It’s No ‘Secret’

Rhonda Byrne was on the Oprah show with her book and DVD. I didn’t see all of it, but I did buy the book and read it all–including inconsistencies, bad science, poor transitions, lots of repetitions,  graphic mess, topic-hopping to the point of confusion and some excellent ideas poorly described and almost lost by all the weaknesses of the book.cover of The Secret

To be clear– I think Rhonda Byrne did a lot of work on her book. She put effort into it, kept her focus on creating what she wanted and was successful. If only she had used herself as an example, the book would have made a lot of sense. Had she said, “To get what you want from life, work really hard, focus on the goal, try different approaches and be polite to everyone who helps you. Say ‘thank-you,’ and stay positive,” she would have had the main point of the book in a way everyone could agree with.

But that’s not the lesson from the book. Byrne starts by saying “You contain a magnetic power within you that is more powerful than anything in this world. . .” and continues that “the law of attraction says like attracts like.” [p.7.] But that is not at all what science says. Magnetism is a physical law, and in magnetism it is opposites that attract. The continual repetition that our magnetic forces attract like thoughts and results is simply bad science. Which casts other things she says into doubt, including, “You are the most powerful magnet in the Universe!” [p.7.] and comparing the universe to a genie who is at your command to bring you everything you want [p.46.]

Byrne also talks about ‘frequencies,’ and how bad thoughts are on the frequency to attract bad things [p.31] Another logic pitfall. Yes, thoughts do have frequencies. At best, thoughts attract other thoughts, and not money, disease, or objects, which are on different frequencies.

Which leads me to another Byrne confusion. She says that we must concentrate on good thoughts. Good thoughts attract good things, so Byrne encourages us to choose good thoughts. [p.32] Not to pick nits, but let’s be logical. In order to choose, there must be choices in existence. Which means, if we want to choose a good thought, there must be a bad thought to distinguish among. Uh-oh, now there is a bad thought, which, according to Byrne, will attract bad things into our life. But she has an answer for that. She says we have some time to turn back the bad thoughts. [p.33] But by p. 160-161, she tosses in more confusion by telling us that the Universe has no time or space restrictions–it is all one time, everywhere and covers everything.

The biggest problem I had with the book is “Nothing can come into your experience unless you summon it through persistent thoughts.” She stresses that everything in your life–illness, car accidents, come to you because you thought them into being. Really? Did the children in Darfur bring their horror on themselves? Do orphans choose to kill off their parents? No one chooses cancer, AIDS, or, for that matter, migraines. And the universe is not your personal wish-o-mat. I find it the ultimate of self-centered behavior to think, “Your are the Master of the Universe, and the Genie is there to serve you.” [p.46] And, “This is really fun. It’s like having the Universe as your catalogue. You flip through it and say, ‘I’d like to have this experience and I’d like to have that product. . .It is You, placing your order with the Universe.”

Now for the good news. Byrne encourages meditation, visualization, gratitude and the Alcoholics Anonymous exercise of “act as if.” None of these are new. None of these are startling. All of them work, not because of magnetism, but because they help you focus on the goal and work toward achieving it. Bryne explains in the book that she contacted other people to help her with this book. (Another disappointment–she has well-known and well-respected people helping her write this book.) She flew to the US where they lived to work with them. Was that all really necessary? Why not just call it up from the Universe? Because that doesn’t work.

Hard work does. Accepting that you can’t have everything you want will make it easier to live a realistic life. I can put the thought that I am a prima ballerina out to the universe all I want. When the universe stops laughing, it may remind me that I quit taking ballet 50 years ago, am generously proportioned and have arthritis. Ballet isn’t in my future. But other things can be. If I work on them regularly.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who believes in working to get what you want and understands that not everything is possible to everyone. But that doesn’t mean you can’t overcome difficulties and live a juicy, enjoyable life. See her work at 

17 thoughts on “It’s No ‘Secret’

  1. Pingback: Travel: No W00T for You « QuinnCreative

  2. Quinn, I appreciate your insites and your reply to my comment. I think if you had seen the movie before reading the book it probably wouldn’t have seen so confusing or disorganized to you. Everything in the book are snippets and quotes directly from the dvd.

    I think one of the problems of The Secret is that they implied that it is relatively easy to manifest what you want. In theory it is easy, but in reality it is a little more difficult to manifest for the average person mainly because of past conditioning from parents, friends, teachers, religious teachings, media etc. From my perspective or understanding it is these limiting beliefs that have been handed down to us that prevent us from manifesting things easily.

