There’s a scene in an old Chuck Norris movie from 1986 where Chuck Norris’ character and his foil (played by Louis Gossett, Jr.) are stranded in a Mexican jungle. It’s an action-adventure film, but at its core the movie is about two guys, one of whom is an eternal optimist (Chuck Norris’ character) and one of whom is an eternal pessimist (Lou Gossett’s character).
At one point Lou turns to Chuck and complains that they are lost. “We’re not lost”, says Norris. “We’re just off-course.” “What’s the difference?” asks Lou. “Attitude”, answers Chuck.
The other night I was sharing a taxi in NYC with our friends Lindsay and Devyn. We were discussing the letters I’ve been writing to you, and Devyn and Lindsay were giving me their thoughts about the impact these letters might have on you when you read them as an adult. They also commented on the impact the letters are having on them now as young women making their way in the world.
I was flattered by their kind words, and I decided to ask them if there was a particular topic they thought might be interesting or beneficial for a young person to ponder. Without hesitation, Lindsay suggested that I write about the law of attraction.
I asked her what she meant by that. I assumed she was saying I should write you a letter about pheromones and what attracts people to each other, or about the things people do and say when they’re in love, or about the notion that beauty is subjective and “in the eye of the beholder”, or maybe even about how a young girl’s (or woman’s) self esteem is impacted by society and by Madison Avenue’s definition of physical beauty.
Those are all interesting issues, actually, and maybe I’ll write to you about them sometime. As it turns out, though, Lindsay was referring to the belief that “like attracts like” and the notion that by focusing on positive thoughts or negative thoughts, one can actually bring about positive or negative results.
A well-documented example of the law of attraction is most commonly experienced in medical trials and is called the placebo effect. The placebo effect refers to the phenomenon that patients in clinical trials who believed they would be positively affected by a certain medication fared better than those who did not, even when they were given a placebo (for example a sugar pill) instead of actual medication.
Similarly, the medical literature talks about the nocebo effect. That’s where a patient in a clinical trial experiences negative side effects or other negative consequences due to a negative image of a certain medication. It has been documented that these negative results are very real even in instances where the subject was not given the medication at all but rather was given an inert pill.
But can that really be? Is it possible that ultimately you can if you think you can, but you can’t if you think you can’t? Obviously it isn’t that simple. There’s a lot to be said for positive thinking, of course. Yet jumping off a tall building because you believe you can fly can get you dead, no matter how genuine your belief is. And it doesn’t matter how legitimately I think I’m better than Lebron James. He can take me to the hoop a hundred times out of a hundred.
And what about the converse? Can you find love if you don’t think you’re worthy of love? Can you solve a math problem if you don’t think you’re good at math? These are all challenging questions.
I have a friend who keeps an aquarium filled with exotic fish. He prides himself on being able to keep predator fish in the same tank as other fish that would normally be their lunch. Here’s what he does.
First he puts all the fish in the same tank and separates them with a clear hard plastic plate. When the predator fish tries to get to the other side to eat its quarry, it runs into the invisible wall and can’t get past. After a week or so of doing this, the fish gives up because it no longer believes it can get to the other side. By the time my friend removes the clear plastic plate, the predator fish stays on its side of the tank on its own.
I have no idea if that consistently works (please, don’t try this with fish you don’t want to lose) but either way it makes the point. Your mind and your psyche are incredibly powerful instruments, Mackenzie. We will usually not achieve that which we believe we can’t achieve because consciously or otherwise we will not try. If we don’t believe we are worthy of love we will sabotage efforts by others to love us. In very large measure, losers lose simply because they expect to.
On the other hand, winners expect to win. Positive thinking by itself is not enough, but it’s the foundation of success. As the noted motivational speaker Zig Ziglar likes to say, positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.
As you go through life, my sweet daughter, I hope you’ll always land on the positive side of the law of attraction. I hope you’ll always see the glass half full and not half empty. I hope you’ll never be lost, but only “off-course”.
Incidentally, that 1986 film is called “Firewalker” if you ever want to see it. And, oh yeah, I produced it. Your uncle Ron once told me it was one of the best movies he had ever seen. Then again, he was courting your aunt Viv at the time so it’s possible he was mildly exaggerating. I guess that’s a different law of attraction altogether.
All my everlasting love,