Tag Archives: self-healing

In Defense of the Placebo Effect

I do a bit of traveling and every time I meet people the topic at some point turns to ‘what do you do?’ When I tell them I am an acupuncturist it is usually met with interest and perhaps a story of someone they knew who was helped with treatment. But on occasion I’ve been given the response, ‘you know it’s just placebo, right?’, as if they are letting me in on the big secret. I finally stopped my usual technique of boring them with research studies on the mechanism of action when I started thinking about what they were saying.

‘Just placebo.’

We toss around this term so casually, never really considering what we are saying. Placebo is considered a respectable word to use. It is used by ‘rational’ people to debunk all manner of quackery that ‘irrational’ people believe in. And yet the essence of the placebo effect is that our beliefs can effect change within the body; that the mind has the power to heal.

There is this deep fear within many to embrace an ideology that extends beyond the physical world as we know it, a desire to squirm when the term mind-body healing is used, yet we speak of the effects of stress, a mind-body harm, quite comfortably. We cling desperately to our current mechanistic world view because it is known and therefore safe. But, a world that extends beyond this outdated concept is a world that suddenly opens up to an infinite array of possibilities.

Trying to cultivate the power of the placebo begins with the understanding that a belief in our ability change our lives and bodies is no ‘placebo’.  There is no specific technique to be learned, it is simply knowledge of and confidence in our potential. In the end, it is with this understanding that we realize the power to change, the power to heal is an innate gift that we each have within us.