Jack Canfield is Wrong: “So What” Doesn’t Work

There’s a lot that Jack Canfield does right. But there’s one thing he said in the movie The Secret that has been bugging me ever since I first saw it back in 2006.

Do you remember when he said this?

“… most psychologists believe that about 85% of families are dysfunctional, so it’s like, all of a sudden you’re not so unique. My parents were alcoholics. My dad abused me, my mother divorced him when I was six… I mean, that’s almost everybody’s story in some form or not. So that’s just called, ‘So what’.”

It’s that “So What” that bugs me.

Maybe so what worked for Jack… and maybe it works for some people. It hasn’t worked for me… I tried getting “So What” to work for about 20-years: Never did.

Now maybe I was just too messed up… or maybe I just wasn’t ready to let go of my wounding… maybe I was one of those victims Jack was talking about when he said: “You know, a lot of people feel like they’re victims in life, and they’ll often point to past events, perhaps growing up with an abusive parent or in a dysfunctional family.”

Could be. I’m willing to accept that there may be some truth to that.

And… I’m also clear that “So What” was NOT an effective path to wholeness for me. And, from what I can tell, it’s not an effective path for a lot of people including most of the people I’ve coached and guided through courses and retreats.

It took me a long time to let go of “so what” and look for another path, another way out of the cycle of wounding that held me back and holds so many Modern Day Mystics back from creating lives of True Abundance.

A new path appeared for me when I started working with a Somatic Experiencing practitioner. The doorway to a new possibility opened when she saw and acknowledged and reflected back to me the depth of the pain I was holding in the cells of my body.

She could tell by the way my body moved when I entered the “trauma vortex” that my trauma was early, birth and even pre-birth. She was able to see and clearly and compassionately reflect what I had been holding in my body all my life.

My “story,” as Jack would call it, is about adoption . It’s a story that doesn’t lend itself to being a victim because the trauma is pre-verbal, pre-cognition. There is no abuse involved and looking in from the outside there doesn’t seem to be much trauma at all. In some ways you could call it a “silent trauma.”

Try explaining to someone who has not been adopted that being separated from your mother at birth feels akin to death – your death and the death of the one person in your life that you need, in that moment, more than anything – and that the memory of that “death” is encoded in the cells of your body. Most people will nod their heads and say, “that’s interesting.”

So I tried, for most of my life, to get to that place of “So What” since that’s what the world seemed to be reflecting back to me. So What, Edward. Get over it and get on with your life.

Well intentioned advice that completely missed the target.

“So What” wasn’t what I needed. It didn’t help me.

Working with the SE practitioner I finally understood what I needed and what would have helped me. And maybe hearing this – even though the specifics might not be the same – will help you!

If I could go back to my younger self, when I first began my journey of self-discovery, knowing what I know now, here is what I would say:

“Wow Edward, I can see how deeply the adoption experience impacted you. You hold a profound pain inside of you that most likely will never completely go away. It must have been so painful to have your mother let you go at the moment of your birth. I can sense the deep emotions, the grief, anger, terror and helplessness that you’re holding in the cells of your body.

“You will always carry the memory of that experience in your body.

“But you know what else? You can learn to let go of the pain and release those deep emotions so that the experience doesn’t control you. You can acknowledge it. You can learn to accept it as a part of who you are. In time you may even come to appreciate it for the role it has played in shaping you into who you are and who you are becoming.

“And when you do that, Edward, when you acknowledge, accept and even appreciate the experience it will no longer have power over you. It will no longer control your thoughts and actions from the shadows.

“This experience has defined you but it has done so on a subconscious level. Now you get to choose to bring this experience into your conscious exploration of who you want to become. How will you choose to interact with this trauma. How will you choose to let it activate you, open you, awaken you, catalyze you to create something and share the unique wisdom and insights that you carry because of it? That is your choice and that is the path you must walk.”

Now I hope you can see that this is not meant to give any of us license to be a victim or to get stuck in our woundedness. Rather it is an invitation to be deeply witnessed in your wholeness… and your wholeness includes the wounds and past traumas that you carry.

