On Friday I caught the tail end of an interview with Anne Harrington on CBC’s The Current. Harrington is the author of The Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body Medicine. I’m sure I wouldn’t be down with all the ideas in her book, but a salient bit at the end was the discussion of “the placebo effect“. Harrington asserts that the telling of your story is part of the placebo effect — as is the visit to the doctor itself, before he’s even done anything for you. It works, she says, simply because we believe in western medicine. In response to the interviewer’s next question, she suggested that yes, the placebo effect would work even without the doctor.
I found a couple of articles about Harrington and her book at Slate and Salon, but at the time, I naturally thought back to the discussion here from the week before, about Recasting Your Story and Halting Your Story, in which we tossed around the idea that the telling of one’s story in and of itself is a part of the healing process. I’m not so sure I would want to fully extend that observation to physical healing as well as emotional or psychological healing, but from a holistic standpoint I would not be surprised to find the connection stronger than we’ve generally expected. That aside though, this supports our idea that the telling of our stories helps us to distance ourselves from their pain and allow us to begin to adopt new ones, healing ones. What do you think?
Did you hear about studies recently cited that both control groups in medical experiments received placebos. One group was told that their “drug” was “expensive,” while the other group was told that they would receive a “generic drug.” Well, guess what. The group receiving the “expensive” placebo reported better results than the one receiving the “generic” placebo.
i’m pretty sure I heard that some prominent faith healers have acknowledged the placebo effect in their profession as well. our trusting minds make empirical study of medical healing such an impossible endeavor. Depending on what you are expecting to find, i guess.