Ugh. My brother-in-law (and also the pastor at my church) let me borrow his copy of The Secret DVD. I hadn’t heard anything about it, other than it was on Oprah, and that it was some-what of a “power of positive thought” thing. I usually nap on Sunday afternoons, so I figured that I would pop it in and maybe sleep or maybe watch it (either was ok with me).
I put it on, but apparently, I didn’t “want” to see it bad enough because “the universe” didn’t deem it important enough for my DVD player to get through the whole thing. The basic premise is that if you think about positive things all the time, that good things will happen to you and if you think about negative things all the time, bad things will happen to you. It also cuts feelings into two categories – good and bad, and that if you’re feeling good, you must be doing the right thing (and vice versa). They seem to believe that there is a great big cosmic genie out there who just wants us all to be happy and give us what we want… and all we have to do is think about it. I take a few issues with what they seem to portray.
First, I will say that I think that positive thought DOES work… but not how they say. A couple of things:
- They talk about someone who wants to buy a car. So they say that the guy shouldn’t think about owning the car in the future, and that he should use some creative imaging in his present. So he’s to sit quietly in a darkened room and imagine driving the car, right down to doing the actions with his body, that he would be doing if he were to be driving it at the present. They say that you’re to focus on those feelings – those good feelings – and to memorize them so you can replay them over and over and over. They also say that this guy should put up pictures of this car, that he should think about it (and basically obsess over it), so that his “positive thoughts” will “attract” the car to him and the “universe” will make sure it happens. This works ONLY because the car is on the guy’s mind, so he’s more likely to pass up that latte and save his money so he can buy the car instead.
- I’ve seen this work in my Mary Kay career. My director is a very, very successful lady, and she attributes it to using self-affirmations and positive thoughts. Those thoughts didn’t make her rich and didn’t grow her customer base – those thoughts gave her positive emotions that she could associate with her business so she would feel like working. The universe didn’t send her customers – she found them. She worked her business because she liked it and it felt good.
- Also, if you’re thinking negatively about a situation, all you will think about are the bad things. For example, if you focus on how the drive thru guy gave you the wrong order, you’re going to be pretty mad and you’ll only think about the wasted time, or whatever. If you try to employ the Secret’s techniques about positive thought, you’re going to believe it worked… because by golly, the manager gave you a free meal and you deserve it!
So what I’m saying is that I think that positive thought works only because it makes you more likely to make positive decisions and thoughts in your own life, instead of waiting for something good to happen to you. I get that part.
What I don’t agree with is a lot of the other crap. The things that made me want to gag are as follows:
- I absolutely do not believe that there is a “cosmic genie” out there just waiting to give me anything I want. I believe that there are very few things that we get for free. I take issue with the genie symbolism because it fosters the sense of entitlement that far too many people already have, perpetuating the thought that “I’m worth a $100,000 car” or whatever line of thought. I’m not against having money and nice things, but it irks me when people act like they should just get it, even though they haven’t done anything to earn it, you know?
- I don’t like how they explain feelings. Feelings are not only “good” and “bad”. Sometimes, feeling guilty is good for you, as it can help keep you humble. Sometimes your happiness comes at a price to someone else, which may not always be a “good” feeling. I think to lay it all out like that oversimplifies the human emotional experience, and ends up leading people to a “if it feels good, do it” mentality. I don’t think that this would benefit society at all.
My BIL said that he thought it was an overly hedonistic view of life, and I have to say I agree. It’s all about me, me, me. I won’t even pretend that I’m not a selfish person – I can’t, that would be a huge lie. I would imagine that most people I know couldn’t not make the claim that they are self-less without lying through their teeth. And? I think that selfishness is a huge problem that we are facing as a society.
It seems like very few people actually care about each other these days. Sure, we have great charities, and lots of people are quite generous when it comes to that… but on a day to day basis, the majority of us will only do what it takes to get OURSELVES by, and not an inch further. When we shovel the snow off our walks, most of us will go directly up to our property line and stop there. We don’t spend time with people who need it because we are too “busy”. We tend to expect something back when we go out of our way to do something kind for someone else (like a reward, or repayment in kind – like I said to my sister, that I expect her to babysit for us one day!). We rarely do anything out of the goodness of our hearts, just to be kind any more. It’s kind of sad.
I guess I just see things like The Secret continuing on the attitude that “I’m worth it”, and that our lives are all about ourselves. It rubs me the wrong way because how do I teach my children that we are to go the extra mile for our neighbours when everyone is rushing around doing everything they can to get a head? I find it so frustrating that the theory behind it is so inward focused that it seems to exclude all others.
Maybe I missed something at the end. I had to stop at the money section because my player wasn’t working properly (too many negative thoughts? Ha ha ha!), so maybe I missed something about how you’re to affect other people’s lives as well, some other little nugget of truth. And again, I’ll say that I have no bones to pick with thinking positively, or with the theory that like draws to like (if you wonder what you’re really like, look at your closest friends). But I do take issue with thinking that we deserve everything that we can set our eyes on.