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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.

 

 

 

 

 

29 Responses to “The Secret of The Secret: it’s bullshit.”

  1. Kathryn Says:

    Good God!!!! Thank you sooooo much for blasting this absolutely absurd waste of paper. Maybe if I wish hard enough, all copies of this book will spontaneously combust. What a waste of trees. Of course Byrne is positive and self enlightened…..she got away with thinking of an incredibly non-creative idea, wrote a lousy 100 paged novel, marketed it as “a secret which has been brought down through the generations” and voila…millionaire for no reason.

    My favorites are the people who have eaten up this bullshit. Self-righteous, judgmental, horrible human beings. Pretty much everyone who enjoys the secret can be found wasting away at your local coffee shops handing out life lessons to all the sinners. Boy, am I jealous! They sure are living the dream! I’ll take my life of hardships, laughter, fun and normalcy any day. All you “Secret” people can sit in your homes and wish your life away, not for me!

  2. Rhymerguy Says:

    Amen, Richard. Now if I could only figure out a way to deprogram some of my friends hooked on this hokum I would be a happier person. Hmmmm… maybe if I try repeating “I want my brainwashed friends to wake the F up” hundreds of times a day….

  3. Hissyfit Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. That people actually buy into this crap is so crazy. Guiliana Rancic didn’t need “The Secret” to get her flight switched, she just needed to do what we all do in that situation – check to see if there’s an earlier flight then try to get on it. I’ve been on plenty of turbulent flights where I’ve wished it would stop (not invoking “The Secret” just generally wishing the plane would stop bouncing around, like, oh, most of the other passengers) and what do you know, it did! Or maybe another passenger was buying into The Secret crap and I just got the benefit of it – hey, whatever works.

    And I’m with you – I dare her to stand in front of my dad (who has had 2 surgeries to remove brain tumors) and tell him he brought it on himself with his thoughts of illness (or whatever). I’m willing to bet any amount of money she wants she doesn’t have the guts, not because it’s a heartless, hurtful thing to say to someone but because she doesn’t believe her own crap either.

    I don’t believe in The Secret, but I do believe in karma. And she’s got some bad karma headed her way.

  4. Randy Says:

    Well done, Rich! Debunking crap like The Secret is important. The sooner people realize there is nothing supernatural, the sooner they care more about this planet, and care more about their fellow inhabitants.

  5. sammy Says:

    The Secret a/k/a What a Crock of Shit. Great blog.

  6. Agatha Says:

    Thank you so much for this blog post, Richard. You put it perfectly.

    I recently ran into a former classmate who talked my ear off about this stuff. I tried to tell him pretty much exactly what you said. You think he listened?

    You can have something just by wishing it- that’s something every 5-year-old alive knows is bullshit.

  7. Michelle Says:

    “…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.”
    Exactly the point. Even before this ‘Secret’ came out, there have already been people practicing the principles of the Law of Atraction. There is nothing wrong with the law. It’s a teaching. The law is a law like anything else, teaching people to think positively to set their thinking to attain ideal goals. This has just been blown up big by marketing. Thanks to them, now we are made aware of this law and for those who don’t know it, they now have a label to call what they have been living by. The Secret. This is innovative marketing, wouldn’t you say?:)

  8. Bryan Says:

    I can’t stand Giuliana Rancic. She comes across like yet another Hollywood phony.

  9. Chris M. Says:

    Kind or reminds me of another deluded knucklehead from the L. Ron Hubbard school of screwing gullible people out of their money and laughing all the way to the bank. If things seem too good to be true, well they always are. There are no free hot lunches. You always pay if you want to be “enlightened.”

    These charlatans only goal is to wheedle you out of your savings. Over the last decade many pharmaceutical companies are going to great length to produce alternative medications that are just as effective and more efficacious with less side effects and with a lower abuse liability. Scientology is a bunch of gullible crackpots being led by the nose of those who are cashing it. You’ll find God alright. Just make sure you bring your checkbook.

  10. Allen Says:

    You say it’s dumber than a puppy, but I think it’s more accurate to say it’s as dumb as a puppy, because if you’ve ever had a puppy you know that they don’t understand negation either! ;-)

  11. Jared Hill Says:

    Being very characteristic of a gemini, I am continuously swayed for and against this “age old” idea. Yes, the Secret’s philosophies “embraced” by figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Edison are complete bullshit, but what if there is an ounce of truth to this? I’m not speaking of the law of attraction, though. The idea that wishful thinking helps someone obtain their goals holds some value. Whether the scrawny middle-schooler works out twice a day in hopes of duplicating Brad Pitt’s body or a balding cancer patient watches re-runs of Friends to make herself laugh. Society is progressing towards a stage in which logic plays an essential role in determining what is “ignorant” or “logical”. As positive as this may be, simply dismissing claims that have no foundation because they seem ignorant. It is just as ignorant to comform to “logic” as it is to live without any.

