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Health & Balance

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The Secret: Is It the Real Deal?

A theory about the power of positive thinking draws adherents -- and controversy.

Doctors' Views

Not so fast, says Gilbert Ross, MD. He is the executive director and medical director of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), a New York City-based consumer education-public health organization. Sure, "studies show that people that are optimistic do tend to do better than people with a pessimistic outlook. But The Secret doesn't sound kosher to me," he says. "I don't believe it, and there is absolutely no scientific basis for these effects."

"Those who try to convince people who are suffering from various diseases -- most of whom are desperate -- and would link to any offer of hope, no matter how farfetched, are doing a terrible disservice," he says. "One cannot hope a sunny disposition will replace appropriate medical evaluation and care."

Stephen Barrett, MD, a retired psychiatrist in Allentown, Pa., who operates, a web site devoted to exposing quackery and health fraud, agrees with Ross. "There is no evidence that thinking can modify disease other than occasional relaxation exercises," he says. "Thoughts have nothing to do with physics. They are talking about a concept of energy that cannot be measured."

"The energy involved in physics can be measured in a number of different ways," he stresses. "There is nothing real about what they are talking about. They are talking about imaginary energy. The idea of a secret remedy is a classic quack claim."

Secret Rx for Health?

Another Secret teacher, entrepreneur James Arthur Ray, the president and CEO of the Carlsbad, Calif.-based James Ray International, recently appeared on Oprah to discuss The Secret.

"The Secret is based upon the scientific evidence that all things are energy. And like energies are attracted to each other and dissimilar energies repel," says Ray, the author of several books including The Science of Success: How to Attract Prosperity and Create Harmonic Wealth Through Proven Principles.

For instance, "if you're constantly thinking and feeling broke, and acting upon those thoughts and emotions, you'll never create and experience prosperity."

When it comes to chronic diseases, "Michael J. Fox is a great example of noticing his situation is a gift," Ray says. Fox has Parkinson's disease and has been widely quoted as saying that he is grateful for his Parkinson's disease and that his life is richer for it.

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