Here’s something weird.
Give someone a normal milkshake, but tell them that it’s a diet drink, and their gut behaves as if the drink is low fat. Even though it’s full fat.
Here’s something even more weird.
A patient wakes up from knee surgery. The doctor say that they’ve done the operation. The knee gets better even though the doctor only made an incision in the skin.
Such examples are everywhere.
Give a drug a big fancy name and it works better than if it has a bog standard name.
Anti depressants work better depending on who prescribes them, not on what is in the drug.
I remember seeing a TV documentary about a medical experiment. Half of the people had the drug. The other half had a sugar pill with no drug in it.
Yet for many people, the sugar pill worked.
When the trial was over, one woman was insistent that she keep getting the pills.
“But they are just sugar pills,” they told her.
“I don’t bloody care what they are”, she said. “They worked and I want them back.”
It’s not so outlandish. This effect is called The Placebo Effect.
It’s where no actual medicine or treatment is given. Yet we get better nonetheless.
Give a person a sugar pill but tell them it is a stimulant, and their heart rate increases. Their blood pressure goes up.
Give them the same sugar pill and tell them it helps with sleep, the opposite occurs.
People get drunk on non alcoholic beer, if we tell them it is alcohol.
In fact, if doctors gave placebos to their patients as a matter of course, 30% of them would get better. This would involve no side effects.
It doesn’t happen because it would involve the doctor tricking the patient, which is unethical.
Yet studies show that it can work even when the person knows they are taking a placebo.
Known placebos have an effect on depression, pain, sleep disorders, irritable bowel, and menopause, amongst others.
It’s powerful stuff.
That power is located solely within the patient.
You are powerful stuff.
There is nothing within the medicine, as it’s not medicine at all.
The medicine is fake. Yet the results are real.
All of the healing happens because the patient triggers change in their own bodies.
This is how powerful you are. It is how powerful your mind is.
Every health scientist knows this. They factor in the power of your mind into every study they do.
It is not enough for them to know that a drug has been helpful.
They have to know that it has been more helpful than your mind on its own.
This is why placebo trials exist. It is why half get the drug, and half get the sugar pill.
The scientists don’t just accept the power of your mind. They measure it. They build every test they do around it.
They know that a huge chunk of your improvement with any drug is due to the remarkable power of you.
So any proposed medicine has to outdo you. Many fall by the wayside.
All that research, study and lab tests. Yet it still didn’t beat the power you already have within you.
It’s really hard to come up with medicine that is better than the healing you are already capable of.
Thankfully, we do develop such medicines. But it’s not easy to do.
You are a difficult healer to beat.
Imagine that inherent power applied not just to your body, but to your life.
If science knows that you can change your body, what else can you change?Alun Parry is Director of The Liverpool Psychotherapy Practice