February 25, 2009 5:36 PM   Subscribe

Just tell me "The Secret" already! Please, someone spoil this book for me.

I've recently gotten in touch with a long-lost relative. I'm overjoyed. Not so overjoyed about the fact that he's in chronic pain. One way that he's been dealing with this is by searching for meaning in the universe - y'know, getting all "cosmic" and whatnot.

He's mentioned several times that the book "The Secret" has helped him immensely and strongly urged me to read it.

I'm thrilled that it's helped, but I have no desire whatsoever to read it myself. Could someone please just tell me what this big "secret" is so that I can convincingly fake it?

[Please don't admonish me to just read the book. See, I've heard some bad things about it and I have poor impulse control - so if I do read it and it sucks, there's a big probability of a foot in mouth "So, did you read 'The Secret'?" "Yeah! And it sucked! I mean..." moment, which after not seeing this very important person to me in FIFTEEN YEARS, I do not want to do.]
posted by grapefruitmoon to Religion & Philosophy (32 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
It's New Agey stuff. These Wikipedia articles (1,2) are adequate summaries.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:41 PM on February 25, 2009

"The Secret" as I understand it (not having read the book but watched part of the "documentary" before I got bored) is basically "If you think it, it will happen." Basically, that people can manifest their desires by positive thinking/visualization/etc.

It's not really a "secret," if you ask me. And I think there are plenty of other people who talk about the same sorts of things (Wayne Dyer is one). "The Secret" just seems to take these ideas and present them in a very easy-to-digest and cheesy way. Which I guess appeals to some people, but I find it kind of groan-worthy overall.

(I don't object to the message, necessarily, just the presentation.)
posted by darksong at 5:46 PM on February 25, 2009

From what I've read it's all about the power of positive thinking. Along the lines of "think happy thoughts and happiness will follow" kind of B.S.


(The REAL secret is there is one born every minute.)
posted by Max Power at 5:48 PM on February 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

so if I do read it and it sucks, there's a big probability of a foot in mouth "So, did you read 'The Secret'?" "Yeah! And it sucked! I mean..."

Be warned that a lot of people in this thread are going to tell you that it sucks, too. Because it does. Basically it takes the insight that one's thoughts influence one's external reality (a truth of cognitive psychology and of Buddhism), pushes this perfectly good insight it to absurd logical limits ("you can manifest whatever you want in your life just by envisioning it and 'ordering' it from the universe"), and then purports to teach you how to use this for almost exclusively materialistic ends ("you can manifest whatever you want, and what you want is SPORTS CARS and DIAMOND RINGS!").

It's not a secret.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:48 PM on February 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Be warned that a lot of people in this thread are going to tell you that it sucks, too.

So noted. Hence why I haven't read it. It's way easier to say "Yeah, it was interesting" if I haven't read mountains of cheesy prose, which has this nasty tendency to stick in my craw.

(Yeah, "tell me about this thing that I already know sucks!" is probably one of the lamest AskMes ever, but it's really necessary in this case that I pretend to know what I'm yammering about.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:52 PM on February 25, 2009

If you wanted to go snarky hipster, you could say, "Oh, The Secret? I liked it better when it was called The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire."
posted by kindall at 6:02 PM on February 25, 2009

Best answer: If you want to meet your relative halfway, there is plenty of obvious merit in the notion that your thoughts create your world, in all sorts of ways. Look for the best in people and they will reward your faith in them. Learn gratitude and appreciation for all the great stuff in your life and you will feel "wealthy" and blessed. Visualize your goals and who knows what weird subconscious processes may start guiding your actions towards realizing them. The Secret's problem (apart from its horrible social morality, noted in the Slate link above, which blames poor people for their poverty, etc) is its boneheaded literalism: think of some money and some money will appear!
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 6:05 PM on February 25, 2009 [7 favorites]

Best answer: The secret is to think about the things you want and they will be yours, via the law of attraction.

If you think, "I need to lose some FAT and get out of DEBT", the law of attraction hears only the nouns in those thoughts, so it responds by sending you some cellulite and unexpected bills. If, however, you think, "I'm so SLIM and WEALTHY", well then the law of attraction, that simple-minded genie in the sky, will rush over with a platter of killer abs and a big paycheque. Clearly this is total crap.

