Rhonda Byrne’s book, The Secret, is one of the bestselling books around the globe. It s content has also elicited much sales for the DVD by the same author of Prime Time Productions (Heuvel 5). According to Byrne, the secret is the law of attraction that posits that one’s thoughts attract everything that is in existence within their life i.e. our thoughts act as the centre of attraction for everything that has happened, is happening or will happen in one’s life. Scientifically, it follows the principle of magnetism. The feelings that are generated in the body as a result of one’s thoughts flow as magnetic energy waves over vast places or rather distances. The waves in turn cause the universe to vibrate at the same level of energy (as provided by the feelings). This aspect applies for both negative and positive thoughts/feelings according to Rhonda Byrne. Positive thoughts generate positive experiences whereas negative thoughts generate negative experiences. This principle shuns aspects such as accidents and coincidences.
This is like having the universe as your catalogue and you flip through it and go, ‘well I’d like to have this experience and I’d like to have that product and I’d like to have a person like that’It is just placing your order with the universe we can create it the way we want it (3).
One of the philosophies that have been employed in the book is the ‘Don’t Be A Negative Sourpuss’. According to the author, it acts as the major motivational factor i.e. the ability to put off any negative thoughts from one’s mind. In real sense, this does not carry any secrecy or rather some supernatural connotation, as it is the principle that is used in the Cognitive Behavioral Theory. The theory offers a purely psychological approach that helps individuals to alter their behavior (as dictated by their negative, unrealistic and maladaptive thoughts). Any individual who is able to overcome bad behavior has the capacity of achieving their dreams (Cranfield 104). The achievement of dreams requires one to be disciplined i.e. have the rightful behavior that provides a good environment for their input in the pursuit of their dreams.
The principle of magnetism as applied in bringing out the message in the book is rather contradictory. Byrne asserts that all that ne needs to do to acquire whatever they need in life is to ask and believe (2). One just need to visualize whatever they want and then feel good about it ask for it form the universe and they shall receive it. However, her illustrations do not portray this ‘reality’. As depicted in the DVD version of the book, a certain little boy wants to have a bike of his own and the video portrays that the boy puts no effort in getting the bike-other than wanting. On the other hand, it seems that this principle cannot apply in some human needs-one cannot merely ask and receive without some input. Actually, Byrne notes that:
A lot of people watch The Secret and they say, ‘Well, I’m sitting around visualizing my millions coming into my lap.’ Well, they’ll come and take your furniture away. And then how are you going to visualize [when you’re living] on the curb? You’ve got to act on it (6).
This shows that The Secret is not really some supernatural aspect as depicted in the case of the boy who got his bike just by visualizing. Everyone has got to work hard and stay focused to achieve their goals or rather to receive whatever they want. This depicts the principle behind The Secret to be more of ‘wishful thinking’ that only amounts to nothing. This is supported by the story of, Jack Canfield, the editor of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Books (7). He asserts that no matter the amount of positive thinking/energy one has, they will have to act on their thoughts to make their dreams come true. For instance, his quest for earning USD 100, 000 would have remained in the dark for years had he not written his book. The writing of the book as well as its publishing were some of the things that he had to do to realize his dream.
As aforementioned, the author seeks to convince her audience that positive thinking works the ‘miracles’ in their lives. However, one needs to act in order to achieve his/her dream. One needs to identify the various factors that attribute to their success or rather achieving the desired results. Smythe illustrates this by giving an example of a woman who uses contraceptives for birth control (9). After taking the contraceptives, the inability to conceive cannot be attributed to her positive thinking but to the action of the contraceptives within her body. In this case, it is obvious that the birth control measures are the ones at play but not her positive thinking. In other words, if a woman fails to take the appropriate measure for birth control and engages in sexual activity (all other factors held constant), she will definitely conceive irrespective of her magnitude of positive thinking during that time. This shows that positive thinking has to be accompanied by the appropriate actions for one to get the desired results.
