Many people are aware of the placebo effect, but few perceive that the counter-placebo effect may be just as powerful. In medicine, it is worth keeping this in mind when you step into a doctor’s office. The words and mannerisms of a doctor can send a negative message to a patient, and his or her power of suggestion can easily shape your own thinking.
Man dies from the idea of Cancer
Clifton Meador, a retired physician and author of 13 books, has long pondered the potential role of the anti-placebo effect. Although many in the medical community are aware of the placebo effect, few have thought about its therapeutic implications, he says. If positive thinking can get you out of depression and heal your injured limbs, then what effect does negative thinking have on your life?
In 1974, Meador had a patient named Sam Londe. He was a retired shoe salesman who had esophageal cancer, a disease considered terminal at the time. Londe was treated, but everyone in the medical community “knew” that his esophageal cancer would return. So no one was surprised when Londe died just a few weeks after his diagnosis.
Although everyone assumed he had died of the cancer, an autopsy showed that what cancer was present in his body was minimal and definitely not enough to kill him. He had two or three spots on his liver and a little on his lungs, but there was no trace of the esophageal cancer that “would surely return.”
The effects and counter-effects one’s thoughts
When one’s health improves due to positive thinking, this phenomenon is called the placebo effect. Conversely, when the same mind adopts negative ideas, it produces an undesirable effect called the “nocebo effect,” which can cause one’s health to deteriorate. Meador said, “He died with the idea of cancer, but not from cancer. If Londe did not die of cancer, then what did he die of? Did he die because he “believed” he was going to die?
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Thirty years after Londe’s death, this case still lingered in Meador’s mind: “I thought he had cancer, he thought he had cancer, everyone around him thought he had cancer …… Did I inadvertently deprive him of hope?” This haunting case of the anti-placebo suggests that doctors, parents, teachers and other authority figures may be guiding us to believe their negative beliefs, effectively squashing our hope.
Intentions affect health and every aspect of life
Positive and negative thoughts don’t just affect one’s health; they affect every aspect of people’s lives. Henry Ford said the same thing about productivity and the role of intention: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
Beliefs are like filters on a camera that change the way the world is seen, and human physiology is designed to match those beliefs. When people truly recognize the tremendous impact of their thoughts or beliefs, they hold the key to freedom. Although we cannot easily change our genetic blueprint, we can change our thoughts!
Bruce Lipton, Ph. D., in his book The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles, introduces an experiment of two streams of consciousness where two sets of plastic filters, one red and one green, were used.
“In my lectures, I provide two sets of plastic filters, one red and one green. I have the audience pick one color and then look at a blank screen. I then tell them to yell out whether the image I project next is one that generates love or generates fear. Those in the audience that don the red “belief” filters see an inviting picture of a cottage labeled “House of Love,” flowers, a sunny sky, and the message: “I live in Love.” Those wearing the green filters see a threatening dark sky, bats, snakes, a ghost hovering outside a dark, gloomy house, and the words: “I live in fear.” I always get enjoyment out of seeing how the audience responds to the confusion when half yells out: “I live in love,” and the other half, in equal certainty, yells out: “I live in fear” in response to the same image.
Then I ask the audience to change to the opposite-colored filters. My point is that you can choose what to see. You can filter your life with rose-colored beliefs that will help your body grow or you can use a dark filter that turns everything black and makes your body/mind more susceptible to disease. Now it’s your choice to live a life of fear or live a life of love. But I can tell you that if you choose to see a world full of love, your body will respond by growing in health. If you choose to believe that you live in a dark world full of fear, your body’s health will be compromised as you physiologically close yourself down in a protective response.”
For thousands of years, saints like Buddha Shakyamuni and Jesus have been sharing this same vision with the world. Modern science is also beginning to recognize that is not merely your genes that control your life; your powerful beliefs and convictions can have an overriding effect. One’s thoughts, intentions, and values may be what shape one’s destiny.