Sunday, November 1, 2009

Rhonda Byrne

Soon after I started this blog, I wrote a post about Rhonda Byrne and her big secret. My post was a bit snarky and judgmental. That was bad because a week or so earlier I had written a post in which I said we should be tolerant of other people's spiritual beliefs.

I totally contradicted myself.

I thought of editing or deleting the Byrne post, but instead I went back and deleted the line about being tolerant. The whole incident made me realize I'm less tolerant than I had imagined myself to be.

I had wanted THIS post to be more open-minded, educated...and more tolerant. I decided in order to be fair, I needed to actually READ The Secret. I shouldn't just go on hearsay.

I was pretty sure the book wouldn't be as bad as I had seen it described. Things get taken out of context. Right? People misinterpret. Rumors are spread.

I figured reading the book would give me a clearer insight.

But here's what happened.

I hated the book even more than I expected! And my apologies to people who love the book. I hope you don't totally hate me after this. Maybe you can give me your insights into why you like the book....help me understand a little more.

I'm afraid this post might be very long. There's so much I want to say about the book itself; and then I also want to learn a little about the Byrne woman.

For those who are not in the know, The Secret is about something called the power of attraction. Rhonda Byrne didn't invent this idea. She simply repackaged it into a provocative package.

I won't declare that the power of attraction is false. All I can say is that it is false for ME.

According to the power of attraction, all that we have is a result of our own thoughts and wishes. In The Secret, Byrne says, If you can think about what you want in your mind, and make that your dominant thought, it WILL come it into your life.

Notice that Byrne doesn't say it MIGHT come into your life. There's a promise here...a guarantee. If we wish hard enough, our dreams will come true.

Yeah. Well, I have wished very hard for things in my life. And when I want something, I can be quite obsessive. Most of these wishes have not come true.

According to Byrne, it goes the other way as well. If you dwell on negative stuff, negative stuff will happen to you.

In 2007, my family went on a Disney Cruise. I did NOT want to go. I dreaded it. I complained about going. I worried it would be awful. I thought for sure we'd all catch one of those stomach bugs that are passed around cruise ships. I thought I'd be bored. I thought I'd be unable to tolerate such a huge dose of family togetherness. I don't think I had one positive thought about the cruise.

I ended up having a fabulous time.

I was worried about our last trip to Australia...especially about going to Tasmania to meet an online friend. I was nervous. I was scared. I had these scary thoughts that we were going to have some kind of awful accident there.

We ended up surviving. We had a wonderful time. My online friend became one of my best friends.

The truth is I'm a negative person. I worry a lot. I tend to expect the worst is going to happen. If something good happens, I'm the type that remembers nothing gold can stay. I've always been that way. And guess what? I have a pretty happy and easy life. (knock on wood). See yeah. Knocking on wood. That's MY secret. It's how I deal with stuff. Despite my negative attitude, my life is pretty much easy street.

So at least in my own life, I've proven that The Secret is bullshit.

Now it might not be the same case with everyone. For some people, The Secret might work. Maybe the power of attraction works for some people, and not others. But this is not what Byrne says. The book promises it will help everyone. She says, It doesn't matter who you are, or where you are, The Secret can give you whatever you want.

Oh. Well, maybe I'm just some freak of nature that Byrne didn't know about.

No.

I think I can pretty much prove that the book is bullshit for the majority of humans.

The Secret was a bestseller for many months...maybe even years. I don't know. Maybe it still IS a bestseller. It was on Oprah and everything. It was very popular. People talk about it left and right. People have been advising their friends to read the book. I've seen people trying to utilize the suggestions in the book.

If this book truly worked, and so many people read it.....shouldn't we all be healthier, happier, and wealthier now?

Would it make sense that our economy has turned to shit? Would it make sense that we have a Swine Flu epidemic going on?

And there's a war!

I don't think the world has gotten any better since The Secret appeared. I think Byrne's wallet just got fatter. That's all.

Anyway, I guess I should start learning about Byrne.

Lord Wiki sure doesn't have much to say about her. He has this VERY short paragraph. Maybe he loves her as much as I do.

