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3.9 out of 5 stars
The Secret
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175 of 190 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2007
I am commenting on The Secret as a clinical psychologist who specializes in how cultural and spiritual beliefs affect health as well as the author of a book about converging science and mysticism to navigate our personal journey. First, The Secret is a compilation of opinions from a group of professionals in several fields, rather than a book by the author. It would be more accurate for Ms. Byrne to present herself as the editor, rather than the author of the book. Having said that, it is important to distinguish between wishful thinking and mind-body science. Although the concepts expounded in the book are beautiful examples of what we could achieve if we explored our potential, it leaves the reader with "feel-good" platitudes, by failing to convey that simply wishing something does not attract anything other than expectations that lead to disappointment. As a scientist, I have seen the mind bypass biology in miraculous ways, but this does not happen by just wishing and waiting for "the laws of attraction" to work. Instead, change requires honoring commitments, not blaming others for our failures, assessing the self-sabotaging that surface when self-esteem is compromised, and realistically defining goals.

The success of this book shows how hungry we are for someone to tell us that change happens magically without having to confront our demons and without taking responsibility for the life we created with our actions.

While I wish Ms. Byrne the greatest success, I want to caution the reader that if "wishful thinking" does not attract what you want, do not blame yourself, because it was only thoughts without action.
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157 of 179 people found the following review helpful
I am in complete agreement with the idea that our thoughts need to be carefully marshaled and focused on what we want. My comments focus on how Ms. Byrne has expressed that point in this book.

Everyone I know swears by the DVD version of The Secret. I decided to read the book first and then look at the DVD.

In grading this book, I am comparing The Secret to the many books that encourage you to create your own reality through mental focus including books written by those quoted in The Secret.

First, what is the secret? As stated in a quotation by Bob Proctor:

"The Secret is the law of attraction!

Everything that is coming into your life you are attracting . . . by virtue of the images you are holding in your mind."

Second, what causes the law of attraction to work? According to Ms. Byrne on page 11:

"You are the most powerful transmission tower in the Universe. Your transmission creates your life and it creates the world . . . . And you are transmitting that frequency with your thoughts."

Third, what's the evidence that this secret is true? Each of 24 authors tells anecdotes of people who overcame hurdles after envisioning a more positive result. A few claims are made that quantum physics supports this conclusion, and Ms. Byrne confides that she understands a great deal about this subject.

Fourth, why is this a secret? Because Ms. Byrne had never heard of the law of attraction prior to a year or so ago.

Let me make a few observations about the development of this idea in the book:

First, science has shown us that we ignore almost all of the sensory input we receive. Our minds focus on a small percentage of what's considered relevant through something called the reticular activating system. Change what you focus on, and you notice things for the first time that have been there all the time. That's one reason why envisioning what you want works: You notice helpful resources around you that you've been ignoring. That observation, however, has never been tied to any evidence (to my knowledge) that we physically create anything with our minds beyond our own bodies, except by manipulating the physical world in various ways.

Second, religion points to a different phenomenon. Christians, for example, read in the Bible that God has filled those who have been saved by repenting their sins and believing in Jesus with the Holy Spirit which permits good works (including miraculous works) to be done by the desire of the believer. The source isn't the believer's mind, but rather God's spiritual resources which are greater than the physical world. Anyone who read these Biblical texts would say that an individual is far from a powerful source of creating reality: An individual can do nothing to change reality without God, but can do anything good with God's help to change reality.

Third, in Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill reported the results of many years of intensive interviews with the most successful people on Earth of his day. Many of them believed that their thoughts physically changed the exterior world by opening the door to possibilities that otherwise wouldn't have existed. But Mr. Hill presented the idea as expressed opinions, rather than as a proven fact. He also pointed to many other things that these people had done that helped them succeed. Mr. Hill reported that it takes more just focusing on what you want: There are other steps involved such as working with a mastermind group.

Fourth, our own bodies are very strongly affected by our thoughts. Scientific research keeps showing new dimensions of that fact. Think certain thoughts and your immune system is stronger. Think other thoughts and your immune system is weaker. In addition, placebos do heal people who think they are getting real medicine when they are not. Why? Because people are really healing themselves. You can extend that influence by behaving well or badly towards others, causing a mental reaction in them, which in turn creates a change in their body chemistries.

