Why ‘The Secret’ Isn’t Spiritual Prozac

spiritual prozac_crop

 

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding… And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy” ~  Kahlil Gibran

 “What you resist, persists” ~ Carl Jung

Does January leave you feeling a tad sad and droopy at times? Keep calm, it’s normal.

In my last post, I acknowledged the many benefits of the ideas, techniques and approaches in ‘applied positive psychology’ and specifically, Rhonda Byrne’s film and book, ‘The Secret.’ However, in order to popularise and sell a product, which ‘The Secret’ was hugely  successful in achieving, the aim is to convince us that the product is the solution to our problems or sources of pain, and is in itself relatively easy, quick and painless. Let’s face it, paying out good money for something to solve our problems, which implies that might involve some lengthy course of soul-searching, effort, getting out of our comfort zones and giving up beliefs we have fondly held on to for years, perseverance, and in short, more pain,  is not too appealing.

On the other hand, disability through depression is growing in our culture, regardless of status or wealth, as is the use of anti-depressants to combat it. Since its introduction in the late 1980’s the use of Prozac has become widespread, even prescribed for children and animals, despite the evidence that the claims made for its effectiveness have been dismissed as ‘bio-babble’ and in clinical trials it barely out-performed placebo sugar pills.

While anti-depressants may play a useful role in helping chronic sufferers to cope, pain-avoidance can be unhelpful in the long-term if it means the rejection of the opportunity to identify, discover, learn, make changes, heal and grow from our experiences of pain.

It would appear that many doctors, patients and people in general are increasingly seeking a ‘quick fix’ to any problems, medical or otherwise. Similarly, with self-help materials such as ‘The Secret’, what is misleading is the suggestion that a painful process can be by-passed, when actually it might be what is necessary to embrace and work through in order to achieve better lives. In Buddhist psychology, freedom from mental and physical pain is achieved by developing mastery over our demanding, troubled egos, which takes awareness, time, dedication and commitment, and the cultivation of such arts and practices of mindfulness, meditation, non-attachment to things, right thinking and action.

In our society, pain seems too often to be viewed as something bad, undesirable, not normal or acceptable, yet without the acknowledgement of sad and painful truths, how can we develop empathy, compassion and resilience, or use them to sharpen and measure our pleasure; feelings of gratitude, trust, love and happiness?

Nobody wants to be in pain, and certainly it is neither normal or acceptable for anyone to be in a prolonged state of pain, but it does have a purpose. Physically, it warns us of problems needing attention in our bodies. Emotionally, pain urges us to acknowledge the source and seek to heal it, and as such, I feel, is a necessary part of our existence and our spiritual growth, which primes us for the experience of  joy if we allow it to.

So if you’re feeling blue, or worried that all your affirmations and visualisations aren’t working fast enough, don’t worry, it’s not you. It’s that crazy little thing called Life, sent to try us all.

 

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