27 February 2007

What's the big Secret?

The Secret has been sweeping the nation. It was featured on Oprah, the Today Show, and the book and DVD have been selling like hotcakes. "The Secret" is that you can attain anything you want, as long as you envision yourself having it. It is based on physics, not something I'm getting into here, but is clearly looking to align with folks who aren't very spiritual, which is a very untapped market in the self-help genre.

I went to The Secret website, and it is indeed a huge secret. The site is loaded with DaVinci-esque writing, some DaVinci drawings and diagrams, and portraits of some of the greatest people in human history who have followed The Secret. I wanted to find out more, but all I could really mine out of the site was that The Secret is the key to happiness and fulfillment. Want more money? Picture yourself with lots of money. Have a terminal illness? Imagine yourself healthy. Lonely and looking for a partner? Envision having a partner. Really, that is all I could gather.

You have to buy the book or DVD to really be in on The Secret.

Which leads me to believe that it's a scam. First of all, it sounds like glorified positive thinking. We all know how positive thinking can help us deal with life's problems. But The Secret goes one step further and tells followers that your unhappiness is your own doing because of your negative energy. Sure, there are people out there who are very negative, and bad things happen to them. But why not explore why that person is negative in the first place, like a therapist would? Get to the real root of the problem. Gaining more money (or love, or whatever) is just a bandage on your issues. External sources do not make you happy; happiness is an intrinsic phenomenon.

Second, secrecy is common to these types of scams. The website promises wealth, health, and happiness, but you have to pay almost $30 for the DVD or $25 for the book. This sounds like something a friend of mine bought into. There is a self-therapy program (which I will not name, because I've had experiences with its followers and they are frightening) that promises a happier and more authentic life (whatever that means) but doesn't get into specifics. You have to pay $300-$500 to attend the seminar to find out. The students who complete the seminar are instructed not to disclose details to loved ones, but to try to recruit them into the program, thus making the company more money. It's a common tactic.

I make no qualms about claiming that I'm very anti-self-help. One of the fundamental advantages of therapy is to have an outside, objective sounding board. Someone who doesn't live inside of your head is more equipped to look at your issues in the objective and unbiased way necessary to overcome them. Not so much when you try to psychoanalyze yourself. Again, the self-help industry is making a mint off of people's unhappiness, and creating a permanent consumer base by screwing people up even more. What's so scary about The Secret is that it encourages people to put faith in it to overcome life-altering circumstances. Like severe depression. Like debt. Like cancer. Yup, there is a woman (in the Today show video) who claims that The Secret helped her cure her cancer without treatment. Tell that to my right boob! I've no doubt that her cancer went into remission, but spontaneous remission of many diseases happens, and it's just part of the randomness of the universe.

All this said, I'm a pretty fulfilled and positive person. I recognize injustice and tragedy in the world around me, but I always appreciate what I have. I don't spend much time feeling sorry for myself, because I always learn something about the world or myself from my problems. The Secret is dangerous. It blames people for their problems, and oversimplifies the path to happiness. It's hard work to live a happy and positive life, and can't be learned from a DVD.

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