The Placebo Effect

I’m fascinated by our opinions and habits that we, as humans display. Many of us carry ‘Lucky Charms’ , or eat lunch with a certain fork, or wear a specific undergarment just before an important event in our life to invoke  a specified luck or result. Why will one Lucky Charm work for one person, while another will vehemently poo-poo that belief?

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine, and at one point, the topic turned to our health–how we were feeling. I commented that I had finally found relief for my Restless Leg Syndrome. All my life I had suffered from Restless Leg Syndrome, a painful nervous condition that can cause uncontrollable ‘jerking,’ or shaking of the limbs in order to relieve the pain. I mentioned that, outside of painkillers, nothing seemed ease, or cure my situation. In desperation, I tried Acupuncture–and it worked! Although not completely gone, now I could at least live with the pain.

My friend scoffed at the idea of submitting the body to Acupuncture.

“Superstition!” he claimed. “It’s a medically unproven superstition. If conventional medicine doesn’t have a cure for an ailment, then none exists–at least not until medical science can find one!”

I didn’t feel like arguing the point, so just changed subject. However, I could not help but wonder, is Acupuncture really only a superstition? I knew that my friend was quite a religious person: a Christian. Being a Christian myself, I also know that religion expects a fair amount of belief from its followers, for it to be effective in one’s life–but, hold on. Isn’t belief just another way of saying “Placebo effect”? If I believe such-and-such, and it works for me, while you believe that another something-or-another works for you, the common factor here is “Belief.” It is the power of belief that manifests results in our lives. I’ll give an example in this fictional conversation between Jack and me. Jack came to pay me a visit, as he does every Thursday afternoon. He came just as I had scooped some ice cream into a small dish and was about eat it while watching TV.

Me: “Hi, Jack, come on in. I just bought myself a pint of Baskin-Robbins ice cream. Peppermint flavour. Would you like some?”

Jack: Takes off his jacket and moves closer to the kitchen counter where I was dishing out the ice cream. “Baskin-Robbins! Peppermint, my favorite brand and flavor. You bet I’ll have some!”

I absently pick up an empty dish that happened to be nearby on the counter and without examining the dish closer, dig out two large scoops of the delicious ice cream and hand the dish to Jack.  We amble towards the living room and I turn on the TV.

A few minutes pass.

Jack: “You know, I think Baskin -Robbins makes the best ice cream in the world!” He’s already gobbled down half of his bowl’s content. “It’s sure good!”

Suddenly, with horror, I take a closer look at Jack’s ice cream dish. “Jack!” I exclaim. “I’m so sorry, but I mistakenly put your ice cream into my cat’s dinner dish.”

Jack’s hand, holding his next spoonful of ice cream, freezes in mid-air. He stares with horror at his dish, a sickly, greyish looks envelopes his face.

“Yes, it’s the cat dish–but it’s clean,” I quickly assure him, “I just had it washed this morning in the dishwasher–”

Suddenly, Jack vomits all over my carpet and chesterfield. “I’m sick!” he moans, dropping the dish. “Take me to the hospital!” .  .  .  .  .

My point here is, was it the ice cream, the clean cat dish, or Jack’s fixed belief that made him sick?

Yes, we are what we believe!

 

About Albert Schindler

I was born on the 27th of February, 1931, on a farm near Hubbard, Saskatchewan. As far back as I can remember I had a spirit that would not stay earthbound. In junior high, I remember taking first place for a short story in which I described my terrifying encounter with a dinosaur. In outer space – that is, when the teacher wasn’t directly speaking to me, I went where Buck Rogers wouldn’t dare go. I was more of a Calvin in Calvin and Hobbes type of guy, with my own, personal, very powerful, transmogrifyer always at the ready. In my ‘teens and twenties, I pushed aside my Calvin alter ego in favour of making a living and didn’t take seriously again my ‘writer’s bug’ until my late 30s. I still saw that the world as full of exciting things to learn and investigate, which my writing reflected in the several articles and a couple of short fiction pieces that I wrote and sold, including over 30 children’s radio plays for Alberta’s ACCESS Radio. Unfortunately, I abandoned my budding writing career in favour of starting my own business as a sign painter. Now that I can officially call myself ‘retired,’ I plan to resume my writing career, only this time, writing mostly fiction. Why fiction? I have lead a great, adventurous life in which I made many mistakes (the ‘adventure’ in life), that have taught me some very important lessons and allowed my spirit to grow to unimaginable proportions, inconceivable to me while still in my thirties. In fiction, I believe, one can adventure into both the inner and outer consciousness of man and the universe to infinite levels where only the boldest dare peak. Convention holds that article writing has to be factual – oh, you can be creative in how you present your information, but ‘fact’ (whatever that means) still must have its parameters in article writing, whereas fiction is limited only by the size of a writer’s spirit, and so far, I haven’t been able to fathom my limit.
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