the secret


{image is a closeup photo of a woman’s lips with her finger touching them as if to say, “Shhh, it’s a secret}

Over the weekend, I found myself in a pretty deep conversation with a fellow autism mama, as you do. Spanning everything from a comparative analysis of major religions, a lament of the far too common departure from the spiritual core of those religions by their organized followers, and pretty much everything in between. Eventually, we found ourselves talking about New Age philosophy, most notably the Law of Attraction.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will be painfully honest and tell you that, as much as I try to approach everything with an open mind, I tend to find my eyes involuntarily rolling at the first utterance of the words New Age. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for spirituality and connecting with nature and I whole-heartedly believe that we err egregiously when we don’t look at the body and mind as an interconnected whole. But you lose me pretty dramatically when we veer into metaphysics, parapsychology, and my once-rolled eyes have long glazed over when we get to the cosmos and my astrological whatever. For better or worse, I tend to approach anything New Age with a more-than-healthy dose of skepticism.

When the book The Secret came out back in 2006, popularizing the Law of Attraction, Oprah Winfrey jumped in with both feet and nearly everyone on the planet seemed to follow suit. And I, well, I didn’t get it. Maybe because I’m just not one to subscribe to conspiracy theories, I found it hard to get into the marketing of the film and accompanying book that said, “There is a Great Secret that has been passed down through the ages, highly coveted, hidden, lost, stolen, and bought for vast sums of money.” The idea that Rhonda Byrnes had found the greatest secret ever hidden, found, and hidden again and was now here to bring it to all of us struck me as a bit, well, implausible. But, thanks to Oprah and every other news outlet following in her wake, it was hard to avoid at least a passing glance at the philosophy that the book espoused.

But no matter how ubiquitous its message in popular culture, The Secret and its version of the Law of Attraction still struck me as typical New Age-y bunk wrapped in a gift bag of woo and topped with a snake oil bow. And honestly? Oprah wasn’t the best conduit for the message for me. As far as I was concerned, “Visualize it and it will come,” was pretty easy for the Queen of Media to say. Cause, you know, if she visualized it, she had a staff of hundreds to make it come. For the rest of us Joe Schmoes, it was, and is, a little different.

According to its website, The Secret “reveals how you can change every aspect of your life. You can turn any weakness or suffering into strength, power, unlimited abundance, health and joy.”

“Everything is possible,” it tells us. “Nothing is impossible. There are no limits. Whatever you can dream of can be yours, when you use The Secret.”

Right. So the people who are starving in drought-plagued Africa? Clearly they just aren’t believing hard enough that their land will be soaked by desperately needed rain so that they may grow food. Those folks in the Sudan? Obviously not focusing enough energy on the warlords ending their rapacious siege on their people. You see where my thinking goes with this stuff. I’m a pretty hard sell.

However, while chatting with this mom the other day, I remembered a conversation that Luau and I had had at the time that this stuff was big. We’d just pulled into an extremely busy parking lot in front of a local mall. There were cars everywhere, circling the lot and trolling like vultures for any open spots. I looked at him and sarcastically said, “Wait! The Law of Attraction! Just BELIEVE that there will be a spot just for us and there WILL be!” We both giggled, because, well, we weren’t buying it.

I believe that there are some things that simply are, no matter how much we (particularly the control freak faction of the we) may want to deny it, (gasp!) out of our control. Believing that they will change ain’t gonna change them.

Believing that the rain will come to quench arid farmland won’t bring rain. Believing that a war will end won’t end a war. Believing that my daughter will no longer be autistic will not make it so. It just won’t.

BUT (you knew this was coming, right?), all these years later, I see the validity in what some call the Law of Attraction, others The Secret, and me? Well, I’m going to call it the Power of Positive Thinking. Yup, all my eye rolling aside, all these years later, I’ve come to understand that faith matters. Even when you’re looking for a parking spot.

If you’re circling the lot convinced that you won’t find a spot, there’s a good likelihood that you won’t. If you don’t have faith that there’s a spot out there for you, you won’t really be seeking one. You’ll be going through the motions, looking in the one lane you’re in and defeat will likely be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But … what if you do believe you’ll find a spot? Well, you’ll be looking around for what you know is there. You’ll be peeking into other lanes, watching people as they walk out of the mall, tracking them to their cars, smiling at them, and, all the while, searching for an opportunity to pounce.

Because if you believe it possible, you will find and act upon the opportunity to make it so.

