Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dr. Freud, Dr. Phil, and The Secret

Dr. Freud, Dr. Phil and The Secret

For those of you not familiar with the latest Oprah find, the movie “The Secret” reveals how to get everything to want in life. The movie based on the same named book opens with a graphic back-alley gay bashing with a narration that suggests that the gay man being attacked in the alley had somehow ‘attracted’ the assailants to him by telling self-depreciating jokes at a comedy club. This is not the first time popular culture has suggested that our thoughts and self identities have attracted disastrous results. Years ago at the beginning of the New Age movement Louise Hay wrote that gay men ‘attracted’ HIV to their bodies by anonymous sex and illegal drug use. There was of course the usual outrage from the talking heads and some newspapers but for the most part these writings live on as a testament to the line of thinking that you become what you think about, and totally responsible for the life you have now.

When religion and science parted in the seventeenth century leaving the ‘known’ to the scientists and the ‘unknown’ to the clergy, there was a distinct line drawn between the physical world we see and touch and the spiritual world that we feel and experience. Sigmund Freud wrote about the Id and the Ego separating our instinctual and physical world. Many years would pass until scientists discovered that our emotions are controlled by chemicals in the brain that are affected by our thoughts and actions. When this knowledge was added to the world of corporate bookstores and sound bite headlines a new industry was created. This New Age/Self Help/personal responsibility paradigm has taken a firm hold on every part of our society; gay and straight, HIV positive and negative. How many times have we heard Dr. Phil deftly interrupt his ‘patients’ with the retort, “Now, whose fault is that?” But have we arrived at this place and time at the expense of those who did not attract the good or bad things in their lives? How can this simplistic view of the world apply to such complex issues such as our relationships, our health and our self-esteem?

In the book, The Secret the reader is introduced to a theory called The Law of Attraction. Our thoughts, our words and our actions attract what is coming to you in the universe. For example if you expect to get a bad meal or bad service at a restaurant, you probably will. The same goes for relationships. If you feel that all men are dishonest, you will attract a dishonest man into your life. According to the book your mind acts as a giant transmitter broadcasting your attitudes and then receiving what you ask for from the universe. Millions of copies of the book and video have been sold, several episodes of The View and Oprah have been dedicated to “The Secret” and while many of us say, “so what?” to this phenomenon, it has truly become part of the fabric of our social culture very quickly.

It’s hard to know what to believe anymore. We are bombarded daily with conflicting studies in nutrition, relationships, and spirituality. An easy solution such as the one given to us in “The Secret” can come as a relief to many as an answer to many questions we ask ourselves daily. Humans want to feel good and avoid pain. If a simple answer is put in front of us we’ll embrace it and put it to use.

HIV is a virus transmitted by blood, semen and other bodily secretions. It does not ‘come into’ our lives because of what we transmit to the outside world. Many people did not contract the virus while they made poor choices and had bad thoughts about themselves. They remained HIV negative by biological chance, not a force that somehow protected them while infecting others who did not have the same outlook. There are strong mind body connections. Our thoughts do affect our physical being. We know from experience that people with a good support system have better success with HIV treatment than those who do not.

The answer to life’s complex problems does not exist in a slim volume, information on the internet, or sitting in support groups. . Integrity comes from the work Integrated and our lives have to exist in harmony with our thoughts, actions and goals.
No one has kept “The Secret” from us. It is the man or woman in the mirror that lives in truth, self reflection and honest actions. Have a peaceful week.

 Nate Klarfeld/


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