My recent feature from the Irish Examiner on trying to implement the lessons of Rhonda Byrne’s The Power
I tried. Honestly, I did. But no matter how much I deployed positive thinking, or tried to visualise myself completing it, I just could not finish reading The Secret, Rhonda Byrne’s staggeringly successful (to the tune of 19m copies) self-help juggernaut. Struggling through The Secret, it brought to mind Dorothy Parker’s legendary line, ‘This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly; it should be thrown with great force’.
Suffice to say, I considered it a major challenge to get through Byrne’s follow-up The Power, but, by gum, I persevered in the name of research to apply its lessons to my own life, and see what change, if any, this produced.
So what is “The Power”? In a nutshell, “The Power” boils down to two song titles: ‘All You Need is Love’ and ‘You Get What You Give’. Yes, love is “the positive force of life”. Everything you want to be be, to do or to have comes from love. If you approach everything in life from a place of love – replacing all negative thoughts and feelings with loving ones – then an “amazing life!” awaits you.
I might be deeply cynical when it comes to self-help tomes, but I do believe that even the genre’s most unutterable garbage can contain a pearl or two of wisdom. I like The Power’s underlying ideas of thinking positively and trying to find the best in any given situation. I firmly believe that such people are good examples to live by.
But try as I might I can’t help but fall down in my quest to co-opt the tenets of The Power. I don’t think there’s enough love in the universe to make me feel good about getting my ESB and phone bills (Byrne urges readers to be thankful for the electricity rather than focusing on the negative aspects of paying for it).
Indeed, I’m sure the chapters in the book concerning money, and how to make more of it, will be the most thumbed. After all, Rhonda Byrne has made NAMA-amounts of cash on the back of these projects.
Alas, the only revelation is to feel good about money, even if you don’t have it. Those who feel good about money “magnetize it back to them”. Believe me, I’ve been feeling good, and having loving thoughts about money for a long time now, all to no avail.
It didn’t work either when I tried to follow her theories about the placebo effect in the section entitled ‘The Power and Health’. Have you ever tried to think/love away a hangover? Even worse, Byrne suggests I should be thankful for the hangover because “the waters of the body receive all your feelings”, so they should be positive feelings if possible.
Byrne also wags her finger at readers for gossiping because “it’s giving negativity, and that’s what you receive back”. I figured this would be the easiest habit to change, but alas, within hours, I’m on IM exchanging rumours about an Irish celebrity with a friend. But I did it with love, I assure you.
My main beef with The Power, and The Secret before it, is that a huge amount of its lessons encourage, if not outright depend on imagining what you want. I’m all for positive thinking, but there’s a danger that vulnerable people could get trapped in a second fantasy life that doesn’t, and might not ever exist.
Won’t that just lead to further unhappiness or discontentment? Of course, there probably isn’t much of a market for the one important idea that Byrne doesn’t articulate in The Power: that the larger your fantasy life is, the smaller your real one will be.