Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Secret Beneath "the Secret"

The message in the bestselling book/movie The Secret is that in thinking about the future it pays to stay positive. This involves not only visualizing a bright future, but also seeing whatever there is in the present in a positive light. An underlying principle is that what is held in one's unconscious will manifest itself in reality at some point.

Basically it involves making the right choice of looking at a glass as either half full or half empty. One observer looking at a glass with 50 percent liquid in it will say "Too bad, I only have half of it left--I miss the time when it was full," the other, who knows "the Secret" will say "Great, I already have half of the glass filled." The one with the stance of the glass being half full will be at an emotional advantage simply because a positive outlook is more energizing, making it easier to improve one's situation.

And yet, an emotional advantage may not necessarily produce positive results. First, in maintaining the glass being half full, one needs to say and ask, "Yes, it's full, but full of what?" There is an assumption that the glass contains pure drinking water. Okay if true, if not, optimism can lead to disaster.

Drinking glasses are containers. So what about the advantage of containers being half full in other contexts. A ship in the ocean is an example of a large floating container. What if the ship has sprung a leak and is now half full of sea water. Should we rejoice because the sinking ship is "only" half full or because it is still half empty?

It is obvious that the universal half-full-glass optimism of "the Secret" needs to be carefully examined. All factors, especially relevant laws of nature need to be taken into account. The secret beneath "the Secret" may be that those who place their blind faith in the universe simply accommodating whatever they wish for and visualize may have been basing their optimism on a metaphorical glass half full of clean, clear water which may not turn out to be so clean and clear when transposed into material reality. So should one simply forget about "The Secret?" My answer: Stay optimistic but keep a careful eye on the glass and its content.


Anonymous said...


Laugh out loud funny entry by the way.

Now, you write about a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. Being Vietnamese, and growing up in a Vietnamese household, I feel that I have a certain amount of authority and credibility as it relates to the observation of positive thinking.

Vietnamese people, are in grossly disgusting generalized terms, VERY OPTIMISTIC. So optimistic to the point where they would drink your half glass full of motor oil and you would still have a difficult time convincing them that it tasted bad. Frankly, I suspect this to be a coping mechanism evolved over thousands of years of hard labor in a rice field. One would need to be optimistic to get out there and beat bales of rice all day in the blistering Vietnamese sun.

My mother, for those of you who know her, embodies this Uber-positive quality. And I do admit, it has enabled our family to survive some pretty shitty stuff. But, as you suggest, at what point is this optimism pollyanna, or of a "low quality" of positive thinking?

After many years of pondering this question I believe I arrived at a suitable answer to this question one day while discussing it with my wife (your daughter).

The key to being positive without being oblivious, is to gather all the information about a certain scenario (both negative and positive fact) and STILL choose to remain positive. Now I would coin this as a sort of self-actualized positivism that is clearly distinguished from the "default positive" demeanor.

I think if one adopts this approach, in CHOOSING to be positive in light of some very hard facts, the glass is half full with crystal clear, filtered, and high quality H2O.


Howard said...

Thanks for your commentary and for coining the term "self-actualized positivism." If choices are made in a framework of high-level awareness, there is justification for optimism.