It seems that where ever I go I find commentary about how we create our own realities. In spiritual circles the notion of manifestation, or the Law of Attraction, is everywhere. In essence, it’s the idea that by utilizing the power of the mind to focus on your desired outcome, and taking some action toward that outcome, your desire will become your reality. It’s like sending all of your positive thoughts and intentions out into the Universe, and being rewarded with your heart’s desires. And I admit, I’ve done my best to sing to the manifestation tune. I’ve visualized, I’ve sent intentions out to the Universe, I’ve been confident in an outcome, I’ve done my part. But can it ever really be that simple?
As a psychologist, you find countless examples of the power of the mind to “manifest”. What psychologist hasn’t knowingly smiled and thought, “yes, of course that’s what’s happened – it was a self-fulfilling prophecy”? Trust me, we say things like that. A self-fulfilling prophecy is when one’s deeply held beliefs and expectations subconsciously effect our behavior and ultimately lead to an outcome consistent with our beliefs. One example of this is the placebo effect, which is when you expect something to happen and then it does. Take medications for example. In medical research, patients may think they are taking a certain medication, but really they are given a sham pill. Nevertheless, the outcomes look the same as it does for the patients taking the real medication. But since the people taking the sham pill, or placebo, believed it was a real medication, it ended up having the same effect. The placebo effect is actually a pretty common occurrence in scientific studies, thus illustrating the power of the mind. And then there’s the research on the perception of pain that shows that one’s thoughts about pain can actually impact their sensitivity to pain. Or how about ulcers? It is well known that ulcers can be caused by stress. Read: the brain can manifest physical illness.
It’s easy to start wondering what role manifestation might have in infertility and getting pregnant. Am I the reason I’m not getting pregnant? Am I not willing it hard enough?
These ideas get reinforced in the world of infertility in various ways. There are fertility meditations and visualizations designed specifically for conception, IVF, FET, and healthy pregnancies. Don’t get me wrong, I love meditations. I’m a big fan of Circle and Bloom’s IVF and FET series, and have used them during multiple cycles. I think they are beautifully healthy ways to cope with the stress that goes hand in hand with infertility treatments. And that is hugely important. But is there another message being conveyed here? Is there a subtle pressure telling us that if we just visualize that embryo implanting strong enough…
The mantra said to women going through infertility treatment is, “Think positive!” When I was an IVF virgin, I was all on board the “just think positive” train. I tried my best to manifest like a goddess. Baby dust sparkled out of my vagina when I walked. (And if you don’t know what “baby dust” is, then you really are new here). As time passed, and I accumulated more infertility treatment experience than I ever thought I would, I found myself hanging off the back of that positivity train, kind of bouncing off the ground. I was feeling beat up by it. Then I simply let go and sat on the ground as I watched the train fade into the distance. I’m still not entirely sure what I think of it all.
But there are a few things I know for sure.
When it comes to infertility, and possibly other things in life, this idea of manifestation via the Law of Attraction has a really dangerous underbelly. It’s the underlying message that the reason I didn’t get pregnant is because I didn’t try hard enough. Because I didn’t think positively enough. I didn’t will it enough. I am to blame. I caused this.
That’s self-blaming, guilt provoking, and shaming. And complete bullshit. I did not cause this infertility.
People say, “Think positive!” in an effort to encourage us. To support us. We even say it to each other. Sometimes it’s said because the speaker is uncomfortable with our pain and doesn’t know what else to say. Sometimes we don’t want to tell the truth. Sometimes it’s all we have to hold on to. But those words can so easily be turned upside down when they’re received. Those words can become fears and anxieties: “Could this fail because I wasn’t positive enough? Did I ruin this?” It’s an insidious game that gets played in our minds. All too often infertility is marred by blame and shame.
I’m not telling anyone to not think positively if that’s helping them cope. What I am saying is that it will not change the outcome. IVF will either work or it won’t. And the determining factor won’t be how positive you were. So if you aren’t feeling particularly positive, don’t beat yourself up over it! Feel what you need to feel. And if you’re feeling extra positive, that’s great too. Just watch where you sprinkle that shit.