Modern Manifestation and the Art of Romanticizing Delusion

Delusion is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as β€œa persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence.” But by a significant percentage of Gen Z on TikTok, this term can now be defined as achieving everything and anything you want in life. Videos of teenagers calling themselves delusional or explaining how being delusional improves their lives have been on the rise across all social media platforms. 

A person experiencing delusion holds firmly to their belief despite the presence of contradictory evidence, completely convinced that their delusion is real. While this is a real mental condition, you can hear people of our generation defining themselves as delusional simply by believing that they already have everything they want, living in a state of hope and disregarding the distasteful aspects of their lives. Many popular forms of manifestation include convincing oneself that their desired results are already a part of their reality. But what is this newfound form of manifestation? Is it as newfound as we think? Do any of these manifestation methods have actual results?

Origin (Grab Your Popcorn We’re Having a History Lesson)

Using one’s subconscious to better themselves in life is no new concept. In ancient Greece, manifestation was a technique reserved for the Gods (humans were forbidden from using it!). If a deity wanted something to happen, Greeks could be sure it would manifest into reality as long as it didn’t go against the wishes of another deity. 

Manifestation has also been mentioned throughout history in Buddhism and Christianity, and can commonly be accredited to Hinduism, the world’s oldest faith. Other spiritual terms, such as chakras and 3rd eye, also originate from Hinduism and have now been molded into a modern practice of β€œWestern Spirituality.” 

Later, in the 19th century, publications by Helene Blavatsky and Thomas Troward brought attention to the β€œLaw of Attraction,” a philosophy suggesting that positive thoughts bring positive results, while negative thoughts bring negative results.Β 

Rise to Popularity on TV and Tiktok

More recently, in 2006, a self-help book by Rhonda Byrne (Australian television writer and producer), “The Secret” explored Byrne’s journey with manifestation and taught the audience how to create their best lives. This caught the attention of Oprah Winfrey, who presented her TV audience in 2007 with Bryne’s DVD and its purpose. Oprah has since spoken on the Law of Attraction through several master classes and has articles and videos online about her experience using manifestation. And just within the last few years, influencers on popular social media platforms TikTok and Youtube have risen to fame by telling their stories about how manifestation changed their lives. 

Although having no basis in physical science and generally being regarded as pseudoscience, people have been using various manifestation practices for centuries in an attempt to bring their dreams and thoughts into physical reality. People all over the internet claim that these methods have worked for them, helping them get their dream jobs, dream homes, and even desired romantic partners. But are these things the result of reciting phrases over and over again, or are they simply coincidences? Are these people just lucky? Is manifestation a guaranteed way to improve your life? Or simply a way to overlook the circumstances not going your way and focus on the good in our lives?

The Lucky Girl Syndrome

One method that has been popularized recently on TikTok is the β€œlucky girl syndrome.” With this method, you simply recite affirmations in the belief that they’ll bring good fortune into your life. Examples of these affirmations include, β€œThings are always working out for me,” and β€œI am so lucky, I always get what I want.” People have claimed that these affirmations have helped them get dream jobs, apartments, partners, etc… Essentially, it’s another interpretation of the Law of Attraction. If you act like the things you want are already within your reality, then they will be rewarded to you. Research shows that if you truly believe that you are a lucky person, you’re more likely to have a positive state of mind and you have a greater tendency to seek out opportunities for yourself. 

However, most of these videos suggest manifesting purely through thoughts and imply that action isn’t necessary to reach these goals. For people facing significant hardship in their lives, isn’t this just giving them a harmful message? Would you tell a homeless person to recite affirmations about having a home? Would you tell students that are actively failing multiple classes to just speak good grades into existence? Scenarios such as these provide incredible stress and require actual action to reverse. Depending solely on positive affirmations to solve the issues in your life gives you, and others, false hope.

Video and Audio Subliminals

Another popular manifestation method common on Youtube is video subliminals. Essentially, the creator of the subliminal records themself repeating a list of affirmations over and over again, then they speed up the recording and put a song or white noise overtop of it. The idea is that these messages are playing in the background of the song but you can’t hear them, so they’re β€œbelow one’s absolute threshold for conscious awareness” (AP Psych definitions!!) In other words, the subliminals are reaching your subconscious mind without you acknowledging what they’re saying in the present moment. 

I will admit that I spent a significant amount of my freshman year listening to these videos. I can’t tell you whether any of these things noticeably changed anything about me, but I couldn’t notice a difference. Music itself has been proven by numerous studies to reduce stress levels, blood pressure, and pain, as well as improve sleep and memory. However, many of these subliminal videos claim to have bizarre effects, such as changing your eye color or height, physical attributes determined by PREdetermined genetics. 

The comments on many of these videos claim to have received these bizarre effects, but without photographic evidence or clear proof of progress, these comments on the internet are as reliable as, well, a comment on the internet. Or they could have persuaded themselves into seeing the change, thus feeding into the idea of being delusional. There is currently no evidence to show that these videos are helpful in a health or wellness aspect. But if listening to these messages and music simply improves your mood and gives you a positive mindset, I don’t see much of an issue. Just don’t go into it thinking that you’re going to become an entirely different person.

TikTok Audios (These are not real! Stop Using Them!)

There’s also an irrational misconception on Tiktok about audio clips having β€œsubliminal messages” and being able to change your life. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve clicked β€œnot interested” on a TikTok video that said something along the lines of β€œuse this sound and you’ll get a life-changing message tonight” or β€œinteract with this video 3 times and you’ll get good grades and your dream body,” I wouldn’t have to have a job. If nobody has told you already, know that six seconds of a popular song sped up does absolutely nothing to your life. Please stop posting videos like this, they’re so annoying!! Vent over.

Self Affirmations (and why they’re better)

Overall, I don’t see much of an issue in using self-affirmations to improve the way you see life. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with telling yourself that you’re deserving of love or that you’re worthy. I use such affirmations on myself from time to time and I do find myself feeling happier. But I think there’s a distinct line between harmless positivity and the belief that you can attain anything in life by simply repeating phrases. You’re going to find that trusting in the latter option is going to provide a lot of disappointment, and end up worsening your mood instead of improving it. 

Not to be cliche, but I think there’s a true value in learning how to love yourself just as you are and appreciate your life for what it is. That’s a lot easier said than done, but you’ll be a lot happier in the end learning how to love what you have and not a false reality.