When you are witnessed in those places, when you allow yourself to be seen and accepted in your wholeness you can begin to reclaim the power from the wounded places and bring that power into the light, into your life… and into the world!

So consider this article my way of acknowledging you, of witnessing you in your wholeness, of honoring the pain you carry from whatever traumas you have experienced in the past and of inviting you to bring your power into the world!

46 responses to “Jack Canfield is Wrong: “So What” Doesn’t Work”

  1. This is a brilliant and vulnerable communication, Edward. Thank you for
    stating the truth so clearly. There are scores of strategies for
    “getting over it,” including focusing exclusively on spirituality (“the
    spiritual bypass”), dissociating (“I’m out of here”), blaming others
    (“out-projecting”), intellectualizing, escaping with drugs, alcohol,
    sex, etc.; withdrawal into oneself (isolating), and focusing on
    obsessions such as body improvement, acquisition of objects, or
    relationships. The trauma must be dealt with to heal. There are many
    good techniques for doing so. In addition to SE, there are other
    body-oriented techniques such as bioenergetic therapy, and
    belief-oriented techniques such as my BeliefCloset Process and Body
    Wisdom Process. I’m glad you’re shouting this out. Your voice, and
    your experience, are much needed, and much appreciated.

    • Thanks Lion. I’ve tried a few of those other paths! 😉 And I’ve also experienced your Belief Closet work which is definitely another doorway to acceptance and wholeness. Glad the Belief Closet is becoming move visible in the world!

  2. This really touched me Edward. Being the daughter of a man who was adopted, it has given me a new view of why he might have reacted in pain the way he did. It allows me to find a place of compassion for my Father, I have not been able to reach before. It has also given me an idea on how to dialogue with that little girl in me who was hurt by my Father’s actions that stemmed from his own pain. Thank you for being willing to become that catalyst.

    • Michele thank you for sharing this. As a father of an 8-year old I often feel into how my woundedness may impact her. I do my best to stay conscious and present with her in the now but I know that there are times when things skulk up from the shadows. So it is beautiful to hear that this has helped you find more compassion for your father!

  3. I interpret Jack’s “So What” to mean that none of us is immune to pain, tragedy, being touched by injustice, injury and so on. I took it to mean, we just have to find a way to move forward and try not to get “stuck” in it and that we must strive to not become hindered by it. I would imagine by now that Jack Canfield has immersed himself in dozens of healing methodologies over his lifetime. Maybe for him, “So What” is just a summary of what he says to remind himself that he has the power to transcend the things in the past that he cannot change. I also think that we need to utilize a variety of teachers and healers throughout our lifetime. I’m glad you are utilizing different guides for the areas you seek greater understanding and growth. I celebrate you and your vulnerability and willingness to share. Please keep sharing your perspectives and lessons with us. Live Your Dreams…



    • Thanks for sharing that Jill. It’s another interpretation of Jack’s So What that I hadn’t considered. Always interesting to step back and notice how we (I) tend to perceive something in a certain way. Thanks for opening me to another possibility! And always good to hear from you!

      • Ed,

        Have you seen Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Wayne Dyer on OWN? If not, it is archived on the Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/ownTV/app_384557321607143 Wayne had decades of pain as a result of feeling abandoned by his father and he talks about his healing process. He also made a movie about it: Tales of Everyday Magic.

        Also I must say I have been delving very deeply into the work of Margaret Paul and her “Inner Bonding” process and it’s been wonderful on so many levels. She also has monthly free calls where you can gain tremendous insights. For anyone dealing with abandonment issues, I consider this work to be a remarkable tool for healing your wounds.



        • Thanks Jill. I will definitely check out that interview. I’ve always enjoyed listening to Wayne. And I’ve heard of Margaret’s work but have not explored it. Maybe it’s time!

    • I agree. I think Jack means that we all have pain somewhere in our lives but we do not need to use these stories as a reason not to move forward and create something different. Of course we need to acknowledge and heal the pain, but those stories of pain do not define us or determine our future.

