Denver Bar Association
April 2008
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What's Your Secret?

by Lynn M. Noesner

A book review of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

Speaking of secrets, I have a secret parking space. I will tell you about it, as long as you do not steal it. It is the best parking space in all of Denver for two reasons: (1) it is within a block of my work; and (2) although meters guard every neighboring space, my secret space is miraculously meter-free. In fact, the entire meter pole is missing; I feel sorry for the parallel parker who likely made this miracle possible. I have spent many rushed commutes visualizing this space—oh, the glory of pulling into this meterless haven; oh, the joy on my supervisor’s face as I make it to my desk at a reasonable time. As they would say in the Secret community, I "secreted" the space. To date, I have also used the Secret method to win a fierce game of beer pong.

What is The Secret? Rhonda Byrne, its executive producer and author, first released The Secret as a film in March 2006. The film alleged to be a self-help documentary, featuring interviews with individuals from diverse backgrounds, including psychology, physics, theology, philosophy, finance, feng shui, and medicine, who all believe in and promote the "Law of Attraction." After gaining international popularity, The Secret was released in a print format under the same title in late 2006. Both the DVD and book version have been on several best seller lists, including the New York Times Best Sellers. Oprah even dedicated two episodes to "Discovering the Secret," which Saturday Night Live has since spoofed (SNL’s skit involved Oprah and Byrne scolding a starving man in Darfur for his lousy attitude).

The Secret’s transition from film to text is awkward at best: the print version primarily consists of quotes and sound bytes from the film, with sparse narratives loosely tying the quotes together. Although it reads more like an infomercial script than a spiritual text or psychological treatise, I found it more inspirational than annoying (which is a lot to be said about a self-help book). Thus, I recommend this "book" with a few caveats. If you can disregard its gimmicky format, its frequent lack of sincerity, and specific focus on material gain, and instead look to its larger proposition, it can be a positive force in your life (at the very least, it may be deserving of a place on the back of your toilet).

The Secret is premised on the "Law of Attraction," or essentially the concept that like attracts like; that is, positive attracts positive and negative attracts negative. The makers of The Secret contend you can reign in the Law of Attraction, thereby attracting anything or anyone your heart desires through a three-step process of Asking, Believing, and Receiving. The Secret suggests that through visualization (Asking) and positive beliefs (Believing), you can manifest everything you want and desire in your life. You can control your reality through your mind-set. Hooray!

Unfortunately, the book leaves out the details, but don’t worry, it reassures readers, "Our job is not to worry about the ‘How’ . . . The ‘How’ will show up out of the commitment and belief in the ‘what."’ The book’s sound bytes are sloppy and superficial concerning the Law of Attraction’s application. Some quotes urge readers to take certain actions to be ready to receive their dreams and desires (for example, they suggest actually pursuing your goals — strange idea, no?) while other quotes promise that you need only have a vivid image of a Prada purse in mind for that Prada purse to arrive on your door-step free of charge, courtesy of the universe. Moreover, The Secret probably has been most criticized for its insensitive discussion and/or avoidance of the moral and ethical implications stemming from its tenet that negative attracts negative.

Despite its flawed and sophomoric reasoning, I enjoyed reading The Secret, especially while I was lackadaisically pedaling on the elliptical machine at the gym. For a few moments, I felt inspired to pedal faster, burn calories, and visualize my body in a swim suit without anxiety or dread. It was almost as good as listening to "Eye of the Tiger." It feels good to believe that we can achieve our goals and that we have been graced by the universe. Ultimately, focusing on positive thoughts brings us more positive in our lives than getting stuck in a rut filled with negative, mangy thoughts. Thus, despite all of its marketing subterfuge, The Secret contains a few good ideas (none of which really is a secret, but is nevertheless easy to forget).

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