24 August 2007

I hate "The Secret"

If you don't want to read a rant, please go over to Linkateria where there is some very funny and odd stuff today.
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This piece on BoingBoing today made me start thinking about "The Secret" again, so I wrote this:

I'm not surprised that "The Secret" is on the NY Times bestseller list for its 31st week. People want to get rich, and they want to do it without working, and this book purports to tell you how to do both. The only thing that could make it more irresistible hardcover catnip would be if it told you how to get skinny at the same time.

I have mentioned my loathing for this book before. Most people could just ignore the subject and it would go away, but I am in a church where the so-called "Law of Attraction" is taught with great enthusiasm. With all due respect to my fellow parishioners, I just can't buy this idea.

I not only think that it is wrong, I think that it borders on evil.

Don't get me wrong: I'm all for positive thinking. I believe that focusing your thoughts and dreams is a good start to getting what you want.

What I can't bring myself to believe, however, is that if you ask the universe for a red bicycle, you automatically get a red bicycle.

Because if that is true, the dark and icky side of this coin must be the reverse: if you have bad times, you must have had a head full of bad thoughts that led you to have bad times, a secret wish for bad things to happen.

As a sister to someone who died far too young following years of suffering with a chronic illness (multiple sclerosis), I absolutely reject the idea that my sister either brought upon or attracted her illness through her thoughts and attitude. If you can say that, you never met my sister, who had an attitude that could not have been better.

I think that "The Secret" is sick and wrong and hurtful and that those who promote it are all messed up in the head and need a good hard reality check, if not an actual hockey stick upside the ear.

My sister read these ideas and believed them (even before The Secret, others were promoting the same idea, like Louise Hay). She spent a long time feeling guilty for being sick and thinking that if she could change her thoughts, she might get well. We had plenty of conversations where she admitted that, and where I had to try and talk her out of the black hole of those cruel beliefs.

Her problem was that, no matter how hard she believed, her virus wasn't listening.

It's bad enough that "The Secret" tells you lies. But to me the evil part is that it also gives people a convenient excuse to exercise their meanness and prejudice when they see people who are poorer, sicker and less successful than they are – “If they would just change their thoughts, they could change their lives.”

This denies the existence of powerful outer forces that bear upon us all – economic, societal, political, natural. People who get hit by hurricanes and earthquakes don’t have bad thoughts. They have bad weather, and there isn’t a thing that thinking about it can do.

That kind of philosophy is handy when you are relatively prosperous, well and live in a peaceful society. But what about those kids in Darfur who had rebels come in the night and kill their parents? What were they thinking that was so wrong?

Ugh. I get so worked up about this that I should just learn to ignore it, because it causes me real physical and emotional pain. It makes me seethe with anger to think that anyone else is going through what my sister went through. Not only did she have to deal with being sick, but she had to deal with the guilt of thinking she was responsible for it. That stinks.

If I have one message to give the world, it is this: believe what you want, but act correctly. You can have all the bad thoughts you want as long as you go out there, work hard, be kind and try to make the world a better place.

I saw a bumper sticker: “Don’t believe everything you think.” Amen.

*****
I also hate Microsoft products, so this made me laugh hard:

32 comments:

BetteJo said...

My sister asked my Mom for twins in red snow suits and she got my brother.

Proof right there.

That's terrible that your sister felt guilt for being sick. It's bad enough being sick - without throwing an emotion that is so harmful into the mix. Sigh-h.

Hope the rant made you feel a teeny bit better. I won't read the book, I promise. :)

Julie said...

I so agree with you, and get angry every time I think about that damned book. The fact that Oprah endorsed it made me dislike Oprah even more, although I try not to blame Oprah and focus instead on her idiot audience. (Onion headline from the past "Millions of obsessed Oprah fans sit on couch, wait for next instructions"
Even in terms of the Iraq war, the idiot "52 percent" of this country are now frustrated and want to pull out - NOT because it was a bad idea to begin with, but because the quick ass kicking they expected didn't happen.
Grrrrr.

super des said...

I totally agree.
So people are going along living their lives, good and bad, and then this book comes along and puts ideas into their head that make them feel guilty for how they are. Maybe it would have more justification (snort) if bad things happened after they "could control it" but how could it be retroactive?

I'm not making much sense today, but I'm on your side.

Average Jane said...

Amen! Every time I hear someone talking about "wishing (or praying) makes it so" ideas, I just have to shake my head. Of course, as with most wrongheaded beliefs, the people espousing them haven't really thought through all the ramifications of what they're saying. At least I hope they haven't.

Kelly said...