    As I said in my earlier post reading the book or watching the movie in itself probably won’t change someone’s life, but reading or watching The Secret is like finding a doorway to the fascinating subject that is the Law of Attraction that everyone should explore and look into a little deeper to find the many secrets behind The Secret.

  3. Eric–I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I am a big enthusiast for the first amendment. If everyone agrees, someone is being abused. It reminds me of the old German joke,
    Son: “Daddy, why do all the newspapers say exactly the same thing?”
    Father:”By that you can see that they are telling the truth.”
    But to your point: I actually wish the book had expressed its point as well as you have. I’ve read Abraham Hicks, and many others, and actually believe that our attitude creates our reality. But that isn’t what The Secret says. The Secret (at least the book) says that the universe is a genie that will give us whatever we ask for. Experiences, physical items, emotions. Just by asking and believing.
    I don’t understand why authors on metaphysical topics have to try to prove it through science. I don’t know a thing about quantum physics. You don’t need to prove beliefs through science.
    It doesn’t make it more or less true. What makes books lose credibility is when they mangle science. And The Secret does. Byrne state we are all “powerful magnets” and “like attracts like.” Nope, not in magnetism. In that case, positive attracts negative. And that’s science.
    Thanks for writing. I enjoy reading well-written discussions. It’s a joy to read powerfully held beliefs.

  4. Sorry I have to disagree. I’m no expert on the subject and will admit The Secret is not the be all and end all of personal growth and development, I do think the book and movie have had a profound impact on people becoming aware of how much control they actually do have in their own lives.

    Of Course there is much more to be explored in the subject of the Law of Attraction in which The Secret just touches the tip of the iceberg on this fascinating subject. Much more personal study needs to done in this area if you really want to take it to the next level. There are other important “Laws” that one should explore.

    I don’t think the book is as bad as you say it is. The short little snippets taken from the movie should be taken for what they are…little doses of inspiration into what is possible. To many people have studied and written about this Law in the past hundred years for it not to have some merit.

    You say it is bad science but doesn’t quantum physics prove other wise? Science has proven that everything is energy and vibrating or resonating at a certain frequency including our thoughts. So it’s not a matter of “like attracts like” but more of certain frequencies attract other similar frequencies.

    So someone constanly resonating at low level frequencies of shame, despair, unworthiness, guilt will attract more low level frequency situations to support these feelings. And that is the key really, it’s not so much about positive thinking as it is about postive “feelings”…it is our own internal feelings which he have day in and day out that seem draw or attract things to us.

    Reading the book or watching the movie in itself probably won’t change your life, (but I would bet that it probably has happened to many) But reading or watching The Secret is like finding a doorway to a fascinating subject that everyone should explore and look into a little deeper into to find the secrets behind “The Secret.”

  5. A man said to the Universe: ‘Sir, I exist!’ ‘However,’ replied the Universe. ‘The fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.’ Stephen Crane

    I don’t claim to know how the Universe works (nor magnetism for that matter), but certainly hard work and a positive attitude are a good bet.

  6. I find it hard to listen to theories that blame the victim, especially with catastrophes that are out of our control. I find it more likely that we may unconsciously sense we are at risk for something (like the woman with the child with a rare disorder)and fear it. For example, I hate it when I read studies that show depressed people and people who don’t get enough sleep have more health risks. Clinically depressed people are not in control of their thoughts, and knowing you are risking increased health issues because you don’t sleep well is guaranteed to make you even more sleep-deprived!
    Instead, I think a positive attitude is important because, in the end, it is the only thing that will help us muddle our way through this life. Thinking negatively means that even happy events will not make it through our “armor”, and we’ll just be unhappy all the time. Thinking positively gives us the ILLUSION of empowerment and effectiveness–but if that illusion is powerful enough to get us through everything we face with good spirit and energy, then that’s good enough for me!

  7. Foxhollow jewelery–I agree with you. Visualization is a powerful tool, and I absolutely believe in manifestation of things you have visualized. It’s happened in my own life, and I’ve seen it happen elsewhere. I believe in acting “as if,” that has gotten me out of more slumps and bad habits than I can count. What I don’t believe is that we get anything we want, all we have to do is ask the universe. The simple proof of that is fans on opposing teams both asking for victory for their team. It happens all the time, and except in the rare case of ties, one team will beat the other. Because skill and hard work and focus are involved. And that’s my problem with “The Secret.” What’s left out of the book is skill and hard work and focus. And talent. For me, there is no point in visualizing what you won’t put effort into.

