November 25, 2009

Q&A: Law of Attraction & Placebos

This guest post from our much loved community member, Robert Higginson, has been in the queue for a while, but it’s super relevant to me now as I’ve been spending a lot of time with my sweetie in hospitals lately.
(Two elective surgeries in three weeks; not the route I personally would take.)
So while I’m happy to visit the acupuncturist and learn EFT from my coach to improve health, my partner chooses a completely different  tactic.  Is one better than another?
I’ve noticed my judgment about his choice to go under the knife instead of explore hypnosis, herbal or some other alternative remedy, which is why I appreciate this post from Robert on “magic pills.”
We know this much: it doesn’t matter so much what we do as does our belief in what we do.
Here’s Robert with some excellent questions for the Good Vibe community on how to leverage the power of the mind with placebos:

“One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small”—lyrics to White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane.
In a recent article in USA Today it was reported that one third of people who take a placebo report feeling better. And a placebo is defined as a fake drug, or as Jefferson Airplane puts it, one that doesn’t do anything at all.
That raises certain ethical questions, like, should doctors prescribe placebos? In the same article it was reported that half of all doctors surveyed admitted that they had prescribed a placebo.
Would you want your doctor to give you a placebo? Would you feel good about giving someone else a placebo? For example, a parent has a child who is afraid of the dark, so at bedtime the child is given an M-n-M and told that it is a pill that will give them courage.
Good parenting, or teaching a child that it’s okay to lie?
And then there is the other side of the issue, which is; if I heal myself by what I believe, do I even need to go to the doctor?
The law of attraction says that my energy flows where my attention goes, so is going to the doctor sending energy to my illness?
I guess it depends on what I believe doesn’t it? If only I could give myself a placebo. But how can I give myself a placebo when I “know” that it isn’t “real?”
If there is a way to do it, I’m sure that the people in this community will know. What do you think about placebos? If they work, is there anything wrong with them? And is there some way that I can give myself a placebo?

I guess technically this is a Guest Q&A!  Thanks for a great topic, Robert – can’t wait to hear the community’s answers!

  • Oh, that’s what I was doing with my pen, isn’t it, Mitch?

  • Mitch says:

    Great post, Robert! In answer to your question, how to give yourself a placebo, I keep thinking of an acting exercise called Endowing Objects. We all have objects from our lives that inspire emotions, our old baby blanket, a favorite photograph, a lucky pen or whatever else. That’s because we have experience with those objects that speak to our feelings.
    But as an actor, one has to manually endow new objects around him with feelings, memories, and images that evoke emotions so that the way he interacts with his surroundings and his props can seem more alive. Why not use this for LOA?
    If you want to use a green bean as a placebo, or an M&M, or even just say, “I’m going to cuddle with this teddy bear for ten minutes and it will heal me,” take some time to endow the object that you’re using. Maybe imagine a time when you felt extremely safe or healthy or happy, and bless your object with that feeling. Or construct a *new* happy memory around the object and concentrate until you can feel it like it really happened. If that healing object had a voice, imagine what comforting, reassuring things it might have to say. Really focus on it so the association becomes natural, so that when you even see that object, those emotions naturally arise from it.
    Feelings lead to belief, and this has always been a powerful feeling exercise for me. 🙂

  • I really want to thank Jeannette for letting me lead this discussion on a topic that I have been fascinated by for many years. And a HUGE Thank You to everyone who left a comment. Your messages were full of insights, inspiration and “ahah” moments for me.
    The wisdom of the Good Vibe community just amazes me. I seriously think that the President of The United States should call together a council of Good Vibers to address the world chalenges of peace and prosperity.
    Now THAT would be a great meeting!
    Love to all, Robert

  • That’s where I like to go with it, Berta. Where did this resistance originate, and how can I best release that?
    I know any “placebo” will just be temporary or will just shift the symptoms somewhere else if I don’t get to the original source of the resistance.

