The power of placebo, nocebo and belief
do you know that the placebo effect could account for 50% of medications' efficacy
Why not harness this internal power for yourself?
Placebo, nocebo and belief
From the discovery of psychoneuroimmunology [PNI] we know that the mind is able to create disease. It therefore follows that the reverse must also be true — the mind is able to heal disease. Researchers do not often mention the mind's power to achieve this. Furthermore, whenever somebody miraculously heals, spontaneously finds remission from cancer or gets better in double-blind studies, the scientific community down-plays this as simply being the placebo effect. I prefer calling this healing effect the activation your innate healing power.
The body knows how to heal itself. Every cell has a copy of the DNA blueprint which instructs the body how to make proteins that become new tissue and cells. Together, some of these proteins, tissues and cells form a specialised network called the immune system. Its function is to protect the body from outside invaders and to attack organisms that cause disease.
Stress (from negative thinking and emotions) creates toxic chemicals leading to faulty reading of the DNA blueprint resulting in printout errors (this is what is meant by nocebo). The delicate machinery to no longer functions optimally and the immune system is compromised. To heal, one must support body and mind emotionally and physically.
As an example, imagine a typewriter: When new, it types clear, crisp characters but over time, the characters become fuzzy and worn and the arms get jammed. The alphabet did not change but the impression of the characters on the paper becomes faulty. Give the machine a good overhaul and the machine once again types accurately. So it is with the body. The DNA doesn't change but the read out does. This is the field of epigenetics. This field of science demonstrates that outside influences, like stress, change the way our cells read and transcribe the DNA, like the old typewriter. When that process becomes faulty it creates disease. According to research, approximately 90% of all doctors' visits are due to stress. Disease means that we gave control of the body to an outside agent — stress. This is similar to the way addicts give control over to their drug. We call stress the addiction of our time. When we hand power over to stressors and give them unfettered space in our mind, we let worry-loops run without restraint. The brain responds by secreting stress chemicals that fit the negative picture we hold in the mind. An overdose of stress chemicals are poisonous and addictive, as research now clearly shows. When one's beliefs and mental imagery are positive, good chemicals flood the brain allowing our cells to correctly do their work. This keeps the immune system operating optimally. It is paramount to mitigate against stress. However, how do we do this in a world so full of stress? We cannot change the stressors and we cannot change our DNA but we can and should learn to deal with stress differently. Here is where mind comes in.
Only in the mind do we experience the world and create our perceptions. This has a consequence on 'cellular memory' and health. Mind affects body. The conscious mind creates perceptions and beliefs about our experiences. What we expect, tends to happen. When it comes to survival, the subconscious matches patterns and creates memories for future reference of what is safe and what is not, like one's reaction to harm that invokes a subconscious flight-and-fight response. Every time a similar pattern appears, the subconscious mind plays back the recorded pattern. When this occurs off the radar of one's conscious mind, errors in belief can happen. We must therefore, through therapy, bring these erroneous beliefs back to the conscious mind where we can form new strategies that will keep us safe but, at the same time, also empower us. Everything starts with a thought but also changes with thoughtful introspection.
Therapy serves to allow one to become aware of one's thoughts and one's inner dialogue. Hypnosis is a powerful tool to help change negative beliefs and the misperceptions one holds about oneself. For a new awareness to take root, form a new belief and gain in strength, it is a good practise to reinforce it through mindfulness and meditation. The father of neuroplasticity, Dr M Merzenich and his Holiness the Dalai Lama eloquently put it this way: change comes with effort and repetition leads to neuroplasticity, thereby allowing the brain to rewire itself. Positive thoughts improve brain chemistry in line with the imagery of positivity one holds in one's mind. The delicate cell machinery and the immune system then begin to recover and regain their vitality.
As a cancer survivor, I also had to dig deep to change some of my fearful thinking. I had to reprogram my belief that the doctors hold the power. When I first started working in the healing world fifteen years ago, I used to glibly quote Norman Cousins,
Each patient carries his own doctor inside him. but now, it was my turn to walk the talk. I had to learn to believe that I could indeed heal and that I was my own healer. Today I am convinced that we have this power inside of us and that it is what scientists call the placebo effect. Therefore, I am the placebo. If this power is inside of me, it follows that it is also inside you. Therefore, we are the placebo.
I can help you kindle this precious resilience inside you. When harmony and balance is re-established, health is regained and life takes on a whole new meaning. And believe me when I say that it is much easier than you think, for it truly is much easier than you think it is. This power lies within you. It lies in the power of your own mind.