Don't Be Fooled! How to Be Your Own Placebo
But those who recovered against all odds did have one thing in common. At a certain point, people who are inexplicably cured know they are going to recover—their doubts and fears lift. With great conviction, they realize that they are no longer in danger. (To be clear, we are talking about a strong correlation, not a fact that applies to everyone.)
This certainty is like becoming your own placebo. What would that mean?
Placebo is Latin for "I shall please," which is a good way of describing how the placebo effect works. A doctor offers a patient a powerful drug with the assurance that it will relieve the patient's symptoms. (The effect isn't limited to drugs, however, which is important to remember. Anything you believe in can act as a placebo.) The patient, as promised, gets relief. But, in reality, the doctor has prescribed a harmless, inert substance like a sugar pill. Where did the patient's relief come from?
It came from the mind telling the body to get well. To do that, the mind must be convinced that healing is about to occur. The big problem with the placebo effect, which is known to operate in 30 percent of cases, on average, is that the first step is deception. The doctor is misleading the patient, and that has proven to be an enormous roadblock. No ethical physician would regularly deny best care to a patient, offering innocuous substitutes instead, even though in some cases (such as mild to moderate depression) some studies show that drugs are likely to be no more effective than a placebo. This means, by the way, that the unpredictability of the placebo effect is also shared by drugs. The notion that pharmaceuticals act the same way for all patients is an enormous myth.
How mind-body medicine reach its fullest potential
By no means. Mind-body medicine depends on freeing the mind from its doubts so that people can attain wellness by knowing more about the mind-body connection, not less. Instead of using deception, which keeps the patient in the dark, we need healing based on more awareness—more light—in the patient's life.
To be your own placebo is the same as freeing up the healing power of the mind-body connection. Instead of wondering how 30 percent of patients benefit from the placebo effect, we need to shift our focus and ask about the 70 percent who don't.
Mind-body medicine will reach its full potential only when the following holds true:
- The mind contributes to getting well.
- The mind doesn't contribute to getting sick.
- The body is in constant communication with the mind.
- This communication benefits both the physical and mental aspects of being well.
Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality, including his current best-seller, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, and The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, which are available now. You can listen to his show on Saturdays every week on SiriusXM Channels 102 and 155.