Law of Attraction Arguments, Part 8: “No Support”

Titlepic: Law of Attraction Arguments, Part 8: 'No Support'

How is Neil Farber’s “No Support” argument against the Law of Attraction supposed to work? Does he succeed in proving that the Law of Attraction is false?

KEYWORDS: Alcoholics Anonymous, arguments, law of attraction, negativity, no-support, philosophy, poverty, psychology, support groups, Weight Watchers.

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Note: This article is part of a series on arguments against the Law of Attraction. All articles in this series are available from the overview page called “Law of Attraction: Is It Real?

Neil Farber has written an interesting article called “The Truth About the Law of Attraction“. In that piece he presents 14 different arguments against the Law of Attraction.

I have previously talked about the first seven of those (and most recently about the “No Challenges” argument and the “No Compassion” argument). So today I am covering his eight one, the “No Support” argument.

Today’s challenge is basically divided into two parts. The first part is to take a look at Farber’s argument as it is published in his article, and then try to understand it more fully. Since Farber’s writing style is so sketchy, it is not always easy to understand how his argument really works. So we need to reconstruct it to see what he really is saying.

The second part of today’s article is the evaluation of that reconstruction. Are the propositions of that argument all true? Are the propositions all relevant? Is the argument as a whole valid in its form? Is the argument sound? And, finally, the million-dollar question: Does Farber succeed in proving that the Law of Attraction is false?

PART 1: THE ARGUMENT

Here is Farber’s concluding sentence in his own presentation of the “No Support” argument:

“Research shows that support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Weight Watchers, or breast cancer support are beneficial. The LOA incorrectly predicts that you will make your problems worse.”

As we can see from this quotation, Farber is of the opinion that the Law of Attraction “incorrectly predicts” the outcome in certain situations. So, in his view, there is something wrong with the Law of Attraction.

In this short argument (Farber’s argument is only half a dozen lines of text or so when viewed on a desktop monitor), the first sentence expresses the idea that students of the Law of Attraction typically are told to renounce their association with various negative circumstances, including people with mental or physical problems.

So we can now ask this: What kind of “support” is Farber referring to in this argument named “No Support”? And what does it have to do with or “no support” have to do with negative situations or with people who are mentally or physically challenged?

To answer that question in a comprehensive fashion we need to reconstruct his argument in a more formal way, since it is not presented in a strict fashion. So let’s see how all of this works!

Argument 8: “No Support”

Here is how I have reconstructed Farber’s “No Support” argument (Argument 8):

P1.Authors of the Law of Attraction typically recommend their students to stay away from people who are not happy or not healthy, since such association will be counterproductive for the students.

P2.Support groups for people with mental or physical illnesses consist of people who are not happy or not healthy, or both.

P3.Such students should therefore avoid support groups for people with mental or physical illnesses.

P4.But research shows that such support groups are beneficial.

P5.Since the recommendations from such authors do not match what the research shows, the recommendations don’t work as predicted by those authors.

P6.Consequently, the Law of Attraction is a bunch of nonsense.

PART 2: MY RESPONSE

Here in Part 2 the plan of action is simple: I am here analyzing each of the six propositions in Argument 8 to see if they have any merit. Are all of these statements true? Are all of them also relevant to the argument as a whole? If not all of them are both true and relevant, then Argument 8 must be considered unsound. And then it must be dismissed.

Proposition P1: Stay Away from Unhappy or Unhealthy People

So let’s first start with proposition P1:

P1.Authors of the Law of Attraction typically recommend their students to stay away from people who are not happy or not healthy, since such association will be counterproductive for the students.

As usual, of course, Farber does not give any exact references to any author of the Law of Attraction that has said that, so, technically speaking, he has already lost his whole argument. But we will accept it anyway.

This is because proposition P1 is quite good. Authors of the Law of Attraction typically do recommend their practitioners to avoid negative situations and people with problems (whether with mental problems or physical problems, etc.).

Summing up: Even though Farber has technically failed to give us any evidence for proposition P1, we do accept P1 nevertheless. So we will consider proposition P1 to be true.

Proposition P2: Support Groups Have Unhappy or Unhealthy People

Here is how proposition P2 is formulated:

P2.Support groups for people with mental or physical illnesses consist of people who are not happy or not healthy, or both.

