Just think- 40 years ago, the notion that our mind may influence our body was considered a ridiculous notion. Our body was a machine, an object that we could only influence from the outside, not the inside.
Now science has uncovered that actually, our mind and our emotions do have a significant effect on our health, determining whether we recover quicker from illness, and also our susceptibility to illness. Can you imagine how this is beginning to change the way we see our health?
Such is the evidence for ‘mind-body medicine’, that a whole new field has been created to discover more about the healing potential of our minds- the succinctly titled ‘psychoneuroimmunology’. Now just to get your head around that word is a task, but imagine the surprise of scientists when they discovered that your mind has the power to regulate body functions, suppress pain, heal disease, and much more!
In fact, so much has been uncovered about the minds power that in recent times many are turning to mind-body medicine to support their own healing. In particular, hypnosis is beginning to be used for all types of healing- from helping with labour pains and easing arthritis to increasing contraceptive ability. Although the evidential files are still in their early days, many are finding the power of hypnosis to dramatically increase the healing process.
Can you picture how medicine may transform in the future with this new knowledge? Once, we believed that it was the ‘doctor’s job’ to look after us and help us get better. Now, research shows that we play a part in that too. Our belief, our attitude, determines the outcome of our health. Sound hard to believe? In Dr Bruce Lipton’s groundbreaking book The Biology of Belief, he terms what he calls ‘the belief effect’ which is best demonstrated in the use of placebos and nocebos.
I’m sure you’ve heard of a placebo, right? An example of a placebo could be that a doctor gives you a sugar pill for your headache and tells you it is aspirin. Your headache vanishes on the basis that your belief altered your physiological chemistry! As amazing as this may sound, many current physicians take this fact for granted. A nocebo is the opposite of a placebo- the negative effect of our belief. Many a time have doctors uttered the words ‘you have six months left to live’ – and sure enough, many don’t live long after those six months. Lipton says a possible reason why little attention is paid to the power of our belief in healing is the multi-billion revenues generated by the pharmaceutical industry. If we can heal ourselves, then it gives us less need to buy expensive drugs and treatment, does it not?
As you probably know, one of the major diseases in the Western world is the epidemic of depression. I say disease because it really is a dis-ease- a discomfort in our human psyche. And there’s outstanding evidence for the treatment of depression with placebos. As Bruce Lipton mentions, University of Connecticut professor Irving Kirsch found that eighty percent of the effect of antidepressants, as measured in clinical trials, could be attributed to the placebo effect. There was found to be virtually no difference between the response of the drugs and the response of placebos.
So why do placebos work, and what does that mean for us? The ‘belief effect’ currently seems somewhat miraculous to us, and the reason is because we are looking at health through a dualistic perception – that mind and matter, our mind and our body, are two separate things. We can’t see how the two would interact with each other, as they seem to be quite opposite and distinct. And here is where the new model of science based on quantum physics comes into play. In the new emerging paradigm, reality is, at its most fundamental level, a sea of interconnected energy. So not only is our mind ‘energy’ of some sort, but so is our body, the material part of ourselves. It’s quite hard to grasp that our health can be looked at as an energy blueprint of sorts, and blockages in that ‘blueprint’ can lead to ill health and disease.
So, what can we do about it? Well, if your thoughts and emotions in part create your physical health, then what does that mean? Doesn’t it mean you have responsibility? Doesn’t it mean you have power, and choice – to create your health the way you want it? What placebos will you now create for yourself?
Whole Science asks: What’s your opinion on the placebo effect?
Tell us below!