  4. That sweeping “So What” statement is presented in such a way with no explanation, as you explained in your blog that things have happened to us, and that a certain amount of unwinding needs to happen in order to get us to the place where we can say “So What” but not in a way we are glossing over or in denial about things but in a way that we understand that we have done as much of the healing of layers we can up until this precious moment. Part of my issue with the movie, which I own and think is a great introduction to the power of positive thinking. But a deeper message is needed. I have had clients and friends who have watched the movie and others like it come out of it thinking that their own natural responses to things and thoughts they naturally have, are WRONG and then it creates a vicious cycle of never feeling like you are good enough. For instance, someone who doesn’t have more knowledge about the process would think that Jack’s “So What” statement would mean that if they couldn’t get over the wounding they experienced that they will never be abundant or don’t deserve to.

    Thanks for writing this blog and sharing so much vulnerability, it was beautiful. Part of accepting the self and loving the self means not “So what” ing yourself but like you said, continuing to move forward regardless and loving yourself regardless.

    • I agree that there is much to like about The Secret and that it is a simplification of the subject. Thank you for bringing up the issue of feeling like we need to be fully healed in order to be “goof enough” to get what we want. That’s a tenacious belief that gets in the way of so many people’s ability to create the life they want. We’re all good enough right now… trauma, pain, wounds and all!

  5. Wow!… Thank you, Edward, for sharing so personally and honestly about your wounds… even if many won’t be able to understand… I can sympathize with you… I have deep emotional heart wounds from being emotionally abused as a child which have affected me my whole life, including my failed marriage… Now, I’m trying to help women deal with their heart wounds… women, because they seem to be my ideal client… They seem to understand these things better than men are willing to yet… but things are changing… and men like you are leading the way. Aurelio.

  6. Thanks for sharing this Lion. Edward was once my neighbor in Graton. I live with the trauma of being raped every day. It’s not PTSD, because both I, and my community, are at risk every day this rapist goes un-convicted. Getting over it will not work, until justice is served, for all of us. My child would not be dead if the police had done their job.

    The community now needs the DA to be accountable and take action to hold the rapist accountable.

  7. Hi Edward, thanks so much for putting this out. As a body-centered coach and bioenergetic therapist, I come across this all the time – people who have been trying for years to manipulate, transcend or manage their wounds, have all the ‘right’ attitudes, affirmations and belief statements, but they are still in deep pain.
    There’s no way to bypass the body and what it carries… and it’s when we learn to safely feel the impact of feelings, to meet the truth of our experience fully, then wholeness happens. You describe this beautifully in your story, the way you healed your trauma through your body with compassion and acknowledgement, but not by becoming more of a victim. I also love hearing about you stepping into your power and wisdom through this process. Thanks for speaking out, I’m right behind you…!
    Deepika Sheleff


  8. I was adopted at birth as well, and feel the exact same way. Thank you for the validation! I know that adoption is not the only trauma that creates these dynamics in our lives and in our bodies. There are many reasons why people struggle to feel like they are living a full and abundant life. I completely agree with what you have to say about the movie The Secret. There is so much more to life, abundance and healing that is not at all addressed in that movie, the principles are highly oversimplified. I have done some work with pre and perinatal trauma, and I too have hope that we can accept our story and live with our experiences in a powerful way. Thanks again!

    • You’re absolutely right about all kinds of trauma being stored in the body. It’s definitely NOT just adoption. It’s just that birth and pre-birth trauma – adoption, attempted abortion, abuse of the pregnant mother, etc. – encode at such a deep, core level in the body/mind/spirit that they seem to have a more profound and long term impact on people.

  9. What’s wrong with you?!!! That’s all I hear…(internal critic/others) On the outside everything looks fine to everyone else. This should not be…You are educated, talented, too smart ect…They don’t understand and you cant explain it to yourself much less the people you love or outsiders. If the kingdom of heaven is within, so is hell. Some dark place that has some kind of control over you deep in your subconscious. Trauma experienced, trauma interpreted, deep impressions. Is it true? …Hell is a helpless hole of misunderstanding. No one wants to go there so everyone runs away from you. You are abandoned by church, family and friends. Nothing you try works. So I quit trying to run. I accepted hell. I dove in.
    Thank you for your post. Possibly some wives and children can understand their husbands weird behavior. Mine don’t. There is no way out. There is only through…and the possibility of wholeness on the journey.