He says by the spring of 2007, the book had sold over four million copies, and the DVD version had sold two million copies.

Baby Rhonda was born on 12 March 1951. She has worked as a producer for that show featuring Rebecca Gibney. Sensing Murder. According to IMDb she did that before The Secret. Well, that's something in her favor. I thought she made her money FROM The Secret. But maybe the power of attraction did work for her, and that's how she got the money to produce a TV show.

As I said before, the power of attraction might work for some people. The mistake that self-help gurus make is believing that if something worked for them, it's guaranteed to work for everyone in the world.

Well, Lord Wiki does have a whole entry on The Secret. I'll read that.

Oprah is partly to blame for the books popularity....at least in America. She featured it on her show. I think this is when I first heard of it. My younger sister is the first one who told me about the book. I think maybe she heard of it from Oprah. She seemed very excited about the whole thing. I looked at her link, and immediately was turned off by the whole thing. I didn't like how the idea was being packaged. It was way too sensationalized. It rubbed me in the wrong way.

Byrne was influenced by a book called The Science of Getting Rich. Byrne read this book when her life wasn't going well, and supposedly it turned everything around for her.

And here we have the official website. It says that Byrne learned her big secret in 2004. Almost immediately her life was transformed, as she began to put into practice what she had learned. And in that moment her greatest wish, and mission, was to share this knowledge with the world.

I do wonder what her intentions were here. Is she an innocent woman who simply had an idea that she wanted to share? Almost everyone does this sometimes. We make a choice that works out well for us, so we assume it's going to work out well for everyone else. We're so excited. We want to tell everyone! Is that what happened to Byrne? Or did she make a conscious choice to scam people?

I really don't know the answer to that.

That quote above links to some biographical stuff.

Byrne says her daughter gave her The Science of Getting Rich. This led her to doing research. Then she decided to make a film. Since she used the big secret to make the film, the whole process was a perfect and beautiful experience.

Here's the trailer for the DVD. I think this is what I watched when my sister gave me the link. I was pretty much immediately repulsed by the whole thing.

The video presents the idea that all the past successful famous people were stingy assholes who did not want the rest of us to share in their wealth and happiness. Rhonda Byrne is our knight in shining armor. She uncovered the truth, and is willing to share it with all of us.

Well, thank you Rhonda Byrne.

Thank you for teaching me that Nothing can come into your experience unless you summon it through your persistent thoughts.

Yeah. So NOW I understand why my sister was hit by a drunk driver. She must have been obsessively thinking about it. And the people I know who have had cancer? Well, I guess they were thinking about cancer too much.

I think about cancer. I guess I should expect to get it soon.

Thank you for teaching me that food is not responsible for us putting on weight. Wow. I had it wrong this whole time. As long as I think thin, I can eat whatever I damn please.

Byrne says, A person cannot think "thin thoughts" and be fat. It completely defies the laws of attraction.

So has Byrne never met an overweight person obsessed with being thin?

When I was very thin, I worried about gaining the weight back. Worrying about it didn't cause me to gain the weight back. But when I stopped dieting, the weight did come back. I tried not to think or worry about it. I hid the scale. I thought about other things.

I still gained a lot of weight.

The Secret contains little happy stories that have happened to people. It's supposed to convince us of the truth of the book. In one story, a family is at the gates of Epcot. Earlier that night, one of their little boys, who happened to be a fan of The Secret, wished that he could go on all the rides without waiting in line. As they were in line to enter the park, a cast member approached the family and offered them VIP tickets.

Awesome! The Secret works. Maybe. Maybe it DID work for this particular little boy. Or maybe it was fate. Maybe this was meant to happen. Perhaps it was random luck.

How many other families at Disney World wish they could skip waiting in lines? How many of their wishes go unanswered?

Byrne says some scary stuff regarding money. It makes me wonder if people have gone into debt because of reading her book.

She says we should imagine that we can afford everything. We should look at stuff and say I can afford that! Now if you just say that and imagine it....no problem. But hopefully people don't take it a step further and actually stick it on their credit card.

