Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for the past year or you are not interested at all in anything alternative, spiritual or relating to personal development, you have without a doubt heard of or seen the movie “The Secret.”
This has been a very well-done, extremely publicized and super-well marketed movie/documentary on the “Law of Attraction”.
Brought to us by the same gang of people who did the very interesting 123seehd“What the Bleep Do We Know,” the Secret is probably the first high-budget, widely distributed movie on the topic, or actually on any “personal development” topic.
Today I’m going to look at this movie and give you my own, uncensored opinion, and try to answer the question: is the movie the secret good or potentially harmful?
First a few facts to realize how wide an audience the movie has reached:
- The movie has been a number one best-seller on Amazon.com
- The authors have appeared twice on the Oprah Winfrey show
- With all that publicity, more than 150,000 people have viewed it online and over 700,000 copies of the DVD have been sold in the US alone.
That may not seem big in comparison to a Hollywood production but when you think that all of it has been done through viral marketing it’s rather impressive.
So what’s behind the buzz?
First you have a powerful movie, in terms of production. A lot of resources and efforts have been put to create a documentary of that caliber.
As for the content, if you’ve read “Think and Grow Rich” and the other classics of the genre, you know that the concepts shared in The Secret are not new.
The Law of Attraction
The idea is how your thoughts create your reality Gomovies. It’s the law of attraction and abundance. How by thinking about what you want instead of what you don’t want you can magically attract everything you want in your life.
The movie appeals to the materialistic desires of the US population. There are examples of people “manifesting” checks in the mail (with really no context of how it happened!). You see people thinking of mansions and expensive cars and see them appear almost as if by magic!
Here’s what I think:
- The basic idea behind the movie is good
- The movie presents some important concepts that really should be part of everyone’s “mental habits”
- The concepts of the movie, however, when taken to an extreme can be potentially harmful or misleading
- The movie puts too much importance on simple “thoughts” and not enough on the real way to make things happen.
Here’s what’s missing:
It’s not really your thoughts that create your reality, it’s your actions and your decisions.
While it’s true that it’s your thoughts that lead to taking action, it’s ultimately your actions that determine the course of your life.
The movie presents two contradictory systems, in a way.
First, you get to think that just by “thinking” alone you can create anything you want in your life.
You see the little boy who wants the bike, he believes he will get it, and BANG, it appears at his doorstep.
You see a man who magically gets checks in the mail for no particular reason.
But then later in the movie, they talk about action. They say that visualizing is not enough… that you’ve got to “act on it.”
So is it really your thoughts that create your reality, or your actions?
The Secret really leaves you believing that your thoughts are powerful enough to create anything.
But then it warns you that you have to take action… So if you have to take action, doesn’t this render this “magical thinking” process flawed and irrelevant?
There are two conflicting systems there!
It’s your decisions that create your reality
So is it just the positive vibes and the power of belief that allows us to control our lives… or is it that this positive thinking helps us to take the right action, which ultimately is responsible for our reality?
My experience has been: Your thoughts are at the origin of your feelings, which in turn determines your action, which leads to your reality, or results.
But it’s really the actions and decisions that determine the results.
Thoughts alone are not always powerful enough to:
- Reverse a disease
- “Attract” the money that you need (without doing anything for it)
- Reverse the aging process
- “Attract” the right partner into your life
And then, comes the question, why do we have the thoughts we have?
It’s all the conditioning and the emotional baggage and all of the stuff we really have to deal with if we want to master our thoughts and control our reality.
In psychology they have found that children when they are young have something they call “magical thinking,” when children believe that whatever they think will happen for real. For example, if a little boy is mad at her sister and wants her to “disappear”, and then the sister gets sick and goes to the hospital, the little boy will start to think that her sister’s illness was his fault.
But eventually, as healthy adults we grow out of this “magical thinking” and realize that our thoughts don’t actually have the power to affect everything around us.
We realize that we can’t just believe that we’ll win the lottery to solve our financial problems, or that if we have a bad thought about someone it won’t necessarily mean that we’ve caused someone to die!
The people who don’t grow out of this magical thinking are usually dysfunctional in some way or another.
Where It’s Potentially Harmful
So the Secret, taken to an extreme, can lead people to make irrational decisions about their lives. In fact, I’ve seen this in “personal development” circles a lot, even before the movie was out, and I’ve been the prey of this myself too!
The example is someone deciding to buy something they can’t afford, putting it on their credit card and rationalizing the purchase by thinking they will just “manifest” the funds to pay it back.
Taken to this degree, this so-called “positive thinking” is nothing but a form of irresponsibility and avoiding the situation!
- Yes, let your thoughts be positive.
- Yes, pray every day.
- Yes, be grateful.
But then, take action! Because ultimately it’s really your actions that determine the course of your life. Your actions are what shapes your reality.
All of the spiritual traditions in the world have recognized the difficulty and almost impossibility in trying to control your thoughts. Thoughts fly in an a million miles an hour and even though one day you may think positive, the next day the same negative thoughts can come back.
But you can control what you DO. Often, by getting into action it helps you change your thinking. In fact, a big cause of worry and anxiety is not taking action on what you know you should be doing.
This is the true “Secret”. I bet that the producers of the Secret didn’t just use positive thinking to make their movie widely successful. I’m quite sure they didn’t just put on their dream board “I will sell over 1 million copies of this DVD by the summer 2007”.
In fact, I know that they worked pretty damned hard to reach their success. They took massive action.
There’s a prayer that I learned from my mother, who at some point learned it from someone who was in AA.
You may have heard it before. It goes as follow:
“God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference…”