Richard Roeper Blog

The Secret of The Secret: it’s bullshit.

Giuliana Rancic seems like a sweet lady, and I’m sure she means well—-but when I read another celebrity touting “The Secret,” I just cringe.

Giuliana Rancic and \”The Secret\”

From my book “Debunked!”, my feelings on this phenomenon:


         I read The Secret and I have to admit it was very effective on one level: it gave me a decent workout, as I had to keep getting up and retrieving the book after hurling it across the room in disgust.

         Rhonda Byrne and her army of associates and disciples would have you believe there’s a conspiracy of smart, enlightened people in the world who have long held access to the great solution of success in life—and you, too, can possess this “inside knowledge” if you just buy the crap she’s peddling.

         What’s amazing to me is that Oprah, Larry King, Ellen Degeneres, Montel Williams and other opinion-shapers have embraced this book, when they should be denouncing it as immoral, unethical and spiritually bankrupt.

         Byrne’s entire philosophy is based on “The Law of Attraction,” which states that if you fully dedicate your thoughts and dreams and whishes to achieving something, the universe will act in accordance with your thoughts and make these things happen.

         Here’s how Byrne described it in an e-mail to the AP:

         “The law of attraction says that like attracts like, and when you think and feel what you want to attract on the inside, the law will use people, circumstances and events to magnetize what you want to you, and magnetize you to it.”

         Hence the term “chick magnet.”

         Like a lot of people who have made it, Byrne falls into the trap of believing she made it primarily because she had big dreams, and more than anything, she wanted those dreams to come true. You get this every year at Oscar time, when some genetically gifted, talented and extremely fortunate person says, “This proves that if you want something bad enough and you never let your dream die, you can make it all the way to the top! If you don’t stop dreaming, it will happen to you!”

         Maybe. Probably not. There are millions upon millions of people who work hard and wish hard and dream hard—just as hard as the superstars of the world–and never become rich or famous or even financially comfortable and respected by their peers. Winners of the life lottery often make the mistake of thinking they tapped into a special kind of belief system that made their dreams come true, when the reality is it was probably a mix of hard work, God-given talent, and being in the right place at the right time.

                                                                  *          *          *        

         According to author and “personal empowerment advocate” Lisa Nichols, one of the inside secrets of The Secret is understanding that “the law of attraction doesn’t compute ‘don’t’ or ‘not’ or ‘no,’ or any other words of negation. As you speak words of negation, this is what the law of attraction is receiving:

         ‘I don’t want to spill something on this outfit.’

         ‘I want to spill something on this outfit and I want to spill more things.’


         ‘I don’t want a bad haircut.’

         I want bad haircuts.’


         ‘I don’t want to be delayed.’

         ‘I want delays.’


         ‘I don’t want to catch the flu.’

         ‘I want to catch the flu and to catch more things.’


         So on one level the law of attraction can grant your every wish—but on another level, the law of attraction is apparently dumber than a puppy. You have to spell things out in a specific, non-negative way, or the universe won’t respond.

         Here’s an idea. Most people who say, “I don’t want a bad haircut” actually don’t want a bad haircut, unless they were in certain 1980s power metal bands.

                                                                       *          *          *

         Byrne’s load of baloney includes the claim that overweight people need only to think the right thoughts, and they’ll be thin.

         “The first thing to know is that if you focus on losing weight, you will attract back having to lose more weight, so get ‘having to lose weight’ out of your mind,” writes Byrne, and if that makes sense to you I’ll bet you’re a Soduko expert as well.

[T]he condition of being overweight was created through your thought to it,” she writes. “To put it in the most basic terms, if someone is overweight, it came from thinking ‘fat thoughts,’ whether that person was aware of it or not. A person cannot think ‘thin thoughts’ and be fat. It completely defies the law of attraction.”

         Okay, let’s put aside the slippery notion that you might have been thinking “fat thoughts” even though you didn’t know you were thinking those thoughts, which is a great way for Byrne to cover her ass. How about the loopy idea that thinking “thin thoughts” makes it impossible for you to be overweight? Really? Even if you’re suffering from a medical condition that causes one to be overweight, or your body type is predisposed to being a little heavier? You can overcome that by thinking “thin thoughts”?

         That’s right, says Byrne.

         “Whether people have been told they have a slow thyroid, a slow metabolism or their body size is hereditary, these are all disguises for thinking ‘fat thoughts.’ If you accept any of those conditions as applicable to you…you will continue to [be] overweight.”

         So tell the doctor to screw off, get your mind right and feel free to hit the drive-through window at McDonald’s!

                                                        *          *          *

         Byrne: “The most common thought that people hold, and I held it too, is that food was responsible for my weight gain. That is a belief that does not serve you, and in my mind now it is complete balderdash! Food is not responsible for putting on weight. It is your thought that food is responsible for putting on weight that actually has food put on weight…Food cannot cause you to put on weight, unless you think it can.”

         After “beefing up” to “a hefty 143 pounds,” the small-framed Byrne says she now maintains “my perfect weight of 116 pounds and I can whatever I want.”