The illness chapter is scary as well.

Think thoughts of perfection. Illness cannot exist in a body that has harmonious thoughts.

If you're sick, it's because you were not harmonious enough.

In a nutshell, I think The Secret wants us to be delusional. Most of the advice leans towards this. Imagine you're wealthy, thin, healthy, and successful. If you wish it, you will get it.

A Seattle publication has an article about the book. It says, While "The Secret" has become a pop culture phenomenon, it also has drawn critics who are not quiet about labeling the movement a fad, embarrassingly materialistic or the latest example of an American propensity of wanting something for nothing.

I guess I'm one of those critics.

Saturday Night Live had a spoof of the book. It featured a refugee in Darfur being blamed for everything. His thoughts had been too negative. Oops.

Not only can we screw up our own thoughts by being negative, we can cause massive amounts of suffering and death. Okay. I'll try to buy that. But why aren't the happy positive people out there counteracting us? Huh? Where's their power? Byrne quotes a guy named Michael Bernard Beckwith in his book. He says, They need to be aware that it has been scientifically proven that an affirmative thought is hundreds of times more powerful than a negative thought.

I have a lot of grief with that particular passage. Now I'm not one of those people who need science to prove everything. I think we can have beliefs and ideas without science backing us up. But if you're going to USE science to try to validate your point, do not do that without providing ample information and citations. What studies have been done to scientifically prove this? I don't need the whole study, but please at least provide me with a date and place. Give me at least some information, so I can go look up the studies myself if I'm interested.

Has Rhonda Byrne never heard of footnotes?

Anyway, scientific or not....I think a quick look at the news will show that Beckwith is wrong. Positive thoughts do not have more power than negative ones. Do thoughts have any power at all?

I personally believe they do. I think we can somewhat influence the world around us with our thoughts, but not nearly as much as Rhonda Byrne would like us to believe.

The Seattle article says a therapist had patients who worried, after reading the book, that the abuse they experienced was their fault.

That's just very sad.

Is this what happened to Indigenous Australians? Did they not think enough positive thoughts? Were they dwelling too much on the possibility that white people might invade, steal their land, kidnap their children, and kill them with smallpox?

A doctor in the Seattle article was most dismayed about a story in the book in which a woman recovers from breast cancer without any medical intervention. She used laughter to get well. Maybe it DID work for this woman. Maybe laughter is what her particular body needed to heal. But every case is different, and I think her case is a rare one. I think most cancer victims need chemotherapy and/or surgery to survive.

Ah. Here's something interesting. One of the people featured in the DVD has come forward with some information. Although James Arthur Ray is said to be a philosopher, he says he was just a guy with an almost-degree in behavioral science. I mean I guess we could call him a philosopher. We could call everyone a philosopher. Why not? We all philosophize, don't we? But I think Rhonda Byrne was trying to present Ray as something a little more than just an armchair philosopher.

Ray also says he said stuff in the DVD that was edited out. His idea was that it's not as simple as one law of attraction. It's more complex than that.

Is he pleased with the final DVD? It seems not. He says, You can watch 'The Secret' and come away with the illusion that you can sit around in your living room and visualize your millions dumping into your lap, and that's just not going to happen.

The article has a story about a young woman who's a fan of The Secret. Like Byrne, her life wasn't going the way she wanted it to. She read The Secret, and her life was miraculously turned around. Now this woman says it takes more than just wishing. She says, What I take from it is not that you just have to wish or hope or think something's going to happen. ... There's a way it's going to happen. ... When you're more positive, I think new ideas come to you and you're able to kind of get through hurdles or over obstacles.

I think THAT makes sense, and there's some truth to it. I don't think it always works. We can be super positive, and still things might not work out. But I do think there's value in having a positive attitude...whether you end up winning, or not.

But that's NOT the message I saw in The Secret. The message I received is that all we have to do is wish hard for something, imagine that we already have it, and the universe will provide. This is absolutely guaranteed. Byrne says, Just like the law of gravity, the law of attraction never slips up....If something comes to you, you drew it, with prolonged thought.

