Friday, January 1, 2010

Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope it'll be a happy and productive time for us all. I'm completing the first round of edits for my manuscript, and trying to get it done before classes start again.

I also borrowed Lynn Grabhorn's Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting: The Astonishing Power of Feelings from the library after someone recommended it as a good way to achieve success in life. It was a New York Times bestseller, so I was expecting something interesting, if not revolutionary.

Warning in advance : this is not going to be a favorable review.

I’ll start with the pros, though. Grabhorn’s main theme is that emotions have power, and positive emotions help us achieve what we want. I agree with this. I’ve always felt that optimism and joie de vivre are not only attractive to other people, but are beneficial in accomplishment as well. So while this wasn’t exactly original, it was fine.

The problem is that Grabhorn turns this simple idea into an entire pseudo-religion, revolving around “vibrations” and the Law of Attraction. The Law of Attraction, by the way, is that like attracts like (we’re dealing with metaphysics rather than physics here). Therefore, if your vibrations are positive, you will attract positive things and see positive outcomes in your life.

And if you vibrate positively enough, the entire universe will give you what you want. Grabhorn is short on evidence, providing perhaps a dozen anecdotes of people who followed her philosophy (and I use the term loosely) and ended up miraculously successful. But she’s long on buzzwords. And I use that term literally.

The third, which we’ll explore now, is called “buzzing”, which gives you a RIGHT NOW change in vibration… You are in absolute alignment with your Inner Being/Expanded Self… and… you can feel the sensation right smack in the pit of your stomach!

That’s what makes buzzing so much fun. Through emotion, you’re creating an undeniable physical sensation… (pg 110)

Was it good for you too?

At that point I realized I was right smack in the pit of a New Age tome, but since I’d shivered my way to the library to pick it up, I decided to finish it. Grabhorn is also fond of using the term “WHOOSH!” (repeated seven times on page 106 alone) and of stretching out the word “feel” (done so many times I lost count).

Just remember, you must feeeeel the passion behind every word.

Until the two-thirds point, though, the book was merely silly. Then it got into the causes of illness and death and became offensive as well.

Illness exists for only one reason: someone has flowed more low-frequency energy than high… Always! People who are sick have shut themselves off from their Lifeline. (pg 187)

Also, accidents only affect people who think negative thoughts, and there’s an example of this. The mother of one of Ms. Grabhorn’s closest friends was killed when a boulder was tossed from an overpass and it hit her car. Unbelievably, the author lays responsibility for this on the dead woman, because she was “resentful” of some things in life. The man who caused her death was her “executioner”.

And that’s not even getting into how genocide is caused by people who focus on negative events in the past. I get the impression that Lifeline/Inner Self/whatever it’s called is frighteningly devoid of empathy, since all this culminates in the section titled “Death Is a Joke”. Here, the author claims that when people “die”, they’re actually “bipping from one frequency to another”.

I don’t normally read this kind of book, let alone review it, but at that point I was so repelled that I decided to keep others from wasting their time (or worse, money). Especially since the blurb is about believing in yourself and gives no indication of the lunacy within.

As a postscript, I went to Amazon to check what other readers thought of this book. That was where I learned that Ms. Grabhorn is now “dead”. Opinions are divided as to whether this was due to cirrhosis of the liver, suicide brought on by schizophrenia or “an invisible entity that was murderous in intent” - link. Oh, and there are claims that she plagiarized parts of this book, but I don’t think I’ll be reading the source material to find out.


Maria Zannini said...

I have a firm belief in positive thinking, but I also believe in helping yourself.

Grabhorn's book sounds more like a commercial venture rather than a true self-help book. Rhonda Byrnes, The Secret follows a similar path, all wrapped up in a nice commercial package and one hour with Oprah.

Sorry to hear the book was disappointing. And while Grabhorn's death seems ironic, it makes me wonder how she would explain it away.

Happy New Year, Marian!

