I hate The Secret and its ilk. There are a whole load of reasons for this, and normally I try to be at least a little bit nice about things, but actually I think that there’s a specific type of happy-clappy hippyshit that’s really quite harmful.
So, here is why I hate The Secret specifically (although the comments could be applied to any similar book, too), supplemented by passages lifted from its pages.
“It is impossible to feel good and at the same time be having negative thoughts. If you are feeling good, it is because you are thinking good thoughts. You see, you can have whatever you want in your life, no limits. But there’s one catch: You have to feel good. And when you think about it, isn’t that all you ever want? The law is indeed perfect.”
This is pure bollocks. Not only is it bollocks, it’s also really quite harmful. “You have to feel good!” it proclaims, exclamation mark intended although not present. Merrily sweeping aside anyone who ever doesn’t feel good, anyone who – heaven forbid – takes their adversity and turns it into something useful.
Do you think Matt Haig was feeling good the whole time he was writing Reasons to Stay Alive? Do you think that book would have been born if he’d “felt good” throughout his whole life?
Do you think The Bloggess was feeling good when she wrote about depression? Was Allie from Hyperbole and a Half feeling good when she penned this comic, which was so helpful and so relatable to so many that I saw countless people change their Facebook photos to the characters over the course of the few days after she released it?
Do you think Kierkegaard was feeling good when he talked about how the knight of faith
transcends ethics? Do you think Munsch was feeling good when he painted The Scream, or Bacon his Screaming Popes? Was Magritte feeling good when he forced us to look at the world and imagine what it could otherwise be, when he took his art and used it to challenge us?
Was Mahler feeling good when he wrote his ninth symphony? Leonard Cohen, when he wrote Hallelujah?
Do you think the Buddha, when he finally left the place he’d grown up and saw all the suffering in the world, merrily skipped down the street throwing rainbow glazes over it all and refusing to think about it, because it didn’t make him feel good?
No. He didn’t.
If no one ever had any negative thoughts, would we have critical commentary on films? On music? On art? Would we falsify hypotheses and move forward scientifically?
No. So fuck off.
“Nothing can come into your experience unless you summon it with persistent thoughts.”
Oh really? There are so many holes in this one statement that I don’t think it’s even worth me pointing any of them out, but just to look at an especially glaring one: you get on a plane, and the plane crashes into the ground. Because you were persistently thinking it might? Bullshit. You walk into the street and get hit by a rogue driver. Because you somehow summoned them with your mind? Nope.
And that doesn’t even begin to cover the implications this has for making people feel absolutely shit when they’ve experienced serious illness, or assaults, or anything else that’s completely outside of their control – because so many things are.
That’s right: your happy-clappy hippy bollocks can take people whose lives actually could use a little bit of sunshine, and rain a plague right down on their heads.
All for the sake of you being able to feel smug about your life being so fucking perfect.
Which I doubt it is, by the way, because no one’s is. So you’re either completely divorced from reality, or you have some pretty crap experiences ahead of you.
“When I discovered The Secret I made a decision that I would not watch the news or read newspapers anymore, because it did not make me feel good.”
Oh, brilliant! That’s right! Throw the ‘off’ switch and all the problems with the world just DISAPPEAR! You don’t have to think about them anymore, because there’s no way they’d ever affect you or your loved ones!
Now, I do think there’s something to be said for not getting too bogged down in the crap elements of life. I think it’s really easy, if you read newspapers and watch the news in the mainstream media, to feel like the world is full of awful things and nothing else. So I think it’s sensible to supplement these with positive stories, to remind ourselves that hypotheses are being investigated and progress is being made and people are saving other people and beautiful landscapes exist. The world isn’t all bad, and sometimes we need to remind ourselves of that.
But refusing to face up to the reality of life isn’t going to make it go away.
Your town is still going to be bombed. Your friends are still going to get cancer. Your kid is still going to have to hide under a table in their classroom while a man with a gun shoots down other kids around them. Your nephew is still going to be abused by his priest.
The world is full of wonderful things, and it’s also full of horrible things, and a lot of things that fall somewhere in between. There are some things we do deliberately; some things that end up happening to us because we’ve accidentally made them happen; some things that just occur, because sometimes life just is.
Constantly telling people that they are the reasons for the bad things that are happening to them, and that they have to be relentlessly positive all the time and then the world will be sunny and beautiful and full of fluffy bunnies and rainbows and…
is a load of bullshit.
And not just bullshit, but harmful bullshit.
So, don’t listen to it, don’t read it, don’t let it make you feel bad.
Life is crap sometimes. Life is good sometimes. If you’re living through it, then in one way at least, you’re already succeeding.
Don’t let spreaders of pure claptrap take that away from you.