The people from the Seattle thing asked Byrne some questions by email. They asked her about the victim mentality thing. She replied, The Secret's" message is to empower people. Its message releases people from feeling like victims and gives them the knowledge to intentionally create their lives the way they want.

And what if they're unable to create the life that they want? What should they believe then? Did they not wish hard enough? In all honesty, do they LIKE suffering?

The Secret makes it sound so easy. If it's so easy and so powerful, why are so many of us failing to make all our dreams come true?

Someone might say that the people suffering are the ones who haven't read The Secret. If these people read the book and followed the advice, they'd be living great lives.

Well, I know of people who've read the book. Their lives seem just as difficult as everyone else's. I don't see them being healthier, happier, wealthier, or more successful.

Here's an article in The Australian. I think it might have interesting things to say.

Well, on The Secret website, it talks about how the making of the book was so wonderfully harmonious. I guess that harmony didn't last. Byrne ended up in some legal battle with people who had helped her with the project.

The story goes that Byrne made unfilled promises to the Australian director of the film and some other guy who helped with the viral marketing. The two guys gave Byrne grief about money they felt she owed them. In response, she sent her lawyers after them. Lawyers? Why? Why didn't she just WISH those men to leave her alone? Why didn't she just rely on positive thinking?

The article says, For a woman whose central message is the power of positivity, Byrne has a surprisingly long history of such bust-ups, stretching back to her days as a television producer in Melbourne.

While working as a producer, Byrne met Drew Heriot, a young movie director. It was with him that she made The Secret. Byrne promised him a part of the film's profit. Why would that even need to be promised? I would think that's a given? Why wouldn't he get part of the profits?

Anyway, Heriot wanted a written contract. Byrne refused. She said contracts cause people to focus on the negative....it's focusing on what might go wrong.

Heriot did end up getting some money. I think it was more of a fee though...rather than a percentage of the massive profits.

I think I'm going to stop reading now, and watch some stuff on YouTube.

Here's a guy talking about The Secret. I'm not sure yet if he supports it, or is against it. I'm leaning towards the latter.

Okay. That was SO funny. I loved it. It had many great moments and I highly recommend that people watch the whole thing. But one of my favorite parts is at the beginning. He talks about how his friend had suggested he read The Secret, and that you can get a red sports car by visualizing a red sports car. The guy in the video says, my problem with this was she wasn't sitting in a red sports car at the time. In fact, I think my friend drives a 1983 Volkswagen Beetle.

Maybe her friend WANTED a Volkswagen Beetle!

But the point is many people push their friends and family to read The Secret. I think it would be easier to swallow the advice if these friends and family were having a life full of wealth and joy. Now while pushing the book, these people MIGHT be happy. That's because they're full of hope. Hope can make us happy. And hope is a good thing....as long as it doesn't go too far. It's the same thing with delusions. Sometimes, my hope and delusions prevent me from crawling deep into a dark room and crying my eyes out. But we got to keep the false hope and delusions in check. We can't let them go too far.

Anyway, it's getting late. I'm tired and have other stuff I want to do.

I'm going to conclude by sharing my personal philosophy of life. I welcome you to share yours as well.

I'm one of those people who believe in fate. I think most stuff happens because it is meant to happen. I do think there are exceptions. I think sometimes if we work hard enough, we can change our destiny. I think also the powers-that-be might sometimes change their mind and provide us with a new option.

I think sometimes things happen by random chance. I don't know. Maybe an angel rolls a dice or something.

I think in some rare cases things happen because someone wished that it would happen.

I think our minds and thoughts have a small element of power. I think our thoughts can influence weather, health, and the results of certain events and situations. But I think it's foolish and dangerous to overestimate that power.

My feeling is that instead of using our energy to wish for what we'd like to have, we should spend more energy being grateful for what we already have. Some of the most miserable times of my life were when I desperately wanted something.

I do understand that none of us have all that we want. And it doesn't completely negate our gratitude to want more. If we work hard to reach our goals, there's a chance that our dreams might come true. But there's no guarantee that hard work will bring us what we want; and that's even more the case when it comes to wishes and visualization.