    • You have expressed my feelings in your post. Not many will own the hell within. Or to look at their shadow side. It is easier to look at and judge another’s dark side than to want to know that we have a hell within. I too stopped running and began a journey of getting to know my hell in order to know my heaven better.

      • I so agree with both of you, I just wonder if the words heaven and hell are helpful or not. There is so much cultural baggage associated with both of those words. I prefer to use terms like light and dark, light and shadow, visible and hidden, owned and disowned. Just something to consider.

  10. I would agree that the so what … or minimizing or denying the impact of a trauma, whatever that trauma was or whatever story we have going on about something in our past is not helpful ,when it keeps in place some negative belief or thought about ourselves. The most helpful thing I heard you say is that: you accepted yourself fully and completely for all of what has brought you to this moment in your life acknowledging the pain, the drama, the blessed and not so blessed things that have occurred in your life , it is also something that I appreciate the reminder of what we all know deep inside of ourselves, that we are whole. We are perfect exactly the way we are and the way we are not. Thank you Edward for articulating it so well…..

  11. This is absolutely why forcing women to bear children they either don’t want or can’t take of is so wrong. Anyone enlightened enough to recognize that reincarnation is one of the basic operational principles of the Universe should also be capable of recognizing that abortion isn’t some terrible wrong — everyone gets plenty of chances to live yet another life here on Earth (and, in fact, the sacred texts of Hinduism and Buddhism contain specific references to the soul never taking possession of its fetus body until after the sixth month of gestation, and sometimes not even until right before birth) . But the trauma suffered by infants separated from their mother at birth is something that should be prevented whenever possible. And therefore, a woman’s right to control what happens to her own body, and choose abortion if that’s what she needs to do, should be preserved no matter what!

    • While I absolutely agree with you that women should be able to choose, I don’t feel like my experience or the experience of other adoptees justifies the embracing of widespread abortion. There is nothing inherently wrong with abortion and, I believe that there are absolutely ways that adoption can work WELL. And personally I have to say that I am THRILLED that my birth mother made the decision to bring me into the world. Yes, it’s been – at times – a very painful journey, but I feel supremely blessed and grateful that I am here and have the opportunity to move through the pain and find my way to the joy and love and beauty that waits on the other side… and that has been here with me all along!

  12. I recall the “So what?” attitude that I got from my siblings. It simply tells me that they didn’t care. That they weren’t interested in what I had to share. That my feelings were not important. Just forget the past and move on. Easy to say but the past does not want to be forgotten so easily. So it is the same with “stop being a victim …..” . Suppress the pain, deny it, look the other way. For me “So What” wasn’t what I needed. It didn’t help me too. Instead it drives the knife further into the wound.
    What works for me is to allow the “So what?” to surface, to release & clear from my energy field.
    “So what?” is a very sweeping ,callous remark and does not honour one’s or another’s pain.
    Thank you for helping me with the clarity of “So what?”. You have helped me verbalise my trauma. I can feel the stuck energy starting to move. “So what?” – “No big deal!”