  • Berta Bauer, Lighthouse Coaching and Retreats says:

    I know this is going to sound simple, but maybe we analyse things too much. As I read through the replies I kept hearing my Mom’s words over and over; words that I would not attach to this discussion except they kept insisting on it. “Listen to your heart, it will never lead you astray.” (i.e. Apply your inner knowing to the success or failure of the placebo, and proceed accordingly.)
    If you can take a green bean and believe it will work, rock and roll! If you just can’t quite wrap your head around that green been fixing what needs to be fixed, then the placebo is not going to work. If you know the green bean is not the real cure, then maybe you need to explore what you believe is real (as Patricia and Brigitte said).
    I think we all have to figure out what works for ourselves. For myself, I believe that our ailments are caused by stress, emotional hurts and the like. There are many alternative practices like Body Talk, EFT and Qigong, to mention a few, that are my placebo of choice because I believe in them.
    Bottom line: What you believe, you will receive.

  • Wow, Monica. Thanks for sharing that!
    Just goes to show that our focus matters tremendously, and that what might cause one person to focus on well-being causes another to focus on the symptom.
    How interesting we are!!
    Thanks for chiming in, girlfriend.

  • Monica says:

    I have considerable experience with the placebo effect. In the LONG saga of my mental illness, I have been given many different drugs. Some of them would seem to work for the first few weeks, and then the symptoms would come back. We realized that I was very prone to the placebo effect, I would be so hopeful with each new drug that I would be able to mask the symptoms for a few weeks, but the underlying condition always returned.
    Even once we found drugs that did work, I didn’t get appreciably better. Thinking about it now, I think that’s because just taking the drugs was a constant reminder of my illness. Every night there would be a litany of “bipolar, depression, depression, anxiety” as I took each drug. Maybe your litany is “high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes”. I think that is why drugs never seem to really cure us, and I think a placebo would have the same effect of reminding us why we are taking it.
    I am not totally against medicine, but I do think the best thing would be to focus on well being, and to think about a problem as little as possible. When you are looking for a “cure” you are still looking at the problem.

  • That’s what I love about you, Sara!
    Come to think of it, on the rare occasion I take an aspiring, I actually think to myself, “Now for my magic pill.”
    And it always works like a charm. Even though I know it’s my belief that it works that works.
    Regarding the multivitamin … my fabulous doctor Todd Cameron put me on JuicePlus a long time ago. Once I realized the benefit was all in my head, I decided to keep the benefit and get rid of the pills.
    But guess what? I started getting colds that I hadn’t had in years, my energy was lagging, and it took me a while to realize/wonder if it had to do with the JuicePlus pills.
    So I started them again, and voila. No more colds. I’ve made peace with being a lifetime customer. lol

  • Sara E. says:

    I’m laughing because I’ve felt inspired in the past to test Robert’s inquiry – Could it be possible to take a placebo KNOWING that the darned thing was created with no intending effect?
    My hunch says why the heck not?
    I’m perfectly up for testing this on myself. I’m not sure how I’d get my hands on a placebo, but I’d be willing to try it with a multivitamin or someting. (I don’t currently take vitamins of any sort, due to my lack of belief in them in the first place.)
    I’ll make a list of physical aspects of well being that I’d like to see improve, and I’ll intend that the multivitamin assists in the changes I seek. I’ll do this for say….2 months and report back on what changes take place. 🙂 Who’s with me?
    Our expectations rule the world we live in anyway. As far as these studies are concerned, I wonder what would happen if placebo groups were given a list of positive side affects…
    “Not only will this help you sleep better, but side affects include increased positivity, alleviated anxiety, shinier hair, clearer skin, and whiter teeth.”

  • Thanks for that reminder, Toni.
    And that perspective works really well for me, Brigitte. I suspect it will/does for others as well!

  • Brigitte says:

    Well, I agree, Patricia.
    We shouldn’t bother anymore about the “truth/half-lie/lie” ethic question. I mean, WHAT IS THE TRUTH? It changes from one person to the other… whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right!
    By giving placebo to a child we’re not *lying*. We could as well teach him what the Law of Attraction is and what it can do (I think we SHOULD, indeed, educate the children with LOA), but if we’re not sure if the kid would understand, I think it’s ok to tell him “this M&M will heal your headache”.
    After all, it is TRUE that it CAN heal him, if he really thinks it will. Reality is whatever you believe it is.

  • Toni says:

    Oh, and I forgot to comment on the placebo effect. Never worked for my headaches or the asthma attacks. Would love for it to, but no luck yet.

