Sometimes things work just because ‘You’ want them to!

Ever wondered why sometimes you no longer feel that sick once you’ve met the doctor… or remember those younger days when you fell down and got hurt and mom said, “Don’t worry baby, this pain will go away in just 2 mins” and what the hell – that pain actually did run away into nowhere…. and well, precisely in 2 mins.

Now think further… did you end up liking a song that you didn’t like initially ‘coz all your friends insisted it’s a great song?… or has plain, normal coffee tasted richer and smelled more aromatic just ‘coz the ambiance was great and the coffee mug was really cool?

I’m sure you have experienced at least one of these instances if not all… we all have… ‘coz we all have trained our minds to experience what we expect or want to expect.

It’s called the ‘placebo effect’ – an effective practice of years and basic requirement for homeopathic medicine to work… an option often tried out in clinical trials…  and an effective tool for marketers and advertisers to convince us.

The human brain, however remarkable, can be easily fooled. We are driven by emotions and so can be easily pushed towards making us want something, whether or not we really want it.

But well, it’s not a bad thing after all (though, there have been quite a lot of controversies surrounding placebos). Infact I feel it’s really good to be fooled sometimes if fooling our brain’s gonna do some good in return. Let’s look at where all, in my opinion, a “placebo effect” can be/has been created and helped:

Prescribed Placebos

Well, well… seems like a familiar zone? If not, it will – if you know that most of your homeopathy medicines have been nothing but sugar pills. Moreover, the trick is that you have convinced yourself that homeopathy takes time to work but it’s effective and will have no side-effects.

Hmm, knock, knock – Obviously, sugar pills aren’t going to have side-effects unless you are allergic to them. Secondly your own body’s working for you so it is going to take a while longer to heal. But all this healing was taking place while you were happily believing that those interesting sweet pills are busy curing you.

Well, that’s it – you believed. And that’s exactly what your doctor may have wanted you to do – Believe that you’re going to be okay with those teeny-weeny sugar pills.  End result: In most cases,  you did get okay.

Treating cold and cough, I guess works in a similar fashion – you are prescribed antibiotics which are supposed to attack bacterial infections not a viral infection like cold or cough. But voilà – the credit always goes to the antibiotics.

Hmm, now we know why doctors are rich

Well, who said Placebos are safe?

This works great, according to me, unless of course people aren’t duped for long in case of serious medical cases that needs attention from actual medicines.

Placebo Therapies

Reiki, magnet therapy, aroma therapy and like – don’t these work hard towards one main principle?… that’s – Making you feel good.

You are told, you’ll be cured… the kind touch or wonderful smells or objects that you don’t much understand creates an aura that pushes you to believe that you’re in for good… you believe the therapy will help and just because you believe in it, it does help. Well, with the amount of money you end up spending for these therapies, they better help.

Placebos building path to divinity

Ever realised that all those incense sticks, bells ringing, soothing candles, melodious chanting, swaying with music, holding hands and even pin-drops silence could actually be a way to get you more involved in the (religious) activity and strengthen your belief in prayers or your faith. If you haven’t realised, then think about it next time when you are in that environment.

Prayers can work wonders

But there’s nothing bad about it at all unless it turns you into a fanatic who opposes other faiths. We pray but believing in our prayers builds in positive energy and can actually push us to work towards making things happen. The best part is it often dissuades us to give up.

Drive in a placebo effect and make selling easier

It’s not news for Indians to know that hair oil acts as a good conditioner for hair. But say, with Mr Amitabh Bachchan and Mr Shahrukh Khan telling us that jadibutiyon wala ‘Himani Navratna Oil’ helps ease out tension and stress and makes us thanda thanda cool cool, we may end up believing that this particular brand of oil has more benefits. The strong smell of the oil on application may aid our belief further and we feel it really works. Though ultimately what may happen to relax us is actually a head massage irrespective of the oil used.

