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The Real Power of The Placebo Effect, Explained

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When I was really young, whenever I felt sick, my grandmother used to make me cinnamon sugar toast. I felt like I could taste her love with every bite, and by the time I had finished my toast, my stomachache would have magically disappeared. In hindsight, I recognize that the dairy in the butter and the refined sugar in the cinnamon blend probably weren’t helping my digestive issues, yet somehow this meal always made me feel better. How does this make any sense? Herein lies the mystery of the placebo effect.

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No, science cannot prove that when my grandmother delivered me cinnamon toast with a loving smile and a giant hug, I instantly felt better, but as a five-year-old child I certainly experienced that. Though my grandmother may not have realized it, she was likely harnessing the power of the placebo effect.

What Is the Placebo Effect? 

The placebo effect is essentially the idea that your brain can convince your body that a fake treatment, because it (your brain) thinks it’s real, can provide real solutions and stimulate healing in the body. In essence, the placebo effect shows us how powerful our minds, how powerful our consciousness is, in that we can change our biology using our beliefs.

Many of you may have played around with the concept “You become what you think about most of the time,” meaning your thoughts literally become your reality. Businessmen like Kevin Trudeau have used it to make billions of dollars, and many people including myself enjoy witnessing the law of attraction in our everyday lives. However, how does this work when it comes to our health?

Well, science is starting to realize that, in some cases, a placebo can be equally as effective as the original treatments themselves.

“The placebo effect is more than positive thinking — believing a treatment or procedure will work. It’s about creating a stronger connection between the brain and body and how they work together,” says Professor Ted Kaptchuk of Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who has studied the placebo effect extensively.

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However, Kaptchuk believes that the placebo effect can only go so far. “Placebos may make you feel better, but they will not cure you,” says Kaptchuk. “They have been shown to be most effective for conditions like pain management, stress-related insomnia, and cancer treatment side effects like fatigue and nausea.”

It’s people like Kaptchuk who are challenging the way the scientific community typically looks at the placebo effect. In the past, placebos have been used in clinical trials, most often in drug tests, and were typically associated with failure. The mentality was that if you weren’t one of the participants who got the drug, you didn’t receive the benefits. Alternatively, if both groups of participants — those who received placebo pills and those who actually took the drug — experienced similar effects, then the drug was deemed ineffective.

However, scientists are now starting to realize that similar reactions may not mean a drug doesn’t work, but rather that the placebo is actually working in a similar fashion. What if these participants believed they were taking the drug, and thus experienced health benefits as a result? Experts have concluded that reacting to a placebo doesn’t mean a certain treatment doesn’t work, but rather that an alternative, non-pharmacological treatment may be present.

The Science Behind the Placebo Effect

Though we don’t understand how the placebo effect actually works just yet, a Harvard University article explains that “it involves a complex neurobiological reaction that includes everything from increases in feel-good neurotransmitters, like endorphins and dopamine, to greater activity in certain brain regions linked to moods, emotional reactions, and self-awareness. All of it can have therapeutic benefit.”

“The placebo effect is a way for your brain to tell the body what it needs to feel better,” says Kaptchuk.

“When you look at these studies that compare drugs with placebos, there is the entire environmental and ritual factor at work,” explains Kaptchuk. “You have to go to a clinic at certain times and be examined by medical professionals in white coats. You receive all kinds of exotic pills and undergo strange procedures. All this can have a profound impact on how the body perceives symptoms because you feel you are getting attention and care.”

A study published in Science Translational Medicine that was conducted by Kaptchuk in 2014 tested the placebo effect in relation to migraines. One group of participants took a migraine drug that had the drug’s name listed on it, another group took a placebo labelled “placebo” (meaning they were conscious that they were the placebo group), and a third group took nothing. Shockingly, their findings showed that the placebo was 50% as effective as the actual pain medication after experiencing a migraine, despite the participants having known who was in the placebo group and who was not.

The researchers concluded that this was largely due to the simple act or ritual of taking a pill, as it’s considered to be comforting to people.

“People associate the ritual of taking medicine as a positive healing effect,” says Kaptchuk. “Even if they know it’s not medicine, the action itself can stimulate the brain into thinking the body is being healed.”

This is comforting to learn, as this suggests that you yourself could administer the placebo effect, despite you knowing that it is simply placebo and nothing more. Kaptchuk actually has some suggestions as to how you can facilitate this yourself.

“Engaging in the ritual of healthy living — eating right, exercising, yoga, quality social time, meditating — probably provides some of the key ingredients of a placebo effect,” says Kaptchuk.