Proposition P2 is more or less correct. For it seems to be almost a definition of what a support group is. Support groups are not for happy and successful people in great health and vigor, but for unhappy people who suffer from various unwanted conditions that they are incapable of dealing with on their own. Hence, the idea of being part of a support group.

In short: proposition P2 is true.

Proposition P3: Stay Away from Support Groups

Here is proposition P3 in Argument 8:

P3.Such students should therefore avoid support groups for people with mental or physical illnesses.

This proposition is dependent on P1 and P2 being true. But since both P1 and P2 are true, P3 is also true.

So because the authors of the Law of Attraction typically are recommending their students to stay away from all types of negative environments and circumstances (P1), of which support groups is one (P2), then it is reasonable to conclude that such students also should avoid support groups (according to their teacher’s recommendation).

Therefore, we must consider P3 to be true. P3 is a fair representation of what authors typically recommend to their students.

Proposition P4: But Studies Show Support Groups are Beneficial

Here I am discussing proposition P4 in Argument 8, which goes like this:

P4.But research shows that such support groups are beneficial.

Proposition P4 is not unproblematic. For here Farber does not tell us anything about what research he refers to. So there is zero evidence for that such research even exists. There is no paper title, no author or authors, there is no year of the publication, or the name of the journal or monograph, etc. [note 1]

Therefore, technically speaking, Farber has not only not succeeded in proving that P4 is true, but also, because of that, made his whole argument fall apart.

Summing up: Farber has showed us no evidence for that such research exists. So he cannot claim that P4 is true, in the current state of affairs.

Proposition P5: So the Recommendations Don’t Work

Here I am discussing proposition P5 in Argument 8, which goes like this:

P5..Since the recommendations from such authors do not match what the research shows, the recommendations don’t work as predicted by those authors.

Farber wants to arrive at the conclusion that the recommendations by the authors of Law of Attraction are incompatible with the scientific research. But he cannot do that in a logically correct manner, for P5 depends on P4. For since P4 is not found true, P5 cannot be considered true either.

Sick vs. Healthy People

But let us play with the idea that Farber had found some research reports that showed that support groups are beneficial. And that this research then “contradicts” the predictions made by some of the authors of the Law of Attraction (who say that support groups are not beneficial). How to understand this?

The thing that Farber does not speak about is that people are different. All people are not in the same boat. Some are super-healthy, while others suffer from various chronic diseases that never seem to go away. And some are very rich and prosperous, while others live in abject poverty.

Here’s an example with a sick person. And let’s assume that his or her condition is such that there is a well-accepted efficient treatment for it. So when this sick person follows the treatment we can expect him or her to get better. Absolutely.

But what can we expect in the case of the person who is as healthy as a horse? Well, first of all, there is zero reason to expect any improvement. Why? Because that person is as healthy as can be. So the only thing we may expect is therefore either that his situation will stay more or less the same; or, alternatively, that he or she, for some reason, reacts negatively to the treatment (which also, of course, may happen to someone who is not as healthy as this person is).

One important thing to keep in mind in this analogy is that there is no reason to prescribe a treatment to a person who is a role model of health. It makes no sense. Prescribing a “cure” for someone who is not suffering from any health condition is not just foolishness; it might even be non-ethical.

Incompatibility?

In any case, let’s return to Farber’s research and the recommendations of the authors of the Law of Attraction. So let’s say Farber’s research really showed what is expressed in proposition P4, namely that participating in support groups is beneficial.

The first question to ask is, of course, in what sense it is beneficial? Is it beneficial because the participant acquired some friends (which he may not have had before), and now can continue his negative dialog with others instead of just with himself or herself? Or is it beneficial because he now feels he is more important and “special” being part of a group? Etc. There may be hundreds of criteria of what a “benefit” amounts to.

For the Law of Attraction authors, however, there is only one main criterion, and that is one’s positivity or positive energy. This can be estimated by consulting a negativity-positivity scale (see below). Positive energy is the single currency of “value” for a practitioner of the Law of Attraction. That is the only thing that counts, or should count.

So if the practitioner gains more positive energy, that is a benefit. But if he or she loses positive energy (as a practitioner at P1 or P2 would do if associating with people in a support group), that would be a big deal. That would be a decrease in their spiritual health (which is why the Law of Attraction teachers try to prevent it, by giving their recommendations to their students).

