Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Secret... Is Bullshit

Positive thinking… that is “The Secret,” according to a philosophical movement based on a book by Rhonda Byrne.

“The Secret” is touted by such miserable and fad-obsessed media-whores as the unmarried spinster Oprah Winfrey! Surely it’s working for her… since she was one of the richest self-made women before having even heard of it.

Before I go any further, the book is bullshit and the philosophy is nonsense, with absolutely no basis in fact. It literally posits the notion that positive thinking has a beneficial effect on exterior events. “The Secret” claims your positive thoughts actually radiate from you and affect things like your success and health. It’s the kind of crap “spiritual but not religious” people buy into.

That being said, there are still those who would say it is not about the supernatural statements, and that there are tangible benefits to positive thinking and goal setting. This is a more valid argument and one worth more than a paragraph of scorn.

Thinking positively can be very helpful at times. It is best to avoid being depressed, as this can actually worsen your health. It is best to act deliberately and with a plan under the assumption of success. However, if hard times come around or your plan is sidetracked, sometimes it is best not to think “positively,” as if “everything will just work out.”

Depression and unhappiness are not chemical imbalances. I know that when someone is unhappy, their biochemistry is different from that of an individual who is happy, but the unhappiness has a root cause beyond chemistry. Taking an anti-depressant can alter that chemistry, so that you don’t feel “depressed,” but it can’t actually fix anything in your life.

“The Secret” is essentially an anti-depressant. Like an anti-depressant, it only makes us feel better; it does not solve any problems that made us depressed in the first place.

If your job sucks, your spouse drives you nuts, your kids are bouncing off the walls … maybe instead of being depressed, taking an anti-depressant or just thinking positively… you should work on one of those things. Finding a new job, talking with your spouse, actually parenting your children… those are probably the real secrets to being happy.

Addressing the problems you face may be incompatible with your goals. Even more common, the goals we set are unrealistic and create a distraction from the challenges we must unwillingly face. For many people, it is a full-time job just staying afloat in this life, especially for single parents and the disabled.

Rich people like to say it’s all about effort. If success is solely a function of work ethic, then not only do the rich deserve what they have, but the poor can one day hope to attain wealth – or at least some decent standard of living. But in the end, this is merely a pleasant lie told to the masses, like using religion to explain the divine right of kings.

I wonder if people told Laci Peterson to just think positively and stick by her husband. I wonder if all the people who are getting laid off from their jobs were just Debbie Downers who deserve unemployment because of their cynicism. I wonder if it’s easier to sleep at night on a pile of dirty money believing you deserve to have more than you can ever use while fellow Americans declare bankruptcy at record rates. I wonder how long the cheap thrills and bullshit ideologies will distract us.

The growing ranks of the poor and homeless are filled with people who never gave up, just as the country clubs of the rich are filled with people who have never worked a hard day’s labor in their life. The Secret is that it’s all bullshit, and the rich are always ready to serve up seconds.


  1. Good one on positivethinking and it helps a lot.

    Karim - Positive thinking

  2. Karim, I positively hope you fall into a sinkhole and slowly starve while waiting for rescue.

    Ginx - Stay positive!

  3. Oh boy Ginx. Your Karma's in the toilet.

    The thing about being positive, and I'm no shining example, is that it is contagious. Happy people make people feel good and therefore, people want to be around them. You don't have to be slap-happy to make this effect work, only positive. The one thing most successful people have in common is a positive attitude. However, it isn't the positive attitude alone that brings success, it's the network of friends and contacts you build because of your "popular" positive attitude that brings success. Friends do business with friends. If you've ever been a commissioned salesman, you'll know that it's the positive, happy salesmen that is always at the top of the leader board.
    It isn't magic. It isn't a secret. It isn't quantifiable. It's just plain old common sense. Most people are attracted to someone who is happy and shun those who are not.
    I'm not one of those happy people. I'm pretty much a cynical loner, but I recognize the effect of positive thinking. Whether it's self-delusion or not really doesn't matter, it still often works. Then, of course, there's always that old wild-card... luck, that doesn't give a damn how positive you are.

  4. Mr. C: There's no denying the success of the yes-men. There's no doubt that many of the people at the top have positive attitudes and are pleasant people to be around, especially in business.

    And yet I firmly believe for every positive thinker who makes it to the top, so many do not. Middle management is full of the ass-kissers who lacked any real talent; too nice to let go, too useless to entrust with anything.

    Of course, if the people at the top were so happy and positive, why do they consume alcohol and anti-depressants in epic amounts far exceeding those in the middle?



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