  12. Bill Says:

    Rich,

    I was so hoping and wishing someone would tell everyone the secret is a load of shit!

    Thanks

  13. Robin Says:

    All of those opinion shapers you mentioned promote this book because all it is, is a substitue for praying or having faith in God. Its all about believeing in yourself and the universe and all that new aged mumbo jumbo. And its like you said, millions and millions of people work hard and arent as rich and famous as others. That happens for two reasons: either God has a different plan for them or they werent willing to sell thier soul to the Devil. What she calls “the universe” is actually the Devil sugar coated.

    As for her “smarter and elightend deciples” well apparently she never read Psamls 111:10
    The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

  14. Todd Says:

    Hi Richard,

    I am a big fan of yours, I think you definitely missed the point with “The Secret”. It is using creative visualization for positive outcomes. I am sure you heard of sports stars visualizing a perfect game and their outcomes were personal bests.
    How about Norman Cousins the famous writer who cured his disease by laughter and positive thinking.. Why is that Bullshit?
    Even Oprah uses it.. Look at her success…. If I was Roger Ebert I would give it two thumbs up and to other naysayers try it before saying negative things about it… Its okay to be positive and visualize

    Thank you

  15. Pat H Says:

    You should take a look at “Converstaions with God” by Neal Donald Walsh. Another man who has taken millions from people that are searching for something to believe. If these people truly believe in Karma, they are doomed.

    Thanks for telling the truth and dispelling delusion.

  16. Erica Says:

    I’ve come to believe that the success of all these self-help books is because people desperately want to control things that they think are out of their control. So someone happens upon a platitude of conventional wisdom, and then writes a book about it, because they believe it worked *for them.* They don’t feature anecdotes from people who tried it and failed to get what they want. I want a million-dollar condo on the Gold Coast, but wishing for it isn’t going to get me any closer to it unless I win the Lottery tomorrow!

    My mom gave me “The Secret” for Christmas. From what I can tell, it boils down to two words: Think positive. The thing that fascinates me most is how someone managed to build an entire book around common advice that’s been around for generations, and made millions off of it. The Secret to THAT success is what I really want to know!

  17. Chris M. Says:

    Alright, I’ve been positively thinking of going out with Keira Knightley for 4 days! I want my goddamn money back!!

  18. Michael Says:

    I know a woman who has been a guest on Oprah. She conducts workshops and gives a copy of the The Secret DVD to participants. I have known her since the early 80′s. Every time she offered philosophical advice I got the idea that she was reciting words and had yet to convince herself they were the truth. It was like singing a little song or reciting a memorized poem. The woman has had a major weight problem. I spoke with her last year after a 15 year gap. She had not used any of this philosophy to take off the weight. Instead, as an example of how The Secret worked for her she described how she used the techniques to generate money to pay for gastric bypass surgery. How’s that for twisting things around.

  19. Eric Says:

    I’ve been constantly wishing for Rhonda Byrne’s death every night before I go to bed, yet she’s miraculously still alive as of this writing. Am I doing it wrong?

  20. Justin Says:

    I think Byrne and Richard are on the same level. Byrne’s trying to brain wash us with magic and Richard is trying to convince us that cynicism is better. Anytime I hear an argument or debate going on I jam pencils in my ears and hum “Another One Bites the Dust.” Oscar Wilde once said that selfishness is not living as you want to live its making others live as you would like them to.

  21. Dave Says:

    The thought of success is step one, I’ll give The Secret that one. But the subsequent actions, circumstances that derive from those actions, is where the meat is.

  22. Joe Washick Says:

    Finally, Richard, I now feel a little more hope for humanity. Fortunately, not everyone falls for a “pie in the sky” book like this without deliberation. To some extent, this book has merit. I mean, all self-help books rehearse the notion that we must “conceive, believe and achieve” and “dream big to become big”, etc. This book recklessly leaves out the notion that our thoughts must be conjoined with DEEDS and ACTION. Remember, “Actions speak louder than words” and “God helps those who help themselves” and “Seek and you shall find… knock and it shall be open unto you.” When notorious, well-known celebrities endorse such a book without offering caveats and disclaimers, my feeling is they begin to lose their credibility. I don’t understand how such brilliant, capable and successful participants such as Oprah Winfrey would expose themselves to fully give such a blanket endorsement of the power of thought (alone- by itself) without considering the adverse impact it makes on the readers. It offers fast remedies and false hopes without encouraging a single action from the participant. Just “Think it”, they say. Geesh.