But! Your relative with chronic pain is probably thinking things like "I feel HEALTHY" and "My body feels COMFORTABLE" and "My life is AWESOME", trying to attract more health and comfort and awesomeness his way. While I think the law of attraction is bullshit, I can still see how those thoughts would probably actually help a person in chronic pain. Those thoughts are calming and encouraging. For most people, focusing on the positive actually does make life feel better. And consciously thinking these thoughts gives him something to think about besides the helplessness of chronic pain. So hey, if it works for him, awesome. Hopefully it shouldn't be too hard for you to go along with it, since the connections between mindset and outcome- not to mention the placebo effect, and the benefits of meditative thoughts- have all been fairly well-documented by actual science.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 6:06 PM on February 25, 2009 [6 favorites]

I strongly suggest that you read this book as it should only take you about an hour to do so, it's surprising light. Then when people reference it as one of their important books, you can give them a knowing smile and change the subject.
posted by 517 at 6:17 PM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with everyone criticizing the hype surrounding this book. It takes the idea of positive thinking and warps it into a method of obtaining wealth. And if it doesn't work for you, you are to blame, for attracting negativity into your life. I find the idea ridiculous, but if people say it helps them, then bully for them.
posted by Piscean at 6:42 PM on February 25, 2009

Also, Matthew 21:22: "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."

I believe that Jesus just saved me twenty bucks.
posted by blenderfish at 7:06 PM on February 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

kindall: "If you wanted to go snarky hipster, you could say, "Oh, The Secret? I liked it better when it was called The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire.""

Oh, I thought it was previously called Name It and Claim It.

I do not endorse this book, its contents, or Christianity in general.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:15 PM on February 25, 2009

Best answer: Since you want to be able to fake it, I'm going to add on a few things people above didn't get into...

It goes so far as to say that quantum physics enters into the equation. If you think it, so it goes, your thoughts influence the actual matter in the universe. Yeaaah.

Another thing I remember it saying is that if two people seem to want contradictory things, it will just work out somehow. There was something like, if you don't like your roommate listening to their music loudly, but that's what they really want to do, you can use the law of attraction and you'll just never end up in the room when they want to listen to their music.

All of this is peddled with quotes from historical figures that have anything to do with "if you think it, it will happen." Examples from people who say that it caused their success. That's pretty much all I remember.

Honestly, the book is really short, so you could probably walk into a store and read it in one setting. Similarly, the DVD is an hour long, if that, and probably floating around online. I completely understand not wanting to read it because it isn't your thing, but it sounds like it would make your relative really happy and would help you understand where he's coming from. It's little time invested for a decent payoff, at least if you look at it in those terms.

Just don't take it very seriously. As others have said, it's probably easier to be successful if you go into it with the attitude that you're capable of success. It probably does relieve some pain if you tell yourself you don't feel it. Thinking happy thoughts makes life happier. It won't deliver you a sports car, though.
posted by Nattie at 7:27 PM on February 25, 2009

I really don't recommend reading it. It's such a waste of time. All you need to know is that the book encourages people to think in ways that will bring them all they could possibly want (mostly focuses on material goods). Total and complete waste of time in my opinion. And I feel very validated to read that most other people on here agree with me.
posted by rglass at 7:54 PM on February 25, 2009

Here is a review of The Secret that was supposedly at Amazon that's pretty funny.
posted by cda at 8:03 PM on February 25, 2009 [7 favorites]

The first 20 minutes of "The Secret." (SLYT)
The Secret's Official Website.
posted by terranova at 8:10 PM on February 25, 2009

This is a must read for Amway evangelists and the like. They have it on their inspirational bookshelf right next to Think and Grow Rich, anything by Anthony Robbins and Rich Dad Poor Dad.

As everyone else has already stated, it's basic premise (just like Amway etc...) is that you don't actually have to do any work to get what you want. You just have to want it bad enough. Then if you spend you days wishing hard enough for what you want (and spend thousands on Amway re-education CD's), it will be delivered to you somehow.

Exponents of this book will tell you that because of what they have "learnt" by reading it, they are about to have everything they ever wanted and they are feeling great because it of. Then when you see them again in a few months and you ask how that's gone for them, they'll tell you how it's just around the corner. next month is going to be a big one for us.