Figure 1. An association with a negative environment (here: Destination Zone ‘Worry 1’) may benefit an unhappy person starting out in N2, but be just the opposite for a happy person in P2 (or even in P1) who may ‘fall down’. [see also note 2]

The upshot is this: Even if there might be some “ordinary” people, typically at N1 (“weak negativity”) and N2 (“medium negativity”) who could receive some small benefits from such group therapy (because their starting state is so negative), this would not apply to the students of the Law of Attraction. For they are typically at P1 (“weak positivity”) and P2 (“medium positivity”), and are thus in a much more healthy place. If they would associate with N1s and N2s during many such sessions, they typically would slowly lose their valuable positivity and glide downward toward the negative half of the spectrum.

Therefore, there is no “contradiction” between the results from the scientific research and the recommendations from the teachers of the Law of Attraction. The benefits that the researchers are talking about are “perks” (free lunch in the soup kitchen, respect from group members, receiving guidance, being able to quit drinking or drinking less, etc.), but the benefit the teachers of the Law of Attraction are talking about is “the underlying principle of all human life” (i.e. one’s positive emotional energy) that takes the individual to even higher and happier realms (as long as association with negative people can be avoided).

Proposition P6: Thus Law of Attraction Is Nonsense

Here I am discussing proposition P6 in Argument 8, which goes like this:

P6.Consequently, the Law of Attraction is a bunch of nonsense.

Farber wants to arrive at the conclusion that Law of Attraction is a false principle. But since both P4 and P5 are not proven true, there is no scope for that P6 is true. This is because P6 requires both P4 and P5 to be true.

Therefore, proposition P6 is not proven true, and will therefore make Argument 8 unsound.

CONCLUSION

Farber’s “No Support” argument (Argument 8) is not a sound one. Although P1, P2, and P3 are true, P4 is not true (lack of evidence). And since P5 requires P4 to be true, P5 is also not true.

So the final conclusion (P6) cannot be reached since P4 and P5 both are not proven true. Therefore Argument 8 is unsound. Once again, there is no evidence that Law of Attraction is a false principle. So Law of Attraction still can be 100% correct. And it is.

For readers who are interested in getting to know more about the Law of Attraction, you are warmly welcome to my “introduction” page called “Master the Law of Attraction“.

Chris Bocay

NOTES

  1. Farber is using Alcoholics Anonymous as one of the examples of a typical support group. But when looking at some of the studies of the AA, there is not much to see (for a person who needs strong evidence). For example, Sher et al. say that “many studies are small, nonrandomized, or fail to account for the fact that many AA members are often concurrently involved in other forms of treatment” (2011, p. 717a). And Humphreys points out that, despite that positive effects are seen, “because much of the research is cross-sectional and does not include comparison groups, this conclusion must remain tentative” (2000, p. 110b). So where do we find strong evidence for Farber’s claims?
  2. Figure 1 has been simplified in order to make the overall idea visually easier to understand. In particular, the vertical distance between the unhappy person’s starting place (at N2) and the spot where he or she may end up (at N1) is much too big here. For it would be unrealistic to assume that an unhappy person at N2 (“medium negativity”) typically could transform his or her emotional profile as to permanently end up at N1 (“weak negativity”) just by participating in a support group. It may not be technically impossible to make such a jump, but it would be very rare, and perhaps only on a temporary basis. A more realistic expectation would be that an unhappy person at N2 could move up the scale by, say, a distance of about 10% of the width of N2. So if we divide N2 into ten parts (N2a, N2b, N2c, and so on), the unhappy person starting out at, say, N2a might succeed in moving up to N2b.

REFERENCES

  • Humphreys, Keith (2000), “Alcoholics Anonymous” in Alan E. Kazdin, ed., Encyclopedia of Psychology. 8 vols. Volume 1: Abortion – Bystander Phenomenon. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association; and Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Link to book]
  • Sher, Kenneth J., et al. (2011), “Alcohol Use and Alcohol Use Disorders” in Howard S. Friedman, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Health Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press. [Link to book]

Copyright © 2022 by Chris Bocay. All rights reserved.

First published: Mon 12 Sep 2022
Last revised: Mon 12 Sep 2022

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