By comparing those earlier works, my sense is that what The Secret really represents is one woman's quick attempt to make sense of this kind of information. In doing so, she seems to have oversimplified and misstated what is known about the role of thought in creating life experiences. I doubt if the intent was deliberate or not well intentioned. But after all, she is a film maker, not a student of thought.

By ignoring the full range and roots of the evidence, Ms. Byrne runs the risk of discouraging some people who feel like they are real losers because they cannot evince a perfectly positive reality. If it were as simple as The Secret suggests, we would have billions of people living trouble-free lives. To my knowledge, even the most successful practitioners of The Secret aren't as wealthy as those the most successful people who don't. That would make an interesting study, and a far more valuable book than this one.

Here's an example of a misleading example. Ms. Byrne argues that food doesn't make you fat; it's what you think about food that makes you fat. The punch line of her story is that "I now maintain my perfect weight of 116 pounds and I can eat whatever I want." Every person I have met who is an authority cited in this book is noticeably overweight. Why don't any of them want a perfect weight and be able eat anything they want?

My point for you: Avoid this book.

I encourage you, however, to think positively and learn about how your thoughts can improve your life!

If you want to learn about how to improve your life through your thoughts, consider reading more reliably based and carefully presented sources. If you prefer a secular book, try Think and Grow Rich or The Success Principles. If you would like a book that half-way between a religious and secular focus, try Your Best Life Now. If you want to draw totally on the Christian or Jewish religious roots, read the Bible.

I'll look at the DVD now and let you know what I think of that.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2007
I am amazed at how many people are misinterpreting this book. The basic premisis of it is that we only benefit from thinking positively. To dwell, to be pesimistic absolutely gets us nowhere. However, to envision what we want our lives to look like, what we want to bring into our lives in the future, achievments, goals, people, is all a very good thing. I strongly believe that you have to practice on a daily basis, positive thinking. However, having said this, that does not directly translate into our being able to successfully dictate the direction of our life at all times. It does not mean that nothing bad will happen, we all have obstacles in our lives and it is only through these where we find the most growth. Sometimes thinking positively means making the most out of something bad, to always extract good no matter what the circumstances are. To resist, pain, hurt, loss, sadness, bad things gets us nowhere. To embrace and welcome obstacles when they appear is making something positive occur from a negative event. By doing so, you go directly through the event rather than bypassing it, in the end this is how you grow, blossom, flourish and only from these harder events do we remain real!
Megan Kelley QC Canada
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2007
I'm not sure why this book is getting such great reviews. I found it to be lazy. Just think of things and they will happen, stay focused. Action is needed for success and lots of it. I was insulted by the idea that bad things happen to people because they will them on themselves. A lot of the notions are ridiculous and just ideas with no scientific fact. It reminded me of how at the end of every year experts predict all the things that will happen in the upcoming year (who will win the world series, superbowl, what country will dominate, what will happen in other countries, what will happen with the weather, etc.) The "experts" are always wrong, often not even close. That's what the ideas here reminded me of, not even close to how things actually work.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2007
There is some positive thinking on this cd, but it's really just 4 hours of a bunch of different people saying the same thing over and over....The dvd seemed much better.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2007
I saw the movie which looks like a big informercial so i read the book.

My girlfriend mother beleive in this so hard, and she applies all the principle in the book but yet she continues to live at minimum wage salary.

She has always been a positive person after all thats the main message i understood from the book because everything else makes no sense at all.

Losing weight just by programming your brain, when i was young i weighted 140 pounds i visualized to become bigger i wanted to be like a bodybuilder now at 35 i am 210 pounds and would want to lose weight, i am having issues, reading the book tells me that i only have to look at pictures of myself when i was slim and think that food will not affect weight gain.

My god what next, getting older your body will change, metabolisme slows down drastically and the only way to lose weight is to eat less cut sugar and exercise.

People who dont gain weight DO HAVE A DIFFERENT FASTER METAOLISME and have been blessed with genetics.

It is quit sad that in this day and age people can make money and take other people for fools by giving them useless hope like this book.

What a waste of time and reading and energy.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2008
Yes, the power of believing is powerful but I don't think it's everything. Furthermore, I don't like the style of writing. The author doesn't seem to have anything to say.... it's mostly quotes from other people. There seems to be a lot of concentration on the riches. For people who have illnesses it's NOT the best book... I give it a 2 (I like the cover and the graphics).
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