  • Toni says:

    Jeannette, your sweetie might actually be on to something by choosing the surgery option – in some cases it gets the job done within a relatively short period of time whereas more alternative healing methods require longer periods of focusing on this strange mix between not feeling well at all and wanting to feel better (and even to LOA savvy people just doing a healthy refocusing can be challenging when your physical health is at stake).
    The example I’m going to give you now does not in any way compare to surgery, but at least it deals with the choice between conventional methods and alternative methods. When I was younger I studied acupuncture and was quite freakish about taking medicine, even aspirin for headaches and the prescription asthma medicine I’ve been given since I was a young child. Instead I tried to convince myself I could cure headaches and asthma with acupuncture – and if not I, then my teacher.
    I was never successful. Strangely, I managed to help other people with their ailnesses, but apparently I wasn’t susceptible to acupuncture myself. After a while I realized that and decided to abandon that approach. And it was such a dramatic change finally allowing myself the relief I needed when a headache or an asthma attack found me. Instead of suffering and needing the acupuncture to heal me, I instantly found peace and calm even physically with the medication.
    I rarely ever take any medicine now, but it does happen from time to time that I get a headache or the asthma kicks in. And because I’ve never abused medication, I still get relief from just a single pill or one single inhalation. I know it works and I’m completely confident about it, so I never think about it very much. But describing this to you makes me realize how my attacks of headache and asthma have decreased dramatically since I surrendered to conventional medicine.
    Surgery may be just about the right choice for your boyfriend, but not for you. And there’s nothing wrong about that as long as it works 🙂

  • Very well put Karen, I agree completely. I think that it is interesting that a never get a flu shot AND I never get the flu. That’s what works for me. But like you said, that may not work for everyone.

  • You’re a hoot, Tiffany! Thanks for joining in!
    Karen – beautifully shared! Belief is where the “magic” is … and whatever we do, lining up with it is what helps most!
    Thanks for reading and especially for commenting, you two.

  • I think the nifty thing about “placebos” is that they so clearly demonstrate the enormous power of belief (and belief alone) to allow healing. Since the placebo effect’s been known about for such a long time, it does make me wonder why the medical community at large still resists the idea that the mind is powerful enough to cure us of anything, LOL. WRT what Laura said, I think it would be a bit more accurate to say that the placebo effect is evidence of LOA rather than that LOA is a placebo. Belief is the *only* thing that matters, not what the “placebo” is. A “placebo” in scientific studies is usually a sugar pill, but you could line up with absolutely ANYTHING as being a healing substance. If you had cancer and decided that green beans would cure you and held that belief 100% with absolutely NO doubt in your mind, they *would* cure you.
    This is also why I try not to be judgmental about other people’s choices WRT health care. I am most definitely not in alignment with getting the flu shot, however some people may be totally in alignment with it being a great choice to support their health and so for *them* it is a good choice.
    As Abe says, it doesn’t really matter WHAT you decide. Just pick something and line up with it 🙂

  • Tiffany says:

    I agree! I think placebos are necessary. If we all knew this life was a placebo from day 1, we wouldn’t enjoy it as much. However, because we expect it to be real and evolve and change and grow with us…life does. Placebos aren’t just good, they’re necessary. We could sit on our rumps all day and manifest all that we wanted. But we use action as a placebo to help us relax and let it in. Plus, this whole “placebo” of life is quite enjoyable if you ask me!
    …Placebo. I had to write it one more time. It’s fun to say hahahahah!

  • I just KNEW this community would have some great insights on this topic. I’m loving your comments. Thank you SO much.–Robert

  • Wow, Kim and Patricia! You’re spinning my head a bit, and I like it!

  • Kim Falconer says:

    Great post, Robert. I’m enjoying all the comments too!
    The medical definition of a placebo is a substance having no pharmacological effect but given merely to satisfy a patient who supposes it to be a medicine.
    In this sense (if we step back far enough) all of physical ‘reality’ is a placebo.
    None of this (looks around) is real, yet we respond to it as if it were.
    If you want to give yourself one, just keep living because our experience in ‘reality’ is the all time big daddy of placebos!

  • Great question: how can I give myself a placebo when I “know” that it isn’t “real?”
    I think the trick is to remember that reality isn’t “real” either.
    AND . . . I often think of action/s as a ritual that aligns me with the truth of my commitment and intention.

  • Adrienne says:

    ….oops I meant to write that Joe Dispenza is in “What The Bleep Do We Know”…

  • I love your perspective, Laura!
    Hey, are you familiar with Lewis Mehl-Madrona’s work? Sounds like you’ve either been reading it or that it’d be right up your alley.