The book presents a bias approach to life. It portrays that the law applies in the process of acquisition of material things. One can therefore conclude that this perception was the underlying factor in the production of the DVD that seeks to strengthen the impact of the book in the society. In the DVD, a man visualizes himself attracting a luxurious car which he eventually gets (prove of the law of attraction). If this was a reality, then everyone would be owning a car. One can conclude that the author did not put into consideration some important factors such as competition and scarcity of such resources as it is the case in real life. In another instance she says that “Why do you think that 1% of the population earns around 96% of all the money that’s being earned?” (11). Based on the principle that she is passing to her audience, such a question is rather contradictory because everyone gets as much as they attract to themselves. She should have framed the question to reflect relationship between the magnitude of the attraction in relation to the earnings of the individuals. Additionally, the proportion of the earnings could bring in other aspects such as the social status of the individual in question since not all people fit in the same social class.
Although Byrne implies that the law of attraction could enable everyone to get what they wanted, it does not cover all types of human needs. It is inclined towards the acquisition of material things i.e. the things that only money can buy. However, there are other types of needs that have not been accounted for as far as the law of attraction is concerned. She gives the illustration of the Indian man and the Chinese woman who have different preferences in life-they are not interested in cars. She notes that:
The truth is there’s more than enough good to go around. There’s more than enough creative ideas, there’s more than enough power, there is more than enough love, there is more than enough joy (10).
The implication of the two is that if at all the secret applied in finding the solution to all human needs, it would not apply only in cases that require material things only.
Both The Secret and the normalcy seem to have one aspect in common that one’s thoughts have a great impact on his/her achievements. However, the law of attraction as applied in The Secret brings about some barriers in the application of the law. For instance, in one of the examples given above, Byrne talks of 96% of all earnings being received by 1% of the population. The people who have amassed wealth as per the book are ‘wise’. This raises the question of whether one’s wisdom or even integrity depends on their material acquisition. By depicting the Chinese woman and Indian man, the author sends some racial overtones based on the fact that they had some different preferences to material things. This contradicts the message that Rhonda Byrne is passing to her audience that the law only woks for some races which prefer material wealth to other forms of prowess especially in the contemporary society.
The aspect of the tragic accidents or rather incidences in life, no matter how disheartening they are, seem to be one of the things that man attracts to himself. Such incidences cause much suffering to the victims. According to The Secret, nothing that happens to man is an accident or coincidence or fate. Man is actively involved in causing both the good and bad that happens to him. Both psychologists and philosophers would agree that no one attracts any form of harm to their lives and to their loved ones. Therefore Byrne should have categorically sated that the law applies in cases where man seek joy, comfort and happiness since in normal circumstances, no one would get involved in attracting bad incidences in their lives (Adler et al 56).
The Secret seeks to explain why things happen to people at different stages of their lives. The author basis her argument on the law of attraction that posits that an individual is actively involved in causing the things that happen in his/her life through thinking. The aspect that seems to be of great interest to the author is the acquisition of material wealth. The book overlooks the fact that different people value a variety of things other than material wealth e.g. peace and joy. Additionally, the readers of the book ought to understand that the acquisition of they need to act, not just sit down and think, in order to achieve their dreams. However, I do concur with the book that positive thinking is required for one to be successful in life. Another aspect that the book does not account for is the application of the law in explaining accidents which no one wishes to have in their life.
Adler, Jerry et al. “Deccoding ‘The Secret’”. News Week 149. 10 (3/5/2007): 52-58. Print.
Byrne, Rhonda. The Secret. Australia: Atria Books, 2006. Print.
Cranfield, Jack. “Rhonda Byrne”. Time International (Atlantic Edition) 169. 20 (5/14/2007):
Heuvel, Katrina Vanden. “The Secret’s Success.” The Nation. Washington DC. 284. 22 (June 4
2007): 4-6. Print.
Smythe, Ingrid Hansen. “The Secret Behind “The Secret”: What is Attracting Millions to the
“Law of Attraction”?” Skeptic 13. 2(2007): 8-13. Print.