“Remember that your thoughts are the primary cause of everything.”
~ Rhonda Byrne, ‘The Secret’
Ideas about the ‘Law of Attraction’ have featured in writings for over a hundred years and have been popularized in recent years by books and films. Most people became familiar with the concept of the ‘Law of Attraction’ through the massive success of Rhonda Byrne’s ‘The Secret’ (2006) which was a film based on it, then developed into a book of the same title in 2007.
What is the Law of Attraction? It is the idea that “like attracts like” and that our thoughts create our reality, and so by focusing on positive or negative outcomes, one can bring about positive or negative results. This belief is based upon the idea that everything, including our thoughts is made up of energy, and the belief that like energy attracts like energy.
As with electricity, I have found many of the ideas to be powerful and life-enhancing although I don’t understand, nor can offer a useful explanation of how the law of attraction works. Neither am I qualified to discourse on the scientific principles its proponents claim it is founded on, which have been criticised as ‘pseudoscience.’
However, employing its principles and practices has brought me undoubted benefits and the credibility of the presenters featured in ‘The Secret’ film is best explored through their other writings and works. Having said that, the way ‘The Secret ‘is presented, popularised through short clips and quotes, gives the impression it is all so easy, quick and painless if you do it right. For most of us ordinary mortals, applying the ‘law of attraction’ involves some mastery. Cultivating an ‘attitude of gratitude,’ acceptance, learning to set intentions with an attitude of non-attachment (‘letting go’), focussing thoughts on positive rather than negative circumstances and outcomes, faith and resilience all require consciousness, patience and practise, in my experience. A discussion of this process I am saving for my next post, as here I wish to focus on what I consider to be the flaw in the ‘Law.’
First, I will briefly cover some of the main applications which I believe are important and useful in creating desired outcomes for ourselves. Taking responsibility for our lives is, to my mind, the key element, and the belief that we can choose our thoughts and actions important. I can also accept the idea of attraction by default as I have often said ‘be careful of what you want because you will get it.’
Nonetheless, it is this thinking that we attract everything that happens to us which appears to be carried too far for me in ‘The Secret.’
Whilst I agree with some of the criticisms against what she calls ‘the religion of positive thinking’ of Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of ‘ Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World,’ (2009) I do uphold a differentiation between the benefits of ‘applied positive psychology’ and a kind of sinking into the quicksand of delusional optimism. Ehrenreich accuses Rhonda Byrne of “moral callousness.” I would say at least, that if you make a fortune from expounding your theories with a product like ‘The Secret’ you do have a moral responsibility not to add to the miseries of the misfortunate.
For example, I have neither seen nor heard of any evidence that Rain Dances work, nor do I believe that victims of tsunamis and other natural disasters have somehow manifested them through their thoughts. I cannot accept that sufferers of diabolical abuse have attracted it as a result of what they habitually think about. To me, the very nature of the initial, if not enduring, overwhelming sense of helplessness and confusion in the face of the forces of nature and evil is precisely that such events are beyond normal thinking.
What I can endorse are the thoughts of the neurologist/psychiatrist and Nazi concentration camp survivor, Viktor Frankl, expressed in his wonderful book, ‘Man’s Search For Meaning,’ (1946) particularly that, whatever happens to us, what we can choose, and what we have control of, is how we respond.