The Secret Divides

As you may know, I make no bones in saying books like The Secret and their ilk are complete bullshit. I wrote about it awhile ago - The Law of Attraction, and the Secret, are Bullshit.  Beyond the bullshit I have found them to be harmful if swallowed. If you believe what the book says, you will have a distorted worldview. This can be extremely detrimental to your own thought processes, and as you will see below, can also skew how you look at someone who is in an unfortunate situation.

For example, let's say you believe that your thoughts dictate what will come to you. Then someone steals your wallet while you're at the grocery store. According to The Secret, you brought that negative event to you by worrying and thinking negative thoughts. Because you were afraid of having your wallet stolen, you worried about it in the back of your mind, and that made that guy behind you decide to run up and steal it. Wow! You are so powerful! The universe listens to your thoughts and acts upon them, even when you aren't paying attention!

In this fantasy world, the universe is a busy-body accountant, tallying your thoughts and then scheduling events to correspond. Ridiculous!

So wow, what would happen if you really focused your attention? What would happen if you got rid of all of your negative thoughts (not humanly possible or healthy)  and wished for only good things? Perfect health? Wealth? A perfect spouse? Sure, why not! If you can dream it, you can make it happen. (cough cough BULLSHIT!!)

Of course, here's the catch. It doesn't happen overnight. In fact, it might be years and years of wishful thinking before something comes true. (Coincidence?!) Oh, and most likely you actually DID things to make it finally happen. Maybe you made decisions and took actions that led to you finally acheiving your dream.

But that's not magic. The universe doesn't work the way The Secret says it does. If it did, my life would be very different because of the power of my thoughts.

What do I think about a lot? Well, actually even though I'm a rather happy atheist (with a heart of gold), I tend to worry. I often worry about Butch (my awesome husband) when he drives to and from work. I'm worried he'll get in an accident. Since we moved to West Virginia the threat of a deer running in front of him has increased drastically than when we lived in Florida. Plus now we have snow and ice instead of just rain and other bad drivers texting and talking on their cell phones.  But you know what? My thoughts DO NOT LEAVE MY HEAD unless I speak them, write them down or act upon them.

In 5 years of worrying, Butch has never been in an accident. Could he get in one tomorrow? Yes. But that would be a coincidence, not magic. See? It's nonsense.

One of the most insidious and hateful parts of the Secret is the idea that people who are in a bad situation made it happen with their negative thoughts. So if a woman gets raped on her way home from work one day, she is at fault because she had negative thoughts and worries that attracted the negative energy and therefore the attack on her.

That kind of thinking is hateful and evil. Unfortunately, I can tell you, once you believe such a baseless lie, it can really get stuck in your head. I still have to remind myself when I worry about something or think a negative thought that the thought doesn't leave my head and the universe is not keeping track of them.  (By the way, if you know of a way to stop worrying, let me know)

This all leads me to Ruth (not her real name. If you have a list of cool names that I can use for when people send me emails that they then let me post anonymously, let me know! Maybe I should use biblical names. How funny would that be? I went back and changed her name to Ruth... :) )

Anyway, Ruth sent me an email asking for my advice and assistance. She wrote the following:
I was reading through your discussion of 'the secret' and need some help. I see you said you have experience with the lie of attraction, and now reject it. My sister is lost to me because I am a toxic influence in her life. I am crushed, and she is ambivalent. I would rather she hate me, at least then I would exist. How can I make her see how much this hurts? That I miss and love her, that her beliefs insult and degrade me? That it is painful when I read that she thinks my chronic debilitating illness is my own fault and I was asking for it through negative thoughts? Is there anything I can do? Do you know of any other resources I can turn to? Any help is truly appreciated!

I asked Ruth if I could post this question to you, my wonderful readers, because maybe you would have some great advice or thoughts to help too. I haven't answered her yet because I have to say, my first thoughts were kind of negative about her situation. :P So what I did was send a follow-up list of questions to her to get more information. I'll let you know when she answers.

Unfortunately when someone wants to believe, and fully accepts the bullshit of the law of attraction or other psuedo-science, they can be just as dogmatic as a True Believer of religion. They want to believe. They feel the need to believe. And anything that gets in the way of those beliefs must be discarded.

It goes something like this. Ruth's sister is looking for an easy fix. She buys The Secret, reads it and believes it. After that, she will cherry-pick her experiences and memories to support the law of attraction working in her life, and conveniently ignore all the evidence that says the universe follows natural laws and is otherwise random. Then it becomes a dogmatic belief. If Ruth disagrees, and is ill, then of course her sister will assume she's toxic and bringing in bad vibes. The book has told her that Ruth made herself ill. Ruth has to be avoided. The Secret, in this situation, divides families.

