"Secret" sharers

Is there something to "The Secret" or not? Members of Salon's reader community, Table Talk, give their verdicts this week.

Published March 16, 2007 10:32AM (EDT)

Mind and Spirit

"The Secret" of their success

kenziegirl -- 05:17 am Pacific Time -- Mar 7, 2007 -- #122 of 407

So, this got me thinking about a form of OCD that involves magical thinking. I know a lot about it because I suffered from it for years. It's different from the checking and hand washing form of OCD that most people are familiar with, but it still concerns thinking "bad" or "negative" thoughts that cause anxiety and the feeling that you have to do something to counteract the bad thoughts. Took me years to figure out what was going on with me. It was a blessing when I was told that I wasn't crazy.

The way it manifests is that you think these thoughts and the OCD makes you think that these thoughts are going to result in something bad happening. Your rational side knows that it's bunk, but the OCD makes you think it's real. The bad thoughts never come true, but it causes a lot of anxiety and you find that you have to do something to "correct" the bad thought, like thinking a "positive" or "opposite" thought. For some people, they have to perform a task repeatedly again until it feels "right."

The way I dealt with it was with cognitive behavioral therapy. I immersed myself in the bad thoughts until they lost their power and I came to realize that thinking something doesn't make it happen. It took a really long time and I still have the thoughts at times, but they don't cause me anxiety or worry any longer.

I must have given off a boat load of "negative energy" into the universe during those many years. While I was in the worst of it, I found a great job and married a good guy. None of the bad thoughts happened. Did some bad things happen in my life? Sure, but nothing more than the typical crap that everyone deals with. Given my life experience I just can't buy into this energy stuff. I do believe in positive thinking and taking action to get what you want, but thinking that the universe is a conveyer belt of gifts is ridiculous, to me.

I can't imagine being an OCD sufferer of this sort and hearing some of this stuff about thinking about things making them come true. I can't imagine the anxiety that would cause.

Jen - 08:22 pm Pacific Time -- Mar 7, 2007 -- #162 of 407

My grandmother (whom I loved very much) lived with us during my teen years. She had a reputation in the family for having some of that Scottish "second sight." And I think she believed -- enough so that you couldn't help but believe when she talked about it -- that she sensed things that were going to happen. Plus, I was a kid and I wanted to believe. But -- she lived with us. So I was able to see firsthand all of the times she called someone, a friend or one of her kids, "because she had a bad feeling" or "because I thought you needed something." And there was nothing to worry about, nothing wrong. But I remember her waking up in the night in a panic that something bad might have happened to one of her kids.

She also told a story about a time she needed $200 (or whatever the specific amount was) when she was a young widow, and she thought about it and prayed, and sure enough someone mailed her a check for $200. But that was one time out of 90 years.

Personally, I am a bit of a true believer wannabe cursed with a skeptic's eyes. I'm sometimes willing to try on an idea or see if I can fool myself into making a difference.

But I am pretty darn sure that "awareness" when it comes to random, not-predictable events just means that you're wrong about impending danger/opportunity 99 times out of 100. The only difference between that and "random" is that you spend a lot more time thinking about your thoughts. (The other kind of "awareness" -- like having a "bad feeling" when you're in an alley in the city after dark alone -- is just, again, the secret called common sense.)

Lisa M. -- 08:01 pm Pacific Time -- Mar 8, 2007 -- #199 of 407

For me (and again, this is my experience and is not the definitive word on it), the key here is to be conscious of where your energy goes. What are you giving your attention to? Do you want more of that in your life?

For example, if I want a different job, I can spend my time hating going to work, wishing for another place to be, and complaining (which I've done, upon occasion). Or, I can envision where I'd like to be, act as if that's going to come my way and keep my eyes open for opportunity that might lead in that direction.

I do agree that "The Secret" is hokey as all get-out. I have the audiobook and it is goofy and I can see why you all would feel the way you do but the ideas behind it are actually pretty cool (I think).

Sam Deeds - 03:18 am Pacific Time -- Mar 9, 2007 -- #205 of 407

I am a skeptic, an atheist, and a proponent of the scientific method. "The Secret's" irrational, pseudo-scientific blame-the-victim and apologia claptrap makes my blood positively boil. I love the movie "Match Point" because its plot makes the purest argument for chance, just as "Crimes & Misdemeanors" does for nonbelief.

Yet I am drawn to the notion that pre-visualization might influence which potential parallel universe the observer experiences. It sure seemed like a revelation one weekend a couple of years ago when I smoked a little pot and watched "What the Bleep Do We Know?" As soon as I saw during the credits that that one woman interviewed claimed to be a reincarnated person, I strongly suspected the film had exploited my penchant for magical thinking, especially when high.

I recognize my strong desire to subscribe to the notion that, with intense concentration, we might be able to influence which of an almost infinite number of constantly branching parallel universes we personally experience. That desire is probably rooted in the remnants of my neurotic Catholic childhood upbringing. So strong is the temptation to believe we can exert more control than we really do over our lives.

In a poker game, when I get all my money in a big pot with the best hand with one or two cards left to come, and I know my opponent has a, say, 4-to-1 chance against drawing out a winning hand from me, I will pre-visualize a safe suit and/or number. Because I keep records, I can report that in those circumstances when I was able to properly focus, my winning hand held up almost 100 percent of the time! Wow, right?

Kinda, or not ... See, due to intoxication or social distractions or wandering thoughts, I was unable to maintain proper focus about 20 percent of the time. And in those instances I got outdrawn 100 percent of the time. Was my mind playing tricks on me? Quite likely. Nonetheless, the mathematical odds held up overall, no matter how assuredly they seemed to correlate with my mental state.

I know this stuff is in 99.9 percent likelihood utter bull. As a skeptic, I've learned to appreciate how deftly our minds can play tricks on us. We skeptics, however, should also appreciate how tempting it is to subscribe to a scientifically (granted, maybe only 0.01 percent) possible hypothesis that we can navigate parallel universes with our thoughts as a sort of rudder.

Of course, incredibly far-fetched is the hypothesis that our minds might have any effect on which constantly branching parallel universe we experience. That's why I ascribe it only .01 percent possibility of being true, as opposed to the nearly 60 percent likelihood which experts give to just the existence of other dimensional universes.

Yet it appeals strongly to me. I use it when I play poker, because it helps manage the stress due to chance. But I nonetheless ultimately and regrettably reject it as having any real merit in the real world, aside from limited functional utility. The day I meet a New Age proponent who can demonstrate the basics of critical thinking and skepticism, that will be the day I start to really take their talk of vibrational energies seriously. Still, it's pretty fun, trippy shit to think about when under irrational influences.

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