Would the opportunity be there no matter what you believed? I happen to think so. But will you see it as such and act on it as such if you’ve already accepted defeat? I’m guessing that you’ll be circling that lot for an awfully long time.

And so it is as the parent of a child with challenges. How you view your child — and what you believe they can do — matters. In fact, it’s everything.

If you BELIEVE that your child is capable of learning, you will seek opportunities to help teach him. If you have FAITH that your child takes in and understands far more than she might be able to ‘prove’ to you, you will continue to talk to her, find ways to communicate with her, expose her to new things. If you have CONVICTION that your child has the ability to be competent, you will give him the tools to be competent.

If you TRUST that he or she can live a satisfying and meaningful life, you will ever be on the lookout for ways to contribute to that happening, and so it will.

So, while I still don’t think that the Law of Attraction is going to bring the rain, I do believe that having faith in a brighter future will allow us to see and act on the opportunities to create one.

And I’ll take that any day.

Oh, and none of this a secret. Feel free to tell anyone you like. 🙂

16 thoughts on “the secret

  1. I can get on board with this sort of philosophy. The biggest dangers with positive thinking memes is their tendency to become victim-blamey, as you rightly pointed out in your post. But it does make sense that a dose of optimism might enable you to see and capitalize on opportunity that would be there regardless of your attitude, provided all the other ingredients necessary are also present.

    But to pretend as if attitude is the be-all and end-all of success is simplistic. As with everything, reality seems to be much more complicated.

  2. “Because you believe it possible, you will find and act upon the opportunity to make it so.”

    “And so it is as the parent of a child with challenges. How you view your child — and what you believe they can do — matters. In fact, it’s everything.”

    As another “New Age sceptic, I can also totally by into the above.

    Love you,

  3. The worst part of the secret for me is that it also strongly suggests the inverse. Not only were the people in Africa not thinking enough positive thoughts, the Secret suggests that they were actively thinking anti-positive thoughts, leading to their anti-positive reality.

    Starving? You’re probably thinking too much about how hungry you are. Depressed? You deserve it because of all of those unhappy (depressed?) thoughts you keep having.

    I find the secret maddening.

    Optimism? I can get behind that.

  4. As the ever eternal optimist and mom of a most amazing daughter (with all types of abilities) I totally believe in the self fulfilling prophecy idea!!!! I believe that my job as her mom is to believe that she is capable of success and to provide her with the tools to live up to her fullest potential!!! I also believe that if you believe you or your child can’t then you won’t!!! A positive outlook may not end wars or droughts but can make it possible to do more than just exist during such trials.

  5. My husband is JUST like you regarding “woo” – I felt like I was reading his words. But yeah, I hear you. It’s about the filters we have. Optimism filters allow you to see the positives. But when you have depression filters or “I’m not good enough/not worthy” etc., filters, any proof to the contrary bounces right off. Those filters can be pretty clingy, but getting rid of them is wonderful!

  6. Before bug got an ipad, before I followed autistic and ally bloggers, before a lot of things…bug seemed disconnected and locked in himself…add all that and that magical time cure we now know hes crazy smart…it’s all in where you look. Having grown up as a preachers daughter “the secret” seems to be a non religious version of faith movement Benny hinn crap. Didn’t buy that even then…but I’ve found perspective and time make a lot of difference

  7. Yes, I agree, action creates the result, and how we think and feel effects what actions we choose to take.

    When we’re going up against huge things, war, famine, unemployment, etc., thinking and feeling that there’s nothing to do is defeat.

    You’ve probably heard of Viktor Frankl, his situation of being in a Concentration Camp was dire and way out of his control, but he chose his attitude, that was the last of his human freedoms.

    Your post reminded me of his life’s work. Yeah, the woo woo stuff is bunk, but like you said, attitude is the key.

  8. I must say I didn’t know where you were going with that one, but in the end it all made sense. 🙂 I agree, and from a Christian viewpoint, Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” I believe that if you pray believing that God’s will will be done, it will be. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Whether you call it the Law of Attraction or Positive Thinking, your attitude towards life will have a huge impact not only on how much (or little) you enjoy yourself, but also the experiences that you have, and the people you encounter.

    Not all children are born physically/mentally/emotionally equal. This doesn’t mean that they cannot have happy lives filled with abundance and good fortune.

    Sometimes the real secret is recognizing that we have to shift our perception and figure out what is truly important to us–and once we do that, we can achieve it.

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