Alisa Valdes

Writer. Producer. Human.

Why “The Secret” is a Weapon of Privilege

Jun
06

 

I have written two screenplays in the past two months. One is artsy and historical, about a forgotten woman genius from Victorian-era Berlin. It was a passion project and I’m still waiting to hear back from a couple of people about it. The other is an adaptation of my second novel, done at the request of my producing partner, for a Mexican TV and music star. That one, I’ve rewritten twice, from the ground up. Hundreds and hundreds of unsatisfactory pages tossed into the bin of discontent. Writing, they say, is rewriting. Man, is that true.

Meanwhile, my money is once again running out. It has been this way for the past ten years. I lurch from project to project, paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes I get paid once a year. Sometimes twice. Sometimes, not at all. I have to find a way to make the money last until I sell the next thing, and sometimes the timing is off because of a million unanticipated setbacks. This is one such time. I’ve got enough to last me maybe another month, and then – nada.

So I do what any artist with a kid does: I look for a day job. Those are hard to come by in Albuquerque. This is the poorest state in the nation, with the highest unemployment rate. Wages are low, and demand for my skill set is next to zero. I have been stuck here since my divorce 13 years ago, because I am not the sort of mother to take her son across state lines without permission, and my ex is not the sort of father to not care whether he sees his son regularly or not.

This morning, as I shared my frustrations in job hunting with a friend, I was dismayed by his response. He came at me with all this “quit your stinking thinking” bullshit. “Write the job and salary you want to get, on a piece of paper, and put it on the wall next to your bed. Put that energy out into the universe and it will come back to you.”

This is the usual nonsense spewed by people who adhere to “The Secret” and other magical thinking around prosperity and success. If you’re failing, the theory goes, it’s because you aren’t trying hard enough to be shiny, sweet, happy and optimistic. It’s no coincidence that the person who told me this happens to be a white male working in the health care field and making a six figure salary. He owns three homes, rents two of them out for income. In his mind, my failure to find money is entirely my own fault, for just not trying hard enough.

The first problem with this pseudo-psychology/science is that it blames the victim. Most of the 7 billion people on earth live in extreme poverty and deprivation; by this privileged man’s “logic,” it’s their own fault. The entire third world just isn’t living up to their potential because of stinking thinking. This is nothing short of metaphysics, in the worst way, a type of prosperity religiosity that absolves society and community from the responsibility of helping those in need, by giving everyone permission to judge those in need as being just not happy enough to deserve success.

The second problem with “The Secret” and other such “advice” is that it isn’t advice at all. It is judgment, often uninformed and unfair, usually given by those who have more than enough and believe they deserve it. It does not take into account the very real issues of classism, racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, ageism, economic disadvantage. It ignores the prejudices of the world, and says, in essence, that those who have, have because they deserve it. This is utter bullshit.

The third problem is that “The Secret” is nothing but a grand experiment in confirmation bias, allowing people to extrapolate and see whatever it is that they want to see, without requirement of empirical evidence or, of course, compassion.

I’m not in this position because I am negative. I’m not in this position because I don’t work hard enough. I’m in this position for a host of reasons, many of them out of my control. My “friend” likes to think of himself as a Buddhist, but in truth he, like so many other new age adherents from backgrounds of privilege, misses the point. Buddha never taught that you could think pain or difficulty away. Quite the opposite. Buddhism gives people the tools with which to endure and accept circumstances beyond their control, without losing their minds or souls.

While it is certainly true that there are some people who find themselves in difficult circumstances because they lack initiative, that is not the case for most human beings. If “The Secret” were real, most of us would not be struggling. But it’s not real. It is nonsense. It’s no different than the idiotic claim some make that we bring about our own illnesses through negative thinking. Sometimes, motherfucker, you just happen to have grown up a block from a toxic waste dump and now you have fucking cancer.

Three Great Reasons to Quit Rejecting Compliments

Mar
27

So, tell me. How do you respond when someone compliments you?

If you’re like most people I know, you shake your head like a dog with water in its ear. You might even back up from the person who has praised you, waving the terrifying commendation away with your hands, as though it contained anthrax.

Most of us seriously suck at taking compliments. But why? That’s easy. Fear. We are afraid, as Marianne Williamson so beautifully put it in her poem Our Deepest Fear, of discovering we are powerful beyond all measure. Being a loser is easy. No one expects anything from a loser – least of all yourself. And if there are no expectations, you can’t let anyone down.

But I am here today to ask you to please, for your own good, stop swatting away heartfelt accolades like poopy flies. Start to say “thank you,” instead of arguing against your own self worth, and watch what happens.

YOU WILL STOP BEING A JACKASS WHO INVALIDATES OTHER PEOPLE’S PERCEPTIONS

Put politely, it’s impolite to reject a genuine compliment from someone who cares about you. Even if you don’t immediately agree with this person’s adulation of you, arguing with them is actually inconsiderate and invalidating.

YOU WILL QUIT BEING A LOSER WHO UNDERMINES HERSELF

Even if you think you’re “just being humble” when you argue against a compliment, your subconscious mind will believe you. If someone says “You look great in that skirt,” and you reply with “Ugh, no, it makes me look like a sausage in a sock,” the hidden parts of your mind and spirit that determine how you feel about yourself will take your self criticism to heart. This undermines your self-esteem, which undermines your actual life.

YOU WILL EMABLE YOUR OWN GIFTS AND ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES

Every time you thank someone for saying a positive thing about you, you accept that positive thing as a real possibility. This, in turn, boosts your self-esteem. Stop feeling guilty for actually thinking good things about yourself. You are allowed. In fact, you are required. You are the only you you’ll ever have, and you are your own best advocate. Accept the compliment, and own it.

Did you find this post helpful? Would you like to learn more about how changing your own narrative can change your life for the better? Click here to learn about my SUCIA Empowerment Weekends, coming to a city near you! I’ve helped thousands of women change their lives for the better by learning how to tell better stories about themselves, to themselves, and I can’t wait to help you! Already know you want to attend? Click here to request your application!