Another study published in 2002 in the New England Journal of Medicine(1) conducted by the Baylor School of Medicine, looked at surgery for patients with severe and debilitating knee pain. The patients were divided into three groups. One group endured the first type of knee surgery, as the surgeons shaved the damaged cartilage in their knees. Another group had their knee joints flushed out, removing all of the material believed to be causing inflammation. Both of these processes are the standard surgeries people go through who have severe arthritic knees.

The third group received a “fake” surgery, as the patients were sedated and tricked into thinking that they actually had knee surgery. The doctors still made incisions and splashed salt water on the knee as they would in normal surgery, and then they sewed up the incisions, but without performing any real surgeries on their knees. All three groups went through the same rehab process, and the results were astonishing. The placebo group improved just as much as the other two groups who had surgery.

Another 2002 article published in the American Psychological Association’s Prevention & Treatment, conducted by University of Connecticut Psychology Professor Irving Kirsch and titled “The Emperor’s New Drugs,” made some more shocking discoveries (5)(4). Kirsch found that 80% of the effectiveness of antidepressants, as measured in clinical trials, could be attributed to the placebo effect. Kirsch even filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get information on the clinical trials of the top antidepressants.

“The difference between the response of the drugs and the response of the placebo was less than two points on average on this clinical scale that goes from fifty to sixty points. That’s a very small difference, that difference is clinically meaningless,” Professor Kirsch explains (source).

A Conscious Note

Some of this information may not be new to you, as monks and other teachers have been preaching the power of the mind for years. Many people have been successfully using a combination of thoughts, meditation, and emotional healing to cure diseases for a very long time.

For example, radiation oncologist Dr. Carl Simonton and his wife Stephanie Matthews-Simonton, a psychologist, wrote the book Getting Well Again: A Step-by-Step Self-Help Guide to Overcoming Cancer for Patients and Their Families. The book explores how people can affect their disease process through healing their emotions.

Louise Hay is another well-known author who discusses the emotional causes of cancer in her book You Can Heal Your Life. A cancer survivor herself, she cured her disease in only six months using a combination of affirmations, visualization, nutritional cleansing, and psychotherapy. According to Hay, cancer is simply the manifestation of deep hurt, secrets, longstanding resentment, grief, and/or hatred.

The mind can be an incredible asset when it comes to your physical and mental health, but it can also contribute to your illnesses. Negative self talk can lower your vibration and increase your stress levels, and chronic stress is associated with countless diseases, including cancer.

I personally believe that your thoughts become your reality, and I have experimented with this and found it to be true in all aspects of life, including health. If you believe that you can heal yourself through positive self talk and other modalities using the mind, then I believe you’re increasing your chances of succeeding in improving your health. Likewise, if you don’t believe your mind can change your overall health, then you probably won’t see any notable differences because that’s what you believe!

Related CE Article:

The Placebo Effect: Transforming Biology With Belief

Free Franco DeNicola Screening: The Shift In Consciousness

We interviewed Franco DeNicola about what is happening with the shift in consciousness. It turned out to be one of the deepest and most important information we pulled out within an interview.

We explored why things are moving a little more slowly with the shift at times, what is stopping certain solutions from coming forward and the important role we all play.

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Consciousness

Your Life Is Not Limited To One Path

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    In life, we often get stuck telling ourselves stories about what the 'best' path in life to take is. It's often based on chasing others' or societies dreams and aspirations, without looking at our own.

  • Reflect On:

    Do we tell ourselves what the 'right choice' or 'wrong choice' is on our own path? What is it based on? Where does our programming come from? Can we not let go of limiting programming? Is our programming our TRUE path?

It is no secret that life can sometimes feel like a limited paved road laid out before us that we feel the need to stick to. Look at how we are brought up. Most of the time we come into the world and begin gaining our perceptions from those closest to us –our parents. As time goes on we find ourselves in school. Throughout that time we also begin watching what others do around us, what we see on TV and in movies.

What is happening is we are observing and creating an idea of how life should be; the best way to play the game. But what is ‘best?’

How many times have we heard “That’s not the best decision” or “That’s not the best decision for the whole family.” When you look at either statement you realize that “best” is subjective. What the “best” is to one person may not be the “best” to another. Even further, both of the perceptions of “best” are created from whatever belief systems each have created in their own lives. This is the key factor to realize.

We Get Trapped in Belief Systems

In either case, both scenarios have one thing in common, a belief system of what the “best” choice or decision is. When we create a belief system like this, we limit how we view things. We no longer feel what is “best,” but instead we analyze and define “best” based on a story; often a story from the past, based on entirely different times than the present moment.