Must add my amen and ditto to everyone else...The Secret is a junch of bunk. I blogged about it a bit on 6/28/07 - here's an excerpt:

The Secret wants us to believe that we have negative thoughts, conscious and unconscious, and those thoughts control our situations. The idea that the victims of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina had thoughts that attracted them “to being in the wrong place at the wrong time” is simply horrendous.

It’s easy to see how this quickly becomes “blame the victim” mentality. It creates a “them” and an “us” which is antithetical to community building. I think we all lost something on September 11, 2001, whether we were personally acquainted with any of the victims or not. Any of us could have been on those planes or in those buildings. We all lost something when our government botched the rescue of, and assistance for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The funny part is that I was introduced to The Secret by a friend who had a bootleg copy of the film. So did author Rhonda Byrne think a negative thought that resulted in the unauthorized copying and distribution of her film? Or has she “attracted” so much money at this point that it doesn’t matter?

PS - You are still kind of a big deal.

meno said...

So The Secret is about getting rich, for the people who wrote it.

Bah! I am with you.

Count Mockula said...

Yeah, hear hear. Good things and bad things happen at random a lot of the time. And most of us who get good things work hard for them, not just hope like hell.

Serendipity, baby! said...

I loved this so much I sent it to one of my "law of attraction" friends who are all caught up in the primerica cult. Doubt I'll hear back from them and that's fine with me. Nothing wrong with putting good things out there in the world for yourself and others but the theory that prevails for me is that sometimes, beyond all of our control shit happens and having wished and hoped and prayed for it to not happen won't change the fact it will sometimes.

ecogrrl said...

As someone who's spent the last couple of years dealing with shit happening, including an autoimmune disorder that I'm pretty sure I didn't invite into my life, I really despise this dvd. A friend in my building just gave me a copy, so I am going to watch it, if only because I want to be able to debunk specific points in their stupid film.

You have every right to be seethingly angry. I am. Darfur, Katrina, all those homeless single parents I used to work for...they brought it on themselves? Really? How nice it must be to believe that, 'cause then there's no point in worrying one's pretty little head about taking action.

mar said...

right on.
this is somewhat along the lines of your previous karmic discussion of a windfall and then whammo! the universe equalizes things by sending something negative into your life, but this a kajillion times worse.
thanks for putting it so succinctly

Hilly said...

Amen to that, sistah! When I first heard of "The Secret", I thought it sounded a lot like Christianity and self-help rolled into one, yet people are gobbling it up. I've been praying to God for a long time and no book is going to make things magically happen for you. In my religion, you act like a good person, think positively, give back, pray and things happen the way they happen...not everything is going to be the way you want it to be because that is just life.

Plus Oprah endorses it and we know how I feel about Oprah and her borg.

lee said...

this book is worse than the influenza epidemic and is unfortunate that it is going the leave the majority of the believers without a pot to piss in.. they are going to lose everything they ever had in life while they sit back and mentally conjure up their wants.. i am so sorry that our society is so stupid.

Suzanne said...

Amen sister. The whole "blame the victim" mentality of these things infuriates me to no end.

Mrs. Swizzle said...

I haven't actually read (or really heard of) the book. If I weren't typing this, people may think I live under a rock!

Anyway, I've had a similar dilemma with prayer. People, myself included, pray for things like another to get well. Some would have you believe that you didn't pray hard enough or believe enough if that person didn't get well. Drives me nuts. Some people's prayers (thoughts) are better than others? I think not.

SUEB0B said...

Yeah, I hear you Mrs Swizzle. I have had to come to think of prayer as positive energy being released into the universe, since everything is made of energy it may be doing some good...But do I think that "If our side prays harder, we win"? No.

Laura said...

Here Here!
I like Oprah in teeny, microscopic doses.
I think she has done some amazing things for mankind, but I think even she is in love with her out of control persona.

I am sickened by the amount of control she holds on the middle aged female's brain.

As the wife of a beef farmer, we will never really recover from the damage she did to the cattle industry years ago. I am all about free speech, but seriously when does your fame and big mouth get to interfere with other people's lively-hoods.

I also know that if I am going to get a better job that is in a school district that I am proud of, I have to go back to school and work my tail off. I can't just read some voo doo book and have it happen. That would be nice, but it just isn't realistic.

I am loving when I see it in 1/2 price book stores in the bargain bin~~

Heather B. said...

I'm right there with you, Suebob. Actually I'm even more shocked to hear that people are still reading it. It's because Oprah says it works. Oprah also walks on water thus the Secret must be the most amazing thing ever.