  8. I saw something interesting on The View today. A woman was on trying to raise money for an extremely rare disease that her son was born with. She said that when she was pregnant, she had her amniotic fluid tested for as many diseases as were possible. Seems like she was really concentrating hard on having a baby with genetic problems, and that is exactly what she got. I have believed for a long time, before The Secret, that we essentially get what we concentrate upon. It has shown up repeatedly in my life. I agree that The Secret was a poorly executed and flashy presentation regarding the Law of Attraction, but I have found much of the experiential data to be mostly true in my life.

  9. As an afterthought, I have seen many a negative person survive dilemmas and issues, so where does that leave the ones with the positive attitude? I don’t think it adds up. We are all highly individualised, and don’t really fit into neat shapes.

  10. I know this book has done a lot of people good, and given them inspiration. I have not read it, but have a read a lot about it. For this reason, I am not saying it’s not worthwhile, because it serves people’s needs to some kind of discussion or thought process, a lot like the Da Vinci code, no revelations, just encourages talking on issues. For me, I see absolute red when I hear the comment that ill will is something we draw to ourselves. I take absolute exception to this, based on my own issues, specifically, and my own experience, what I have seen and heard of people’s difficulties and hardships. If the universe were perfect and nature’s laws had always been followed, we would not have confusion, we would all be in a state of understanding. But this is a future dream, not the here and now. I would take that book as the author’s own experience, and take it as such. But I just can’t come at the effect that everything is your own “fault”. My, we would be exhausted if we had to grapple with everything that could possibly be magnetized to us as our fault! At least this book has encouraged discussion, and I applaud it for that. I think a lot of people have issues with the Law of Attraction and are trying to understand it more fully. I don’t think it’s that simple, as the book seems to suggest, from what I have read in articles about it.

  11. I think that our thinking can influence what happens to us in that if we are thinking positive thoughts, we are more likely to see and jump on a chance to do something we want to do, and if we think negative thoughts, we will not see those chances. I also think that negative thinking influences the immune system, leaving us more likely to become ill. There is a positive correlation between depression and heart disease. However- a genie? Wishing and positive thinking giving us whatever we want? Not likely.

  12. Okay, now that you guys are off the soapbox, I’ll get on it. I DO believe that what happens to us in life comes to us for a reason(s), but that reason is not that we wished for it or consciously attracted it with our magnetic thoughts. The reasons include karma and what we came to this earth plane to work on for the advancement of our souls. I also think that our perspectives on this earth plane are so limited that we don’t know what is “good” or “bad” as far as our souls are concerned and won’t know until we have reached a plane that allows us to see “the whole picture”. But my beliefs probably wouldn’t sell a whole lot of books or get me on Oprah.

  13. Lori–that whole vendo-mat of goodness for ME is something I can’t fathom.
    And then there are exceptions–if you wish for bad stuff for someone else, it will backfire. But wait! What about all that attracting and promises? Sigh. I’d better climb down off that soapbox, too.

  14. Quinn, I totally agree with you. Yes, there is something to be said about having a positive outlook but that only goes so far in this messed up universe. It annoys me that someone is preaching that I can’t acheive what I want because I’m not thinking in the right way. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try and how well you think, life deals you a pair of deuces and not that royal flush.

    Additionally, particularly aggravating to me is the concept that the Universe (Higher Power, Supreme Being, whatever you want to call He, She or It) owes us a darn thing. We exist to serve the Universe and each other, not to wait for the Great Santa Claus in the Sky gives whatever us spoiled brats on earth demand.

    OK, I’m getting off my soapbox now before I get knocked off. Thanks for letting me rant.

  15. It IS a cool looking little book–hard cover, vintage-looking pages. And the title was a stroke of genius–but I’ll met it didn’t materialize just like that. One of her co-writers is a marketing guy. Maybe HE did the visualization!

  16. I also had a huge problem with summoning cancer and other awful happenings into your life. In fact I left out that chapter completely in case by focusing on it some terrible disease materialized. I agree that Rhonda made some good points but nothing that I havn’t read in a dozen other books. But what a gorgeous looking little book! The perfect size to hold with da Vinci like magic sprinkled throughout……and who can resist a secret?

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