Book Review and Discussion: The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
Author says you get whatever you think about
I decided to borrow this book from the public library after I discovered that it had been on Amazon’s top 100 bestsellers list for over 1000 days. I was curious to find out what the secret was that kept the buyers coming in droves. My conclusion is that it is largely the title that draws so many readers. Doesn’t everybody want to know a secret? I doubt many people buy it on recommendation.
My immediate impression when I started reading this book was that it was a revisit to the power of positive thinking on the order of Norman Vincent Peale’s book by the same title, or the classic book As A Man Thinketh by James Allen--except that God is left out, other than a few Bible quotes taken out of context. Byrne avoids using the term “positive thinking” and instead says “good thoughts.” Perhaps she didn’t want her book lumped with the other positive thinking books.
Positive thinking books have been around for a long time, so a title with the words “positive thinking” in it would probably not have inundated the cash registers. But by ingeniously titling the book The Secret and reframing the concept as “the law of attraction,” curiosity alone would probably score many buyers. After all, who isn’t looking for the secret of a successful life? The author could probably have written just about anything with this title and had a successful book. The title is a fantastic marketing ploy.
Throughout the whole book the author tells you “what” you need to do to apply The Secret, and gives many examples of people who have applied it, but she doesn’t really explain “how” to apply it. How do you really train your brain to think in a way that will “attract” what you want out of life? How do you conquer negative thinking? Byrne does mention that being aware of your feelings provides a barometer to how you are thinking. She says you can change your feelings by deliberately choosing to dwell on something that makes you happy. But by pushing bad feelings out of your mind you avoiding dealing with what caused them in the first place. For this reason, health professionals always discourage patients from repressing their feelings.
One of the chapters proposes that applying The Secret will bring wealth. I would venture to guess that this chapter is the one that brought Byrne wealth. A great many people are suckers for “get rich” ideas. Basically she just says to think of yourself as a rich person who can afford anything you want, and lo! It will come!
Concerning weight loss, Byrne maintains: “Food cannot cause you to put on weight, unless you think it can.” But positive thinking cannot defy the other laws in the universe, one of which is that if you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Byrne herself affirms the fact that there are other laws in the universe that cannot be defied such as gravity. However, positive thinking or “the law of attraction” can help you lose weight because it can help change the way you view yourself and your past experiences. Changing the way you view yourself and your past will enable you build the inner fortitude to make drastic lifestyle changes in the way you eat and exercise.
There are definitely some basic truths in this book—positive thinking can definitely transform your life. However, there are much better books available on positive thinking and the importance of mental attitude such as those mentioned above. Another great one is Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer (see my hub), along with her brand new book out in which she builds upon what she wrote in Battlefield entitled Power Thoughts. In these two books she explains in-depth how to conquer negative thinking.
Some of the very good advice Byrne does give (and which is also very biblical) is the importance of being grateful for what you have, learning to forgive others, and giving part of what you have to those who are needy. Practicing these three virtues conscientiously is bound to bring happiness to anyone.
Regarding relationships, the author righttly suggests writing down everything you appreciate about the other person. Any marriage counselor will tell you the importance of focusing on the positive qualities in your partner instead of the negative. If you don’t dwell on what is wrong with the other person you will naturally tend not to notice it as much.
One of the things I strongly disagree with in Byrne’s book is the suggestion that anyone who experiences tragedy was simply thinking negatively and wrongly. The premise that all bad things that happen in life are due to faulty thinking is blatantly fallacious and preposterous. Bad things happen to everyone at some point (some undeniably worse than others), but the key is how one responds to the misfortune determines whether it will turn into something positive or negative.
Interestingly, a couple authors have written books in response to Byrnes book. One of them is entitled There is More to the Secret by Ed Gangor. This book analyzes The Secret from a Biblical point of view. I also read this book and I agree with this author’s thinking that Byrne only skims the surface of the power of mental thoughts and how to use this power appropriately.
In response to Byrne’s suggestion that anything bad that happens is a result of wrong thinking, Gangor points out that there are other forces beyond our control that come into play. So while positive thinking, visualization, attraction, or whatever it is called, may definitely bring many good things our way, it does not insulate us from all of life’s tragedies. I suspect that if research was done on people who have been killed in natural or man made disasters, that a number of "Secret" practitioners could be found among them.
I personally think that a big part of the reason why this type of thinking works is because positive thinking affects a person’s attitude toward everything in life. Remember what our teachers always told us: “Attitude is everything.” People are naturally drawn to other people who have a positive attitude. Conversely, people who are negative tend to be avoided by others.
Another captivating book written to put The Secret into perspective is The Secret of the Secret: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Runaway Bestseller by Karen Kelly. I invite you to read my hubs on this book and the book by Gangor.
There are many video clips on You Tube about The Secret. I have attached one below that shows the first 20 minutes of Byrne's movie The Secret.
Rhonda Byrne's movie The Secret
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