About sixty years ago, a term was coined called “the placebo effect.” This represents a fascinating aspect of what we call “reality.” Traditional medicine, while aware of the placebo effect, still does not know quite what to do with it. Some see it as a cure-all—“mind over cancer.”  Others fear it, call it a “sham” and worry that it builds false hope. What is agreed upon is that, in many documented cases, placebos work. 

Many first heard of placebos when a Harvard researcher, in 1955, concluded that 30 to 40 percent of any treated group would respond to a placebo. Dr. Henry Beecher was referring to studies where people were “treated” with harmless sugar pills and many reported they were then “cured.” (1)

Experiments with placebos didn’t stop in the 50s. In 1994, a surgeon, Dr. Bruce Moseley, had ten patients who agreed to a “unique procedure” where only some were actually treated, but no one knew if they’d had knee surgery (to relieve arthritis pain) or not. They were all taken into the OR and given anesthesia. The doctor even made scalpel incisions on each.  All said they were happy with the outcome six months later. Years later, one 76-year-old man was interviewed and said, “My knee has never bothered me since. I give a whole lot of credit to Dr. Moseley.” You guessed it—he was in the placebo group; he’d had no surgery performed at all.  Another member of the placebo group reported that he had given up using a cane and could now play basketball with his grandchildren. (2)

The purpose of this article is not to show the validity of “the placebo effect” but to urge you to stop and take time to think about it. What does this phenomenon mean to you? Since placebos work so well in healing, might they work equally well in other areas of life? Could you use a “placebo belief” to alter your relationship with money, your parents, your love life, your self-esteem? 

Think about it. What have you been conditioned to expect? What if by changing what you expect, you changed reality? Don’t let your mind scoff at that! You just read about someone’s painful arthritis disappearing for no medical reason. There are countless examples documented in the medical world. Why wouldn’t your mind be as powerful in other arenas? What new reality would you like to imagine, adopt, and ingrain? Think on that.  

  1. Harry Beecher, “The Powerful Placebo,” Journal of the American Medical Association 159 (1955)
  2. New England Journal of Medicine 347 (2002) 

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