Advertising hair oils with added benefits is just one mere example but creating a placebo effect via advertising has been an age-old practice and the trend’s never gonna go.

Now, unless we aren’t going to be fooled into buying something super-drastic, I guess we can live with this selling game.

So, if you wish to share one of your experiences where you believed in something and it worked for you, do share.


4 thoughts on “Sometimes things work just because ‘You’ want them to!

  1. I disagree with you when you say ‘Homeopathy medicenes are just sugar pills and are prescribed placebos! I have seen the making of this medicene at my Dr’s (homepath’s) clinic and also in the popular homeo pharmacy ‘Beck n Kaul ‘ in Irla. They actually prepare the medicene as per the potency required and is then the liquid medicene is poured over the sugar pills. I could smell the actual bitter medcine.. They are effective in even curing nagging health problems like duodinal ulcer(ex- my mom was cured of it)

    I do recall one instance where my friend was giving a single piece of cadbury gems to her aunt and telling her ‘here take your tablet” and her aunt pops it into our mouth and goes to bed. when i questioned my friend about it she said ” my aunt has just little weakness but no serious health problems, but she always believed she had one, initially we used to give her vitamins but she would never allow us to discontinue so had to find some way to stop it ..& Gems helped! colourful and looks almost like some vitamin and 2ndly diffrent colors meant diff tablets for my aunt ! can call ‘Gems’ as prescribed placebos’

    • Hey Seetha, I ain’t saying all homeopathy medicines are only sugar pills but meant that homeopathy is a one type of well-known placebo treatment where our mind also helps in the process. Homeopathy is supposed to work on the priniciple – “let like be cured by like”, i.e. introducing similar artificial disease in minute quantities to push the original one out, thus curing the disease in a sick person. It is done because it is believed that nature will not allow two similar diseases to exist in the body at the same time. The dose is small so that there is no danger of any long term side effects and extreme dilution enhances the curative properties of a substance. This is just the reverse of conventional drug philosophy where a minimum dose is required for effect. Starting from the conventional dose, as we decrease the concentration (or increase the dilution), the medicine become less and less efficient. But below a threshold, the medicine start getting potent again. Homeopaths uses this region of potency and can decide how much potency they wish to use on a patient (referring to what you stated with regards to Beck n Kaul). One example to mention is Rhus-Tox (Poison Ivy) that is diluted and succussed and given as a homeopathic remedy for sprains. But at the same time, homeopaths focus on patient history and symptoms and accordingly give medicines. So even if two people who are suffering from flu visit a homeopath, they both may get different types of homeopathic medicines depending on their history and symptoms because ultimately what homeopathy aims to do ideally is curing symptoms. This is because according to homeopathy, if a person has a symptom — such as a fever — it is the body’s way of trying to kill off a germ. So a person would be given a medicine to help this symptom along: in this case, something that causes fever. This theory is however questioned by doctors in other fields of medical science and hence, homeopathy has always been a controversial medical treatment.

      In any case, I am by no means trying to speak against or for homeopathy in my post but am actually trying to point out the power of our mind and how effective placebos can be. Homeopathy is one treatment where placebos are known to work and sugar pills is one of the things often given as medicines, so mentioned it as an example. Overall the basic idea is that you need to believe and that’s what worked, I guess, in your friend’s aunts case also where her symptoms were being taken care of with gems because she believed in them.

  2. Very true..placebo does work. And I have seen patients respond to it in a positive way. It may have actually stopped some bad antibiotics going down their gutter and given them a psychological recovery.

    But placebo is advertising, isn’t just the feel good factor. It’s the real thing sometimes. Sometimes, not always. It’s the real emotion or the real anticipatory emotion that stresses on your thinking. So if mazaa gives fun to my friends it may not give fun to me but it will impose itself on me. That’s peer pressure. And placebo can do nothing there.

  3. Don’t ask me how I know this but placebos play a very important role in psychiatry as well. Good article .. 🙂

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