Unfortunately when someone is dogmatic, in my experience there's no getting through to them, at least not in the short term. My initial advice to Ruth, before I get more information, is the following:

You can't make someone behave and think the way you want them to. The best advice I can give at this point is simply to live your life as best you can. Don't try to talk to her about the law of attraction. It's rare to get through to someone who believes something completely. You will only drive them away because when you threaten their belief system, the easiest way for them to deal with the conflict is to get rid of you, as opposed to changing their worldview.

Your best bet is to show by example. Take care of yourself, be realistic and try to make the best of your personal situation (your illness), and reach out to her if she lets you. But when you reach out to her, make it benign and non-confrontational.

Of course, the other side of the situation is a bit less pleasant. If your sister is willing to discard you so easily over the lies written in a mindless book, perhaps that's something to think about. Maybe for right now, she's the one who's being toxic? But that's just a thought. I really don't have enough information about the situation to know.

That being said, I think you have to move on, take care of yourself, make the best of your situation, and wait it out. Occasionally reach out with a non-confrontational hello. Don't talk about the law of attraction, your illness, or how you are hurt by her actions. Keep it friendly and avoid inflammatory issues.

Maybe things will change. Maybe they won't, but at least you're living your life to the best of your ability and finding happiness where you can. That's all any of us can do.

So if you would like to share some thoughts with Ruth, feel free to comment. I will let you know when she answers my questions. (edit: see below for a link to part 2)


Other posts about The Secret:


  1. Dearest Neece:

    Thank you for your wonderful post about my situation. I have been reading and editing a response that answers all your questions. When I came to HDC today and saw the title of this post, I felt rather like the squirrel whose tricked onto a spinning feeder - thrilled and nauseous. After reading through it, I am reassured I came to the right place with my inquiry.

    I must admit that there is a huge obstacle to my ability to 'sit and wait' without trying to prove my sister wrong: I am an attorney. The idea that I may be unable to form a logical and convincing argument is alien to virtually every fiber of my being. The concept is as irreconcilable as Beethoven and deafness.

    I hope this damning revelation will not hamper anyone who is willing to provide insight. That by revealing such a character flaw, I am demonstrating the truly exasperating nature of the issue. :)


  2. Hi Ruth,

    I'm looking forward to the answers to your questions. Sorry for the nauseating feeling the post gave you. I understand what you're saying though.

    It's also understandable that you want to prove your sister wrong. In my opinion that would be the most alienating thing you could do. Of course, that's just my opinion. Remember, you're not dealing with rational thinking. You're dealing with belief and dogmatism. There is no way to get through to someone who believes something. They don't want to be proven wrong. All you will do is push them away even further because their mind is made up and closed down.

    If you really want a relationship with her that is sisterly, you will have to build that up (if she lets you) without attacking her beliefs. No one wants to have their beliefs attacked.

  3. Neece:

    That kind of nausea is always a good thing - it means that I am on the right track!

    I am still working on your questions, you should have it by tomorrow night. I wanted to clarify that while I used to get really peeved and challenge her, I have not done so for quite some time. I only meant that it is painfully difficult to go against my nature.

    I know I will never be able to convince her of the absurdity of the lie of attraction; that is something she discover in her own time. I guess I am looking not to prove her wrong, per se, but to find a nonjudgmental way to express my feelings and have her see how this affects me. I want our relationship enough to play along, as hard as that is for me. It hurts there is no quid pro quo.

    Thanks again!

  4. Thanks for the clarification, Ruth. That's good to know that you don't challenge her as much as you used to. I have to say, I'm like you. When someone says something ridiculous (like I believe in UFO's, baby Jesus, etc) it takes all my effort not to lash out and tell them how silly they are being.

    But that never helps the situation.

    Don't forget, she might never discover the lie of attraction. It might be something she clings to for the rest of her life. Not everyone is willing or able to forgo believe for reason and reality.

    I am not suggesting that you never get to express your feelings, or even gently confront her on the harmfulness of her new-found belief. I'm simply saying, to get things going in a positive direction, you will need to wait for awhile. You need a foundation of trust, acceptance and affection before the more challenging conversations take place.

  5. It's really nice to see that other people struggle with the same thing despite the tragedy of it as well.

    I live with a guy who I had great fun with and that came off as really nice company. When I moved in, I was struggling with getting over the loss of a great girlfriend. He adviced me to watch The Secret. After a while I did, but I wasn't impressed. I didn't find it catchy one bit. Sure - a few things here and there were good points, but nothing out of the ordinary.
    But he was genuinely sold. He asked if he could watch it with me. I was impressed by his concentration since he seems to be unable to concentrate for longer periods (which might explain why he buys this easy bogus and can't concentrate on other things). I was kind of offended that when I wanna show a DVD or listen to a CD with him he couldn't stay focused. But he could meditate for periods because The Secret said so. As time went he said that he would wanna live more accordingly to The Secret. But he couldn't concentrate enough to do so it seemed to me. But gradually he became more and more indoctrinated.

