So whilst at an event a wee while ago, after I had finished presenting, I was asked to sign a few books afterwards and naturally was approached by a few people in the audience who had questions and so on… As you’d expect at these events.
One comment, not untypical of others I have had in the past went something like this:
“I really enjoyed your presentation, I am really into this kind of thing, hypnosis, law of attraction and all that.”
I kept my mouth shut. I have written before about how people group hypnotherapists in with all kinds of unrelated subjects, so I am not going to labour that issue here today. Instead, I want to look a little closer at the law of attraction… Ideally making sure any connection to this field is firmly severed.
Basically, according to the Law of Attraction, in order to have everything you’ve ever wanted, you just need to think happy thoughts about it; then police your mind and make sure that you never have any negative unwanted thoughts which may well bring those things in to your life too.
This is the premise of Rhonda Byrne’s 2006 book and movie, both titled The Secret. So if I want huge wads of £50.00 notes to sleep upon instead of a bed, I just need to keep thinking about getting money and the Law of Attraction is going to deliver it to me.
Please no-one get me wrong here… I am a firm believer in the power of positive thinking; in a way that keeps me driven, motivated and having fun in my life. As a way of enriching my day-to-day experience of life. I have written about it, I advocate it. I think it is important for me to think positively, for example, to make sure I put in the right amount of effort into my personal life and my professional life to achieve the outcomes I want. Is Rhonda Byrne telling me that I do not need to exert such levels of effort? Is there an easier route to glory for me?
Oprah Winfrey helped get it off the ground and championed it. According to official statistics, 4 million DVDs sold in the first year and over 15 million copies of The Secret (the book) have been sold to date. Blimey, that is impressive. This does not include all the related merchandise. Rhonda Byrne has clearly been doing well out of the Secret. I wonder if anyone else is doing as well?
(Incidentally, her new book, The Power, at the time of writing this is riding very high in the New York Times bestseller list, so she is going to be doing a lot better too).
What is it that makes so many people consume this stuff and virtually live by it… Yet others find the ideas verging on ridiculous?
Ok, I tend to think that the contents of The Secret were and are just the same message that many motivational speaker’s have espoused time after time over recent decades. I have sat in audiences and listened to tapes and CDs of the likes of Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracey, Jim Rohn and read books and texts about Napoleon Hill and Andrew Carnegie for example, all giving the message that thinking positively is the way to get results in life.
Rhonda Byrne, then very cleverly made it look like some kind of ancient wisdom that has been passed down through centuries by wise people, famous philanthropists and great leaders such as Buddha, Plato, Sir Isaac Newton, Martin Luther King Jr., and even our very own Winston Churchill! Though I don’t understand how it is that these people lived their lives long before the “Law of Attraction” was invented, and I can’t seem to find any evidence that any of them ever used it. Maybe that is because it was such a secret?
This use of the authority of these great others (e.g., leaders and ancient philosophers) to reinforce the assertions of the book is a clever tactic. Also, one of the things that does tend to get our juices flowing is the notion that ‘ancient wisdom’ is incredibly powerful and clever. So using these ancient figures too, really does make this all very appealing to many.
The Secret takes the previously mentioned basic premise much further though… It claims that if you wish for things hard enough and in the right way, you can recover from severe illness and that pot of gold will arrive on your doorstep… Delivered by that really hot girl you always fancied who now loves you and wants to have your babies.
The flip side of this is that our focus, if placed upon fears, worries or negative thoughts will also cause those unwanted things to happen as well…. Oh no! So whatever you focus on, you get, good or bad.
Opinion is divided. If you look at the customer reviews of the book at Amazon or another online book store, you’ll see that there are many, many 5 star ratings. There are also loads of 1 star ratings. It is either loved, or disliked… The marmite effect!
During recent times, The Secret has received criticism from many figures in many fields. Let me offer up some of those criticisms:
1. I see discussed in forums and debated in places; the common criticism about victims always being to blame for whatever happens to them. This gets a lot of people filled with rage. What if you are a rape victim? You made that happen? What about sufferers of huge natural disasters? They made that happen? We could go on with the list of victims who would rightly feel aggrieved by this notion taught in The Secret that they brought it upon themselves with their own negative thoughts.
2. Though not exactly always the most exemplary citizens themselves, many religious leaders state The Secret as being unethical for these claims that victims are always to blame. They probably also get a bit miffed when people are told they can be equal to God, Buddha, Abraham or Allah just by wishing it in the right way.
3. Financial experts and financial advisors have suggested that is dangerous to put so much faith in wishing for your finances to be organised by the cosmic order of the universe.
4. The medical community, with doctors often leading the line criticise The Secret for suggesting that this brand of positive thinking is any kind of substitute for proper medical care when you have serious illness of some kind. I’d be hauled over the coals for ever suggesting that hypnosis or hypnotherapy could cure cancer, so I understand the reactions when people suggest that the law of attraction is capable of doing the same.
These things said, anything that enjoys as much success as The Secret has had, is going to receive some scrutiny, isn’t it? We’d expect that. What’s more, all the above groups have vested interests in preserving their own fields accordingly. I see that.
5. Many have suggested that Rhonda Byrne exploits a powerful human weakness… That idea that we can get something for nothing. People love an easy option, as sad as it makes me to write it.
