Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The placebo effect, the nocebo effect

I've been enjoying the book The Biology of Belief: Unleashing The Power Of Consciousness, Matter And Miracles by Bruce Lipton, Ph.D. I've written about it before, but I'm continuing to digest some of the concepts, so I'm bouncing back to it today. The book discusses the biological power of the mind - how thoughts can help us do things like walk across hot coals without sustaining burns, and how sugar pills have performed as well as antidepressant medications when patients believed they were, in fact, being dosed with prescriptions for chronic depression.

The placebo effect (like the sugar pill) creates a belief system that supports health and healing. What this means for our health is that we can think our way into feeling energized, strong and vigorous. Remember the father in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding? He believed that a little Windex spray window cleaner was good for almost anything that ails you. Funny, yes. Absurd, yes. But how much more absurd than choosing to walk over hot coals to prove the power of the mind? Yet hundreds, perhaps thousands of people do that successfully every year.

Dr. Lipton's extensive biological and quantum physics explanations made a great case to prove the mechanics of why positive thinking works, why prayer works in healing.

On the flip side of things the nocebo effect (believing something is wrong will make something wrong) is equally powerful. Lipton cites a story of a man who was diagnosed with esophogeal cancer, which at the time was considered to be a disease close to 100% fatal. He died shortly after receiving the diagnosis. When they did an autopsy of the man they found that he had died WITH cancer but he had not died OF cancer. In fact there was almost no esophogeal cancer in him.

Henry Ford was known to say, "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right. " If you think you're sick or shy or uncoordinated you'll do the things that reinforce the belief. You'll notice little twinges and creaks and wheezes. You'll focus on the one little stupid thing you said yesterday, or choose to avoid challenging social situations. You'll say no when someone asks you to dance. But it's deeper than that. Lipton says the cells in your body will back up your thoughts by collaborating to prove what you say to yourself is true.

I'm not going into the technical medical explanations here, because I know only enough to be dangerous. But if you believe in the power of mind over matter and want some evidence to support your belief, check out this book. Fascinating stuff.