Imagine you’ve just signed up for an experiment at your local University. You get ushered into a room where the nice cute co-ed in white lab coat explains that you will be taking a new experimental drug for chronic pain. That’s what brought you to volunteer. Pain has been part of your life ever since the accident. Doctors can’t help. They don’t know what is wrong. The pain doesn’t care. It only hurts.
You’re separated into two groups. Your group is lead single file through a simple process. Sign your name here. Take this journal home with you. Here’s your bottle of pills. All green. Take them four times a day and record your experience of pain.
You stay on the program for the full six months. You can’t believe how lucky you are. You live pain free! The experiment has worked!
Welcome to the world of Placebos.
You’ve probably heard about the generous nature of your mind when influenced by suggestion. Drug companies take great pains to trick you into believing you’re getting the good stuff so they can test your results against the real drugs. Here’s the rub. Placebos beat up the real drugs more often than they lose. Drug companies, doctors, and media alike all miss the obvious message: Your mind is awesome, but it also has it’s fair of downsides..
This wouldn’t be WhoForted if I came just to deliver the good news. Sure, placebos are awesome, but they’re not exactly weird. What is weird are their misunderstood cousin, the reverse effect of a placebo. Meet the black sheep of your mental game: The Nocebo Effect. That’s weird.
You’re given a pill with emphasis on the possible nausea. You get sick. You’re told a procedure can be painful. You grit your teeth and experience pain. You can worry yourself sick. Hell, you can kill yourself with a shitty attitude.
Much like a placebo, you’re still being influenced by suggestion, but this time around nobody has your best interest at heart. The person who influenced you may not even know they did you a disservice.
I was chatting with a few friends the other night. One guy was telling me stories from his wilder days. He heard a girl he had a one night stand with also had gonorrhea. Understandably, he was pretty scared by that particular development. He told me that symptoms of the infection appeared within 24 hours of receiving the news, and by the time he saw a doctor he was suffering some of the worst effects of the STD. Only something wasn’t quite right.
The doctor surprised him. He was healthy. No infection. His prescription was to stop worrying.
My friend says, “I swear I felt perfectly fine by the time I got back to my car!”
He didn’t know it at the time, but he was influencing himself with suggestion. His mind was happy to produce what he believed should be the physical signs of the disease. In a similar fashion, his mind corrected course with suggestion to cure the “disease”.
It’s not enough to cure illness, heal pain, and make your grumpy issues melt away. You can also suffer pain, produce illness, and lose all hope. All of this can be done with suggestion.
What about curses? Let’s explore just one self inflicted possibility that a curse can produce.
You’ve had a bad day. You decide to go out for a drink. That turns into a few drinks, some shots, and one bad decision after another. Your attitude has gone from irritated to asshole. Your bad day is about to get worse.
You just bumped into a guy at the bar. He’s not too upset at first, but you won’t leave him alone. So he turns around and says, “I curse you! Ghosts will gnaw on your bones soon enough.” That ends the incident. He walks away while you stand there staring at his back. You don’t believe in curses, but he did have all those weird tattoos. There was a pentagram on his necklace. But …no …it can’t be …real. Right?
You find out a few days later that the guy is into the Occult. He claims he knows real magic. You don’t admit anything to your friends, but there’s a voice in your mind that wonders if it’s real. You start jumping at noises in the night. You worry when people look at you a bit too long. Your shadow appears as if it’s stalking you. You start to feel completely helpless. You’re too embarrassed to ask for help. The worry, stress, and helplessness get so severe that within a week your heart stops.
This devastating effect is known as Diastolic Flaccidity. You experience an extreme drop in blood pressure and the lights go out. This has been linked to the cause of death in those who believe they were cursed. Otherwise healthy people drop dead under the pressure of the helplessness. Their body responds in the only way it can under that duress.
Words can hurt. Words can heal. Most people don’t believe they’re susceptible to suggestion. They don’t care whether it’s for healing or harm. Do yourself a favor. Don’t be most people.
We still don’t know what consciousness is or why we even have it. Neuroscience keeps trying to figure it out, but they’re no closer to answering that question than I am to finding a million dollars in my couch.
Influence and persuasion are awaiting you at every point in your life. It’s important to remember that you are free to resist and reject suggestions. Question your beliefs and authority alike.
It’s your mind, after all.
We do know methods to explore the wonders of our mind. You can make journeys of self empowerment with hypnosis, meditation, and other forms of influence. Your mind and imagination are gateways I encourage you to enjoy, just remember: you’re in control.
Have you ever been a victim of the nocebo effect? How did you overcome it? Share your story with us on our Facebook page, tweet us @WeirdHQ, or leave a comment below!
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