Once, when I was nine years old, I came down with a horrible case of tonsillitis. I remember going to the doctor, (something that was rare in my family; you only went if you were really sick) feeling miserable and scared, but also knowing that this man would have somehow fix me. As he declared his verdict regarding my illness, and took out his prescription pad, he asked my mother "Is your daughter allergic to any medications?" My mom allowed for a moment, and I looked at her questioningly. Was I allergic to anything? This seemed really important. What if I was? What would happen to me? My mother said no, the prescription was written and we were sent home.
That evening after taking my antibiotic, I began to shake uncontrollably. I complained of an immense headache and continued shaking as my mother held me. She did not seem very concerned, yet I KNEW I was allergic to this pill that I had taken. Before I fell sleep that night, I told my mom that the medicine had made me sick and I would not take it anymore. The next morning, my mother had me drink a tall glass of iced tea that tasted funny. Later that afternoon, my mom asked me how I felt. I told her I was doing much better, and that's when she dropped the bomb on me. She had laced my ice tea that morning with my medication. Guess what, no allergic reaction. I was never allergic to the pills, but my powerful subconscious mind, accepted a mere suggestion by the doctor that I might be, and my body acted accordingly.
Most of us have no idea how loudly awesome our minds are, and how incoming information continually reshapes our experience. When I took that antibiotic, it had a nocebo effect on me. A nocebo is the exact opposite of a placebo. A placebo offers health benefits without any medical reason to do so, while a nocebo hormones your health without any medical explanation. Researchers are finding more and more evidence that what we believe, or expect to happen medically, has a substantial effect on what actually does happen.
Currently, pharmaceutical companies are flummoxed by this placebo effect when they test new drugs. As much as 75% of relief from pain or depression, in some trials, can be attributed to the placebo effect. In essence, the person never took any medication, only a sugar pill, and their condition improved anyway. They simply believed that they would get better. Studies also find that people receive more 'relief' from red placebos than any other color, and the higher priced the place is, the more the patients report a reduction in symptoms. On the other side of the coin, people who believe they are going to die in surgery have a higher mortality rate while under the knife than people who do not. What the heck is going on here?
Again, we have to go back to the power of belief. The subconscious mind, which not only controls the autonomous nervous system, (breathing, heartbeat, blinking-things we do without thinking) also stores our beliefs. We program beliefs into our subconscious mind in five ways:
- Through repetition
- Through listening to authority figures
- Through listening to our peers
- During times of high emotion
- During altered states of mind
If you believe, or have been programmed to believe, that a doctor or a medication can harm or hurt you, your powerful subconscious mind tweaks the automatic processes of your body to make it so.
Advertisers use the power of repetition to program beliefs into your subconscious mind. Take for instance the great Dristan campaign. In the early 60's, Dristan was simply a modest selling cold and headache medicine. Then one day, a New York City advertiser injected the sinus headache and named a series of symptoms to go along with it. After a fantastic advertising campaign that let people all over America know about this new disease, people began experiencing this sinus headache and sales of Dristan went through the roof. What we expect often tends to realized.
Consider how for many of us, going to the doctor brings about a heightened emotional state, and how we often see them as authority figures. If you believe that a pill, given to you by a doctor when you are in a highly emotional state will cure you, it often does, even if it is only made of sugar. This is the power of subconscious beliefs at work.
This placebo effect is not limited to just medication. Trials in the 1950's and 1990's show that 'fake' surgeries are just as effective as real ones. What ??? Yes, Dr.'s performed fake operations on half of their patients in both heart and knee surgeries (they simply made incisions and stitched the patients back up without any surgery taking place) and the patients with the 'fake' surgeries reported just as much relief as the people who actually had the procedure done.
The power of your mind to heal your body is absolutely fantastic. We are only beginning to tap into the vast healing knowledge that comes from within and understand this mind / body connection. Take care in what information you choose to believe about your health and well-being. Think positively about your out in medical situations and allow your power of belief to help you heal.