Sadly tomorrow never comes for these people.
posted by Man_in_staysis at 8:11 PM on February 25, 2009

To be fair, isn't reduction of chronic pain one of the few things that studies show can actually be (more often than chance) achieved via positive thinking? So just because most of the stuff in the book sounds like pernicious nonsense, that doesn't necessarily mean that it didn't really help your dad.
posted by roystgnr at 8:27 PM on February 25, 2009

The idea behind the book is easy to understand (and not new): Self-fulfilling prophecy.
posted by mintchip at 8:55 PM on February 25, 2009

I was forced to watch the DVD by a close friend of mine, and I halogen's link and pseudostrabismus' analysis are spot on, but I would add one thing:

Yes, it's absolute and utter hogwash. And an annoying one, at that. But, formulating and clearly visualizing a positive goal in your head tends to get your subconscious working on it, and things do seem to fall into place.

If your relative really wants to cling onto the belief that a higher power, i.e. the universe, is following his bidding thanks to some mystical Law of Attraction, you can smile politely and be happy that he's getting things done and feels a sense of accomplishment. The fact that you know that everything good that is happening to him is the product of applying his own brain to solve his problems should in no way compel you to actually say so and ruin your newly-restored relationship.
posted by Cobalt at 9:04 PM on February 25, 2009

roystgnr, I read the opposite -- that that's a big ol' myth.
posted by springbound at 9:25 PM on February 25, 2009

When I was unemployed and down to my last few dollars in the bank I suppose I made use of the "secret" (or visualization).

I kept saying to myself:

"I will succeed" or "things will work out just fine"

However, there was a crucial second component to my visualization that "The Secret" doesn't address.

"I will succeed BECAUSE I will make ten phone calls tomorrow, and fifty by the end of the week."

"I will succeed BECAUSE I will take that job at the call centre to make ends meet until something better comes along."

My success was dependent on my own actions, not some cosmic passive law of attraction.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:30 PM on February 25, 2009 [5 favorites]

Oprah's ugly secret
posted by homunculus at 10:57 PM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Real hipsters call it Think and Grow Rich.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:06 PM on February 25, 2009

hmm, this sounds a lot like the Celestine Prophecy, but without the mildly entertaining story.
posted by jrishel at 6:33 AM on February 26, 2009

Nthing everything said above about the hogwashiness and extremist voodoo science that The Secret tries to bring to "the power of positive thinking". I'll just add that, as odinsdream mentioned above, proponents of The Secret also claim that negative, horrible things happen to people because they are thinking negative thoughts. During the California wildfires where several people lost their homes, authors of The Secret basically explained that it was all their fault for thinking negatively and generally sucking at The Secret. Ditto for cancer sufferers and anyone else who Bad Things happen to. The Secret is garbage.
posted by RobotNinja at 7:55 AM on February 26, 2009

In some ways, "The Secret" is a secular religion. Secret adherents believe that "the Universe" (rather than a deity) has magical powers to fulfill their dreams. In lieu of prayer, Secret adherents use affirmations to attract fortunes, good luck, and happiness their way.
posted by terranova at 9:35 AM on February 26, 2009

You have cancer because you wanted cancer, you are poor because you want to be poor.

Now you say you don't want to have cancer any more and you want to be wealthy, well now you need to buy "The Secret".
posted by pianomover at 10:22 AM on February 26, 2009

I've never read "The Secret," in no small part because I was so disgusted by the victim blaming by one of the experts involved (heard on a CBC interview). The first example was, if a kid is murdered, someone around her must have been thinking negatively. Second example, if a women is raped, she must have been asking for it somehow, but that might not be such a bad thing, because sometimes rape victims learn that they make great rape counsellors, which is some of the most twisted logic I've ever heard.
posted by carolr at 12:29 PM on February 26, 2009

A relative gave me a copy of this. This relative is always on about the law of attraction, the power of positive thinking, and how I shouldn't be "so negative."

Bah, humbug.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 1:32 PM on February 26, 2009

Not much left to be said about it, but I'll throw this out anyway. I think that people who are really into The Secret are drawn to it because they're wrapped up in some drama -- whether it's a real problem (like having cancer) or an imaginary problem (like not being rich or feeling unappreciated by the universe). The book is melodramatic and pseudoscieney and materialistic; but if you distill it down to "Try to think good, useful thoughts" and "Don't wallow in misery," then the basic premise is good.
posted by sillybilly at 7:20 PM on June 2, 2009

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