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Courtesy of IMDb

It’s quite clear that every person’s goal in life is to achieve higher status. Whether that be economical, personal, political, or spiritual, we are all striving towards advancement. Yet, despite our motivation and desire, many of us fall short of the objective we are working for. What is holding us back? David Friedman, author of self-help book The Thought Exchange, believes he has pinpointed the problems that we encounter and the simple way to solve them.

The Thought Exchange is a documentary that verbalizes the ideas put forth by Friedman in his book. Friedman’s thesis revolves around the notion that our reality — everything that we observe and feel on a regular basis — is heavily affected by our thoughts. For every thought that we have, a sensation runs through our body. Friedman defines a sensation as anything that we notice is happening in our body: hunger, fullness, nausea, etc. Our interpretations of these sensations, guided by our thoughts, are how we perceive the world. For instance, some people may define a lightness in their chests as meaning they are sick or nervous. However, others will define the exact same sensation as meaning they are feeling love or joy. It’s these discrepancies that alter our state of being and potentially prevent us from thriving.

After one viewing of the film, it may be tough for many to even grasp the concepts Friedman discusses. The language gets incredibly repetitive, as the words “thoughts” and “sensations” are repeated so many times that they start to lose meaning after a while. I had the benefit of being able to pause and rewind the film whenever I wanted, and even still, I find it almost impossible to convey what I was supposed to learn. Friedman tries to explain how positive thoughts can create negative sensations, and vice versa, and how to combat this issue with his method.

But I was never able to bring myself fully on board to Friedman’s ideas. At one point, the film states: “If you want to know what you’re actually thinking, just look at what you’re seeing in front of you.” So, I looked at the movie playing in front of me, and it occurred to me that I was thinking, “I don’t get it.” So, I went and looked at myself in the mirror, and I thought, “I still don’t get it.” I tested myself, trying to note “sensations” in my body, but nothing ever happened. The film suggests saying something you believe in, such as, “I can do this,” and taking note of the sensation that comes with that thought. So, I sat down to write this review and said aloud, “I can write this review.” So, I started writing it. I didn’t feel anything in my body. No increased pulse, no heaviness in my chest, no pounding in my head. Is feeling no sensation… a sensation? Friedman never covers this, and that’s a shame, because no sensation is the most common sensation I ever have.

The Thought Exchangeis designed to uplift and encourage you into taking control of your life. In other words, it’s a self-help movie based on a self-help book, and you are going to be devastatingly aware of that throughout the duration of the film. Director Usher Morgan floods the screen with constantly changing clouds and generic footage of smiling people. These repetitive clips are broken up by sequences of talking heads, mostly David Friedman, but also people who have subscribed to his way of thinking, including performer Lucie Arnaz. All of this plays underneath a blanket of inspirational music that is so pervasive and cheesy, it may just inspire you to turn the movie off.

There are many people who can watch The Thought Exchange and walk away with a new view of the world and a refreshing new start on life, but I wasn’t one of those people. Friedman’s theories aren’t ludicrous, but they lack a sense of universality that makes them useful. Since Friedman and Morgan were unable to reel me in at the very beginning of the film, the rest of the experience was a bore. If you aren’t convinced in the first 20 minutes, the last 60 are not going to do anything to change your mind. If you feel that you are a person who needs some extra motivation, feel free to watch The Thought Exchange. There’s no harm that can come from it. But if you don’t think you need it, there’s really no reason to watch it.

My Rating: (3/10)

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Nick DeNitto graduated with Honors from Adelphi University in 2013. He began writing movie reviews in middle school and has worked tirelessly to mold his own unique critical voice. He is currently affiliated with the National Board of Review and hopes that one day he is remembered as "The People's Film Critic."