Does manifestation work?
The bottom line: manifestation isn’t magical—it is just a version of therapy.

Is the power of manifestation backed up by science? Do positive affirmations actually work? Is it all a scam? Why are so many young people backing manifestation? The truth is: manifestation is not an “all-powerful” or “magical” technique that will solve all your problems. However, there are core similarities between the act of manifesting and the popularized theory of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The bottom line: manifestation isn’t magical—it is just a version of therapy. 

Manifestation is loosely defined as the concept of turning a thought into a reality. The term is connected with The Law of Attraction, which is the idea that when one outputs good intentions, they will receive those positive desires. 

For many skeptics, manifestation is seen as a ridiculous “occult” or “magical” way to gaslight oneself into wishing away one’s problems. However, the reason why so many feel that manifestation works is that it forces the individual to refocus their perspective of themselves in relation to the world or universe at large. Manifestation relies on the individual believing that they have the power to overcome the obstacles that are getting in the way of their fantasies. 

A New York University psychology professor, Gabriele Oettingen, undertook research on her technique called “mental contrasting,” which is basically just manifestation dressed up in fancy words. The technique relies on an individual focusing on a desire while also thinking about the obstacles in one’s way. In her study conducted with third graders, she wrote, “Some were told to interrogate their own behaviours that might prevent them from finishing the task, while others were told only to fantasize on the prize. The first group did better.” 

So, manifestation, or mental contrasting, actually works if you actively think about the obstacles in your life and fantasize about a reality where you have overcome them. Manifestation is essentially rewiring your brain to show you that you can achieve your desire.

Here’s the kicker: this is very similar to how CBT works!

There is little debate on if CBT works. Although the theory is criticized by many, it has proven to be one of the most effective methods in helping mental illness sufferers confront disorders like anxiety and depression. This form of psychotherapy essentially re-wires the individual’s brain patterns by forcing them to re-evaluate both their relationships with the obstacles in their lives and their position within the world at large, as well as how they are affected by their internal and external stressors. 

As a whole, CBT relies on a therapist and a patient making a plan on how the individual can change their life. And, according to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Los Angeles, “the first step is to develop a specific, concrete understanding of what [they] would like to change.” 

The difference between CBT and manifestation is that one is an “esteemed” researched theory backed by millions of dollars, and the other a supposedly questionable “witchy” thing that crystal girls do in their bedrooms. While CBT requires a therapist and a patient working together to create a positive mindset, manifestation relies on the individual doing the therapist’s work for themselves. CBT and manifestation are scarily similar at their core. They both force the individual to think critically about how they relate to their reality, and how they can forge a better future for themselves. 

In turn, I urge you to keep manifesting, if that’s your thing. Or keep going with your CBT, if it is working for you. Whether you recite positive affirmations each morning or are in CBT, these techniques are all doing the same thing: rewiring your brain. 

When you manifest in your bedroom or see a therapist in an office, you are taking the steps to plan out a reality where you have a healthy relationship with yourself, your stress, and the external world.


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