  13. Thank you for sharing your beautiful heart Edward! I too have experienced the “silent trauma” and “death” encoded in every cell of my body as a Birthmother. I have carried it with me every day of my life for 39 years in silence, shame and secrecy. In the late 1960’s when I gave birth to my daughter, it was forbidden to keep your child as an unwed mother. I was forced into exile, silence and secrecy, hiding the most traumatic and important experience of my life…that of my beautiful baby whom I was separated from at birth. Every fiber of my being shut down. I was shattered. Broken. Torn to shreds as the life force of my own precious child left my body and was taken away from me. I begged. I howled. I screamed. I wept tears from my soul, asking the doctors & nurses to bring my baby back to me. How does a mother separate from her own child? I was left with nothing but profound emptiness and a longing so deep inside my heart and soul, body and mind that is impossible to describe. I became the nameless, faceless, voiceless mother who was not allowed to grieve the loss of my child, and she was alive, breathing somewhere else, alone and without me. I desperately wanted to hold her, kiss her, caress her, love her and allow the natural, organic, sacred bond to be fully expressed between mother and child through our human touch and unconditional love I felt inside my heart for her. But that would never happen. I searched for her my entire life, and finally 3 years ago I miraculously found her. We shared a 3 year long distance relationship by letters, emails, texts and occasional phone calls. Shortly after our DNA test results were confirmed proof positive, she agreed to meet me in person, but always cancelled in the 11th hour. On my third attempt to meet last year in New York City, she again cancelled in the last minute. 6 months ago, in mid-January she took her own life. All that is left now is our profound and beautiful Love Story, a book I have written called “39 Years of Silence” – A Birthmother’s Story of Love, Sacrifice & Yearning. Through the art of learning self-forgiveness and acceptance during 4 decades of my life, I was finally lead to authentic healing, Grace and transformation. Our story reveals the devastating emotional impact that adoption has on both mother and child, and how unceasing, unconditional love and total acceptance of ‘what is’ leads to blessings and breakthrough. The silence has been profound….and the journey is constantly revealed as a razor’s edge between silence and voice. It is my hope that our story will help to heal millions of birthmother’s and adoptive children everywhere. As a Birthmother, I send you my unconditional Love. I feel your heart, inside my heart.
    Rita Tanos

    • Thank you Rita for sharing this and for your courage and willingness to forgive yourself. Years ago I asked my birth mother if she would do a forgiveness and healing ritual with me. She agreed. And while there is much more to say about it, the point that rings true in your words is the place we both reached in the ritual where we felt the other had died in that moment of separation… and more… we each recognized that on some level we had taken responsibility for the “death” of the other and had been carrying that anguish. So thank you again! I would love to read your book. Is it available online?

      • Thank you Edward! I am in the process of learning how to self publish my book and also looking into Amazon’s Createspace for a printed version. I’m hoping to have it available this Fall and will let you know as soon as it is.
        I appreciate your interest in “39 Years of Silence”.

    • You are not alone, in pain nor in healing. There’s a similar story in the amazing book, Birth Mother, by Joanna Wiebe. It’s available on Amazon, etc.

  14. Dearest Edward,
    For years I have heard and witnessed the pain of those adopted. It is so deep. I see many that can never overcome the trauma and carry it with them to their graves in shared utterances along the way, and always with wonder. I continue to observe “baby buying” around the world. It makes me feel so conflicted! On very rare occasions, I see a successful adoption where the odds were so against that baby in their original environment that the only hope was through rescue adoption. In every instance, it is an international adoption. I am so glad to hear your courage to step up and take on “So What”, in light of your life experience. Thank you for your authenticity and sharing a very raw experience. Often I see adoption as not fulfilling the needs of a child instead I see it fulfilling the needs of an adult. Children are not possessions. Until we honor children and women worldwide, including reproductive choices, we will suffer as a society. Thank you, so deeply, for a lifetime of reflection and a moment of sharing….

    • Thank you Debra. I actually believe that adoption can work. It requires a high level of consciousness and an environment of love and caring. But then, isn’t that the environment that all children should be welcomed into!