I'm going to go wish that my work would get done and that I'd enjoy my job and that I don't get stuck in some crappy ass weather or something at Midway this week.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Dirty Dan Sin said...

nice post.

i see a lot of negativity around me that breeds more negativity, it's true. when someone lifts their spirit into hope and follows through with right action, it usually turns out better than negativity.

'the secret' is still a mass market con job.

HondaGrrl said...

Thank you for your excellent counterpoint on "the secret" phenomenon. I absolutely believe that a positive mental attitude will offer a person far more opportunities for succes than a negative attitude. However, to believe that material wealth will be attracted to you if you simply imagine it being there everytime you open your mailbox is really just to believe in a fantasy. Success at anything requires both hard work AND a good attitude.

Alex Elliot said...

I'm with you, Suebob. That type of reasoning is sick because it blames the victim.

Vesper said...

i'm in total and complete agreement! the secret is a narcissistically adolescent "quick fix" for an overly-narcissistic culture.

QT said...

I haven't read the book, and it sounds idiotic.

I believe that if I put good works out into the world, I stand a chance of having that come back to me someday when I am in need - you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.

The Secret sounds like what happens when someone tries to "monetize" good works. That is not the point.

I hope that makes sense.

Anonymous said...

The secret is.... there is no secret, there are no shortcuts. You play the hand you're dealt by accentuating and developing your strengths and talents, and all the better for you if you have supportive family and friends and health in your life. Common sense and responsibility for one's own actions seem to have evaporated from this society. Sad, very sad.

TB said...

I've already expressed my disdain for Oprah in general and The Secret in specific. Stupid and opportunistic.
And you're right, Louise LeHay is right up there with her "heal yourself through affirmations" stuff. I believe in thinking positive but no one should be hanging all their hopes on this crap.

Schnozz said...

Speaking of Microsoft products, everyone in the world has probably already seen this, but I love it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hxx2KcPWWZg

Schnozz said...

Also, yes, The Secret is stupid, it startles me that anyone even has to point it out. I'm lucky to not know anyone who buys into that crap in the first place, I guess, because I just assumed that the average rational person could figure out that they are not in fact a voodoo wizard.

Staci Schoff said...

Oh how I hate that book too!

What annoys me about it is that it purports to be a SPIRITUAL belief and it is anything but!

Right thinking to me means that I am directing my prayers to God in an attempt to BE a better person, to live a better life and to create a better world. If I'm too busy asking God for a Porsche, how exactly is that contributing to my spiritual development?

(Not that I never ask God for anything trivial and useless, I'm just sayin...)

Does God really care if I get a raise? I just don't think so. I think that the power of good thoughts is the power to manifest joy and to be content regardless of your situation. Not the power (necessarily) to change the situation.

I have a cousin who was born missing a leg and a variety of other physical issues. She is (and has been since she was a toddler) the most good-natured, sweetest person I've ever known and she inspires me to be more grateful, more compassionate and more kind. But it doesn't matter how good she is -- she will never ever ever grow a second leg.

Now you've got me all worked up and in a huff too - so I'd better just stop there!

Black Hockey Jesus said...

I hate The Secret.

Hey you're the red stapler lady from blogher!

But really you are so right. The Secret is a bunch of twaddle for idiots.

Anonymous said...

I also hate the secret . Rhonda Byrne and her friends are pseudoprophets ... Ok they say a lot of things about the secret and the law of attraction but what about their ACTIONS ??? Do they become more beautiful and more young every day ??? Can they fly ??? Can they gain 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 dollars??? come on why not ??? They just have to visualise them its the same think with 1 dollar for the universe ... In addiction , the correct law about love is "love each other like you love yourselves" and not "love yourself to attract people that love you" ...

Anonymous said...

Im the guy who wrote the last anonymous message . I wanted to say the same "thing" with 1 dollar (and not "think" ) . Maybe not so important but maybe so .

Molly Gordon, self-employment coach said...

Hey, Suebob. Found you via a comment you left at my post, "Why The Secret Hasn't Made You a Millionaire." Just wanted to say hello and tell you I love your writing.

Janet said...

If you want to loathe "The Secret" and the "Law of Attraction" even more, just read what Joe Vitale told Larry King about 9 year old Jessica Lunsford's death where the little girl was raped and murdered by being buried alive by a repeat sex offender. Joe Vitale said that there are "no exceptions" to people attracting what happens to them, even in the case of 9 year old murder victims. Of course Jessica Lunsford was an innocent little girl who did nothing wrong to attract her tragic fate, and your sister did nothing to attract her illness. To think otherwise is stupid and cruel.

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