A Misunderstood Miracle.......

The Placebo Effect

Carl Hendel, M.D.

If a drug company were to announce that they had a drug which could cure 10% of all illnesses, from cancer to the common cold, this would certainly bring headlines and science prizes, right? If that miracle drug was free of side effects and was remarkably inexpensive, we should all be cheering in streets, right?

Yet the silence is deafening. Sometimes I think the innate healing potential of the human being is taken for granted.

Placebo has become a nearly universal explanation of presently unexplainable positive outcomes in allopathic medicine. When a positive benefit cannot be proven scientifically, it is labeled the Placebo Effect. The term actually comes from the Latin for "I shall please" and came to refer to treatments given in order to placate or please patients when these treatments or medicines (sugar pills) had no known scientific basis. The key word here is "known".

In the process of a "pleasing" relationship with the patient, a potentially invaluable cascade of psycho-neuro-immunologic chemistry may begin to unfold. When the doctor and patient share this kind of interaction , calming is induced with its associated chemistry. Perhaps more than calming chemistry is facilitated. Feeling good in mind may lead the way to feeling good in body.

Very powerful is what has been called "positive expectant faith." This means that when a person anticipates a benefit, at some level, s/he prepares to receive and incorporate that possibility in the awareness. We are learning that positivity, love, sincerity, awareness, and presence, whether in prayer, imagery, or outlook, creates a positive neurochemical environment that is supportive of healing.

There is an Interactive Imagery (sm) practice called "future healed self." In this practice we invite the person to imagine themselves well in the future. We teach them to dialog with that image, with such questions as "how did you get from here (the present) to there (the future)", "what were the key steps", "do you have advice for me", etc. Introducing the possibility of wellness moves the person neurochemically in the right direction, facilitating healing.

In the introductory comments, I made a bold statement about the placebo curing 10% of all illnesses. That is, of course, a bit simplistic. For some diseases, the percentage is higher, and for some it is lower. But the same miracle that manifests as the placebo effect may play a part in the unexplained spontaneous remission of cancers and more.

And this miracle, whatever it is, may well be nurtured by more than just positive mind. Many ancient healing intuitions may not be scientifically provable (yet), but massage, aromas, certain movement practices, energetic medicines (cranial osteopathy, Chinese Medicine), dietary and herbal intake considerations may each provide additional power to the healing momentum.

I do not discount the wondrous, life-saving interventions of allopathic medicine. I seek only to expand the possibilities beyond the realm of provable science as it exists today. As I am fond of saying, it is 1999, hopefully early in the history of human knowledge.