Leveraging the Placebo Effect

power of placebosWe’ve all heard about the power of the placebo – where you experience an improvement in symptoms after taking something with no pharmacological agents (like a sugar pill).

The placebo effect is so well known that the FDA requires drug companies to prove (in double blind clinical trials) that their medications are effective above and beyond what would be expected from a placebo.

In fact, 60 Minutes reported last week that the pharmacological benefit delivered by antidepressants is highly questionable (especially to those taking medication for only mild depression).

Along similar lines, there have been studies showing that patients benefit from fake knee surgery just as much as actual knee surgery.  (In fact, sometimes the benefit is even greater.)  And patients who have been hypnotized into believing they’ve had gastric lap band surgery experience the same effects as if they had the real surgery (nausea side effects and all).

So it’s obvious there is something very powerful happening in our minds to alter our physical being.

Deliberate creators won’t be surprised to hear this, since we already understand (and consciously work with) the power of our thoughts.  We know getting what we want is all about developing the expectation of it.

Which is really what a placebo is: a doctor, or someone with some sort of credibility or authority, gives us a reason to believe things could, should or even just might get better.  And regularly they do.

But you can’t exactly walk into your doctor’s office, ask for a sugar pill, and still expect any benefit, right?  Because the reason placebos work is that you don’t know it’s a placebo.

Except that’s not the case.

A recent study showed that even when patients were told they were only taking a placebo, they still saw significant improvement.

Which seems like it should fly in the face of what we know as deliberate creators.

After all, how can you expect a benefit when you know you’re only taking a sugar pill?

It puzzled me greatly.

Since results are driven by expectation, when you remove the expectation (i.e. reason to believe), why would there still be results?! It became clear as I looked further …

It turns out that a sugar pill prescription wasn’t all these study patients got.

Along with a bottle of pills clearly marked “placebo,” they were also told that placebos have proven to be very effective.

So while at the same time they were told “these pills having nothing in them” they were also told “magic things can happen.”  (Actually it was more like: “rigorous clinical testing has shown placebo pills produce significant mind-body self healing processes.”)   So they did get a reason to believe in their healing.

Which is exactly what many experienced – a significant improvement in symptoms.

Why am I talking about this?

As a deliberate creator and LOA coach, I am always on the lookout for more “reasons to believe.”  Because once we believe in something – once we fully expect it could happen – it is on its way.  That simple.

So reasons to believe are the currency of my trade.

Can we create that reason to believe, i.e. expectation, ourselves with a placebo?

Interesting side note, roughly half of American doctors have already admitted to using placebos with patients, and German physicians are actually instructed to do so!

Maybe everything we do is already a placebo of some sort.  Maybe every action we take is valuable primarily in that it gives us a reason to believe in upcoming results?

Taking an aspirin almost always gets rid of my headache, even though I know independent trials prove aspirin to be little more effective than placebos.  When I stopped taking Juice Plus supplements, I got my first cold in years.  (And thus got right back on them!)

And despite the fact that I’ve heard reports about scams and hoaxes with foot detoxes, after I received my first Aqua Chi foot treatment yesterday, I did indeed feel lighter and more clear-headed.  (Also experienced an odd change in taste buds, as Leanne Facer said might happen.  Sorry, Russ, that I accused you of swapping orange juice brands!  I do wonder if I’d have experienced that if she hadn’t said anything?)

I’m curious to hear what you think.  Where I’m at right now is appreciating an even deeper understanding of just how potent the suggestions are that those in authority give us.

And maybe once we truly understand the power of our own mind to create what we want, we won’t need to rely on another person in “authority” to give us reason to believe in our healing.

Looking forward to hearing from you all on this one …

  • February 26, 2012
  • Kelly says:

    Dr. Andrew Weil has written that doctors should work to enhance the placebo effect because it heals without causing harm or side effects. He says that the placebo effect activates our inborn mechanism to heal ourselves.
    He’s got all the MD street credibility for the grumpy skeptics clinging go their beliefs about “hard science” and “real drugs”. Heh heh!!
    Love the forum!