Let’s take the example of a child coming out of high school today.  9 times out of 10, that child will be told, and may even believe, that the “best” decision they can make for their life is to continue their education at university or college. It does not matter that they do not know what they want to study, or that the education system will potentially cost them $100,000+, many will state that is best -and even have pride about it.

Next, they would be told to get a job so they can buy a house, as owning and buying a house is a smart decision. Should this child begin their life based on these belief systems, more often than not they will take this idea of what is “BEST” throughout the rest of their life. They will judge their decisions by this, express emotions based on this, develop self-esteem based on this and so forth. From then on, every decision they make will be based on this belief system handed down and taught to them.

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Even getting specific, what to study in school, what type of job to get, what type of car to buy, how to spend and save money, what type of house to buy and so on. What is really happening with all of this? We are defining the ideal life or what’s “best” and then we limit our life to a small scope of how things should be.

The Deep Truth

Here is the absolute truth, ready? None of it has any real truth to it. It’s just all a belief system. Perception, ideas! But we often live by this and it becomes so real in our minds that we become stuck thinking this is the way to do it. Then when depression and anxiety follow, as we may believe we are stuck, we forget to look back on the belief system that is often caging us and our reality into a small tight space we often don’t deeply resonate with.

Look at our world. We often all chase the same thing, the same stuff because that is what we have been sold as the ideal life. Each area of the world has its own version of this. Who’s life are you really living? Whose dreams are you chasing and carrying out? We take on these beliefs and we begin to sacrifice ourselves, our health, and our soul desires so we can carry out someone else’s idea of “best” that we grabbed onto.

Back to the child from the example above. Now they have grown into a young man or woman and are in a job they don’t truly like. But it pays the bills and lives up to the idea of “best” that has been given to them. Most of the time, people around them will all reinforce that their decisions are the “best” because they have all been sold on the same belief system. “You have to make sacrifices, you have to work really hard to have a good life!” is what we are told. But who says what is “good?” Even when that grown up child is expressing their sadness or frustration for the reality they are in, we continue to reinforce it to protect the idea of ‘the best.’

We take this entirely expansive creative individual playing in an expansive playground called Earth and we confine them to this tiny little narrow path of what the “best” is. Instead of spending their life being able to make any choice they choose, they stay limited to what they have been sold as the “best” even if they don’t truly love it.

Even Deeper

Then you have the even deeper part, we then look upon and judge others when they make “the wrong decisions.” Look at how we view those who change their minds about what they want to play with all the time. What do we say about those people? “They need to make up their mind and get their life on track.” What track? There is a track? Says who? “They didn’t make a smart decision with their money or their house so they are going to pay for it later.” Who says some decisions are better than others? Is it not an experience either way?

You are the creator of your life and reality. You can choose to play and create whatever type of life you choose. And guess what? If you make a decision and start creating a particular life then you realize you want to create something new, you are free to do this!

No matter what story we tell ourselves like: “it’s too late, I can’t change this now, it’s too costly” etc. know that these are all egoic illusions. You are never limited to whatever life you have created even if you have been doing it for 30 years. Remember to ask yourself: the life you are chasing, the goals you have set, who’s goals are they really? Where did you first hear of them? Are they from your heart? Or are they what you have been sold?

Look inside yourself at what YOU TRULY want and how you wish to express yourself and create. Start there, and create from that space. You will see very quickly that you can create anything you choose.

Remember, there is no right or wrong path here. It’s about looking back on what we choose, where we are at and saying “Is this where I want to be? Am I feeling peace? Expressing my deepest self? Am I inspired about where I am at?” and if you aren’t, you create a new path and see how that feels. Follow how you FEEL, not what you seek as right or wrong. Our life reflects our state of consciousness.

Free Franco DeNicola Screening: The Shift In Consciousness

We interviewed Franco DeNicola about what is happening with the shift in consciousness. It turned out to be one of the deepest and most important information we pulled out within an interview.

We explored why things are moving a little more slowly with the shift at times, what is stopping certain solutions from coming forward and the important role we all play.

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Consciousness

The Hero’s Adventure: What Movies Can Teach Us About Facing Our Shadow

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The Hero's Journey is a multi-staged adventure whereby the 'hero' grows to become a new version of themselves, one that is evolved and at a 'higher level' per se.

  • Reflect On:

    Movies can be viewed in many ways. Some see it as programming others as inspiration. How can we use what we see in movies in our own lives? To grow and evolve as people? To recognize our true callings vs those of Hollywood?

The hero’s adventure is a term popularised by Joseph Campbell based upon his 1949 work “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. The late Campbell was an American Professor of Literature and a philosopher who described the adventure one must embark upon to fully realise who he/she is.

