Thinking through ‘The Secret’ (class discussion)

In class this week, we raised many issues/questions regarding our reading (and viewing) of The Secret. Below is just a recap of a few:

  • How does the author (Rhonda Byrne) establish authority/expertise/ethos in the text? How does her use of personal narrative/experience (her personal history/transformation), historical personages/quotes, and so-called “experts” (contributing authors) inform the text/set up her vision of happiness?
  • How does she use pathos?
  • Logos?
  • Who is she offering her advice to, and why?
  • Did she create this “secret” on her own/out of nowhere, or did she find it somewhere else?
  • Is this vision realistic? Can individuals have “anything” they want? Is there a limit?
  • What is the role of effort/action (or what should it be) in The Secret’s methodology?
  • What does “thoughts become things” (or the “law of attraction”) mean in the context of Byrne’s self-help recipe?
  • Are individuals totally in control of their own destiny? What about larger socio-economic factors/structural issues?
  • Although Byrne attempts to democratize “success” by offering the recipe for it to anyone, is there a sense of implicit elitism in her vision?
  • If you get positive things by positive thinking, and you get negative things by negative thinking, then what kind of responsibility does this place (perhaps unfairly?) on individuals? Is this a kind of “blame-the-victim” ideology?
  • What happens when there are competing desires (one person wants something, but this conflicts with what someone else wants/desires)?
  • Why is this vision of success/happiness compelling/seductive to its readers?

In preparation for our upcoming Essay #3, we will continue to discuss these questions (and others, which you should raise!) here in this post. The goal, as it is with Essay #3 (and all of our “happiness archive” entries) is to use critical thinking and analysis to demonstrate how Byrne constructs a particular meaning and view of happiness in The Secret and to identify the (often hidden) values that inform such a vision.

So go ahead, dig deeper, and explore what visions of happiness/values lie beneath the surface of this self-help bestseller. Everyone should post at least one comment/reply here no later than Saturday (10/5), addressing some aspect of the text (you should point to a specific place in the text, providing a quote/page number), perhaps answering one or more of these questions above, posing other questions, referencing/linking us to places in real life where you see the “Secret” ideology at work (do certain advertisements promote versions of the “secret”? e.g., if you buy these products, you will be happy), relating personal views/experiences, responding to each other, etc.

But … as always, I encourage you to drop a comment more than once (maybe twice, maybe many many more times!). Remember that you can just present a quick idea, reply to someone else, say a sentence or two. And since you all enjoyed watching the Saturday Night Live sketch that parodies The Secret (and Oprah’s promotion of it) so much in class on Tuesday (here is a link to that sketch in case you want to watch it again … thanks Michael for finding it for us!) and since you all had such insightful critiques/comments on The Secret in response, here’s another one, for your viewing pleasure (hopefully, in addition to making you laugh, it will get you thinking about some more possible critiques/contradictions/complications of The Secret’s message). Happy watching 🙂

“The Blatantly Obvious” (a The Secret parody by 24 Calamity)

9 thoughts on “Thinking through ‘The Secret’ (class discussion)

  1. For some reason, the more that I read, the more that I am provoked. I am angered and frustrated that a reputable publisher would propagate such hubris, even more so, that the reading public would validate the “Law of Attraction”, as it applies to Rhonda Byrne. In responding to your bullet point: “Is this vision realistic? Can individuals have “anything” they want? Is there a limit?”, I refer back to the SNL parody that you shared with us in class. Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character, the deranged ex-wife, employed Byrnes’ vision, which as stated in the first paragraph on page four, claims that “Everything that’s coming into your life, you are attracting into your life. It’s attracted to you by virtue of the images you’re holding in your mind. It’s what you’re thinking.” Clearly, the reality of her situation lies in stark contrast to the positive images bouncing around in her head. I use this example, tongue in cheek, but I imagine that it could be applied all too often in the here and now.

  2. In response to the bullet point, “What is the role of effort/action (or what should it be) in The Secret’s methodology?”, I would say that it seems Rhonda Byrne doesn’t weigh effort/action that much. She talks a lot more about how thoughts contribute to the secret methodology, instead of talk about the effect of action. Maybe that’s because she wants to emphasize how thoughts push people to take the actions.

  3. “Is this vision realistic? Can individuals have “anything” they want? Is there a limit?”
    I truly do not believe that the “secret” is realistic. On page 6 Byrne states that those people who are wealthy only think of wealth and they never have any contradictory thought. I don’t believe that it is possible. Everyone has to think of something contradictory it’s in our nature. Having a realistic point of view, I do think we can be anything that we want, but there is always an extent. There might be something that we are not good at that reaches what we want to be. This is where “I’m only human” cliche comes from. Perhaps, there might be another interpretation Byrne might have, but I still don’t believe that these historical figures used the secret to become who they are it’s just not realistic.

  4. “Although Byrne attempts to democratize “success” by offering the recipe for it to anyone, is there a sense of implicit elitism in her vision?” As far as it goes for this point, if you don’t have confidence in the fact that everything in this text takes place in your psyche you will never really grasp the understanding of it. Even if you practically feed the secret to people, it doesn’t just work for anyone. Whether you believe in the secret or not it basically depicts how your spirit works, being how your thoughts, feelings, and behavior are all related.

  5. At first I believed that “the secret” could possibly work for everybody and it was something anyone can try but, now that I read more I do also, see that this vision is unrealistic. How can everyone think happy and be happy; what if god forbid something tragic just happened, are you really going to think happy thoughts after? I think not.

  6. When I began reading “the secret” I found it very convincing and I actually thought that it could work but then reading deeper into the text did I realize how unrealistic it is. Many of things Byrne and all the successful people said cannot happen to everyone, yes people can be very happy and they can become wealthy using ““the secret”” and for some people it does work but not everyone is capable to start over and give up on certain things just because “the secret” says so. I also found the book to be very compelling telling person it’s their fault that the life isn’t the way they want it, that all the and things in their life is because of their thoughts, it could make a person more depressed and they’ll continue reading and it’ll just mess them up. Constantly thinking positive is just unrealistic and can really damage a person mentally, emotionally and physically.

  7. When i first read the secret I thought they would just trying to play with people mind set. Byrne said “When you focus your thoughts on something you want, and you hold that focus, you are in that moment summoning what you want with the mightiest power in the Universe. A you speak words of negation this is what the law of attraction is receiving.”p14 this is not always true. No one knows what would happen in the future.If something bad happen to you it doesn’t mean you thought about it. Things happen for a reason.

  8. Rhondas self help book The Secret state that if you follow the Law of Attraction and think positive thoughts you can Acquire health, wealth, and success. False, this book shouldn’t be taken seriously. A lot of the claims Rhonda states are very unrealistic and it also provides false hope especially to people who have very deep rooted problems. The book also doesn’t benefit everybody it only benefit’s at the wealthy. This book should basically only be used if your having a bad day and you cant get the things that you want. But one shouldnt be gullible and believe the book. If you want something work for it. don’t just think about something and hope that it will come true.

  9. Why is this vision of success/happiness compelling/seductive to its readers?

    Because the books claims it can give you whatever you so desire, whether it be wealth, love etc. the books promises so much and people tend to believe it since it offers so many things right off the bat by just stating the things people generally want. The one thing that also attracts people to the book are answers too why their lives are playing out as such, and want a way to change it.

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