         In that case, I have a challenge for Byrne: let’s see her eat whatever she wants for a month, as long as that menu includes three big meals a day, plus snacks, plus desserts. At the end of the month, if she hasn’t gained a pound, I’ll eat page 62 of my copy of The Secret.

Byrne even advises shunning overweight people:

“If you see people who are overweight, do not observe them, but immediately switch your mind to the picture of you in your perfect body and feel it.”

That might be a bit hard if the overweight people in your life include your mom or your spouse or your best friend or your boss—but hey, you’re trying to think “thin thoughts,” so those relationships might have to suffer for the time being, what with you not even observing these folks.

                                                                *          *          *

According to The Secret, you can manipulate the universe to get things you want. The DVD version shows a woman ogling a necklace in a store window. She thinks and wishes real hard—and presto! She’s wearing the necklace. (I believe that trick was first performed on the third season of “Bewitched.” Or was it “I Dream of Jeannie”?)

“[A] ten-year-old boy named Colin…had seen and loved ‘The Secret,’ begins one story in the book. “Colin’s family made a weeklong visit to Disney World, and on their first day they experienced long lines at the park. So that night, just before Colin fell asleep, he thought, ‘Tomorrow, I’d love to go on all the big rides and never have to wait in line.’ ”

According to the book, the next day Colin’s family was chosen as Epcot’s First Family of the Day, which meant they’d be escorted around the park by a staff member and given VIP passes entitling them to instant access to all rides—no waiting in lines.

But what if six other kids at Disney that day had watched “The Secret” on DVD and had wished with equal fervor for all-access treatment? Why did Colin “win”? Not to mention the fact that a 10-year-old is being taught to harbor selfish wishes. Wouldn’t it be nice if he wished that some other kid—maybe a sick kid going through some rough times—would get to “go on the big rides and never have to wait in line”?

One of the big keys to The Secret seems to be getting yourself into an extremely selfish mindset, 24/7.

Even more insidious than the just-wish-for-it mentality is the explicitly stated belief that if bad things happen to you, it’s your own damn fault. According to the teachers of The Secret, if you’re broke it’s because you have too many negative thoughts keeping money from reaching you, and if you’re sick it’s because you believed you could become sick. Without exception, everyone deserves what he or she gets.

This is a stunningly odious philosophy. Are we truly to believe that children born with life-shortening illnesses, that victims of terrorism and genocide, that starving families in Africa, should blame themselves for their godforsaken bad fortune? Tell the widow of a 9/11 victim or the mother of a child with cancer or the father who has just buried his seven-year-old son that was struck and killed by a car that if only those victims had believed in the Law of Attraction, they would have been just fine. Go ahead, tell them.

“You cannot ‘catch’ anything unless you think you can, and thinking you can is inviting it to you with your thought,” says The Secret.

And: “Disease cannot live in a body that’s in a healthy emotional state.”        

And: “You don’t have to fight to get rid of a disease. Just the simple process of letting go of negative thoughts will allow your natural state of health to emerge within you. And your body will heal itself.”

Seabiscuit’s stall never contained so much horseshit. You can be the all-time master of positive thought—and you still might get cancer or have a stroke or suffer a heart attack. Every positive thinker and great leader in the history of the world has eventually died from something. How could that happen if they were acting as magnets of positive energy?

                                                                    *          *          *

Not only does The Secret tell you that you can achieve wealth, success and even love through positive thoughts—it also says you shouldn’t dwell on the negative, even if you’re trying to change the negative, because that will just add more energy to that downer of a situation.

According to the book, protesting a war “creates more war.” If you’re angry about human suffering, you’re contributing to that suffering by adding extra energy to it.

“The anti-drug movement has actually created more drugs,” claims the book. “Because we’re focusing on what we don’t want—drugs!”

This is the book Oprah has blessed with two full shows. A book that tells you if you want something or someone, all you have to do is visualize it happening, and it will happen. A book that tells you not to observe fat people, lest their overweight-ness invade your thoughts. A book that says we should blame the victim—that if something shitty and tragic happens to you, you had it coming. A book that says you shouldn’t get involved in fighting injustice, because it only adds to the injustice.

I believe there’s nothing wrong with a little positive thinking. Hell, there’s nothing wrong with a LOT of positive thinking. If you dwell on the negative all the time, if you walk around with a spiritual black cloud over your head, of course you’re going to make your own life and the lives of others more difficult.

But I don’t know how anyone can keep a straight face while selling The Secret. The world is filled with positive people who never get out from under a lifetime of pain and disappointment—and miserable bastards who catch one lucky break after another.

There really IS a conspiracy at work here. It’s not a conspiracy of enlightened leaders who know the secret of the universe is the Law of Attraction; it’s the conspiracy of self-help hucksters to sell all these cheap, warmed-over ideas to people who are so desperate to believe in quick-fix, New Age “solutions” that they’ll believe all this bullshit.






Related Links
Chicago Sun-Times  |  Rotten Tomatoes  |  |  perezhilton  |  |  |  Cinemedia  |  |  Filmspotting  |  Wikipedia  |  More Links...
©2008 Richard Roeper. All Right Reserved | Web site design and development by
Questions and Comments   |   Site Map   |   Privacy Policy   |   Terms of Use   |   RSS