A simple explanation from Campbell:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

Campbell uses the word monomyth to describe this adventure which was taken from James Joyce’s book Finnegans Wake.

According to Campbell the monomyth contains 3 stages, with 17 subsections. Not all journeys contain all sections and no two adventures are the same, yet the hero’s adventure follows a surprisingly similar pattern. The 3 stages are 1. A call to seek out some kind of adventure. 2. A trial or initiatory period where the hero must face an obstacle or series of obstacles. 3. The return back home with that which you were seeking to find. This often repeats in a number of ways, with various steps being repeated, but this is the idea.

The 17 Steps Of The Heroes Adventure:

The Call:

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  1. The call to adventure
  2. Refusal of the call
  3. Supernatural aid
  4. Crossing the threshold
  5. Belly of the whale

The Initiation:

  1. The road of trials
  2. The meeting with the goddess
  3. Woman as temptress
  4. Atonement with the father
  5. Apotheosis
  6. The ultimate boon

The Return:

  1. Refusal of the return
  2. The magic flight
  3. Rescue from without
  4. The crossing of the return threshold
  5. Master of two worlds
  6. Freedom to live

When you look to Hollywood movies and best selling fiction books they all follow the same pattern. Star Wars writer, George Lucas, was a friend of Joseph Campbell and famously said that without Campbell there would have been no Star Wars.

Star Wars

If you take Star Wars, it is the perfect example of the Hero’s Journey:

The Call: Luke Skywalker is living a mundane existence, and then while cleaning R2D2 he is shown a holographic recording seeking help from Princess Leia.

The Initiation: Obi-Wan becomes a mentor to Luke, and teaches him to “use the force”. Along the way he meets Han Solo, Chewbacca and other unsuspecting helpers until he completes his apprentice (which he does not know is taking place). Finally after much fighting, Luke is able to rescue Princess Leia and destroy the death star.

The Return: Then he returns home a new man where Leia awards Luke with medals for his heroism.

The Matrix

The Matrix is another example.

The Call: Thomas Anderson is fed up with life at a dead end job and knows there is more to his existence. He has a dream in which his computer types “follow the white rabbit” when someone comes to buy illegal computer programmes from him they ask him to join them on a night out. He declines, but when one of the group turns, she has a tattoo of a white rabbit, so he decides to follow.

The Initiation: Thomas Anderson becomes his computer alias Neo. He meets Trinity, and later Morpheus and is offered to be shown the truth in the form of the red pill (truth) or blue pill (fantasy). He opts for the truth pill and is initiated into a mysterious world where reality as he knew it is actually a computer programme. He gets to download multiple skills, thinks he is The One, but then realises he is not The One. Morpheus gets taken by the agents and he decides to save him.

The Return: Upon trying to save Morpheus he realises he is The One, saves him and defeats the agents. This is him returning with the realisation he is The One, although the return and initiation cross over a little.

This is the same structure you see in Harry Potter, The Wizard Of Oz, Alice In Wonderland, The Alchemist and just about every story based movie there is.

But how is this helpful?

This is the same story we can use as a metaphorical representation of who and where we are in our lives.

If you think life is meaningless and mundane, this means you should be on the lookout for synchronicities and clues of how to break free.

If you have just had a strong urge to go and do something very far removed from your comfort zone that has the potential to change your circumstances, then you probably should.

If you are stuck in a painful situation that seems to have no end, this means you are in an initiation. Being in an initiation does not guarantee you will pass “the test” but at some point you will be given an opportunity to break a cycle or take an opportunity.

If you have just been through an ordeal and conquered your inner (and sometimes outer) demons, bask in the glory, but remember there was 9 Star Wars movies, 4 Matrix movies and 8 Harry Potter books. Your Heroes Adventure may have many chapters, so strap in and try to enjoy the journey.

Much love, Luke.


If you would like to download my free eBook- Psychology Meets Spirituality- Secrets To A Supercharged Life You Control YOU CAN DO SO HERE

Free Franco DeNicola Screening: The Shift In Consciousness

We interviewed Franco DeNicola about what is happening with the shift in consciousness. It turned out to be one of the deepest and most important information we pulled out within an interview.

We explored why things are moving a little more slowly with the shift at times, what is stopping certain solutions from coming forward and the important role we all play.

Watch the interview here.
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Consciousness

On Taking Life Too Seriously

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Much of the time in life, we allow ourselves to take situations VERY seriously. This will sometimes turn pain into suffering, or prolong the challenges we face for growth. It also stops us from truly finding peace in life.

