What’s a placebo? I’d wager a good portion of all the people in the world know that word even if they don’t fully understand the meaning. And the generalized meaning that most people would probably give is something fake that works like it was actually real. It’s kind of a vague description, but the background meaning that it implies actually has some interesting value at a deeper level if you want to really think about it. After all, what’s the difference between fake and real? For something to be fake, the idea behind it still must be created and so at least some part of it is plenty real. Then of course there are many common beliefs that our experiences that we see in the world around us are just a skewed interpretation of our mind and that nothing is actually “real” in the whole universe.
Well, if we put all the extra stuff aside and just look at the basic concept of a placebo as most of the world would probably view it, we can see thousands of examples of it working with amazing results. Sugar pills curing various different diseases, simply because the person who took it really believed that it was a pill that was exactly the right combination of materials needed to cure whatever was wrong with them. I guess you “could” say that technically it did have the exact right combination of materials, but that’s just the fun way to look at it. But I think my single favorite placebo example is one I have heard about and researched a bit and read about many different times because it’s just so damn amazing. At some point there was an experiment done that included a number of patients with some pretty severe knee troubles. I can’t remember how many there were. The trouble was to the point that it was deemed necessary for them to have reconstructive knee surgery of some sort. Sorry for being so vague, it’s been probably close to a year since the last time I actually looked it up and read all the exact details. I am wanting to say that I remember there being three groups, but I can only recall two of them at the moment. Even without all the exact details it’s still an impressive tail, but I’ll probably do some research after I finish this post and include a link in the comments.
The obvious first group was the people who actually got the surgery that they “needed” and then the would was closed up and they were sent to heal. The second group is the placebo group. They Doctors cut open the knees and poked around, but they did nothing to actually “fix” the knee problem at hand. Then they closed up the knee and sent the patients off to heal. It was two full years before the details of which were in which group were shared with the members of the study, but they had all healed to basically the same level. Placebo patients were healed and running like they had been given back their youth just as well as the ones who were actually “fixed” even though they did not receive the actual surgery they thought they needed. The power of believing in the surgery was enough to allow them to heal themselves.
The last one is one I saw on TV while watching the Science Channel (best channel on TV!). It was on a show called “Dark Matters: Twisted but True” and it was about a man who was cursed by a voodoo witch doctor. The man became very sick and his wife sought help. The medical doctor that they went to see was very thorough and very stubborn. He studied the man and found him to be 100% healthy, and that all his issues were mental. But telling the man this had no effect. His belief in the voodoo curse was SO STRONG that nothing could shake it and his mind was killing his body based on a simple belief. The doctor finally decided to give up on traditional methods to try and cure the man and went for something that seemed really silly. He dressed himself in normal clothes and made himself up to look like he’d been in a fight. He then created a story about going to meet with the witch doctor and found out that the puff of smoke blown into the mans face was actually lizard eggs. And he told the man and wife that the one of the eggs had hatched into lizard, and that the small lizard living in his stomach was eating all his food and water which is why he was getting sick. He then gave the man some medicine (vomit inducer) that would help cure him that he “got from the witch doctor.” It wasn’t long before the man began severely vomiting into a trash can and with a bit of sleight of hand the doctor dropped a lizard into the can and showed it to the man, who started to improve quickly and by morning was completely healed. I’m sure I got a few details wrong on that story, but it’s been a few months since I saw it and I couldn’t find that particular episode on the Dark Matters website. Since most of the ones I did find were only partial episodes I stopped looking.
Well, you could say the birth of this post actually came from me listening to something this morning and hearing the placebo knee surgery story again. As I heard it, it got me thinking about the placebo concept and the Dark Matters story jumped into my mind. However, for whatever reason my mind didn’t stop there. I started thinking about the witch doctor aspect of the story and started thinking about old world medicines and stuff. It got me wondering just how many old witch doctor stories were true, since back in the old days there were a lot of beliefs that held supernatural activities as not only true, but even likely. Back when people believed in magic because they couldn’t understand the science behind why certain things happened the way they did, the placebo could have been the most commonly used magical tool of all. As I thought about it I really began to believe that it probably was. Spiritual healers, voodoo doctors, shamans, and all sorts of other magical beings are listed in history, but just how many of them were real? How many of them really existed and how many of them performed amazing miracles with their placebos based around the power of belief. Imagine if a “modern healer” of those types came up with a placebo pill that would “make” people gain control over their beliefs. This pill would give people the ability to choose how they wanted to view the world, giving them the power to master the Law of Attraction almost instantly as negative beliefs were shrugged off effortlessly.
Of course this scenario is extremely unlikely as most people’s beliefs are very strong, and if they believe for even an instant that a placebo is actually a placebo, it immediately stops working. But it does raise a very fun little thought. If the power of belief is really this strong, which it is, wouldn’t it be neat to just change your beliefs yourself and turn them into what you want them to be as a conscious choice? I’ve heard stories of people curing cancer because they refused to believe that it could kill them, and paralyzed men and women learning to walk again even after being told it was impossible. The best example I can recall of the latter is Morris E. Goodman who crashed an airplane and was so severely damaged, the ONLY thing he could do on his own was blink. He couldn’t even breath without a respirator and was assumed to be a vegetable for what would be left of his assumed to be short life. But his mind still worked too, and in his mind he refused to believe that he couldn’t recover. Today he walks and talks and breathes on his own, despite his diaphragm having been destroyed in the crash. His power of belief brought him from impossible to realized fact. What could the power of belief do for you?
That’s the Trick of the Dave for today, because everyone can benefit from working on their Power of Belief.