In my experience, (this is by no means scientific folks, I realise that) I have tended to find that the vast majority of the people on Earth have had to work for what they got. Sure, there are exceptions, such as those born into wealth, or those who got lucky, or lottery winners and the winners of reality TV shows… Those shows do tend to perpetuate the myth that you can be that one in a million person, don’t they?
(I do get a bit irritated when people on reality shows say ‘this means everything to me‘ and ‘this is my only chance to really make something of myself and help my family have a better life‘ which I think is incorrect. They could have done all kinds of other things and apply themselves in the same way so many other people do without considering being the one single winner of the X-Factor as the only way for a better life.)
Now I am no scientist, but Rhonda Byrne uses the language of science to add credibility to the claims she makes. In articles of hers that I have read, she refers often to magnetic properties and some sort of energy…. What? There is a connection to hypnosis after all? Is she somehow referring to Mesmer’s animal magnetism? Sadly, I can find no reference to Mesmer within her work, sorry… *pushes out bottom lip and offers disappointed look*
There is also the reference to quantum physics that she uses a great deal. She suggests that this Law of Attraction is an actual physical force in the same ilk of the Law of Gravity. Like I said, I am no scientist, but I’d love to see the actual scientific evidence to support these ideas…. Though lets be honest, she does not need to, because millions of people accept the law of attraction without needing evidence of this kind.
Who, out of these millions of people feels qualified to argue against quantum physics? It must be true!
The Secret says that thoughts have energy, and similar energies are attracted to each other. That’s the quantum physics part of the claims. Really, that is it. You don’t need any level of expertise in the field to understand the premise being offered up.
The issue that arguers against The Secret have encountered is that the law of attraction is dealing with “thought energy” which is all part of the world of metaphysics and not conventional science. Metaphysics is a philosophical creation with no connection to the actual scientific field of physics, whether that is quantum or classical. As a result, Rhonda Byrne is able to say whatever she chooses and it is virtually impossible to respond to it scientifically.
Now forgive me if it seems like I am belittling the intelligence of The Secret‘s fans with this next paragraph… It is not my intention… The Secret does appeal to the layperson’s tendency to accept scientific sounding terminology without question. Some people (probably the same guys who ousted Gillian McKeith about the authenticity of her doctorate) researched Rhonda Byrne’s background in quantum physics. You’ll find that she has no such background. In fact her background is film and television, which speaks volumes about the bestselling DVD, book and media phenomenon that is The Secret.
Rhonda Byrne also uses other laws of persuasion beautifully. She has reigned in that idea whereby people believe in thoughts effecting the real world, like that idea of “I was thinking about my Mum and later that day she phoned me!!” Thus, more subjective proof of the law of attraction.
I do want to say here, that the people I meet who think positively and have a progressive attitude tend to be happier and more agreeable. These are people I like to have as friends. As I have mentioned here time after time, those with negative attitudes do seem to turn into fun vampires who drain all the fun and joy out of those that they encounter. There really is nothing wrong with positive thinking. I promote it. I advocate it. I like positive thinking. I do it myself… (Most of the time!)
Are the people who truly believe in the law of attraction and the ideas presented in The Secret generally healthier or wealthier than anybody else? They’re not, are they? I have not read about multi millionaires who used The Secret (author and contributing authors aside) to get their wealth and no-one in the Times Rich list is quoting it.
Please do all you can to be a wonderful and positive person, but believing that thought materialises into physical possessions or actions may not be the best route to getting it. There are less lazy ways to get that stuff, while still harnessing your positive thinking and keeping your positive outcomes in mind. It is something I promote; to stop unwanted or negative cognitions. It forms part of my therapeutic work. It is healthy to get a grip on your unwanted thoughts, for sure.
If people just gave in and admitted that perhaps they are not going to be famous, wealthy or have the right relationships and levels of health, then that would seem like a futile and meaningless existence to some of them, I guess… So I like that people get hope from these kinds of things. It is healthy to feel inspired to think positively. I just think that the time spent wishing your dreams to come true could be spent in ways more effective at making that happen.
I actually think it is good for people to have an idea of how they want their lives to be and get that into their minds. But surely there is more to it than that, no? It is no good just enhancing the desire for that outcome without enhancing the abilities to do it, or the readiness to do what it takes to get that, to gain the knowledge and resources and so on. There is a journey to be had working towards that outcome, just thinking about it and expecting it to happen, is a tad absurd, isn’t it?
Hypnosis has nothing to do with the Law of Attraction and though I’ll probably continue to keep my mouth shut at speaking events when small-talking after my speaking slot… I’ll perhaps consider telling them to read this blog entry…
Have some of themes here resonated with you? Then have a read of these pages:
1. Do you need help or support in a particular area of your life?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason
2. Would you like a satisfying and meaningful career as a hypnotherapist helping others? Are you a hypnotherapist looking for stimulating and career enhancing continued professional development and advanced studies?
Adam Eason’s Anglo European training college.
3. Are you a hypnotherapist looking to fulfil your ambitions or advance your career?
Hypnotherapist Mentoring with Adam Eason.
Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar. Alternatively, go grab a copy of my Science of self-hypnosis book.