Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Secret is Acceptance

Remember the book "The Secret"? Take a look at the movie trailer, the website, the Vinny Verelli sketch, and the Saturday Night Live spoof and you can get a "Cliff's Notes"-like understanding of it's basic tenets.

Most of us have a healthy skepticism of statements that are universal and absolute. Anything that promises to deliver "the most powerful law in the universe" seems suspect. When ideas are taken to an extreme, they often begin to lose relevance and power and become stereotypes.

"The Secret" takes some good basic ideas and stretches them to the point of seeming magical and even absurd at times. If ancient philosophers, scientists, and religious leaders really knew the path "to unlimited happiness, love, health and prosperity", why would they keep it a secret?

While thoughts and beliefs can be very powerful and it is certainly important to take responsibility for our own behavior when appropriate, we must also acknowledge the impact of heredity, circumstances and environment. The notion that we are the sole creators of our lives and we are 100% responsible for everything that happens to us can be quite blaming and discouraging to those facing the most difficult of life challenges.

Experience shows that we can sometimes change aspects our own reality through challenging our perspectives, but the value of acceptance must also be recognized. Acceptance is acknowledgement without judgment of things that cannot be changed or that are better left unchanged. Acceptance also means taking personal responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings as well as the choices you make in your life. It can be a very difficult state to achieve, but one of the most satisfying for those who master it. It can also be the only healthy option available to some individuals.  

It can be a very seductive thing to blame others for thier misfortunes. It would mean that the world is just, we have total control over our lives, can avoid all danger, overcome any obstacle, and realize our wildest dreams if we just get our minds right. What a wonderful world that would be! However, we can see the negative effects of self-blame or "victim blaming" when we look at survivors of crime or social problems like poverty and discrimination. Excessive shame and guilt rarely help people live more productive and satisfying lives and it often prevents people from seeking out the help they need to do so.

So if you decide to read "The Secret" or watch the movie, I hope you will take from it what seems useful to you, but that you will resist the temptation to see it as a panacea or use it as an excuse to blame yourself or others for their problems. For more information about mental health concerns, please visit my website http://www.kctherapist.com/.