My friend’s husband has unknowingly been drinking caffeine-free coffee for the last three months. It worked just as well as regular coffee—until he found out that his wife and assistant had been conspiring for the sake of his health. The moment he found out it wasn’t “real” coffee and he shouldn’t be experiencing any stimulating effects, it stopped working.
Why did the caffeine-free substance work just as well for three whole months? That would be the placebo effect or the power of his mind. He expected it to work and hence experienced feeling more awake and less tired.
In the medical field, the placebo effect is defined as a measurable, observable, or felt improvement in health or behaviour that arises from the patient’s expectations concerning an inactive substance—like a sugar pill, distilled water, or saline solution—or a “fake” treatment rather than from the substance or treatment itself.
Different definitions speak about the expectation, or faith, or belief of the person as the defining factor for the placebo to work. Rob Williams, the founder of PSYCH-K®, a highly effective belief change system, suggests that it would be more fitting to refer to the placebo effect as the “perception effect”.
The western medical community has officially known about this phenomenon for 80 years. The American anaesthesiologist Henry Knowles Beecher discovered the placebo effect as a medic in World War II. After running out of pain-killing morphine, he replaced it with a simple saline solution but continued telling the wounded soldiers it was morphine to calm them.
If we have known about this for 80 years, why aren’t we leveraging the power of our mind more? The placebo effect should be a major topic of study in medical school. It gives doctors an efficient, side effect-free tool to treat disease. Instead it is often still regarded as something that is “all just in the person’s mind” and is linked to weak or suggestible patients.
We are all suggestible! Our world is full of suggestions, from the moment we wake up in the morning right up until we go to bed at night. The suggestions are on the radio, in the paper, on TV, and on the Internet. In fact, there are suggestions in this article that you are reading right now. Suggestions are littered throughout the media, whether they show up as supposedly objective news stories or commercials. They are on the bus and at work as we listen to other people sharing their beliefs. Beliefs are contagious. Suggestions are especially powerful when we enter the office of an authority like a doctor, a teacher or another person we admire and trust, like a Psychic we seek out for advice. And even when we are not listening to somebody outside ourselves, the suggestions are running in our own heads. We are constantly hypnotizing ourselves by repeating our current beliefs and stories.
Now, is that a problem? Not at all. We just need to harness the power of our subconscious mind and our beliefs and use them to our advantage. We need to be very aware of negative suggestions and we need to choose more supportive ones. We can literally change our biology and our health by what we believe to be true.
Unfortunately, drug companies study patients who respond to the placebo effect with the goal of eliminating them from early clinical trials. (Greenberg, “Is it Prozac? Or Placebo?” 2003) An estimated one third of the population responds especially well to placebos. Those highly responsive people are eliminated before the drug is even tested. Drug companies obviously have no interest in researching the healing power we all have inside because we won’t need to buy drugs if we can actually heal from within. Knowing about the power of our beliefs and our ability to create our reality from those beliefs and perceptions, and to even change our biology, would open the door to a multitude of other possibilities for the human race. These potentialities would dramatically and completely change our consciousness level and affect the way we live. It would most likely be the end to many industries on the planet, the health industry being one of the foremost ones.
The Basic PSYCH-K® Training includes a documentary about different studies which illustrate that conventional medicine is often as effective as a placebo treatment. A Baylor School of Medicine study, published in 2002 in the New England Journal of Medicine, examined surgery for patients with severe and debilitating knee pain. The patients were divided into three groups. The surgeon, Dr. Bruce Moseley, shaved the damaged cartilage in the knee of one group. For the second group he flushed out the knee joint, removing all of the material believed to be causing inflammation. Both of these processes are the standard surgeries for severe arthritic knees. The third group only received a pretend surgery: the patients were sedated, the three standard incisions were made and then the surgeon talked and acted just as he would during surgery. All three groups were prescribed the same postoperative care which included an exercise program. The results were astonishing! The placebo group improved just as much as the other two groups who had surgery. The footage shows members of the placebo group walking and playing basketball.
Another area in which placebos have been proven to be highly affective is the antidepressant industry. A 2002 article published in the American Psychological Association’s prevention & treatment, by University of Connecticut psychology professor Irving Kirsch titled, “The Emperor’s New Drugs,” found that 80% of the effect of antidepressants, as measured in clinical trials, could be attributed to the placebo effect. Kirsch had to file a Freedom of Information Act request to even get his hands on the information on the clinical trials of the top six antidepressants on the market. In more than half of the clinical trials, the placebo worked as well as the drug. “The difference between the response of the drugs and the response of the placebo was less than two points on average on this clinical scale that goes from fifty to sixty points. That’s a very small difference, that difference is clinically meaningless.” (Kirsch)
Cell biologist Bruce Lipton also notes that the more antidepressants were talked about in the media and advertised for, the more effective they became. We are, as I mentioned earlier, all suggestible. We live in a culture where most people believe that anti-depressants work, and therefore they do.
A young man I know has recently been told that after taking a particular anti-depressant for six years his body had become accustomed to it and it would not work anymore. Guess what happened instantly after his doctor had given him this suggestion? Exactly! It stopped working for him. The one thing this young man can count on is that the doctor will next suggest this amazing new anti-depressant which will be all hyped up as working so much better. And it will indeed work. But not necessarily because the drug is all that it is made out to be, but rather because we believe it is. After all, anti-depressants are an $8.2 billion industry.
If we can heal by believing that a particular drug or treatment will cure us, what does this mean? It means that it is really our beliefs, thoughts, and feelings which are responsible for a change. We believe that the coffee will wake us up, or that the pain medication with a known brand name will reduce the discomfort, or that the anti-depressant will make us feel better. When it comes to depression, the general belief is that a chemical deficit in the brain is responsible. If our thoughts and emotions release different chemicals in the brain, wouldn’t it make more sense to work on a person’s thoughts and feelings to induce a different chemical state? Relaxation, meditation and belief change work are all a gift to claim our power to heal ourselves and to make any changes to our thoughts and experiences.
The first thing which needs to change is for everybody to realize that we are constantly influenced and hypnotized to believe what the people around us believe. We have been brainwashed and programmed to believe that we need something outside ourselves to make changes to what we believe to be real, like our physical health. One of the hardest things to do is probably to go against our collective beliefs.
Somebody who has been diagnosed with a particular illness, whether that is cancer, MS, lupus, fibromyalgia, to just name a few of those big ones, has to not only defy any personal limiting beliefs but also the collective beliefs about what it means to have one of these diseases. Connie Kowalski, an amazing colleague of mine, has refused to play within the field of Lupus and has come back to perfect health after needing a wheelchair and everybody fearing she wouldn’t have long to live. She did deep healing work at a subconscious level. Another friend and colleague of mine, Allison Bastarache, has done the same for MS. She healed herself completely and has now stepped into her calling of being an energy worker and spiritual healer. As these two amazing women and their beautiful healing stories show, our potential healing power is truly limitless!
Are you ready to embrace your own power to change your reality?
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