  • Laura says:

    Great post…great questions Robert! I am very passionate about this subject as I grew up in a progressively health conscious family and would always turn first to alternative options. On top of that, I read something by Abraham who talked about the irresponsibility of doctors who give you a diagnosis.
    We go to a doctor to “find out what is wrong with us” and we expect the doctor to find something. Problem is, once we are told, we believe we have this illness and that is where we put our focus (this was mentioned earlier). So, instead of us thinking and believing that we are healthy (which would much better serve us), we are focusing on what is wrong with us.
    I have thought about how cool it would be (and a great study as well, although unethical in traditional medicine) for a doctor not to tell you when something was “wrong” and just had you believe you were perfectly healthy. They can give you some things to do “as a preventative” measure but you leave there thinking you are fine. No focus on wellness. Woudn’t it be a great way to eliminate unnecessary worry and fear and thus perpetuate the illness?
    On another note…isn’t all of LOA really just a placebo? I mean, we are believing something is (other than what reality shows us) and we get resullts based on that? If that is not a placebo, I’m not sure what is.
    As you can tell, I am a big fan and I too, have read alot of research on the subject of how it is scientifically proven. How can you give yourself a placebo? Isn’t that what pray rain journaling is? Visualization? Anything you trick your brain in believing is true…is a placebo and it works everytime!
    Thanks for this great subject for discussion.
    Happy Thankgiving everyone!
    xo. Laura

  • That’s beautiful and powerful, Pernille! Thank you for sharing it here!
    And Florin, I totally agree.
    Thanks for commenting!

  • Florin - Infinite Journey says:

    it really matters what we do and our intention than what we think or believe. Only my opinion. Not shore about it. 🙂

  • I also read today how we can reclaim our natural state of health – so perhaps we don’t even need the Placebo 🙂
    The following is from the book Ask and It is Given by Abraham-Hicks, it’s quite long, but I think it’s worth mentioning:
    Reclaiming Ones Natural State of Health:
    Do this process while lying in a comfortable place-the more comfortable, the better. Choose a time when you have approximately 15 minutes when you are not likely to be disturbed by anyone. Now, write this short list in a place where it will be easy for you to read, and when you first lie down, read it slowly to yourself.
    • It is natural for my body to be well.
    • Even if I don’t know what to do in order to get better, my body does.
    • I have trillions of cells with individual Consciousness, and they know how to achieve their individual balance.
    • When this condition began, I didn’t know what I know now.
    • If I had known then what I know now, this condition couldn’t have gotten
    • I don’t need to understand the cause of this illness.
    • I don’t need to explain how it is that I’m experiencing this illness.
    • I have only to gently, eventually, release this illness.
    • It doesn’t matter that it got started, because it’s reversing its course right now.
    • It’s natural that it would take some time for my body to begin to align to my improved thoughts of Well-Being.
    • There’s no hurry about any of this.
    • My body knows what to do.
    • Well-Being is natural to me.
    • My Inner Being is intricately aware of my physical body.
    • My cells are asking for what they need in order to thrive, and Source Energy is answering those requests .
    • I’m in very good hands .
    • I will relax now, to allow communication between my body and my Source.
    • My only work is to relax and breathe.
    • I can do that.
    I can do that easily.
    Now, just lie there and enjoy the comfort of the mattress beneath you-and focus upon your breathing-in and out, in and out. Your goal is to be as comfortable as possible.
    Breathe as deeply as you can while still remaining comfortable. Do not force it. Do not try to make anything happen. There is noth¬ing for you to do other than to relax and breathe.
    You will very likely begin to feel soft, gentle sensations in your body. Smile, and acknowledge that this is Source Energy specifically answering your cellular request. You are now feeling the healing process. Do nothing to try to help it or intensify it. Just relax and breathe—and allow it.
    If you were experiencing pain when you laid down, follow the same process. However, if you were feeling pain, it would be helpful for you to add these words to your written and spoken list:
    • This sensation of pain is an indicator that Source is responding to my
    cellular request for Energy.
    • This sensation of pain is a wonderful indicator that help is on the way.
    • I will relax into this sensation of pain because I understand that it’s
    indicating improvement.
    Now, if you can, drift off to sleep. Smile in your knowledge that All-Is-Well. Breathe and relax—and trust.
    The next time you feel any discomfort, stop in the middle of it and say to yourself, “This discomfort that I’m feeling is nothing more than my awareness of resistance. It’s time for me to relax and breathe, relax and breathe, relax and breathe.” And you can, in seconds, bring yourself back into comfort.
    Every cell in your body has a direct relationship with Creative Life Force, and each cell is independently responding. When you feel joy, all the circuits are open, so the Life Force can be fully received. When you feel guilt, blame, fear, or anger, the circuits are hindered and Life Force cannot flow as effectively. Physical experience is about monitoring those circuits and keeping them as open as possible. Your cells know what to do; they are summoning the Energy.
    There is no condition that you cannot modify into something more, any more than there is any painting that you cannot repaint. There are many limiting thoughts in the human environment that can make it seem that these so-called incurable illnesses or unchangeable conditions cannot not be changed. But we say that they are only “unchangeable” because you believe they are. Someone asked us recently, “Is there any limitation to the body’s ability to heal?” And we said, None, other than the belief that you hold. And he asked, “Then why aren’t people growing new limbs?” And we said, Because no one believes they can.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeannette Maw, Moneyman2. Moneyman2 said: RT @GoodVibeCoach: How can LOA savvy creators best leverage the power of placebos? Latest Q&A on the blog: […]

