Placebo – the power of belief

by Life-Engineering on January 25, 2011 · 22 comments

I’ve moved this post to my new Life-Engineering blog, dedicated to motivating people to achieve their goals and change their futures by taking control of their lives.

You can now find this post here:

http://life-engineering.com/placebo-the-power-of-belief

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Howard February 20, 2008 at 7:22 PM

Rusty,
A nocebo response is where a subject’s symptoms are worsened by a sham treatment. Apparently when patients believe they will not get better, many of them don’t.

Since many prescription drugs are only slightly better than a placebo, when one considers the nocebo response it could be argued that belief is about twice as powerful as some drugs.

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2 Rusty Lindquist February 20, 2008 at 9:29 PM

That’s a really good point. It’s clear then, belief is the most powerful perscription.

Thanks for sharing.
Rusty

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3 Rusty Lindquist February 20, 2008 at 9:41 PM

The other part that I failed to mention, is the whole science of theropy by hypnosis. The power of hypnosis in affecting change is one used by many psychiatrists today. The power of suggestions to the mind, at the innermost level where your thoughts are unhindered by doubts, creates a firm (if unnatural) belief that what has been suggested is true.

They say that if, under deep hypnosis, the hypnotist were to drop a coin in your hand and suggest that it was burning you, your skin would actually form a blister.

They use the opposit approach, of course, in theropy, suggesting to the mind your ability to overcome certain weeknesses, or healt problems. The point is though, that when your mind is unencumbered by the doubts that otherwise beset us, and you fully believe something, it creates a powerful effect for change.

Rusty

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4 yourfootgirl February 21, 2008 at 8:26 AM

That is one leap of faith you just made…

The Placebo effect is actually proof against spirituality. The benefits medical science one attributed to prayer are actually just the result of the placebo effect.

Your mind is a powerful tool, it is able to make you think things are there that aren’t and that things that aren’t are.

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5 Rev. Peterson Cekemp February 21, 2008 at 9:07 AM

1) Placebo effect can make symptons disappear, yeah, but not the disease itself. It’s a mind illusion.

2) As yourfootgirl said, Placebo is actually proof against faith, it doesn’t support it.

3) Placebo effect it’s not universal. Not anybody gets better because of it.

4) Try to cure virus Ebola (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola) with placebo effect. What do you think, would you take the responsability for doing it? Would you try it?

5) “They say if, under deep hypnosis, “??? Don’t be such a misleading guy, put the scientific source there. You don’t have it, right? Maybe because it doesn’t exist.

6) Hypnosis is a contract between the hypnotized and the hypnotizer. It’s just the belief he’s able to do that, together with the WILL of being suggestionable, yeah, and you become very suggestionable.

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6 Rusty Lindquist February 21, 2008 at 10:19 AM

Yourfootgirl… (unique name – thanks for visiting) my goal was not to insinuate that the placebo affect is related to spirituality, it isn’t, but is rather an example of the power of the mind, as you point out. I think people are able to overcome more than they think they can, just by believing in themselves, and by believing in God.

Rev. Peterson – it’s an honor to have you here. You make good points. I don’t agree with all of them, but the’re valuable just the same. But perhaps you’re getting too caught in the concept of the placebo, which I use just to illustrate the power of belief, of faith. Real, actual deseases can be healed by faith and belief. That’s not a placebo, that’s the real manifestation of the power of God in our lives, brought about because of our willingness to have faith, and our ability to believe. The point isn’t that the placebo effect can heal us, the point is that our faith and belief can. The placebo effect is a small example of instances where that happens. Undoubtedly there are better examples – perhaps you can suggest some?

Anyhow, thanks for the candid review. Please come back often.

Rusty

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7 Howard February 21, 2008 at 1:27 PM

Rev. Peterson,
I am curious, what do you mean by # 3?

Allen Roses, worldwide president of genetics at GlaxoSmithKline is quoted as saying “The vast majority of drugs — more than 90 per cent — only work in 30 or 50 per cent of the people.”

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/health/article1037296.ece

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8 Rev. Peterson Cekemp February 21, 2008 at 4:21 PM

That’s exactly what I meant, Howard 😉 I said placebo effect doesn’t works for everybody, just as Allen Roses says similar things in drugs.

