The Truth About ‘The Secret’ (The Most Terrible Self-Help Book I Have Ever Read)

I hate The Secret. There. I said it. Can’t go back now.

I know I’m a self-help blogger, and this book is like a bible to those who like to consume self-help content, but I hate it. It’s a godawful book and I feel like I need to tell you why.

I feel like every generation has it’s own self-help book, at least in the past century. In 1936, Napoleon Hill did it first with Think And Grow Rich. Hill was also a fraud by the way, which shouldn’t be all that surprising. This is a really interesting 20,000 word longread I recommend. Twenty years later, The Power of Positive Thinking was all the rage, written by the guy who was also Donald Trump’s pastor when he was a child. Which is just a weird fun fact I wanted to share.

And for our generation, it’s Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, a short book that describes the so-called ‘law of attraction’. A philosophical concept that basically comes down to this: if you want to attract positive things, you need to think positive thoughts.

Each of those self-help books, from Napoleon Hill to Rhona Byrne and many books that were published in between, focus on the same ideas, each tailored for its own generation. Think and Grow Rich was released in the time of the Great Depression, and mostly focused on making money. ‘The Secret’, launched in the age of social media and the smartphone, reads very self-centered. It’s full of questionable advice, superstitious bullshit and entitlement. I believe that anyone who reads this and applies the advice given will be off worse in the end. But first, let me explain the main points in the book, so you don’t have to read it and instead, can read something that’s actually worth your time.

What’s ‘The Secret’ anyways?

The book is simply a rehash of ‘The Law of Attraction’: the belief that whatever consumes your thoughts will be what you end up getting in life. So if you only focus on the things you don’t want, you will only get those things. And if you focus on the things you do want – a nice house, lots of money, happiness, a good job – you will get those things.

“Thoughts are magnetic, and thoughts have a frequency. As you think thoughts, they are sent out into the Universe, and they magnetically attract all like things that are on the same frequency. Everything sent out returns to the source – you.” ― Rhonda Byrne, The Secret

There aren’t many self-help books that bother explaining why the law of attraction works, but Byrne gives some half-ass explanation about the universe and how it’s made up of energy and that all energy has a frequency. Your thoughts also emit a certain frequency, and therefore the frequency of your thoughts will resonate with the frequency of other energies. Or something like that. It sounds just as weird as it is. 

The secret of ‘The Secret’

You won’t be surprised to hear there is not scientific evidence that backs up these claims. In fact, the book heavily relies on something called confirmation bias. Confirmation bias has been studied (there is scientific evidence! Which y’all know makes me excited) and also just makes more sense that vibrations in the universe and the frequency of your thoughts, because you know, you’re not a radio.

Human beings have a limited amount of attention to give to all the stuff going on around us. Therefore, we are always choosing what we give our attention to. Confirmation bias is the human mind’s tendency to notice and pay more attention to things that match preexisting thoughts and ideas. In short: after you read The Secret and you consciously start to think positively, you will search – and start noticing – little things in your experiences that confirm these beliefs.

“Food cannot cause you to put on weight, unless you think it can.”  ― Rhonda Byrne, pretending that calories are nonexistent

To a certain extend, this may actually benefit a small amount of people. People that have some seriously negative thoughts about themselves will certainly notice a pretty big impact when they change their thought patterns from ”everything sucks” to ”everything is rainbows and unicorns”. But there are also plenty of ways in which this book can fuck you up.

The real problem with The Secret

In the book, Byrne describes that you should never doubt yourself. Never indulge in negative thoughts and never consider negative repercussions. This is an extreme form of confirmation bias. It will make you ignore red flags in romantic relationships, take risky (business) decisions and avoid confrontations. It’s not unlikely that you will end up in an unhealthy place, both personally and financially, and you won’t even be able to see it thanks to your delusional positive thinking.

In short: blocking out potentially negative feedback will only result in more negativity, despite trying to attract positivity by ”aligning your thoughts” with the universe or some shit. And that’s ‘The Secret’ in a nutshell. I guess it ended up not being a secret after all.


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