Bekah said...

Wow. That is not the kind of help I want to get more success out of life. I would say interesting book, but it sounds more like disasterous book. How did it become a best seller? Then again I could list a few books that were best sellers that I think were way over-rated too. Thanks for the heads up.

Anonymous said...

The book sounds atrocious, sheesh. Like Maria Zannini, I wonder how she would have explained her own death. (Not that I am glad she is dead, mind.) Just morbidly curious.

Janna Qualman said...

Wow! Just... wow. I'm glad you gave it a chance to share its contents with the rest of us, and now we know not to waste our time (as you said). I can only hope her words haven't pushed someone the wrong, misguided direction.

Happy New Year, Marian!

Marian said...

Maria - Yes, I had the impression that this book was just one facet of a whole New Age movement. The Secret was mentioned in several positive reviews.

Bekah - I have no idea how this book became a NYT bestseller - excellent marketing campaign, maybe? On the other hand, there are no quotes on the cover from any other bestselling authors. That should've been a warning to me.

Marian said...

bookdragonette - I too would love to know how her death is reconciled with her philosophy. Perhaps true believers will take it as her wish to travel into a better dimension?

Janna - Happy New Year to you and your family! :)

Yes, I hope no one who was sick or clinically depressed took this book seriously and held themselves responsible for their condition (or worse, tried to change it through positive thinking alone). There's a lot to be said for the placebo effect, but it's wrong to imply that that's all you need.

Mary Witzl said...

I remember listening to someone in a cafe telling a friend that her father had died because he'd been thinking the wrong thoughts. I had to restrain myself from getting up and shaking her.

It's so tempting to look for a quick fix and a REASON for all the ills of the world. But few people make it to the stage of actually publishing their nonsense theories.

Wonder how this lady would explain the Holocaust, or Rwanda? Scary, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Good grief. That book sounds dreadful. She takes some good general ideas such as positive thinking, and like attracts (which I do believe in) and twists them into absurdity.

To me, positive thinking means trying to see the bright side of situations, or not giving up even when things are very difficult in your life. That sort of thing. NOT that nothing bad can ever happen to you, and that if it does, that you're to blame. Ugh.

Angela said...

I think you deserve an award for clawing your way through it!

Marian said...

Mary - I'd have found it very difficult to sit through such a conversation as well, even if I was just overhearing it.

You're right about people wanting reasons for things that go wrong, like disease. Some people either assign responsibility to whoever's suffering from the disease or accident (helps maintain the illusion that we can control whatever happens in life).

Or they adopt a mindset where nothing really goes wrong. If you get cancer, it's to make you a better person. If you die, it's so you can go to a better place.

Marian said...

Tasha - That's what positive thinking means to me as well - optimism and determination. On the other hand, if the author wrote a book of common sense, it probably wouldn't have sold as well.

Angela - To be honest, some parts made me giggle - the buzzing and vibrations, WHOOSH! and the repeated references to valves opening and closing. I only got pissed off towards the end.

writtenwyrdd said...

You touch upon some of the issues I have with New Age works I read in the 90s - that it's all your fault, essentially, if you have anything bad happen to you. On one hand, it helps to have something upon which to pin your troubles. Religions already do that, however, and the blame (if you can call it that) is relegated to diety. But when the humanistic viewpoint takes that same tactic, you have made man his own 'victim.' This sort of thinking offends me as it implies that if you can't succeed you are a loser, etc.

There is something to the ideas presented. But taking it too far and you just set up a self-victimization cycle.

writtenwyrdd said...

(Oh, and by saying 'blame' is relegated to diety, I mean that in the "It's God's will" sort of belief.)

AnarchicQ said...

She's not dead, she's merely 'bipped'.

Marian said...

Writtenwyrdd - I think there's a middle ground between "everything is completely random" and "everything is purposeful, either ordained by a deity or caused by us".

If you got through more than one book like this, though, I'm impressed. :)