The Secret

May. 16th, 2011 10:56 am
byrdie: Pretty fly for a Jedi. (lightsaber)
I finally got around to watching The Secret last week.  I can't say that I discovered much that was really new from the film.  Even before I started going to the salons at the former Sharma Center, a fair amount of this information had already reached me.  A Hoodoo podcast I listen to strongly urged practitioners and seekers to consider the outcome already done once the work itself had been completed, and to neither pester the practitioner about when the results would be visible nor doubt that they would noticeably manifest.  I've read articles and books that strongly link the way one thinks to emotional and even physical health.  

The Secret, however, doesn't go to much if any effort to avoid a blame the victim attitude for ill health or circumstances.  If I really wanted to do the mental gymnastics, I could probably twist the script to give everyone a clean slate up until the point where they became aware of "the secret" and then suggest that their future is up to them, but that's not my job and the people who made the film obviously didn't care that much.  

The other issue I have with this film is the lack of personal, real world action that's encouraged.  Even the Hoodoo people advise acting accordingly as though the working has already succeeding and thus going after whatever it is that they wanted.  The Secret rarely suggests any action past positive thought except in one particular example:  


The testimonial of the editor of the Chicken Soup for the Soulbooks, Jack Canfield, provides an excellent example of the first system (ask-believe-receive) getting the credit for the second system (idea-action-results). He tells us that he visualized earning $100,000 (even writing the desired amount on a bill worth far less and tacking it to the ceiling above his bed) and focused his mental energy only on the goal of attaining the money. He tells us that he had absolutely no idea how he was going to get the money — he simply focused on believing that he would get the money, somehow. But how? For four weeks he had no breakthrough ideas but then, one day in the shower, he remembered that he had written a book and, if it was published (particularly if he sold 400,000 copies and he made a quarter on each) he just might achieve his financial goals. Of course the book was published, and the results were only a few thousand dollars shy of 100,000 dollars.7

Mr. Canfield attributes his success to knowing and applying the principles of The Secret — he literally attracted 100,000 dollars through good feelings, positive energy, and the power of visualization. Is it possible, however, that this is a misattribution, and that the actual reason for his success is that he suddenly remembered that he had written a book, got it published, and subsequently earned money from it? You know, the way all other authors do it. The post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this therefore because of this) fallacy would appear to be working overtime in the minds of enthusiastic Secreteers. “It happened because I wished for it,” the Secreteer would say, instead of the more obvious explanation, “It happened because I worked for it.”8


As doubtful as the article author, Smythe, is about the above story, I will grant a particular nod to the idea.  No matter what people think of the Chicken Soup books, there is a good chance that if Canfield hadn't defaced a dollar bill and meditated on it that he probably wouldn't have pulled a mental Glenda the Good Witch of the North and realized that he'd had the power to make his money all along.  Some of us might actually need a woo-woo kick in the pants to get off our asses and use our own resources to better our lives.  Does this annoy the crap out of some people?  Oh, yes.  Is it all the more annoying because the "oh, it's really not The Power of Positive Thinking, its much better than that" approach seems to actually work for others?  Almost certainly.  Should it be discounted just because it's crazy making?  No.

I do have a serious problem with the "I'm just going to sit on my ass, think in this particular pattern and get everything I want -- material or otherwise -- from the universe" theme that seems to run through almost the entire damn video.  The video gave one other example of someone acting to get what they wanted.  A lonely woman sitting in the park catches an errant volleyball and tosses it back.  She gets invited into the game and hesitates because she's so used to be isolated.  She remembers her wish and joins the game, leading to -- after more hesitation -- lunch with her new acquaintances and hanging out for the day.  I am glad that they included this and the $100,000 example, because otherwise I'd be mainly remember the boy's red bike example and wondering how the speakers managed to get the things that they wanted using just the methods they suggested.  

The majority of the examples and information provided suggest that simply sending out "I want this, I'm having a great day, wasn't that wonderful" waves into the universe will keep bad stuff from happening and goose the Law of Attraction into bringing good stuff to me. Realizing that I'm on a random downer binge and bothering to notice it, poke at it and adjust it is, I think, a good thing.  There are appropriate times for having a storm cloud over my head, but I'd prefer not to live in that state of mind by default.  What I did notice, though, is that for all of my concerns about The Secret, I had some uses for it.  Not only did it reinforce some ideas I'd heard in salons and on podcasts, but also some from friends.  

At the time, I was writing up my first major draft of what I want out of life.  I'd found this task daunting and put it off for a fairly long while.  After determining to break it down into themed sections, I managed to find the task less overwhelming.  I ran searches on my computer for previous files and sent mail on the subject and, while watching The Secret for the first time as appropriate ambiance and encouragement, cobbled together a typed four page list.  I've also been encouraged by various sources to create a short-term goal map for myself.  This is a wonderful idea, but without a definable touch-stone of what I want out of life, the idea seemed ridiculous to me. Now, making a goal-map seems more realistic to me.

As much-maligned as New Age woo-woo is, I give it a nod as being a friendly poke to remember what I do have, what I can do, what I have achieved and how I can use it to keep moving forward.  I think that's the big thing about the positive thinking and related new age-influenced  movements:  jogging the memory that I'm not nearly as powerless, untalented, uninspired or alone as I may be used to thinking I am.    I don't make the amount of bank that the "authorities" featured in The Secret do, but for people who seem so determined to share the secrets of abundance and happiness in the world I really wish that they'd spent more time behaving like Glenda and less time concentrating on the universe as a djinn.  For people who notice the concept of acting upon opportunity and resources, though, I think that this video is a good motivator.

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