  • Reflect On:

    Do you feel a constant sense of anxiety in your life? Underlying everything? Where do you notice you take life or situations too seriously? What do you do to begin connecting back to self, and taking life less seriously?

Do you go through life with constant angst? A feeling deep down that there is always a little bit of stress or a little bit of worry? I’ve been through this. And in some ways, I thought it would never go away. But I focused on self awareness and living in the heart enough to kiss those days goodbye.

We can sure take life too seriously at times can’t we? I mean it’s fair. We have stresses in life that we get caught up in, we go, go, go, go, and often forget to take a moment to breathe. In Western culture, it’s all about obsessing over goals and getting there and telling ourselves sotries about what life will be like when we do finally get there… but what often happens to us when we live this way? We step into unconsciousness. We stop taking time to FEEL.

I want to help us remember to be STILL with this.

Various experiences and events have taken place in my life that have challenged some of my deepest ideals, belief systems and concepts that I felt were a part of me. This has gone on and occurred in my entire 11 year journey of truly changing myself. Whether it had to do with the work I do, friends, the world, relationships or big decisions in life, many things were challenged. It has truly been an incredible ride.

We sometimes might think “when will all the change and ‘chaos’ end?” A good question indeed, but isn’t this what we are here for at this time? To truly look at ourselves, look at all that we hold onto and all that we define our reality with. Literally everything! If you are feeling like you are the only one out there going through this stuff and feel like everything is backwards -that things are constantly being challenged, know that what you are experiencing is perfect, and we must remember to have fun with it!

Not Just A Human Experience

We are not here at this time to simply have ‘a human experience,’ we are here to evolve the human experience. It’s different! Stop looking at the past to tell us what to do, how we should move forward, and what ‘the greats’ did in our past to figure things out. We are not in that time, and the zeitgeist of our time now is not to simply exist but to be present as we deeply evolve the way of life on this planet.

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We hear a lot “but we’re human, just embrace that!” That’s all fine, but what does that mean? What is a human? How should we be? Does being human mean accepting the world as it is? Are we capable of more? Can we redefine what it means to be human and what life should look like? Why do we give up so easily on dreaming big about these things?

I used to accept MANY limitations about myself and what I could do. But eventually, I was faced with the chance to let all that go, and reimagine what was possible. Even when everyone told me I was crazy and I couldn’t do what I was trying to do, I used my connection to self and consciousness to create it. Because I believed I was capable of more, and so is everyone else. This is how Collective Evolution, the site your on, came to be.

Embracing Change

After experiencing the many deep questions and challenges I have thus far, overcoming them and moving forward, I have one very special thing that I have reminded myself about over and over and truly understand to a deep level. We are here to play and evolve! None of what we are experiencing is as serious as we think!!

The mind and ego can make things very real, very dramatic, very frightening. I know! But the highest aspect of who we are is always clear, always neutral, and always sharing with us exactly what we need to hear because IT IS US! We are not the mind or the stories it creates that makes things so serious. They are there because that is our challenge. To go beyond the mind and the stories it creates -so we can experience this sensorial world and remember who we truly are (click to listen to my podcast on this topic.)

So let’s remember, whether it’s life choices, relationships, friends, work, family, sports, or everyday events, know that it’s just an experience! We can spend our whole lives always caught up in the drama and the intensity, saying “oh my gosh things are so tough, the world is so crazy, my life is upside down, and I’m so busy!” but where does this lead us? This is a question we must ask ourselves.

If we remain caught up in these perceptions, repetitive patterns of mind, we will continue to miss out on the entire journey we are on because we are lost and caught up in the mind. We perpetuate our so called “suffering” when we make things serious and make them a big deal. When we can see it for what it is, we allow the emotions to subside, allow back in our full potential and know how to take action forward. This is called finding true peace.

I’m not talking about simply accepting things and saying “well get over it” or “that’s how it is, so deal with it.” No. I’m talking about truly seeing things for what they are. Seeing why we color something in a particular way. Seeing the belief system behind why something is good or bad or right or wrong or even why it’s serious!

I promise you, behind every strong emotion, every serious situation, there is a belief system that makes it that way. One that is held in the mind and made real by the mind. But the mind is not YOU! See the story! Let it go and just play! You will find much peace and joy in flowing through your experience in this way.

Free Franco DeNicola Screening: The Shift In Consciousness

We interviewed Franco DeNicola about what is happening with the shift in consciousness. It turned out to be one of the deepest and most important information we pulled out within an interview.

We explored why things are moving a little more slowly with the shift at times, what is stopping certain solutions from coming forward and the important role we all play.

Watch the interview here.
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