  23. Chris Says:

    Throughout the history of humanity, man has always felt the need to believe in a religion. Humans are the most curious of animals and demand an explanation for everything. Science can explain most things. What happens after death and why things happen, why and who we are and what is the point of life are things that science cannot explain. What have humans always done with questions they cannot answer? They invent answers! Before science proved that the earth was a sphere, we invented and believed it was flat and held up by a giant hand! We dont know whats after death if there even is anything so we invented religion to invent an answer. We dont know what’s the point of life, why and who we are and why certain things happen so we invent answers. The ”Secret” is just a modern variation of religion. Religion has always been a huge buisness and the Secret is no exception! Sure positive thinking is good and will help you but who the fuck doesnt know that? Sure a pro athlete will perform better if he thinks positively as he will be more confident. But he wouldnt be in the pros if it wasnt for extreme hard work and dedication, determination, luck and being at the right place at the right time. Positive thinking is important as you are much more confident when you are positive. And confidence can go a long way in success. But you need a good plan, a lot of hard work, determination and hard work. This ”fall from the sky…the universe is a catalogue mentality is pure fucking bullshit!

  24. anonymou5 Says:

    My mother has believed in the secret for two years. She’s thousands of dollars in debt but this book has convinced her that she should follow her passion of “teaching meditation” even though she has very little qualifications. Sometimes after soccer practice I come home and there is no food. She won’t talk about her financial problems because they are just negative thoughts. I’m going to college next year and my father is going to stop paying child support. I want to tell her to go back to HAVING AN ACTUAL JOB but she believes she can have it all and is constantly getting handouts from my father(who has sworn never to pay her again on top of what he is forced by law to do) and she gets money from her friends who are also gullible, but have husbands with jobs. She is the most GULLIBLE person I know and wants to have whatever she wants, doing only work she enjoys. She’s still convinved she is going to a millonare. I’m worried that when I move out she’s going to end up on the streets. what do i do?

  25. Angela Fieldman Says:

    Yeah you’re right….While i have my reservations I agree with you

  26. Milda Pianka Says:

    It is the most concise and the latest information I came across on this area. Sure thankful that I came to your page by chance. I’ll be reading your webiste so that I can get the most recent news. Appreciate all the knowledge here.

  27. stacey Says:

    I’M WITH EVERYONE ON THIS. THIS IS NOTHING MORE THAN A GIMMICK. I AM GLAD I WASN’T THE ONLY ONE FEELING THIS WAY. AND YES, WHAT A WASTE OF PAPER.

    STACE

  28. gotomeetingtrial Says:

    It completely defies the law of attraction. The DVD version shows a woman ogling a necklace in a store window. 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. Every positive thinker and great leader in the history of the world has eventually died from something. Pretty much everyone who enjoys the secret can be found wasting away at your local coffee shops handing out life lessons to all the sinners. Now if I could only figure out a way to deprogram some of my friends hooked on this hokum I would be a happier person. That people actually buy into this crap is so crazy. I tried to tell him pretty much exactly what you said. There is nothing wrong with the law. This has just been blown up big by marketing. She comes across like yet another Hollywood phony. Ron Hubbard school of screwing gullible people out of their money and laughing all the way to the bank. Scientology is a bunch of gullible crackpots being led by the nose of those who are cashing it. Just make sure you bring your checkbook. The idea that wishful thinking helps someone obtain their goals holds some value. Its all about believeing in yourself and the universe and all that new aged mumbo jumbo. It is using creative visualization for positive outcomes. Another man who has taken millions from people that are searching for something to believe. She conducts workshops and gives a copy of the The Secret DVD to participants. Every time she offered philosophical advice I got the idea that she was reciting words and had yet to convince herself they were the truth. It was like singing a little song or reciting a memorized poem. The woman has had a major weight problem. She had not used any of this philosophy to take off the weight. This book recklessly leaves out the notion that our thoughts must be conjoined with DEEDS and ACTION. It offers fast remedies and false hopes without encouraging a single action from the participant. Humans are the most curious of animals and demand an explanation for everything. Science can explain most things. And confidence can go a long way in success. Sometimes after soccer practice I come home and there is no food. Sure thankful that I came to your page by chance. Appreciate all the knowledge here. THIS IS NOTHING MORE THAN A GIMMICK.The GoToMeeting free trial type can be easily accessible on a lot of websites; merely get the system, alter your web and computer controls simply that small amount that this package requires and then float through consistent video conferencing as well as data swapping appointments with mates in addition to clients equally. Undoubtedly, not a single thing prevents anyone from using GoToMeeting to connect with best friends and family and you can easily work with it to bridge the distance which probably splits you right from your current nearest and dearest. You might be certain to find out this Gotomeeting trial is an effective, comfortable service which will profitably help quite a few of ones basic conferencing along with info downloading and sharing desires.

  29. Kevin Says:

    There is a nice article about law of attraction bullshit here http://thesecretbullshit.blogspot.com/

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