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How Healing Works: Tune into Placebos & Tune out Nocebos
Promoting our own Healing
To promote our own healing, we need to understand how we can participate in our own healing by listening to the suggestions planted in us - by ourselves and others. I was speaking with Roberta, a lovely woman I was working with; we were chatting about medical placebos (remarks or procedures that please and foster self-health) and harmful nocebos (negative remarks or inputs that ignite worry and fear). I explained to her how placebos work. She said, “oh, placebos are used to “trick” the body into health”. I responded, “they may trick, but what is certain is that they do the trick”. I went on to describe how imagery acts as a placebo offering us a perceptual way of seeing a belief concretely, while also imbuing us with hope, and giving us an opportunity to praise ourselves.
Later that day I spoke to another patient, Howard about the Placebos. I mentioned my previous conversation with Roberta. The mention of “trick” came up. He realized that nocebos were “tricksters” playing tricks on us. I said we go from tricksters to doing the trick, which makes us get back on track. We go from trick to track. What a lovely day that was for them and me.
Mental Imagery Acts as a Placebo
Roberta first came to work with me to support her healing process from a life threatening illness that required an equally risky surgical procedure. Her surgeon performed the delicate operation and was quite pleased with her post-procedure progress. He said he had not expected such progress so quickly! She did not tell him she had been doing imagery steadily for several weeks before as well as after the procedure to hasten her healing. Mental imagery/visualizations is a form of placebo that you administer to yourself, planting a new belief in your consciousness about healing
While I urge all the many sufferers I see to tell their MD’s they’re doing imagery, few do so. Would they, physicians would get valuable information that they might follow up on. Moreover, doctors could then properly apportion credit to both physical and non-physical interventions. This in turn could help modern medicine get in lock step with traditional healing practices so that a synergy of the two can happen.
Medical Placebos & Nocebos
Back to Roberta: The surgeon next remarked that at the next MRI - due in several months hence - he would see if the “tumor had lost its grip.” He then added “or it may have remained the same.” What a beautiful example of giving a placebo followed by a nocebo! Most doctors are unaware of the unnecessary and extremely harmful nocebos they introduce to their patients in speculating about the medical outcomes. You can tell your doctor to refrain from these speculations.
To Heal: Stay Aware of Placebos and Nocebos
More importantly: be conscious and aware of the many placebos and far more nocebos you feed yourself. Where the nocebos emerge (don’t fight them, allow them a little space) remember to replace them by a placebo. Now, you are taking charge of your inner state of being; and are on your way of becoming the master of yourself.