If “worrying yourself sick” is completely plausible, then shouldn’t you be able to think yourself well? Most of us have heard of psychosomatic illness where real physical symptoms are caused by emotions or thoughts. Ever heard of psychosomatic wellness? You have probably heard of the placebo effect. Same thing.
The placebo effect occurs, for example, when someone is given a completely inert treatment, usually a sugar pill, and it has significant, beneficial, healing results. Studies have shown that a sugar pill can be as effective as morphine in 56% of people. There is also some scientific evidence that concludes that nearly all of the benefits reported by users of antidepressants are a result of the placebo effect.
In their book Power Up Your Brain, David Perlmutter and Alberto Villoldo, compare the very real placebo effect with the practices of shamans, medicine men and women, and healers which are sometimes labeled quackery and superstition. Traditional societies have long understood the power of the mind to heal the body. New studies seem to indicate that there is benefit realized not only from the positive thinking, but the performance of the medical ritual. The ritual of administering the placebo takes the place of the sometimes elaborate pomp and ceremony shamans use to mobilize the mind’s ability to heal.
As a humorous aside, in the book they suggest that chicken soup be pressed into a pill and sold under the brand name “Placebo.” They further state that legitimate, scientific claims could made proclaiming its effectiveness in treating everything from headaches to erectile dysfunction.
If the mind can be used to heal, it can also be used to kill. The nocebo is the evil counterpart to the placebo. It is an otherwise inert or harmless substance that can cause detrimental effects due to a person’s negative beliefs or expectations.
One of the authors of the book, Albert Villoldo, Ph.D., is a trained psychologist and medical anthropologist and has also studied the practices of the Andean and Amazon shamans for 25 years. He tells of being in the Peruvian Amazon and witnessing a perfectly healthy man being “cursed” by a local sorcerer. The man came in for a consultation. The native healer told the man his nausea and headaches were being caused by this curse. He was dead within 24 hours.
They question the long list of possible side effects and disclaimers that come with every medication we buy today. Could this be causing a nocebo effect?
Your mind has an amazingly powerful influence on your body’s functioning, health and healing. This is the same capability that advertisers capitalize on from every angle these days. You are told that, if you buy a certain car, you can feel young again or, if you drink a certain drink, you will instantly be popular or, if you use a certain toothpaste, you’ll sport an irresistible smile. Rather than have this awesome power hijacked, why don’t we use it to promote life, health, and joy for ourselves?
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