Why The Secret Seems To Work: The Serial Debunking Begins!

by ToriDeaux on July 13, 2007

“This season’s run-away hit is called
The Secret. It’s a book, it’s a DVD, it’s a down-loadable video file. It slices, it dices, it steams the wrinkles out of your laundry while you sleep… and it manages to misrepresent science, history, and philosophy in the process. What isn’t there to love?” Me, dripping sarcasm.

The Secret: On Amazon

So. If The Secret is bunk and bruhaha, why do so many people swear it works?

Can smart marketing, pretty parchment and hints of an ancient conspiracy not only convince people to buy a product, but get them so invested that they believe anything they’re told about it?

Well.. yes. But more on that another time.

Today’s topic is much more positive.

Truth is… (and I hate to admit this) once you scrape the moldy psuedo-science and the spiritual soft-spots off of The Secret …. there really are some sound aspects that are likely to bear fruit.

For those who may not know, The Secret is all about The Law of Attraction Happy, Shiny Elephant! Image by danzo08 on Stock.Xchng(which isn’t a law, but.. whatever.) The idea is that whatever you hold in your mind you draw to you.

If you think friendly happy thoughts about elephants, you draw friendly happy elephants to you. Elephants with smiles and balloons for the kiddies.

But if you think fearful, negative thoughts about elephants, a herd of rogue bulls with tusks the size of skyscrapers will manifest in your front yard and raze your house in a fearful, negative stampede.

Simple, eh? Too simple, and rather absurd, but that’s the deal in a peanut shell. (Sorry, the elephants ate the actual peanuts.)

So why do so many people swear by it, in spite of the absurdity and elephants?

Because The Secret uses some pretty sophisticated mind tricks and tweaks. Yes, some of the tactics are in the marketing, and aimed at getting you to buy the DVD/book and support materials. Other tricks are about getting you to suspend your disbelief, to buy not just the product, but the idea, so that you’ll spread the word.

These tricks benefit the producer, not the consumer.

But other techniques used *do* have practical value for the end user. The Secret encourages and teaches positive thinking, skims around defensive pessimism, teaches abstract goal-setting, letting go of attachments and fears, techniques for programming your subconscious actions, as Peanuts Image  by lusi on Stock.Xchngwell as some pretty solid visualization techniques.

That’s useful stuff, and worth more than peanuts (though less than elephants).

So I’ve decided I’ll debunk The Secret by explaining how it *actually* works.

Cool, huh?

Don’t worry, the series will also contain the usual snips and snipes about pseudo-science and marketing ploys (ancient parchment, baby, ancient parchment!) and whatever bits of humor strike my fancy.

The first segment should be up Monday. Meanwhile, you might want to go back and re-read The Secret: A Rant Against Self Help Pseudo Science, just so you remember I am not endorsing the thing. I’ve simply become one with the Borg, and succumbed to my Google search results. That single post receives more hits on any given day than the combined hits on all the other articles.

Who knew?



That a lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies;
That a lie which is all a lie may be met and fought with outright;
But a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to fight.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Grandmother


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alex Pryce 10.17.09 at 9:57 pm

I’ve had a thought relating to the Secret.

What about failed suicide attempts? There is a positive event (The survival) occurring despite negative thoughts (The suicide attempt). You must be in a negative frame of mind to try and kill yourself surely? And so, according to The Secret, it should not have the positive outcome of the survival?

Does that make sense?


2 Ambaa 06.05.13 at 5:05 pm

Thank goodness for the placebo effect! Optimism is a nice way to live, so I’m not against The Secret and its spreading of positive thinking. It only annoys me when people say things like that someone with a spinal cord injury or cancer should be able to think themselves well and if they fail, well they must not have cared enough or tried enough.