Helpless self-help

In today’s Washington Post, Tim Watkin has a good take-down of a currently very popular self-help book by Rhonda Byrne, The Secret. Mr. Watkin patiently traces how this newest craze in what must be one of the most craze-crazy areas of US culture perpetuates, at its base, a hoax.

The revelation that inspired her? “Everything that’s coming into your life you are attracting into your life,” Byrne writes. “You are the most powerful magnet in the universe . . . so as you think a thought, you are also attracting like thoughts to you.”

Despite the rather inexact science — when it comes to magnets, it’s opposites that attract — Byrne asserts that this secret is a natural law as “precise” as gravity. It was the power, she argues, behind geniuses such as Plato, Newton, Beethoven and Einstein. Of course, none of these gents is alive to vouch for the accuracy of her claims, so Byrne has rallied support from a Who’s Who of the self-help industry, including John Gray, author of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” and Jack Canfield, who wrote “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” Oprah Winfrey had Byrne on her show and raved about “The Secret.”

They all endorse a book, with its clever “Da Vinci Code”-like cover, that presents the law of attraction as the ultimate shortcut to success and the American dream. Anyone who wants it badly enough can be a millionaire, the president, even an American Idol.

In his opinion piece about the book, Mr. Watkin tells it much better than can I.

I’m reminded of Wendy Kaminer’s marvelous dismantling of the self-help movement in I’m Dysfunctional, You’re Dysfunctional.



Filed under Notes and comments, Science, Skepticism

4 responses to “Helpless self-help

  1. Pingback: The secret behind The Secret « Charlottesville Words

  2. I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite guys, Craig Ferguson. ;)

    “Self help books are pointless. Here’s something for you… Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, and self help books are from Uranus.–Craig Ferguson”

  3. Post hit the spam filter. WordPress doesn’t like the word “damming” when spelled correctly and not used as a swear.

  4. Pingback: More Secret « John Wills Lloyd

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