  • Mariette says:

    Really Interesting!
    I know about placebo pills and of course I know about LOA but I had never put them together @@ Hahahahha
    Of course it makes sense, and I love it when things make sense to me, it makes it so much easier, (not always as easy to incorporate all the time but still…:) )

  • Kim Falconer says:

    I love this, Jeannette and you do traffic in ‘reasons to believe’.
    This is making me think about the Vibe Doctor and the Rx you hand out. Hmmmmm like, what if someone was stuck the Vibe Dr tell them to get a particular kind of stone, ocean jasper, and bury it in the yard with a strand of their hair, or if they want to find love, you get two rose quarts and put them under your pillow at night . . . oh, that’s right. It’s witch craft! But this is really cool. Talk about outsourcing the problem and just believing it’s all taken care of.
    If you want a smart witch for the Vibe Dr, I happen to know one who’s available 🙂

  • Jeannette, not only does the Placebo effect amaze me, but so does the Nocebo effect (experiencing a negative side effect from a placebo based on expectation).
    In fact, when you think about it, the Placebo and Nocebo effects are pretty much active everywhere in our lives where we are driven by beliefs and expectations!
    LOL, Robert, I know some people who could benefit from a prescription of those happiness “pills”. I’ve seen some of those bottles with different colored M&Ms in them, too. 😀
    Many blessings,

  • ChipEFT says:

    Each of us has a unique belief system based upon our individual experiences and socio-cultural upbringing. It is our belief system that makes one health system work better than another.
    That is why as deliberate creators we look to thoughts and actions that feel better or more expansive in the moment. It is by doing so that we find the path of least resistance through our mental minefields.
    Some people respond well to drugs and surgery, others to herbs and supplements, other to energy work. The path of least resistance to health is different for everyone. But there is always a path to how you want to feel.

  • Zoe Routh says:

    I loved this line: “So reasons to believe are the currency of my trade.” You sound like an LOA preacher! I guess LOA is like a religion in some way – a set of beliefs by which we run our lives. And if you believe, so it shall be.
    And all this makes me happy to see that there is no ‘truth’ – because we are just making it up! There is no one nature and truth of reality – just the one we ‘believe’.
    Thanks for a very cool Monday reflection 🙂

  • And I agree…Robert, you are very cute! I smiled too! 🙂

  • Robert, you are so cute! “that one’s real.”
    Indeed. 🙂
    Thanks for the smile!
    And, I should add, you were the original inspiration for this post for something you had said quite a while ago in the GVU forums about wanting to leverage the power of the placebo for yourself.
    Thank you for that, too. 🙂

  • Robert says:

    I remember going into a small local store once and seeing a clever idea along these lines. Someone had taken some small bottles, filled them with jelly beans and labeled them as happiness pills, cures for loneliness, and so on. I remember thinking that that was really a clever way to add value to a jelly bean: just call it something else.
    Also, whenever I think of placebos I think of that first placebo that children learn. That the pain from a boo-boo always goes away when mom kisses it better. No wait, that one’s real. Nevermind.

  • Laura – love that paragraph! Any chance you can pop back with the full blog post link? I’ll rescue it from spam if it gets caught up there.

  • I wrote an article on this back in November and wanted to include this paragraph since I think it ties in so nicely with what you are saying and LOA in general:
    “Placebos have been around since the 18th century and most people have heard of the placebo effect, but have many of us have really given how it works a second thought? Of course we know that the placebo works because we have a belief that a certain action we are taking produces certain results and yet it’s funny how many people will question the validity that you have to believe something in order to get the outcome you desire. The word placebo literally means, “I shall please”, which is completely in line with the Law of Attraction. I shall please my belief in something by creating the expected outcome. The original meaning (back in the 18th century) was used by doctors in the context of, “I shall please the patient more than the benefit by administering some medical procedure or pill”. Pretty cool, huh? And usually what happened was the patient experienced some relief from their symptoms just by believing that what they were taking was healing them.”
    I always us placebos as example when I am explaining LOA to people who are new to the concept since most people have heard of placebos. It is such a fascinating subject.

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