The Secret

I’ve been hearing about this nonsense about “The Secret” and “The Laws of Attraction” here and there. Thank you, Oprah, for inflicting yet another ridiculous meme, as if you weren’t already in the hole for Doctor Phil. They mentioned it on Girl Meets Girl/Makena Music a few weeks back and I just got an email from B& about it. For the record, I don’t believe that human cognition controls the physical universe. I don’t believe just wishing really hard and focusing on something causes events to occur.

I do believe that human cognition, honed by millions of years of evolution, is one bad-assed pattern recognition engine. That usually helps us out, such as when we were able to spot meta-trends out on the plains. “Hey, it’s getting warm again, that’s when the mammoth come through here so let’s maybe dig some pits and get ready for them” In modern life, that well-refined ability to find patterns in almost anything frequently works against us. That’s all this “Secret” nonsense is. You focus on what you want to occur. Many things happen in and around your life, some good and some bad and most kind of neutral. This is the normal distribution or bell curve. When you engage your desire, though, things that happen on the good end get matched against the patterns. “Hey, that’s the thing I’m trying to make happen!” So, things that either would have happened anyway by happenstance or things that happen because you are working to make them happen get counted as a success of the “Law of Attraction.” The bad and neutral things get ignored. This is also the secret behind the power of prayer.

It’s bullshit. You either made that happen yourself, or it was dumb luck you could take advantage of but nothing mystical occurred. I think it is shameful that people are willing to take their work and minimize it in favor of this woo-woo vague force. Why does that make you feel better than being an effective person that gets things done? What happens when two practitioners of the “Secret” are wishing for the exact opposite thing, say full custody of the same child? How does the universe resolve these conflicting wishes? What is the communication mechanism from your mind to the universe? There must be some particle or energy transmitted. Is it measurable? We understand the electromagnetic spectrum pretty well nowadays, so it’s got to fit in there somewhere.

As always, we know who the beneficiaries of this are. It’s the people selling the Secret DVD for $40, the hardcover for $20, etc. Like B& and the distributors and the creators. If this rule really worked that well and they really wanted to change the world with it, why didn’t they use the Law of Attraction to get them enough money to give away DVD’s to all the households in America? AOL could do it for shitty software on a shitty dialup service, surely changing the universe would be worth it.

I will always stand against things where people place the faith and credit for things they do themselves in some mystical entity, be it god or allah or this vague force that magically does good things for you because it wants you to be happy. The universe is a cold place that cares nothing about you, only about converting energy to entropy. These moments of warmth and value and love are there because we put them there and no other reason. The Secret doesn’t work because wishing makes things happen, it works because when you bust your ass things happen and because if you really want to be happy you can make yourself be.

So, I just saved you $40. You are very welcome.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

13 thoughts on “The Secret”

  1. Linda says:

    To quote Stephen Wright: “Why do psychics always ask you for your name?” And don’t forget “everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.”

    Just sayin’.


  2. Rev. Dan says:

    You didn’t save me $40… I wouldn’t have purchased that moronic DVD (or book) to begin with. 🙂

    Nice rant Dave!

  3. hugh says:

    If there was a “Secret” or a “Law of Attraction” and these people had mastered it, they wouldn’t need to hawk their wares on TV.

  4. J Wynia says:

    Thank you. However not for saving me money. *That* purchase wasn’t ever gonna happen.

    No, thank you for one of the most concise, articulate summaries of *why* it’s BS.

    My less articulate rant on this has been about how it’s reverse attraction. Because you say you want these things, *you* are attracted to recognizing the patterns as well as being drawn to take action in making those things happen.

    It’s pretty difficult be unemployed and to tell yourself “I will have a great job” every morning without at least a little bit of a push to work harder at finding a job. Extra work leads to actually getting it, which you recognize it as having happened.

    Nothing mystical about it. There’s plenty of study on how just smiling, even when you’re not happy can *make* you happy. How hearing statements of a certain sort (positive or negative) can affect your outlook, etc.

  5. dave says:

    Linda, in a long ago podcast I talked about seeing a car for sale in front of a psychic’s. I pointed out that either the psychic makes their business defrauding people, or they are able to see into the future. In neither case does it make sense to be buying a used vehicle from them.

    Dan, thanks.

    Hugh, that is the point exactly.

    J, Glad you found something of use there. I tend to think I’m “lucky” but I’ll freely admit that is mostly because I’m in position to take advantage of happenstance where a lot of people are not. Watching basketball, you see a lot of guys who get “lucky” rebounds are the ones who fight like dogs to get into position to grab that lucky bounce.

    Me personally, I’m not signing over any of the effort I put into things to mystical forces. It’s kind of the other way for me, I’ll take credit for everything that isn’t tied down. No way am I crediting the “Law of Attraction” for my sweat equity!

  6. Tilted Edge says:

    Thanks for your tirade. I am so sick and tired of false knowledge everywhere. Richard Dawkins explains that faith in god is made possible because of an evolutionary adaptation which causes children to believe what their parents tell them for survival reasons. Perhaps in this case Oprah is like a mother.

  7. Karen says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. The thought of anyone taking that book to heart makes my fillings vibrate.

  8. Robert McFearson says:

    Great responses… we need people like you guys to continue thinking this way. More for us that choose to think differently and get results.

  9. dave says:

    Robert, so you are saying that this vague mystical force is also finite and can be exhausted if too many people use it, or spread thicker to a smaller pool if fewer use it? That isn’t consistent with what I’ve heard of it. Maybe you need to put it out in the universe that you need to be better informed about your own bogus woo woo movement, and it will come back to you.

    As we know, wishing for things is always better than working for them and having someone pay you $40 to learn how to wish is better still.

  10. billy says:

    also, Robert McFearson, ‘more for us’ is exactly the sentiment that turned me off upon watching the secret.

    it’s selfishness and money based ideology. almost the entire film is about money, not about peace, love, unity, cooperation, etc…

    i continually find this rediculous, no matter what the spiritual bent may be, it is only hawked on people for money. for them, and money for the people that want to do it. money money money

    or perhaps they know their audience, and know that thats just about all anyone cares for anymore.

  11. Michéal Daly says:

    i have giving it thought and i agree with billy , as its all about money , and the more money people have the more problems people have. i think alot of people beilve this because people need somthing to beilve in, results or no results cause if they didnt they Would worrie to much about everything or some shit i dono. you no like we would all love for this “secert” crap to be true and for the people how need somthing to belive in(Faith),there is an open door for people to take advantage just like they have for a very long time, this is just new.

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