June 25, 2007


“The Secret” - Not A Magic Wand?

by Pamela Mortimer


Critics are raging over the celebrity of best-selling DVD and book, “The Secret”, claiming that it could be harmful to its followers.



The Law of Attraction is not a new concept. However, “The Secret”, available in both DVD and hardcover, has once again brought it to the forefront and created a worldwide phenomenon. The theory is simple. Like attracts like. If you are negative, you will get negative things in return. If you are positive, positive things will happen for you.


In “The Secret”, there are many startling examples of the Law of Attraction. One of the most impacting is the man who was in an airplane crash. Because of a spinal cord injury, his prognosis was that he would be a quadriplegic with no hope of recovery. Using “The Secret”, the man visualized and believed that he would walk again. And on Christmas Day, the day he’d chosen in his mind, he walked through the hospital doors. However, one must not believe that he just jumped up out of bed and strolled outside. In fact, he endured months of treatment and rigorous, painful therapy before that Christmas Day arrived. But in the end, it was still a miracle by anyone’s standards.


Also shown are a woman who believed she was cured of cancer without conventional treatment, and a woman who is blessed with an expensive gold necklace that she spied in a shop window.


Many critics of “The Secret” have stated that the movement is ridiculously materialistic and encourages those who want something for nothing. A number of medical professionals also express concern that “The Secret” could lead to a “blame-the-victim” mentality and could cause grave danger to those who are mentally ill or suffer from serious illnesses.


John Norcross, a psychologist and professor at Pennsylvania’s University of Scranton, conducts research on self-help books and believes that many can be helpful if they are targeted at a specific problem and backed by science. He believes that “The Secret” is a “triumph of marketing and magic".


Norcross states that the mantra used in the “The Secret”, "Ask, Believe, Receive", could easily be transformed into a blame-the-victim mentality.


"Cancer victims. Sexual assault victims. Holocaust victims. They're responsible?" Norcross questioned. "The book is riddled with these destructive falsehoods."



Stacy Kaiser, a psychotherapist and lifestyle coach, said that several patients have read “The Secret” and became worried that it was their fault they were abused or list their jobs. Others seem to think that by using “The Secret” everything in their lives will change overnight.


"People start to think that they don't have to use their free will, that they don't have to have power anymore, that they don't have to make choices," said Kaiser. "They don't realize they have to do the work. And that's the conversation I keep having to have with people."


Rhonda Byrne, a television and film producer from Australia, is the woman behind "The Secret". She sticks to her claim that the "Law of Attraction" is the governing force of our universe.


"The law of attraction says that like attracts like, and when you think and feel what you want to attract on the inside, the law will use people, circumstances and events to magnetize what you want to you, and magnetize you to it," Byrne stated in an e-mail to The Associated Press.


Byrne also defends herself against the opinion that “The Secret” doesn’t talk enough about taking action in your life.


“Become that which you want on the inside, and you shall receive it in the outside world," she said in her e-mail. "The most important action to take is the work within you. When that is done, you will be moved in the outside world to receive what you asked for."


Dr. Maria Padro, a psychiatrist at St. Vincent's Hospital Manhattan in New York City, said that she read "The Secret" to find out what the "jibber jabber" was all about. While her copy remains out of view of her visitors, Padro says that she sees the value in positive thinking.


"I think the secret is that everyone has their own secret, and everyone has their own dream," Padro said. "And the book is one of the tools we can use to get it, but I don't think that it's a little magic wand."