    He became soooo! predictable. And friends started falling away. Now, the only friends that are left are those who are okay with getting preached The Secret, or those who don't focus themselfes and just come by to watch movies.

    I'm glad I knew him before this, otherwise I'd be scared shitless. It's aaall! about The Secret now. If he's (finally) having a date, he's telling her off for not being positive if she tried to make conversation about topics like that her train was delayed etc.. He redecorated my room without permission and snapped books out of my shelf because he thought The Secret led him there.
    A nice gesture to re-decorate the room - but crossing my limit as well. His parents are worried (he's turning 33 this year) and there are so many more details.
    I wrote the lyrics for our band. But he wanted to check them because if didn't go along with The Secret they were useless. If we had to work hard on things and things didn't come easy, it wasn't within the teachings of The Secret and then the band was useless.

    It's been... hm... soon to be 2 years now. I'm glad when I'm gonna move. But I'm also sad to leave a person to this dumpster of a belief system that is The Secret.

    I've been thinking about letting the book "Bright-sided" (a criticism of LOA) lie around so that "The Secret" would lead him to it. But I don't know if it's too obvious?

    What a waste of a nice person. I don't know if he'll ever get over it. I guess he was in a crisis already and that some of the things were in his person already?

    It's just so repulsing to watch from the sideline that things are getting worse by the hour. Especially since discussing it with him would be futile.

    Hope you understand my comment (I'm not English-speaking). The Secret has unfortunately come abroad. But fortunately, so has your blog! Thank you

  6. I think it would be a great idea to leave Bright-sided out for him to "find". The Secret will lead him to it, hopefully. That sounds so sad that such a nice guy has bought that garbage so completely. He's not alone though, millions of others have also drunk the Secret Kool-aid.
    I have to say though, all it takes is a bit of critical thinking and seeing outside the little bubble he lives in. It's definitely possible. I used to believe something similar before the Secret existed. Positive Thinking is what it was called back then, but it's almost the same thing, only not quite so horrible and destructive. I started to realize that my thoughts don't leave my head, and that it's impossible for them to do so. Then I did some tests where I thought something negative and noticed no negative consequences. It took a month to really realize it was all ridiculous, but I finally did. Now I'm a complete skeptic.
    So there is hope, but he has to be willing to listen to something besides the mindless, harmful indoctrination of the Secret.

  7. Thank you for your post about "The Secret". The rubbish that is "The Secret" was instrumental in ending my 11 year relationship. My boyfriend and I lived together reasonably happily for 11 years. Meanwhile I was in a car accident and became disabled. Sometime after that he read "The Secret" and "The Law of Attraction" and decided that he deserved better than a "middle aged disabled woman" (charming, right?) and announced on a Sunday that he was leaving on that Tuesday. Just like that! I was devastated at the time (2 years ago) but am very happy now. In any case, I think this book made him think that my troubles were of my own doing (I made that car run over me!) and that he needed to think positive and find a better mate, etc. etc. Of course the real truth is probably that life with me had become harder due to my injuries and he was looking for an out. I now know I am far better off without such a person in my life. But I do believe that those books were the catalyst for his decision.

  8. The SECRET is as diabolical as religious fundamentalism. Who is this c**t who wrote it? What puzzles me is how people believe this shit! Then, when you go looking for love or for "answers", one usually finds trouble...such is the case with this fucking book!

  9. Marianne, I couldn't agree with you more. It makes me as mad as you are. Maybe I should write a bit more about the founder/author of this insidious claptrap. Does that sound interesting?

  10. That's horrible, Virginia. I hear this way too often. It's amazing that people can embrace a ridiculous belief so easily that lets them do the horrid things they end up doing.
    I'm glad you're happy now.

  11. Neece & All:

    After getting the latest updates to this post, I have been feeling a little better - at least I am not alone.

    On a more positive, and dumbfounding, note: I had a recent visit with my mom. I decided to go home and surprise my sister while she was on a "visit". I wasn't sure she was really happy to see me at first, but when she hugged me and didn't let go for at least a full minute, I was hopeful. She came for this visit alone, no husband to reinforce her disdain of my life. We were polite at first, then started the "remember whens ...." it is nearly the anniversary of our father's passing.

    We all went out to dinner and she drove. When she found a parking space more than a block away from the restaurant, she almost took it thinking there was not going to be anything in the lot available. I asked her to try, an she grudgingly agreed. We ended up with front row - 3 spaces from the door. I joked, "guess the universe was listening to me this time, huh?" She LAUGHED. Deep belly laugh until tears streamed down her face! "I guess it is pretty silly to think that the universe would deliver parking, isn't it?" When she said that I acted like I got pushed out of the car.

    Maybe there is hope after all.


  12. Ruth, that's amazingly awesome! Yay! You have given us all hope. :)
    Thank you so much for coming back and sharing this with us.