If you didn’t understand me, I’m sorry if I speak bad english, I’m brazilian ;D

Rusty: “actual deseases can be healed by faith and belief”.

Prove it. =)

I said: Placebo is an illusion. Do you want a way of how belief can change our lives? The soviets thought they could change the world, and they did it somehow. The people that resisted to military dictatorship here in Brazil believed they could beat it (actually, democracy here is not a direct product of that “rebellion”, but…) That’s the way belief changes life. But it just can’t make cancers disappear, blind people being cured, etc.

Oh no. I’m not being dogmatic. It’s all about skeptcism. To prove that, I’ll summarise my thoughts in a single line…

Prove It 😉

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9 yourfootgirl February 21, 2008 at 7:30 PM

I will grant you that faith is powerful.

However, you seem to forget that faith is just a byproduct of the mind.

It is hilarious that you use the placebo effect for proof or religion though, because the placebo effect is proof that faith in something that doesn’t exists works. If you really mean to expand that to religion you are saying that faith in a god that doesn’t exist is powerful and works. If that is what you mean to say so be it, but I highly doubt that is what you are insinuating.

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10 Rusty Lindquist February 22, 2008 at 2:57 PM

Rev. Peterson – thanks for those examples. I appreciate the implications of the affect of “cumulative” belief in a macrocosm, accross an entire people.

In terms of faith healing actual deseases. I refer to the countless references in the bible. There are those among us regularly who have encountered such miraculous manifestations of faith. But even then, I’m not sue it can be “proven”. I guess, in the end, we come full circle. It takes faith. The ability to believe in something that cannot be proven. Isn’t that, afterall, what faith is.

Yourfootgirl. You’re right, that’s not what I’m saying. Again, I don’t use the placebo effect for proof of religion, but for proof of the power of belief.

But it’s interesting there’s so much use of the word proof in these comments. We’re talking about faith, and faith (nor it’s effects) cannot be proven.

God lives. And it requires faith to believe that. It cannot be proved – for a witness of God will only come after a trial of your faith. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to experiment on that concept, to try and believe.

Knowledge of god (not faith, but knowledge) can be had by all, but only after a trial of their faith. You must first believe.

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11 yourfootgirl February 22, 2008 at 5:33 PM

So what you are arguing is that if you believe in something enough it will happen?

The problem with that is that the placebo effect doesn’t have a real effect, it is an imagine effect. Positive thinking can possibly affect your stress levels and make you a mentally healthier person, but it won’t magically heal you.

Again, there is the key flaw with your rationalization.

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12 Nathaniel February 22, 2008 at 10:30 PM

Interesting thought. However I have problem.

Don’t compare faith in GOD with faith in a PLACEBO.
They are two very different things.

Placebos don’t really do anything…… It’s really our own positive attitude and faith (in the dumb placebo) that causes the change.

However, correct belief, true understanding of God is not just an allusion. A belief in our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ is not some kind of mind game of positive thinking that produces great psychological effects.

When you truly exercise faith in Heavenly Father you can…. well what can we think of

– the blind recieve their sight (Mark 8:22-24)
– the crippled are made whole
– a man can walk on water (Matthew 14:22-23)
– mountains are moved
– the seas are parted (Exodus 14)
– a dead man return to life (John 11:1-46)

Did all that happen just from the power of positive thinking?? When was the last time you saw someone come out of a Dr. Phil session pulling out one of these.

In all seriousness, when we have faith in our Heavenly Father he will bless us…. way more than positive thinking ever will. He is real. He not an allusion like some placebo.

I myself have seen miracles in my own life. Actually very recently I have seen a good friend use a little faith and he has experienced great blessings. Our Heavenly Father is a God of miracles.

Sorry if I sounded preachy. I just think this is a important point. Too often people are confused about this.

Check out http://www.mormon.org

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13 Rusty Lindquist February 22, 2008 at 11:16 PM

Nathanial, great addition. You don’t sound preachy at all, I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said, and you said it very well. Thanks for taking the time to say it.