  • Well put, Adrienne. If we knew the pills weren’t “magic,” then the magic is gone.
    So I guess Robert’s question as to how to put the magic in something when you know the magic is really just coming from within … means we have to believe in our own magical Self.

  • Adrienne says:

    There are actual studies around why placebo pills/solutions work, and it all has to do with the conscious mind re-programming the subconscious mind that something is now “fixed” (the subsconscious mind not knowing the difference between something that is merely a “thought” versus “reality”, as perceived through our five senses). So, if (like in LOA…the Universe, God, our Higher Power, our subconscious mind, etc.) you believe something works (and once taken, “has worked” …as in the LOA, “And it is so”), your body will respond accordingly.
    So the wording of your actual question as to how can you give yourself a placebo “if [you] KNOW it is NOT real” instantly makes the placebo not “work” IF you feel that it needs to be “real” to work (similar to a “limiting belief”)… most of us would feel that a placebo would NOT work if we “know” it is not “real”…it works for those who DO feel it is real ;-).
    Joe Dispenza wrote a book called “Evolve Your Brain” (and he is in The Secret). He talks about the placebo effect in his book (and why placebo pills AND surgeries work neurologically).

  • Pernille, that reminds me of how Christopher Penczak in Instant Magic says the wand that witches traditionally use isn’t what’s powerful – although because some witches think it is, then indeed it is.
    He said it better than that.
    So if I were a witch using a wand, would I continue to rely on it, or would I recognize it’s not really necessary?
    Good question.
    I don’t use a wand, but I do use a pen to write my intentions down. And for some reason it feels more powerful when I do that. Which of course means I get better results.
    Which means I have a wand/placebo, doesn’t it? lol

  • Very interesting post, Robert. And so very timely that earlier today I read this from Abraham about how to affect our own healing:
    ” Your physical body is so near you. It is responding purely to the balance of the thought that you offer. It would take any of you very little to affect healing within yourself. If you could acknowledge the power of thought and get your thought moving toward your expectation of wellness rather than toward your expectation of illness.” (Abe 12/14/90)
    I guess the effect of the Placebo could be that it simply makes us expect healing/wellness, thus allowing the natural healing process of our body.
    So if we can learn to trust our body and expect healing and wellness, the trust will be our Placebo!!
    And who knows what is really happening, in situations where we do get some kind of medicine – is a positive result owing to the medicine or to the natural healing process or to a combination of both?

  • Interesting point, MissyB. Sounds like you’re inviting us to reconsider the typical understanding or definition of “placebos.”

  • MissyB says:

    My sister used to get sea sick and my mum always said to eat cream crackers (do you get them in the US ?) – worked every time. I think placebos are good – if what you have disappears for real (and not just hidden) why should we not use them.
    I believe that I should use my surrender box for LOA but really even a passing thought can attract. So is my box a placebo ? I place my trust in a box as a means to attract, when really, the thought has already started the chain reaction. I may have got my request without the use of the box – we’ll never know. So, could it be said that our instruments used to get in the zone to attract are all placebos ?

  • Related Post