When we hear about the Placebo effect, the first thing that comes to mind is how fake pills are used to cure real diseases. While true, the Placebo effect means so much more, as it is the key to unlocking the infinite power of the human mind. The Placebo effect has been explained as a beneficial effect, produced by a placebo drug (dummies like sugar pills) or treatment (fake surgeries), that cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient’s belief in that treatment. In other words, the positive response gotten from an external source, is not because of the source itself but because of the expectation of the recipient. Placebos are majorly used in the medical field, because of its healing properties. But it has also been used to explain remarkable occurrences like the power of hypnosis and the possibility of miracles.
Our mind works magic; just as books have proven that you can use the power of your thoughts to achieve the things you desire, our minds can also affect our bodies. The link between body and mind has been researched over time and the idea has stayed with many people. The popular concept of Mind over matter is simply the use of willpower to overcome physical problems. Pain, depression, and even deadly sicknesses like cancer can be cured by our minds. Our belief that the Placebo drug or surgery is real, can trick our bodies into healing itself. What this means is that we do not necessarily need forces outside our beings to heal ourselves. It is how monks keep themselves warm in the cold by simply using their minds.
Even Placebo drugs work differently. Four placebos work more than two placebos; red placebos work more than white placebos, and capsules work more than the others. In fact, there is a belief that injections heal faster than pills, making them placebos themselves. In other words, what makes placebos work is not the dummy themselves but the meanings we attach to them. Initially, it used to be argued that placebos only made you feel better and not cure the issues themselves, it is clear now that its effects are far from an illusion. While doctors have explained that thoughts and beliefs make our brains release things called endorphins, which happen to be natural painkillers, too many things just cannot fit under that umbrella either. Do endorphins have the power to heal broken bones too?
In this part of the world – Africa – unexplainable occurrences like miracles, happen so many times and are attributed to religious bodies. You would still find out that while some obtain such miracles with ease, others do not just get them. The usual reason for this, or at least what they are told, is that they do not believe. “Your faith isn’t strong enough”. Well, as a result of the apparent similarity, people have suggested that these occurrences are under the Placebo effect. Even hypnosis has been used to cure diseases and skin conditions that have been damned as incurable because of this same effect. However, while we look forward to further discoveries that our bodies indeed have the powers to heal themselves – putting our doctors out of business, its evil twin, the Nocebo effect, is a big red flag.
I heard a story a while back, where an individual got locked in a high powered fridge overnight. By the next morning, he was frozen and dead. However, to the surprise of all, the fridge wasn’t even turned on! That is the power of the nocebo effect. I heard another example in a Placebo effect documentary, where man had a type of cancer that was expected to kill him, and he died to that effect. It was later discovered that the doctor had wrongly diagnosed the disease as the cancerous tumour was so little that there was no way it would have killed him. Yet, he died of cancer. A final example is the study carried out where two sets of cancer patients were being treated. Half of the group were given Placebo chemotherapies and the other half were given the real ones. However, even the ones given the placebos, suffered all the side effects of chemo. Hair loss and all the others. Rhoda Byrne explained this, in her book, ‘The Power’. She explained that if you constantly thought negatively even while trying to cancel it, it would happen. In other words, saying things like “I would not fall” constantly, would be the reason you fall. Just as the word Placebo is Latin for “I shall please”, Nocebo means “I shall harm”.
These concepts make us question the need for power. Do humans have the capability of controlling the infinite power of our minds and to what extent? Can we handle this? While tapping into the knowledge that we can perform miracles on ourselves, the possibility that we can also inflict pain and harm on ourselves all together, is a scary thought. Let’s just say the power of belief is something the small-minded should not plough too much deep into.