I’m beginning to think I should have used a different example for illustrating belief. 😉

The point isn’t the placebo, it isn’t a replacement, nor a comparison for faith. My point with using that was that even when we have faith in an illusion, it can often have a positive influence in how we feel.

But as you suggest, when we have faith in something real, in something substantial, in something eternal, in God… well then miricles can become a part of our lives.

Rusty

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14 Ben February 24, 2008 at 10:26 PM

What great post and follow up discussion! I see your point Rusty, that you were only drawing a parallel between the enabling power of belief in a placebo and belief in God, not the object of faith but I like everyone else’s insights, too.

I was wondering… may I cross-post this article in my blog, Defining Faith as a Latter-day Saint? It’s a community blog about faith in daily life. Actually, if you’re interested, I’m looking for authors/contributors, too. Thanks!

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15 Rusty Lindquist February 27, 2008 at 7:34 AM

Sorry, I was out sick for a couple days, but I’m back now….

Ben, of course, and thanks for joining us. I’d also be happy to post periodically there as well. Just give me login instructions, or tell me how you’d like to receive my posts.

Rusty

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16 samasti April 30, 2008 at 4:24 AM

Don’t you think Rusty, that belief and faith are different? Belief is of the mind; faith is beyond that. Believing in something gets you there. But if one can rest in faith, one is surrendered to What is His Will, not our will or belief. So faith to me is not equivalent to believe. I can get what I want if I believe I can, but ONLY if I deserve it and there faith comes in, for He can and will only give me what is good for me, not otherwise. I may Will to have even what is not good for me, in faith, in His great compassion and love for me, He will always protect me from what is not good for me, even if I don’t understand it now.
Samasti

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17 Rusty Lindquist April 30, 2008 at 7:59 AM

I don’t think there’s anything to add to that. You said it very well, and that’s a healthy contribution to this post. Thank you for putting so much thought into it.

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18 Finn McGowan May 13, 2008 at 10:38 AM

A witness of God will only come after a trial of your faith

Why is that?

Why is it a prerequisite that we convince ourselves that He exists, without any verifiable evidence?

Why would God value our believing in things we can neither detect or demonstrate?

From Rusty,

Sorry I’m just now getting to this…

Great question. Let me address that question with a question. If you are a father, and you have a son who you are trying to teach the value of money, and how to be responsible with it, would he learn those important lessons if you just gave him money whenever he wanted it, without having to earn it? Is there not something in the earning of that money that is critical in appreciating its value? Would he learn to be responsible with his money if he knew he could simply come to you for more, with no effort put forth on his behalf?

Gifts from God, including most of all a testimony of Him, are of the highest value. If this were a free gift, given to all at no price, would we truly appreciate its value? What’s more, would we be prepared to be accountable for that important knowledge?

For with knowledge comes accountability. Man is required to be obedient to the level at which he has learned – hence we are taught “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little”. Progression by steps allows us to be prepared for the burden of responsibility of greater knowledge.

If someone just walked into a gym out of the blue, and loaded up 300 lbs and tried to bench press it, it’d probably kill him. But if he really wanted to meet that goal, he would exercise faith, believing he could do it, and that would drive him to come into the gym regularly, building up his muscles to bear that much weight, and then, after a sufficient “trial of his faith”, he could do it. But only after working up to such a point. The faith that he could do it drove him, which, coupled with his actions, made it possible (faith without works is dead).

In a similar way, the personal, spiritual, and emotional growth we incur by exercising faith, believing without proof, prepares us for the responsibility of the knowledge we seek. Without that foundation, we would not be prepared for such tremendous accountability.

Finally, when we exercise faith, without the benefit of proof, we prove ourselves to God, and by so doing, qualify for the blessings of added knowledge of the witness that we seek. They just can’t be free.

Does this help at all?

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19 Finn McGowan June 24, 2008 at 4:25 PM

Hi Rusty, thanks for your intelligent reply.

“Progression by steps allows us to be prepared for the burden of responsibility”

That makes sense. But of all the starting points God could have chosen, why did He choose that we should exhibit a penchant for believing fantastic, unverifiable stories?

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