  15. I thought about your beautiful words and thought back on Caroline Myss’s work “Why People Don’t Heal”, where she asks what are we if we remove the trauma from the equation… I take that to mean that we are supposed to peel
    the layers and look inside at the place where our power resides. Trials and tribulations test our resolve. Overcoming them shows our victory over them and the maturity of our spirit. I was also adopted but what hurt me the most was that my biological father just left my Mom when they found out she was pregnant. She tried to abort but couldn’t get any help; just did all kinds of crazy things with no success. I was born a very sick baby (was about to be taken to the morgue when one of the drs called back & tried resuscitation, one more time, lol), from a guilt torn Mother, in a society that despised the situation, in the 50s. My Father who adopted me was very courageous for the time but was also not respected for “accepting the child of another man”. I now choose to remember the wonderful things I experienced from these 2 people who also suffered so much because of society’s screwed up mores. I’m totally in favor of abortion in a case such as this. We can not create a spirit and we cannot kill a spirit. If my Mom had access to legal abortion I would have gone, entered another sack of bones, another situation, hopefully better than the one I encountered. Instead, I went through what nearly drove me insane, only surviving through being “pretty”, intelligent, and acting up because of confusion. You have shown that you already separated yourself from the trauma, put it up to the light, and became what you are besides that mark in your soul. Yours is a mature spirit, ready to teach others how to look for the strength hidden by the suffering. So…, what now…?

    • I see you Mary! I sense that you have the capacity to “teach others how to look for the strength hidden by the suffering!” Beautiful words from one who has clearly found beauty amidst much darkness. Blessings on your continued journey into beauty!

  16. Dearest Edward ~ thank you so much. I feel my journey is much as yours. I do quantum energetic healing types of things. And for some reason, it just wasn’t “getting to it” for me, for my own healing. I had people saying “just get over it, you’re the most powerful healer I know, just drop it”. And I somehow stumbled into SE work (as well as powerful Sufi healing). I feel in SE I just get to places that nothing else touches. It’s not about just saying it’s not there, or a cerebral exercise. Rather a palpable direct experience of a living of something, resolving it at the reptilian brain, beyond the thoughts one might create. The effect is PROFOUND. I am amazed and awe struck in gratitude for what this work has brought to me in my life. I believe it’s one of the reasons I am still alive, and I am eternally grateful for that. I find that just *allowing* experience helps it resolve. SE has taught me that. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Every blessing ~ Aileen Sabira

  17. Thank you Edward for standing in your truth and conveying the importance of releasing the subconscious programming that is stored in our cellular memories. As a long-term psychotherapist turned energy worker/coach/spiritual mentor I am absolutely passionate about helping clients release what is stored in their cellular memory. In my experience and opinion, it is the only way to break free from our unsupportive patterns and behaviors and step fully into a life of greater authenticity, creativity, love and joy. Catherine

    • That has been my experience: as long as the cellular trauma remains it is difficult to break the cycle. I’m not convinced that the cellular memory ever goes away. Seems more like the negative charge around the memory that gets released. Thanks for your work!

  18. Thank you Edward for your sharing, which has brought so many varied perspectives and responses.As the mother of a 24yr old adopted son, i understand and feel everyone’s responses.I have great respect for my son’s biological mother and do send healing to the parents and ancestors, since i believe in karmic connections, and that we are not so ‘separate’ from them.All the souls involved have made choices to go through this experience, however painful it is sometimes, even for the adopted parents.Its accelerated our spiritual growth and i trust our son too will heal his deeper wounds.Mindfulness, Unconditional Love, Forgiveness besides many other healing modalities have helped us on this journey,and has helped me to discover my higher purpose from a physician to a Healer.

  19. So what never worked… there area lot of people out there making a lot of money out of others trauma with all there good words and the bottom line is buy this and you will be all better…. do my course and i will change your life around…. i have just received one that said… you wasted your money on education when it would only have cost you the late fees on books at the library… I know we all have to make a living… but how many others have tried to say so what to their pain and lived with it for a life time…

    • Discernment is the key when choosing who to entrust with your personal development. I believe we all need guides along the way. Too many people fall into the trap of seeking the quick fix. Seek instead for someone who will guide you back to your own center, your own power.

  20. Ultimately we may come to the point in our life or in a future life where we can say “So What”? But we can only get there by transcending the pain. There are 100s of different ways of achieving this (many of which are being mentioned here) and each way may work differently and with different success with different individuals. But rejoice! This is our Karma and this is our Path. And this is what leads us to search for the truth beyond the pain.

    Jack Canfield probably can say this now, but I suspect working with his pain led him to this point and can probably be at least partially attributed to his current success.

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