May 20, 2007
What is there about the book “The Secret” that convinces people that whatever they have in their life is something they have caused?
PART ONE OF TWO PARTS
It is not a secret that The Secret by Rhonda Byrne is highly successful, on top of the New York Times Best Seller List. After all, it offers us the chance to believe we can “have, be, or do anything” we want by simply thinking it is so.
The “secret” to the book’s success is undoubtedly because it offers a simple solution in a complex world begging for unambiguous answers.
The Secret is also successful because we like conspiracy theories. When someone says, this is the answer to total success in all areas of life—and that it has been kept from the ordinary person for centuries by a small group of the rich and wise—we feel special. The title is great. We want to believe we are buying an “incredible revelation that will be life-transforming.”
No matter how hard I tried, however, I couldn’t find a “secret” in this popular book. Here is what I did find:
- I agree that we all have the ability to decide how we will respond to events in our lives. I’ve known this for decades, and I’m neither rich nor particularly wise. A common example can be observed when people get together. Imagine you’re having a miserable time at a party because someone you don’t like has been invited. Can you change this other person’s behavior? No. But when you choose to accept him just as he is, you discover that he seems to have suddenly become nicer and the whole atmosphere in the room becomes brighter.
- Is the ability to shift your attitude a “secret” known only to a few? No.Imagine you have often done poorly in job interviews. Into every new interview you drag a briefcase full of past rejections. What’s likely to happen? You’re going to have a hard time convincing a potential employer that you’d meet his need for an outgoing and positive employee. However, leave the negative briefcase behind when you go into the next interview, enter the room with conviction that you will be a great asset to the company, and feel confident in your ability to show the interviewer your excellent qualities. What is likely to happen? There’s no guarantee, but you will have a good change of getting the job. Is your ability to shift your attitude a “secret”? No.
- If you got the job, would it be because you “thought” your success into existence? Maybe, to the extent that if you believe something is possible, you set the stage for achieving it. But it makes no sense to me to believe that if you think you can that you will. Such reasoning ignores the fact that only one person gets to be president of a company or a country, no matter how many people feel positive about it. “Thinking you can” makes it possible to work toward a goal, it doesn’t guarantee success. “Thinking you can’t” will almost surely guarantee failure.
- I believe that even when people have had an unfortunate childhood and live in less than optimal conditions, in every person there is love. In every person there is healing power. In every person there are sources for both serenity and vitality. In every person there is potential for beauty, wisdom and success.That does not mean that within every person is the absolute power to have whatever he or she wants. Our bodies, minds, and the physical world have limitations, no matter how much we may wish otherwise.
- Do you want something? All you need to do is remember the “Law of Attraction.” This is a theory that claims our minds act like a powerful magnet to draw to us anything we want, a theory presented on an equal footing with the law of gravity. Merely by thinking you can, you will have unlimited happiness, health, wealth, and success.This promise feeds our ego’s narcissistic need to believe we are entitled to whatever we want. Like a giant Genie with a magic lamp, the Universe will respond to our every wish. All we have to do is ask for what we want.What is missing is the suggestion that the world might be a better place if we were to ask the Universe not so much for what we want, but what it requires from us.
- I acknowledge that The Secret encourages gratitude, but even here it is coached in a way that implies we can have more if we are grateful for what we already have. Where is the concept of simply being grateful without asking, or expecting, anything in return?
- According to The Secret, your thoughts cause all the good things in your life, and also the bad things. From this reasoning comes the conclusion that if you are a victim of floods, terrorist attacks, rapes, factory closings, and cancer, it’s because you somehow created these negative events through the negative vibration of your thoughts.The logic behind this reasoning baffles me. You see, according to meteorology, as I understand it, the small beginnings of a hurricane can be initiated by a butterfly in Africa. Did the butterfly play a role in all of this or was there a person, or perhaps all the citizens of New Orleans, whose thoughts unconsciously caused the butterfly’s wings to flutter?
- If the latter is true and you live in New Orleans—and if you accept the premise of the Law of Attraction, you may feel more than a twinge of guilt for all the damage your bad thoughts created. On the other hand, if you live where the weather is more benign, you have a guilt-free ticket and can take comfort in believing you cause gentle rains and sweet sun. Too bad that all the people in Darfur just happen to have brought their misery upon themselves. If only they would think more positively, they could wish away the Janjaweed who rape and burn and torture. Unfortunately, when you blame the victim, it is easy to abandon the sick, dying, and less fortunate while you focus on gathering to yourself new toys and bigger houses in which to store them.
CONTINUED IN Part Two — where you’ll find four other reasons why you won’t find a secret in The Secret.