative word here. We should continue inside to want the job up until we haven’t got it, and then we should move on. What we certainly shouldn’t do is take being “not bothered” to the extreme that so many of us do whereby we turn our back on our dreams, be it through being afraid to follow the career we always wanted or not having the courage to tell someone how we feel about them.
So not being bothered is a surface behaviour which can be useful socially if not taken to extremes. Unfortunately so many of us from an early age internalise the message that we can’t have what we want (simply because we want it, it seems). This is, in a sense, the very opposite of the law of attraction. And in order to put the law of attraction into practice it also needs to be internalised, but when we try to do so, it comes up against the law of “I’m not bothered” and it comes down to a battle between the new and the deeply entrenched.
May the best law win!